Getting the job done

Getting the job done

Bangkok Post – Thailand;
May 24, 2004

CHIRATAS NIVATPUMIN — A squeak of protest emerges from the well-padded
chair as Bob Kevorkian settles back and lights a cigar.

“You know, I do miss the physical work from a project. It’s less
stressful. You’re done for the day, come home, take a bath, relax,
and it’s over,” he said with a shrug.

“Management is different. So I do miss it, but of course, I’m fatter

Yet the 61-year-old former construction labourer shows little sign
of slowing down, not with the Thai economy firmly on the upswing and
the property sector booming with activity.

A former managing director of Philipp Holzmann (Thailand), Mr Kevorkian
has worked on some of the most prominent construction projects in
town, including projects such as the Sukhothai and Peninsula hotels
and the ill-fated Hopewell train project.

The British-educated Armenian left Philipp Holzmann just before the
1997 crisis to start his own firm, K-Tech Construction. Needless to
say, the timing was not good.

“I started in February 1997, with just one room, a maid, a driver
and a secretary,” Mr Kevorkian recalled, noting that turnover for
the first year was a paltry 50 million baht.

Compare that with last year’s revenues of 2.6 billion baht, expected
to rise to 4.5 billion this year. The company now employs some 10,000
people, including contract workers, with a project record boasting
the 260,000-square-metre Central Rama II development, the 47-floor
Central World Tower project, seven Carrefour projects and the Royal
Phuket Marina and Spa development.

The company recently filed to list on the Stock Exchange of Thailand
with a proposed float of 7.2 million shares at five baht par value,
equal to 16% of its new capital.

K-Tech, with paid-up capital of 185 million baht, currently is 35%
owned by Mr Kevorkian. Other major shareholders include Suprangporn
Thumsujrit at 27% and the Thailand Equity Fund at 19%.

Funds raised from the initial public offering, expected to be held
within the next two months, will be used for working capital and
expansion, including diversification into public sector infrastructure
projects and development projects abroad.

“My basic philosophy is to believe in people. You must work with the
clients, give them what they want, on time, on budget and with the
right quality,” Mr Kevorkian said.

Finding the right balance for all three factors is a balancing act
for any contractor.

“The bricks, the concrete, the windows, they’re all the same. The
difference is in how well can you do it, how well can you control
the costs and manage time,” Mr Kevorkian said.

Logistics and planning, more so than engineering and technical
issues, are the key to completing any construction project on time
and on budget.

“The particular challenges of working in Thailand? You have working
hour restrictions, small sois, traffic,” Mr Kevorkian said.

“In most countries, you order the concrete for 10am delivery and it
comes at 10. In Bangkok, it could come at 1pm”

He paused. “Construction is a risk business. If you don’t want the
risk, you shouldn’t get involved. The more your experience, the better
your people are, the easier it is to manage the risks.”

Maintaining quality is key, Mr Kevorkian said. “You can be late,
you can be overbudget, but you need to deliver value,” he said.

“It’s like in a restaurant. A steak might cost just 100 baht, but if
it’s bad, you will leave feeling cheated. But a good steak, it can be
30 minutes late, it might cost 1,000 baht … but if it’s really good,
you will be happy.”

Mr Kevorkian noted that over 60% of K-Tech’s customers were repeat
customers such as Central, Golden Land, Carrefour and Ananda

“I’ve worked in dozens of countries. It’s a great feeling to pass a
building and think to yourself, I was involved,” he said.

An acknowledged workaholic, Mr Kevorkian says he puts in 14 hours
of work a day, six days a week, meeting with clients, architects,
consultants and his project managers. And even after a full week,
he still takes time each Sunday to drive around to various K-Tech
construction sites to sneak a peek at where the project stands.

“My wife asks why I work so much. I like to say, in the office,
I’m king. At home, I’m only a husband,” he said with a grin.

“I don’t get stressed. It’s important to enjoy what you are doing. I’ll
be ready to retire once the excitement is gone. But for now, the
interest is still there.”