From Australia and Beyond – Growth in Southeast Asia Warren Puvanendran, General Manager, Operations

AusGroup is a well-recognised name in Australia, with a strong record of providing high quality and safe maintenance, turnaround and construction support services for clients across a range of industry sectors including energy, resources and renewables.

Geographically, we have a long-established presence in Western Australia and the Northern Territory. We’re quickly building profile in Queensland where we are involved in new projects and opportunities, particularly in the LNG sector. Our Queensland activities are a good example of the way in which we are taking the AusGroup model – which is fundamentally  built on collaboration and partnering with clients as we deliver reliable, safely delivered solutions – and applying it in new places and for new clients.

This growth strategy is working well because we bring an established reputation as a provider of on-time, no-surprises solutions to new markets and opportunities. Even those clients who haven’t necessarily worked with us before can be confident in the AusGroup way of doing business.

We do already have a Southeast Asia presence – our corporate office is in Singapore and we have offices and operational bases in Thailand and Malaysia. However, it makes sense for us to be looking to grow our business further in the region, and this is what we are now actively doing.

A strategic approach to business growth in the Asia Pacific region

Put simply, our strategy is to grow regional market share in core industries and specialties, with particular focus on Tier 1 customers including Esso / Exxon Mobil, Shell, Star Petroleum Refining Company, PTT and Petronas.

In practice this will see us apply our established AusGroup approach to safety and service delivery in new locations, using our local knowledge and experience to support both our own internal strategy and to provide the best specialist solutions for our clients.

Our regional experience includes the work we’ve been doing since 2019 to support refinery turnaround activities in Laem Chabang and Rayong, Thailand. This has involved 450 to 500 local employees, with significantly scaled-up operations for a three-month period.  In 2020 we were awarded a 5-year scaffolding and insulation maintenance contract with Esso and we now have a local permanent Thai presence of around 150 people.

Even though we are relatively new to the region, we have quickly built profile and reputation – managing to successfully plan and execute projects and to secure more work as a result. This gives us confidence to continue this trajectory.

Our plans now include further investment in the region in  people, plant and systems, the development of a professional hub in Malaysia, establishing an operational entity in Singapore and further growth of our Thailand-based team which will form the basis for a permanent regional presence to service clients on a long-term basis.

The benefits to AusGroup clients

The obvious benefit of our growth into new regions is that local businesses and projects will have greater choice when selecting service providers. We will represent a new but highly experienced alternative. Through expansion we will reach more locations, and we expect to grow our client base as a result.

Having both a local and overseas presence will also bring real benefits in terms of flexibility in what we can offer and how we can deliver projects.  We will be able to tailor our solutions to clients in new and improved ways, and this will benefit our existing clients and projects in Australia.

For example, we can see situations where we will be able to fabricate modular components either in Australia or overseas, with no difference in quality of the final products.  This will significantly improve project flexibility, allowing us to work with clients to design the most cost-effective and efficient solution having regard to factors such as underlying labour and construction costs and availability, shipping and transportation costs, and transportation timeframes.

Combined with our powerful estimation and tracking tools, this additional flexibility will power our project management ability, and result in significant cost savings and customised outputs for our clients.

None of our competitors have this capability so it is genuine point of difference for us.

My personal connection to the region

I am very excited to be playing a part in the execution of AusGroup’s Southeast Asia strategy. I’m originally from Kuala Lumpur and much of my extended family are still in Malaysia, so the country and region are very much a part of who I am.

As part of my role with AusGroup I spent time in Thailand in 2019 delivering and closing out our Turnaround support services for two large refineries and I am now, with border restrictions eased, spending time in the region again as we expand our offerings there. I have a real sense of returning home when I spend time not only in Malaysia but in Thailand, and there’s a noticeable culture of collectivism and of mutual respect that I enjoy being surrounded by.

It’s been really rewarding to reconnect with our team in Thailand after an absence of over two years and to quickly re-establish rapport and mutual trust with them.

It gives me a real sense of optimism for what lies ahead for AusGroup – we have a wonderful team of dedicated, capable people who bring enormous experience and skill to AusGroup, and also to our clients.