When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke to Dnipro officials this summer about the need for road repairs in the region, he warned them not to make excuses and instead advised them to work with Turkish company ONUR Construction. “Give the job to them and complete this work by the end of the year,” he commented. This hat tip from Ukraine’s new head of state attracted considerable attention, but it actually reflected widespread recognition of the crucial role played by ONUR in the ongoing transformation of the Ukrainian road network.
Since entering the Ukrainian market in 2004, the Turkish company has constructed over 1,300km of international-class roads, earning a reputation for quality in a country that has long been plagued by associations with crumbling infrastructure. Ukraine is an important part of the ONUR empire, currently accounting for around 20% of a global portfolio that includes projects on three continents. The company’s activities in Ukraine extend from transport infrastructure construction to the production and supply of concrete and other construction materials, with additional recent expansion into the agriculture and energy sectors. Nevertheless, ONUR remains best known to Ukrainians for its involvement in the country’s ongoing road revolution. Business Ukraine magazine spoke to ONUR Construction’s Regional Manager Emre Karaahmetoglu about the company’s fifteen years in Ukraine and asked about the expansion opportunities created by the new government’s ambitious infrastructure upgrade plans.
ONUR has built a reputation for reliability in a country where road construction standards have often been notoriously low. Indeed, in the World Economic Forum’s 2017-18 Global Competitiveness Report, Ukraine ranked 130th out of 137 countries in terms of road quality. Why has ONUR succeeded in Ukraine where others have failed?
The first thing to understand is that ONUR is a global company with the same high standards implemented globally. This has led to success in many countries, and it has brought us success in Ukraine. As specialists in road construction, we adapt our work to the latest technologies, using high-quality materials and the most up-to-date machinery and equipment. If any company wishes to remain sustainable, it must invest in the research and development of its chosen sector. ONUR continuously works on research, testing, inspecting and evaluating road construction technologies in accordance with the specific characteristics of every country where we are present. This leads to successful adaptation and high quality products. We employ specialist staff and qualified personnel who work in line with our company ethos. Crucially, we also pay particular attention to customer satisfaction.
Ukraine is Europe’s largest country with a road network of approximately 170,000km. Much of this network is in a state of disrepair and requires a major overhaul. This represents tens of billions of dollars in construction and renovation contracts. How big a role can ONUR play in the modernization of the country’s roads?
ONUR has been active in Ukraine for over 15 years and has a portfolio of successful projects. The company will continue to participate in the modernization of Ukraine’s road network as long as there is demand for the services we provide. If Ukraine continues to invest in the country’s roads, ONUR will continue investing in Ukraine, both in terms of road construction and in other business sectors. ONUR has already proven itself sustainable in the Ukrainian construction sector. We are confident this will influence the company’s further growth and development in the country.
What are ONUR’s largest current projects in Ukraine?
At the moment we are engaged in a number of highway projects in Poltava, Zaporizhia and Lviv regions. I am also proud to say we met our targets on a series of projects in the Zaporizhia region in recent months, often working within narrow timeframes and in challenging conditions. This included the reconstruction of the Zaporizhia International Airport runway in less than 45 days.
The Ukrainian parliament has recently adopted a new law on concessions that potentially opens the way for public-private partnerships (PPPs) focusing on roads, airports, seaports and other key elements of Ukraine’s national infrastructure. What could this mean for ONUR’s future activities in the country?
The Ukrainian economy’s current growth trend can help drive the modernization of the country’s infrastructure. We are now seeing rising demand in Ukraine for high quality, fast and efficient trade routes. This will surely encourage private investment into key infrastructure. Now that the Ukrainian parliament has adopted what we consider a realistic law on PPP concessions, we are confident successful public-private partnerships will follow. This will attract international investment, fuel further economic growth, and lead to the construction of modern roads, ports and airports. As a company, ONUR has been actively promoting the implementation of public-private partnership projects in Ukraine for several years. We welcome the new concession law, and will be looking to partner in concessions projects associated with our specialized business sectors.
ONUR has been active in Ukraine for more than one-and-a-half decades. What do you regard as the most important landmarks in the company’s growth on the Ukrainian market?
If I could sum it up in one sentence, I would say that we have come to regard Ukraine as our local market, while Ukraine has accepted ONUR as a local company. We have established a high degree of trust by meeting all our commitments with a sense of respect for our clients.
Based on your own experience, what is your advice to international companies considering entering the Ukrainian market?
International companies should already be monitoring the steady growth of the Ukrainian economy. There are numerous interesting business opportunities in today’s Ukraine. This is one of Europe’s largest countries with strong industrial foundations and a big appetite to develop further. Given the current focus on boosting the country’s prosperity, we would advise any professional international company to consider entering Ukraine and contributing to this process.
About the interviewee: Emre Karaahmetoglu is Regional Director of ONUR Construction in Ukraine