IBN: Can you tell us a little about your business in Iraq?
Colin Findlay: Severn Valve Solutions was formed in 2012 and has quickly become the pre-eminent valve engineering specialist for oil and gas operators of Southern Iraq. Our technical knowledge – which draws on 50 years of OEM valve expertise and 30 years’ valve management experience, enables operators to enhance performance and safety across the entire valve population. This can significantly boost plant productivity and integrity.
We have developed a robust training capability to provide long-term vocational progression for the local workforce. And our commitment to providing engineering experience and long-term skilled jobs is enabling us to integrate well with local society.
Our engineering capabilities are coupled with important local knowledge and an established infrastructure, to ensure operations run smoothly.
IBN: What attracted you to the Iraqi market?
Colin Findlay: We view Iraq as an excellent market with plenty of scope for our services and products. Unaoil Group, a major shareholder, has extensive experience in the local content aspects of the business, such as logistics, and has facilities on the ground. This is an essential part of the Iraqi offering, as it underpins our confidence that we can provide a truly first class service.
We won’t realise significant returns in the short-term, but the market has depth and longevity. This suits our business model, which is to invest and integrate for the long-term.
IBN: What would you say are the main challenges in winning business in Iraq?
Colin Findlay: To work successfully with the International Oil Companies you have to be innovative, capable and committed. We needed to provide a high quality service right from the outset. Substantial upfront investment was required before we were contracted to any business. This commitment bore fruit, with contracts up to five years in tenure awarded.
Working with the National Oil Companies and government bodies brings a different set of challenges. Tendering is complex and decision making can be time-consuming.
Understanding the nuances of business in Iraq is the main challenge overall. However, this presents an opportunity for companies like ours who are accustomed to international trade. The territory has greatest potential for firms that understand how to operate here. New companies entering the market will quickly fail if they cannot grasp this.
IBN: What advice would you give to other companies considering entering the Iraqi market?
Colin Findlay: Iraq is open for business and has great potential. But it is not a short-term opportunity.
Commitments need to be made and taking time to understand the people and the marketplace is essential.