Askhat Omarov: “The goal of BI Group is to provide a comprehensive social infrastructure for residential complexes.”

by John Griffith

BI Group is a leading real estate developer in Kazakhstan and the only company from Kazakhstan to be included in the ENR Top-250 global contractors ranking. The company was founded in 1995 and has since grown to become a major player in the real estate industry. In 2015, BI Group became the leader in the capital city’s real estate market, with an 18% market share. Today, BI Group continues to expand its presence not only in Kazakhstan but also in other countries. In this interview, we will discuss the main areas of focus for BI Group, including its recent developments and upcoming plans.

aaskhat omarov

In this article

Good afternoon Askhat, can you tell us about the main areas that you focus on when managing BI Group as the CEO?

Good afternoon! Firstly, I would like to talk about the course of digitalization and the improvement of IT technologies in the field of housing and industrial construction in Kazakhstan. Our country is one of the most advanced in this area. We hold a leading position in terms of internet speed at home. BI Group employs about 300 highly qualified IT specialists, which is a significant contribution to the development of our country’s IT sector. The external conditions, such as the availability of a good communication infrastructure and the overall environment for innovation, have contributed to our success in this field.

Secondly, regarding the construction of residential facilities, we aim to increase the value of housing in the eyes of consumers. Our residential complexes are equipped with all necessary infrastructure and have a convenient management model that benefits both us and our clients. Our BI Service provides full maintenance for houses and apartments, significantly saving the time of residents in relation to any issues related to apartment building maintenance. We also utilize our accumulated experience in digitalization and IT technologies to make life easier for our customers. Among the developments of the BI Group, there are digital platforms integrated into the BIG App ecosystem that allows users to, for example, purchase apartments online, view reports on their homes, contact the manager of a residential complex, call a plumber, and more.

Thirdly, we take great care of the level of education of our employees, as this directly affects the quality of BI Group’s work. The company actively nurtures its internal staff, following the principle of continuous improvement, from production to senior management, from ordinary workers to directors.

modern city

You mentioned digital services. How do they affect the holding’s operations?

By introducing information technology and launching a mobile app, we collect large amounts of data needed for the effective management of residential complexes. The further processing of this data allows us to predict customer needs and be prepared for their requests. This saves us significant money and time.

In which industries does the holding operate?

The holding has sufficient experience and expertise, as well as financial and human resources, to expand in various construction sectors. Therefore, BI Group has entered into contracts for the development of social facilities, roads and bridges, projects in the marine and oil & gas industries, infrastructure projects, and railway tracks. For instance, last year, our BI Construction & Engineering division completed strategic projects in the Turkestan region, including a main canal (59 km) that will save approximately 60 million cubic meters of water for the region and a 50 MW solar power plant named the Shaulder Solar Project, which is operated by the international company ENI as its client.

planning out work

Askhat, what types of facilities does the company primarily focus on when developing social infrastructure?

First of all, we invest a significant amount of money and resources into the planning and construction of comfortable residential complexes and microdistricts. We take into account the needs of residents and their families in terms of accessibility to educational institutions in the area.

Could you tell me more about the school construction plans for 2023? How many schools will be built?

The pace of social infrastructure commissioning has lagged behind housing construction for various reasons. We are now trying to close this gap, including by participating in PPP partnerships and offering so-called EPC-F and EPC-F+M solutions. In 13 months, we built and launched two BINOM schools in Atyrau with a capacity of 8,000 students. Additionally, within 10 months, we successfully completed the construction of Riviera International School in Astana, funded by its own investments, which has an International Baccalaureate program. This is our second project developed in partnership with Lancaster Group.

school lockers

If we talk about housing construction, share the indicators of the BI Group. For example, what was the largest number of apartments built over a specific timeframe?

In 2023, we completed the construction of 1.6 million square meters of housing, maintaining our leading position in the key markets of Kazakhstan and entering the top 3 developers in Uzbekistan. Additionally, last year marked the anniversary of our 100,000th customer.

Great job! Congratulations! What large-scale government projects has BI Group completed in the field of construction?

BI Group is involved in government programs as a contractor and operator. Unfortunately, I can’t list all the projects. However, we have worked on the reconstruction and development of a significant number of cultural, educational, and government facilities. Examples include the construction of Sports Palaces, Innovative Creativity Centers for children, and participation in the “Comfortable Schools” program.

building a building

Were there any major infrastructure projects among them?

Yes, we have successfully completed the construction of the 3rd Generation Gas Injection (3GI) plant in Tengiz. This project introduced innovative technologies in the electric power industry and successfully met the high standards of the Tengizchevroil client. Additionally, our joint venture, SemArco, continues to work on a project to produce caustic soda in Zhambyl. The client for this project is the international company Yildirim Holding, and the presence of large international clients in our portfolio demonstrates our financial strength and competitiveness. This indicates that we have a proven track record of maintaining momentum, developing teams of project managers and engineers, and implementing complex projects, which is an indication of our resilience.

Askhat, we are aware that the holding company has received the AK MERGEN 2019 award in the Corporate Communications category. We would like to ask you about the changes in the corporate culture that have been brought about by the introduction of the BI Life mobile application?

As we adhere to ESG principles, the management team, including myself, is actively working to improve the corporate culture within the holding company. This is a small step towards creating a more comfortable working environment within the BI Group. The BI Life app is a kind of digital workplace for employees, providing all the necessary tools for their work. It brings together all the essential work areas, such as the “calendar,” “applications and tasks,” and “feed,” in one place.

Every year, we conduct a large-scale study that allows us to see a picture of our corporate culture. Comparing 2022 and 2023, we can say that the main indicators of employee engagement and loyalty have increased by 12% and 26% respectively. We regularly conduct trainings, master classes, and upskill our employees. We also send them on kaizen tours to Japan. More than 100 executives from the BI Group have received an MBA degree.

working on a project

Is the corporate culture of the holding responsible for this, or is it simply a requirement for an employee when applying for a job?

No, this is not the original requirement. One of the unspoken principles of the company is something like this: to prepare a successor for oneself in order to move to a higher position. That is, instead of “abandoning” the position, one should choose one of their employees and train them for their position. At the same time, training should last for at least a year, during which the mentor will determine which skills need to be developed in order for a fully-fledged successor to emerge.

At the same time, the number of construction projects and the competencies of the holding are regularly increasing. This requires new personnel and the optimization of solutions. As a result, there is a need to cultivate the best managers. In my opinion, training managers through MBA programs is the best solution. Although this training is not cheap, it operates on the basis of repayment and requires the presence of the employee in the company for a certain period. I believe that this is the most beneficial position for both parties: the employee and BI Group.

In 2023 the company organized 5 customer forums, where residents shared their feedback with the management of the holding company about the quality of their housing. Tell us, please, more about these events and their purpose.

First, I’d like to give you some background information. Construction companies in Kazakhstan traditionally build houses, sell housing, and leave. However, we have chosen a different approach. After we build a house and sell it, we celebrate the great purchase with the client and offer them long-term cooperation with BI Service, which will last at least 60 years. We introduce a culture of good neighborliness in our residential complexes, making the stage of living in our homes comfortable and happy.

The forums were held throughout Kazakhstan. These events provide an opportunity to interact with initiative groups, establish operational dialogue, prevent a decline in the quality of certain services, and receive feedback from residents. Additionally, these events clearly demonstrate the scale of the company, its intentions, and its goals. We want to be on the same page with our customers, so we are trying new ways of interacting.

How many customers visited the forums in total?

Approximately 400-2,000 people are invited to each event, depending on the scale of the city and other factors such as the season and level of employment. The last three forums in Astana gathered more than 1,600 residents from 43 different housing complexes.

modern building

What are the goals for 2024?

Regarding the goals, BI Group Holding will continue to adhere to the concept of integrated construction and development of territories. Currently, we are in the process of competent system planning for the formation and development not only of districts, but also of entire cities. The holding is growing rapidly, and we support this growth by reaching new levels in construction projects. Through a sensible assessment of our strengths and capabilities, we have gained expertise in internal flows between administrative units, as well as in economic and social relations between different regions. Our company is ready to share our best practices and solutions with the government in order to spread this experience nationwide.

BI Group Holding is a pioneer in the field of digitalization, and we will continue to grow in this area. Now, we manage our personnel, transportation, resources, and other construction materials through an IT system. Let me explain how it works. Let’s say a worker needs a crane. They submit an application within the company’s internal system, and the system independently searches for the necessary equipment based on the specified criteria. The system also handles staff, contractors, and subcontractors. In short, the system helps reduce the time spent planning, constructing, and selling facilities.

I’d like to emphasize that our current solutions allow BI Group to expand quickly in any country as long as there is a certain level of digitalization and readiness for these solutions.

If it’s not confidential, are you planning to enter other markets?

Of course, we have certain ambitions, and we do not restrict ourselves geographically. From a strategic development perspective, we carefully examine all existing opportunities for entering new markets. At the same time, we take into account the macroeconomic and political situations in the world. Before choosing a country as a new platform for development, we thoroughly analyze its potential in terms of its economic situation, human resources, population’s ability to pay, and business community’s readiness. If all these factors align, we ensure that we are prepared to launch in that country, and that our product will be in demand. Then, we proceed.

coworkers holding hands

John Griffith

John Griffith is a young, passionate journalist. Writing has been John’s hobby ever since he was a boy. He has worked in some of the UK’s most successful news portals over the course of his professional career but found his forever home at Archzine.