Dec 10, 2017

Working in the Middle East

Interview with Sandra Antonovic, Chief Operating Operator at Reflex Marine.

What is your strategy for developing your business in the Middle East?

Reflex Marine and our products have been supporting offshore crew transfer operations in the Middle East for fifteen years now. Both our FROG-XT range, and our latest product WAVE-4 are a very good fit for all countries in the region. Defining and developing a strategy for any region inevitably includes understanding the wider geopolitical context, market volatility, currency fluctuations, and inevitably, the oil price trend. Having that context helps you define and deliver the strategy that improves, strengthen and facilitates the operations of your clients.

What has been your experience of working with the NOCs in the region? Has the focus on cost reduction had an impact on your business?

Working with NOCs in any region is always demanding, but it can be very beneficial, and not just in commercial and brand growth terms. Working with NOCs in the Middle East is about skill, expertise, patience, ability to compromise and readiness to deliver the very best all the time. Working with NOCs in the region is also about understanding the culture and being accepted into it.

Middle Eastern countries traditionally have low cost of oil production, and a lot of their efforts are put into keeping those costs down. This has always been a great opportunity for Reflex Marine. Our personnel transfer carriers are the safest in the world, rigorously tested and with the widest operating envelope. Marine transfer by crane is also the most cost efficient crew transfer option. When you combine those features – safety, robust operating envelope and cost efficiency, you have a winning combination. If you do a good job in delivering it to the market, and if you keep your focus on improving the clients’ operations and helping them solve their offshore logistics’ challenges, you will have a strong position on the market. We continuously develop and improve our approach to the market, as much as we continuously develop and improve our products.

To what extent is the Middle East a springboard for expanding your business into the wider region?

Middle East will always have a pivotal role in the global energy sector; whether we are talking about conventional sources of energy, or renewables. When we discuss Saudi Arabia, for example, we immediately think about oil reserves; we seldom think about solar or wind farms. Saudi Arabia has set ambitious goals for renewable energy, investing about $50 billion in solar and wind by 2023.

Middle East does business in a very different way than the so called Western countries, and it is a good litmus test on how international your company really is; how adaptable and how client focused is your strategy; and how professional and sophisticated in their communication your market development team is.

What has been your experience of growing a business in the Middle East as a woman?

I grew up in a culturally and religiously diverse region in Europe. I traveled a lot my entire career. Adapting quickly comes very naturally for me. Still, when I moved to England five years ago I struggled a lot to feel comfortable within that mindset, way of life and view of the world. In comparison, moving to the Middle East was much easier for me, and I adapted quickly. I spent time in Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and UAE, and I have had very positive working relationships and experiencing in all those countries.

Working in the Middle East is very much about substance, profound thinking and often finesse. I find that incredibly motivating and encouraging. It drives you to keep being the best version of yourself, both in how you respond to situations and how you do your job. It encourages you to find a balance between a very hands-on and a very academic approach. I learned a lot, and I keep learning. When I apply my learnings and experiences from the Middle East into other regions and parts of the world, the end result is even more rewarding. I am incredibly grateful for the experience.

Article featured in Oil Review Middle East, Issue 6, September 2017

Read the rest of issue 6 here.