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Interviewwith the CEO


It's a truth universally acknowledged that 2020 was a year like no other in recent history. The ramifications of the global COVID-19 pandemic continue to re-shape the world in which we live.

Hari Poologasundram, CEO SMEC & CEO International Surbana Jurong, reflects on the challenges, triumphs and learnings of an unprecedented year, and looks ahead to the company’s future.

2020 was a year of enormous challenges for so many businesses. What were some of SMEC's key challenges, and how did you overcome them?

The slowdown of the private sector in 2020 presented us with challenges, but our core work on publicly funded projects, with a focus on national development, received early support from many nations’ governments. We were able to continue working, in a COVID-safe manner, on many essential infrastructure projects.

A central and ongoing challenge was the ability to continue serving our clients whilst also ensuring the health and wellbeing of our people. There is no one-size fits all approach, and we deal with each of our corporate offices or project sites in a unique manner to ensure we always have the appropriate information to inform decisions and protect our employees whilst delivering critical infrastructure.

What learnings from 2020 are you taking into 2021 and beyond?

We will see some changes in the way we do business beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be more flexibility, whilst not compromising on employee collaboration and interaction, operational efficiencies and the in-person mentoring that is important for career and skills development. Where appropriate, work undertaken on an individual basis can be completed remotely.

We are also preparing for new opportunities and expanding into areas such as data centres, logistics and distribution, city regeneration and building refurbishments, all of which have been highlighted by the impacts of the global pandemic.

What strengths do you feel SMEC can build on in 2021?

SMEC has a 70+ year history of technical excellence and a strong reputation for delivering advanced engineering, design leadership and innovative solutions on nation-building projects all over the world.

Our success is built on our people – their innovation, tenacity, drive and technical expertise in delivering solutions for our clients.

Another strength is our decentralised business model – we operate through locally-based offices and teams with access to significant global expertise and experience. Our strategy has been to make it easy to reach out and connect our clients with the best resources available across the world.

We have the necessary geographical and market diversity to overcome any localised market down-turns. We have developed a successful model of growth and remain focused on continually improving our corporate governance and systems to ensure we remain sustainable, connected and competitive for our clients and partners.

"We will continue to support our clients and governments as they transition towards recovery by focusing on key partnerships, technology and technical expertise."
– Hari Poologasundram, CEO SMEC & CEO International Surbana Jurong

What does the future hold for SMEC?

SMEC has an exciting future ahead of us as we partner with our parent and sister companies in the Surbana Jurong Group to help countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to deliver essential infrastructure. In addition to our existing project portfolio, we are increasing our focus on providing specialist solutions to transport and energy infrastructure sectors, including hydropower and dams, renewable energy, roads and highways, rail and metro.

Sustainability is another key focus for our organisation. SMEC provides a broad range of environmental and sustainability solutions that are tailored to location, local market conditions and industry dynamics. Where possible we are taking a broader view of sustainability in our business and ensuring that principles cascade through all stages of the project lifecycle. This can range from specific services such as guiding clients’ projects through sustainability ratings schemes, to collaborating more closely with key clients on adopting management plans to minimise or offset impacts from development projects.

The future outlook will continue to challenge us and we look forward to continuing to support our clients with advanced solutions and exceptional project delivery.