On The Blue Sofa

Math­ew Majo’s start at Doka Kuwait was right in the tur­bu­lent time of the Gulf war.

On The Blue Sofa:

Math­ew Majo’s start at Doka Kuwait was right in the tur­bu­lent time of the Gulf war.

In conversation with Mathew Majo

Math­ew Majo’s employ­ment with Doka Kuwait did not get off to a good start. The young engi­neer from India had been work­ing for the firm for only a few weeks when the Iraqi army invad­ed Kuwait on 2 August 1990. The lit­tle Emi­rate on the Per­sian Gulf with its rich oil deposits was involved in a dis­pute with Iraq about an oil­field.

After the inva­sion came annex­a­tion and then a Gulf War. It was not an aus­pi­cious time to try to lead a nor­mal life in Kuwait. The coun­try now had oth­er wor­ries. Local com­pa­nies stopped work and moved their employ­ees to safe­ty. Doka did the same. The young Doka employ­ee Math­ew Majo had to leave the coun­try.

So then I went back to India and continued to work there as an engineer. No one knew how long the war would last. The situation was very unstable.”

The Doka branch office in Kuwait was opened in 1977. It was the company’s first sub­sidiary in the Mid­dle East. The region turned out to be a prof­itable stroke of luck in dif­fi­cult times. Through the glob­al oil cri­sis in 1973 the world econ­o­my fal­tered. West­ern com­pa­nies went in search of new mar­kets to devel­op. And found them, for exam­ple, in the Mid­dle East.

It was under­go­ing a build­ing boom which the Euro­pean con­struc­tion indus­trie, includ­ing Doka, could use to their advan­tage. And thus the Mid­dle East proved to be a new source of income. In 1976 the Mid­dle East region was the sec­ond-most impor­tant export mar­ket for Doka, after Ger­many.

The world’s hottest place

50 Grad Cel­sius and more – work­ing out­side at such tem­per­a­tures is dan­ger­ous. There­fore in Kuwait work­ing at day­time is pro­hib­it­ed between mid­day and four o’clock in the after­noon. Right now oil is the vital source in Kuwait. It pro­vides the state’s income and at the same time is the source for engery pro­duc­tion.

A rethink­ing process has already begun. And time is run­ning: Kuwait is head­ing to become the hottest place on earth: In July 2016 Mitra­bah in Kuwait record­ed 54,7 Grad Cel­sius – just a bit cool­er than the hottest place on earth so far: Death Val­ley in Cal­i­for­nia.

The Sabah Al Salem University

In Kuwait anoth­er mega-uni­ver­si­ty is being built: The Sabah Al Salem Uni com­pris­es in total more than six mil­lion squareme­ter and will — seper­at­ed by gen­der — offer space for var­i­ous field of stud­ies. With this uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus Kuwait is sig­nalling intent for invest­ment beyond oil reserves and offers its pop­u­la­tion access to top-qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion.

The inva­sion of Kuwait by Iraqi troops brought Doka Kuwait’s suc­cess­ful busi­ness to an abrupt end. But only for a rel­a­tive­ly short peri­od, as it turned out. Every­thing and every­one returned – includ­ing Math­ew Majo. He was at home in Ker­ala in South­ern India in Feb­ru­ary 1992 when he received a phone call from Doka: “They asked me if I would like to return to Kuwait. I came back and con­tin­ued exact­ly where I had left off dur­ing the sum­mer of 1990.” So Majo began work­ing for Doka in Kuwait on two occa­sions.

Much has changed since then. The Doka branch office has grown from being a small sub­sidiary with a hand­ful of employ­ees to an office with a staff of about 30. Today Math­ew Majo is Head of Engi­neer­ing. Majo agrees that the Mid­dle East region has made its mark in recent years above all by con­struct­ing spec­tac­u­lar high-rise build­ings such as the Burj Khal­i­fa. This does not apply to Kuwait, how­ev­er. “Many of the high ris­es are being built in Dubai. There are only a few of them here in Kuwait. Kuwait is a bit qui­eter than Dubai or Sau­di Ara­bia.”

The coun­try invests its mon­ey very sen­si­bly – in infra­struc­ture for ener­gy, roads, schools and hos­pi­tals,” says Majo. And in the field of edu­ca­tion the lit­tle emi­rate is aim­ing for the very top. Uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges for med­i­cine, art, law and the sci­ences are being built on vast cam­pus­es. One has already been built and anoth­er one is cur­rent­ly under con­struc­tion, the Sabah Al Salem Uni­ver­si­ty City – using form­work tech­nol­o­gy by Doka.

Majo is cer­tain­ly not lone­ly here. Of the four mil­lion inhab­i­tants of Kuwait, only a quar­ter come from Kuwait itself. The rest come from abroad, 800,000 of them from India alone. A minia­ture Indi­an state in the heart of the mul­ti­cul­tur­al micro-state. “Yes, you could put it that way,” laughs Majo. “A lot of peo­ple who live here come from my region. We have a strong sense of com­mu­ni­ty.”

The cli­mate is almost the only thing that Majo does not like. It is too hot in this desert state. “At home it rains reg­u­lar­ly, but here it is always hot.”