Daruna aims to change the paradigm of labourers’ housing
As vice chairman of Daruna Development, Joseph Lebaron discusses its corporate plans, what the company will add to the Qatari landscape, and its contribution to improving the living conditions of the migrant workers here, an issue, he concedes will attract international media attention until the 2022 World Cup is completed. By Aparajita Mukherjee.
A housing solutions company with has four categories of houses to offer: workers’ accommodation; housing for management and staff; hospitality; and those suited for the senior management, Daruna Development has its objectives clearly laid out.
Commenting on what distinguishes each of their offerings, Joseph Lebaron, the vice chairman of Daruna Development, says, “For workers’ accommodations, the distinguishing features are Daruna’s compliance with Qatar Foundation (QF), Ministry of Municipal & Urban Planning (MMUP) and international standards. Our philosophy reflects a ‘lifestyle’ for guest workers in Qatar to improve their experience, increase their productivity and keep them safe. This is in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 (QNV 2030).”
Daruna, Lebaron stresses, is aiming to provide all that a person needs to both work safe off site and live safe on site. This includes full catering and laundry services, recreation and special programmes, health care, retail outlets and consular services.
For all the other categories, in the opinion of Lebaron, it is an adjustment to space and amenities. “But the philosophy holds true – we are providing a lifestyle within our facilities that will significantly increase our guest’s quality of life in Qatar.”
As a housing provider and on a projected spend of USD12.5 billion (QAR45.5 billion) in real estate investments on the back of the 2022 World Cup, what estimate of market share does Daruna have?
Talking about the near future, Lebaron mentions an MMUP bid that is due in the fourth quarter of 2015 for 28,000 beds. “We are then working with semi government entities – one is in the 40,000-bed range and the other two are in the 28,000-bed each and that to us is our market share. We feel that right around between 100,000 and 130,000 beds is our market share, that represents about, depending on the numbers you work against, between five and seven percent of the market share.”
Lebaron is candid enough to admit that no one company can deliver the entire market demand. Having said that, Daruna Development seeks to dominate the Qatari market “as a thought leader and innovator in 21st century housing for Qatar’s migrant workers”.
Lebaron emphasises, “However, we do seek to drive the market. We want to take the lead in taking QF, MMUP and international standards and applying them to the transformation of worker housing in Qatar. We seek to help implement the QNV 2030, in support of the worker welfare committees across the ministries, councils, committees and agencies of the Qatar government.”
Will the quality remain the same with volume? Labaron says that Daruna “cannot control what the quality is beyond that which we build but we can, by building to this high standard, create pressure in the market to deliver more such housing that meets these standards. We want to be the catalyst for that.” This is in tandem with what the Daruna Development website says, “setting the standard”.
Daruna Development has a total of 12 partners, primary among which is Global Building Solutions, a United States-based property developer.
Commenting on the criteria that Daruna Development adopted to choose its partners, Lebaron tells The Edge, “Our partners were chosen for their commitment to the QF’s standards for worker welfare and for their demonstrated success in the marketplace. They will play crucial roles in Daruna’s holistic solution for worker welfare in Qatar, from recruitment to worker community management.”
Elaborating further, Lebaron mentions that Daruna was looking at only those potential partners who could operate at that high level of commitment, add value, and at the same time, help them innovate and develop a holistic solution. “So we have put together what we think is a highly compelling, 21st century solution to these challenges that Qatar has faced,” he explains.
Terms of offering housing
Daruna Development offers facilities on: annual leasing; discounts of long-term tenants; build, operate and transfer (BOT); and design and operate to suit.
Describing the key features of each, Lebaron says that the annual leasing option is based on a fixed annual cost per bed available to clients seeking worker housing as part of their own commercial activities, adding, “Multi-year discounts are available for clients seeking long-term tenancy for their workers in a Daruna worker community.”
The BOT arrangement includes building and operating a worker community for the owner of the worker community and only then transferring responsibility for the operations to the owner at some agreed-upon date.
Specifying a caveat, Lebaron mentions, “Daruna will require, however, a commitment from the owner that worker community’s operation, including maintenance, will meet QF, MMUP and international standards.”
For the design, build and operate category, says Lebaron, Daruna will also design the worker community to suit a specific company’s needs and wants in accordance with QF standards.
What are Daruna’s learnings about the market place, based on the four ongoing projects? How will these learnings modify Daruna’s later offerings in the Qatari marketplace?
Lebaron tells The Edge, “We have learned that the government of Qatar is fully committed to the improvement of worker housing, from design, to maintenance and operation and importantly, equally committed to ethical recruitment. As we learned more about the market place and the Qatar government’s vision for 2030 and its plans for the 2022 World Cup, we expanded our own offerings so that they constituted an integrated and holistic solution set for Qatar’s migrant worker community.”
Daruna Development has a number of worker accommodation plans announced. Commenting on when these are expected to be ready, Lebaron mentions that the first two projects are expected to get underway in the fourth quarter of 2015 with completion before the end of 2016.
A recently announced planned worker accommodation is dubbed as “advanced”. Clarifying what Daruna means by advanced, Lebaron says, “By advanced, we mean its design, its operations, and its services. The design is in full compliance with QF standards and international standards. Its operations are as well. Its services go beyond that. They are innovative.”
Explaining what he means by innovative, Lebaron mentions offering health care programmes, onsite health care, and cash-less retail services that are unique in Qatar. “We use new technologies to augment the health, safety, and welfare of the individual worker resident in our worker communities. We plan to have consular services available by participating embassies from countries with guest worker nationals here.”
Commenting on international media scrutiny on the issues of migrant worker living conditions, Lebaron assures that, as a company, Daruna Development “we want that scrutiny because we think we have a great story to tell, we think we are part of the solution to a problem that the international community has identified and that the Qatar government has itself identified and now, along with the Qatar government, we believe in partnering to help it change and transform the marketplace, especially in the supply of quality migrant worker housing.”