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Five minutes with… Sam Lehain, CEO, Logic Utilities

Five minutes with… Sam Lehain, CEO, Logic Utilities

The regional energy management sector is still underdeveloped considering the potential and scope, says Lehain.

1. How was 2014 for Logic Utilities and how has 2015 been so far?

Last year was a milestone year for Logic Utilities. We focused extremely hard on taking our cooled energy service online via a dedicated payment gateway – an ongoing project throughout the year – as well as on our branding and market placement. We decided that 2014/2015 would be our opportunity to secure the company as the number one privately owned provider of cooled energy metering and billing in the region. In terms of growth, we realised that the development of the online service portal was critical to meet our growth plans and in 2014, we saw a steady and significant increase in demand. In 2015 we expect to see double-digit growth.

2. Which are segments within your industry that are showing the strongest growth?

The retro fitting of accurate BTU meters for recording AC consumption, and the implementation of direct billing solutions. Almost all of our clients recognise that this is the gold standard in managing chilled energy consumption and recovering costs that can benefit the entire development, as well as help the environment. This demand is being driven by developers, and increasingly by owners associations and community management companies as they take on the responsibility of managing the property’s yearly budget.

3. What are the biggest challenges that you currently face?

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges in our business is educating and raising awareness among developers, property owners and tenants about the need for our services and the long-term benefits that they offer, such as reduced chilled energy costs, and energy conservation and the responsible management of energy resources.

When tenants and/or owners become responsible for their own chilled energy (air-conditioning) expenses, billed on the basis of consumption as opposed to a flat rate, there is always some initial hesitation and a number of questions usually arise. Will the overall bill be more expensive than the current service/maintenance charges that are being paid? Does the ability to measure consumption really guarantee savings or justify the return on investment? As a tenant who has so far avoided paying chiller charges because they were covered by the landlord, why switch to consumption-based billing?

We are not alone in our efforts, and various initiatives by the government are propelling the region towards conservation and sustainability. With the involvement of various stakeholders, we’re observing gradual improvement as people start to realise the significance of each individual’s contribution.

4. Are you looking at launching any new services/brands or expanding operations this year?

Our online portal is currently operational in about 20 per cent of our portfolio, and this will expand to 100 per cent during 2015. We will implement further services through the portal such as a live customer chat interface, and we are also looking at online retail opportunities for innovative energy saving products that can be sold via an online shop.

We are also in the process of developing a strategic partnership with a leading meter supplier in Europe.

5. Will you be hiring in the next six months?

Over the next six months we will be looking to strengthen our management, customer service, HR and sales team.

6. How is the overall energy management sector performing in the Middle East?

I would say it’s still underdeveloped considering the potential and scope. The focus for developers is still very much on building and selling, with less focus on the overall energy efficiency and environmental impact, though we have seen some promising changes from leading developers that are now implementing green building techniques.

This does mean that there is a great opportunity for companies within the energy management sector to start developing products and services for the post construction market, which is huge. The energy management sector is still predominantly driven by clients seeking cost savings, rather than reducing their energy consumption for environmental reasons. Once we get the message across that the two work in parallel, I believe the industry will boom.

7. Do you see the recent drop in oil prices having any major impact on the industry?

It’s difficult to predict. On one hand, if it impacts developers and investors, which it surely will if it continues, there may be an increased demand in our services as a way to cut operational costs. A good example of this would be a hotel with reduced occupancy seeking to reduce its DEWA bill.

On the other hand, there is a tendency in the region to cease investing in any new products and services if the turnover of that business is under pressure. This might mean a harder sales job ahead of us. From Logic Utilities’ perspective, I believe growth will remain on track due to projects that are in the pipeline and the increased awareness of our brand and services.

8. What’s your leadership style?

I strive to create a proactive company culture where employees are engaged, empowered and motivated to take initiative. We are a learning organisation that operates as a family and has an open door policy, and we support promotion from within and foster an inclusive environment where our team members are encouraged to give their opinions and insights.

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