"For the past two decades, Maldives has continued to experience an accelerating growth within the tourism industry, with resort development increasing at unprecedented annual rates. Whilst planning and developing a resort pose many problems, the ultimate challenge for the developers of tourist resorts is to protect, conserve, upgrade and not to destroy or degrade the environmental wealth."
We sat down with Mr.Abdul Majeed, Owner and Founder of Bison Maldives, a major resort construction company with over two decades' experience in the industry to gain some insights and hear his story.
1. Mr. Abdul Majeed, can you please tell us how you initially visualized and founded the current leading resort development and construction company, Bison Maldives?
My initial involvement with resort development commenced in 1990, when I first embarked on developing Mahchafushi resort with a lot of challenges, which gave me much inspiration to get more involved in the resort development business.
With the completion of successful projects, I commenced Bison Maldives in 2002 on a small scale and gradually developed it into a leading player in the construction sector in Maldives. From the very modest beginnings, we have positioned ourselves as a leading player in the construction industry in Maldives and we have been involved in the resort and building construction sector for more than 18 years. We have undertaken a number of large projects and have been selected as the principal contractor for large investment projects.
Some of our notable projects include Constance Halaveli Maldives, Jumeirah Dhevanafushi, Oblu select Sangeli and refurbishment works for One&Only Reethi Rah.
Presently we are in the final stages of completing, Aanugandu - a 353 room resort development project and we have also successfully handed over You and Me by Cocoon and Cocoon Maldives resort in years 2017 and 2019.
2. With its successful projects in the Maldives, now Bison Maldives ventures into international waters with brand new projects, can you tell us how these projects differ from years ago and now? How are the development procedures enhanced?
The construction industry is not the same as when we first started. Today, we research and find the most feasible and cost-effective methods for construction before we undertake any project. Methods of construction has transformed so much over the years, where today we can sit with the designers and produce a 3D visualization of the property before we begin its development.
We have defined ourselves by continuously reinvesting our knowledge and capital. This has helped us evolve from working alongside several international contractors to execute some of the most prestigious resort projects in the Maldives. Today, Bison Maldives stands tall, as a truly Maldivian company and should be acclaimed as a national asset. With the recent recognitions we have gained as the most trusted resort development partner, we have been approached by many international investors to build resorts in the Middle East and in Africa. Hence, we will be embarking our first overseas project in Africa, Tanzania as we will be taking Maldives resort concept to Africa.
3. As the tourism industry is highly interconnected with the construction industry, did your initial plans include working with resort brands? How were the approaches to these establishments and vice versa?
Truly the country is seeing significant development in the tourism sector, which is driving the construction industry forward. In order to take both industries to the next level, we need the development of more support infrastructure, including that of airports and other such facilities. And with this comes more projects for the contractors, while it also boosts tourism and its tourist arrival figures.
So, I believe the future is promising. But we need huge support in order to flourish, especially from lenders and other respective authorities. I cannot foresee a shortage of construction projects in the country anytime soon, and I believe the future looks very bright.
4. Can you tell us a bit about the subsidiary brands under the main company?
Our core business is developing turnkey resort projects and project management services. Under the Bison Main Group, Bison Trading handles the retail/wholesale business of Aluminium, glass products and Melwa steel products. Bison Travels specializes in inbound tours in the Maldives and operates Reveries Diving Village in Laamu Atoll. Bison International operates the Hameedia franchise in the Maldives, one of the leading men’s fashion apparels in neighboring Sri-Lanka.
Moreover, Bison Food Supplies was launched in 2020 to cater for the growing business segment. Currently, our company has a strong manpower of over 150 employees, additionally giving opportunities through sub-contractors for 700 and above labor force.
5. Having been involved with the development of high-end luxury resorts, it must have required a notable work force behind it. What were the biggest challenges over the years while working in the industry for the company and yourself as well?
The first and foremost is the staff. The company takes pride in its highly motivated and talented workforce, which is the driving force behind its success. Building a good management team who are capable of overseeing a project as huge as the development of a resort is vital. I always foresaw a boom in the tourism sector, which I knew would lead to growing demand for contractors. As such, I have always been training and building the management team here. Some of our team members have over 15 years of experience in the field, and I am proud to say, Bison has some of the most skilled and most experienced teams in the country.
Second, comes the equipment and machinery at our disposal. Building a fleet of equipment and machinery takes years and is costly. But today, we have enough and adequate equipment and machinery to undertake three resort projects at the same time.
6. What do you see in the future for local companies taking part in the development of resort islands?
There are also new opportunities to develop hotels/guesthouses and community-based tourism projects in inhabited islands. This is aimed at giving locals more ownership of tourism development and enabling tourists to experience local cultures and affordable holidays in the Maldives.
As a start, the government, through the Ministry of Tourism, is inviting local investors, to bid for 16 out of a planned 28 islands this year. So, the local companies can partner with foreign investors to bid for construction of tourism resorts, where the collection ranges from the classic islands of eight to ten hectares that typify the Maldives’ one-island, one-resort concept, to small islands of less than three hectares which can be reclaimed to ten hectares.
There are also clusters of islands in the same lagoon, where different facilities can be built on plots of land in uninhabited and inhabited islands. Hence, opportunities are available for local companies through this initiative from the government.
7. Bison Maldives believes that development and the environment go hand-in-hand, the building of the floating islands in the Maldives is one great example. How did the project come to establishment?
Maldives Floating City is the first development of a new era in which Maldivians return to the water with resilient eco-friendly floating projects. The city has a nature-based structure of roads and water canals resembling the beautiful and efficient way in which real brain coral is organized.
The idea of having brain coral as the leading concept is that the goal of living with nature and learning to improve and respect natural coral is at the heart of the development, which leads to new knowledge emphasizing the responsibility Maldives takes as center for coral protection in the world.
Bison group is proud to work alongside with Dutch Docklands, which is a renowned company and is the global leader in floating developments, concepts and infrastructure.
8. What do you think the response will be from the people and outsiders upon the completion of the project?
The response as at today has been very good and people and outsiders are very curious about the concept. However, we need to demonstrate that it is an enjoyable, sustainable and economic advancement that will apply to all portions of the population and not just wealthy enclaves. This mega initiative will change the outlook of Maldives.
9. Bison’s most recent project underway is the lagoon located in Malé Atoll. How are the development works going and what is the estimated time of completion?
We will be handing over the Aanugandu 353 room resort development project by end April 2022 and have already commenced work to develop a 151-room high end resort project, which we expect to complete within 12 months.
I am very confident that our team could deliver this on time and have taken up the challenge upon ourselves to complete the project. It’s a 5-island reclamation project and we have already commenced construction on island 1.
10. What would you say is your biggest lesson learned over the years? and who or what circumstances have inspired you the most?
Life is a continuous learning experience. Throughout our lives we keep rising and falling, picking up important lessons along the way. Some of these lessons come from experience, yet there are others that we learn by watching others.
No matter how much we learn from the books there is a significant difference between practical and theoretical experience. Furthermore, there are many life lessons that we simply cannot learn until we face certain situations in our life. Most people would say that there are some lessons that come too late, catching us off-guard and unprepared.
This peer pressure can make you stray from the path you started to carve for your future. Don’t mind other people’s aspirations, don’t ever let someone else’s goals and dreams influence your vision of life. It’s your path and you decide where it takes you and how long it takes you to see it through.
When it comes to inspiration, it is the people and the staff who have inspired me. I am proud to be the leader of many and no one can be a great leader unless they genuinely care about the success of everyone in their team. Actually, what I believe is, a role of a leader is not to come up with all great ideas, but the role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.
11. Lastly, as the Honorary Consul of Georgia to the Republic of Maldives, can you please tell us about the engagement and bilateral relationship between both the countries?
The main purpose of having the consular office and appointing the consular general in the Maldives, is to have Georgia as a gateway to Europe to all Maldivian residents. This will also increase the bilateral relationship between both Georgia and Maldives to increase relationship in Trade, tourism and education. Currently the consular general’s office is working with both government foreign ministries to Maldivian businesses to access to Georgian business entities and vice versa.
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