Mastering a Craft
Focused on designing, building and delivering tailored solutions that exceed client expectations, Craft Holdings is championing unorthodox and progressive construction innovation
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Tom Cullum
Asia. Home to more than 4.5 billion people and accounting for roughly $30 trillion of global GDP, it is little surprise that this is the world’s largest continental economy.
Rewind to the turn of the decade, however, and the current status quo was entirely different, a time when Asia was bested by both Europe and North America and accounted for merely a third of the GDP that it does today.
Prolonged periods of growth and the rise of a number of emerging regional markets are key to this rapid rise over the past nine years, markets that have come to embrace globalisation, industrialisation and modernisation throughout this period.
The movement of the construction industry is a key indicator of this, with Euler Hermes citing that over 57 percent of global construction growth over the past decade has come from emerging markets.
To say these recent years alone have dictated this upturn, however, would be untrue, as a number of enterprises with intelligent strategic ideas, such as Craft Holdings, have made the most of the growth in opportunities for prolonged periods.
Now standing as the region’s only specialist contractor able to provide a total solution for façade, unitised roofing and interiors projects, Craft has continued to profit from these positive prospects for a quarter century, largely owed to its innovative and entrepreneurial approach.
“From an industry perspective, thinking outside the box isn’t typical of construction, but it’s a value which is highly regarded within the Craft company culture,” explains Huub van der Staak, Managing Director of Craft Holdings Southeast Asia.
An award-winning ethos
Having started his own career in construction in 1987, van der Staak’s personal journey largely mirrors that of Craft, the two having grown in tandem with the thriving Asian market over the course of many years.
He explains, recapping on an illustrious career to date: “After completing a bachelors degree in Engineering and a mandatory 18-month stint in the Dutch Army, I initially spent some time in New Zealand working for one of the country’s largest façade suppliers, before returning to Europe to find employment in the Netherlands as a project manager.
“It quickly became apparent that good construction opportunities could be found within emerging markets, which in the mid 90s meant moving to Asia. As such, I managed my first project on the continent in 1995, installing aluminium windows and pre-fabricated light concrete units on Shanghai Printemps Department Store.
“What was initially a six-month appointment quickly turned into a permanent stay where I ended up holding senior positions for one of the world’s major International façade companies, then moving to Craft Holdings in 2017.”
For van der Staak, the draw of Craft was the company’s willingness to be creative and proactive in its approach.
Utilising innovative industry practices and processes, and collaborating closely with architects, consultants and clients in a pre-construction agreement, the company is able to fine-tune project-specific designs in adherence with any demands from the outset.
“This is much more coherent than trying to adopt an existing system which might tick some of the boxes but most definitely not all,” van der Staak adds.
Equally, this outlook has allowed Craft to establish an esteemed reputation over the years, achieving the highest level of customer satisfaction on a consistent basis by providing tailor-made, bespoke construction solutions to meet each
of its clients’ individual expectations.
“By looking at issues from a non-conventional perspective, we’re able to offer clients new practices and processes which allow us to deliver their projects on time, within budget and to the highest standards,” the MD continues.
“In an industry where safety is considered a key aspect of anything we do, Craft has also moved this requirement right to the front of the design process, resulting in several award winning installation methods that have since become industry standards, but which at the time were considered quite unorthodox.”
Opportunity in abundance
This modus operandi has seamlessly facilitated Craft’s natural expansion, its presence now spanning nine countries.
In the face of this rapid rise, however, the company has remained humble all the same, no better reflected than by its extensive CSR practices.
One such example of this is the firm’s membership within the Lighthouse Club Hong Kong (LCH), a non-political organisation which supports the national construction industry, providing charitable assistance to distressed enterprises and individuals.
“LCH also promotes health and safety in HK, and its annual Health & Safety Awards ceremony is highly regarded in the industry, showcasing how safe work can be achieved on even the most challenging projects,” adds van der Staak.
Outside of these activities, the continent benefits from Craft’s substantial presence in other ways, again evident through the organisation’s esteemed employment, training and talent retention strategies that help to uphold each of the local economies in which it operates.
“We recognise that a firm understanding and appreciation of each country’s cultures and business practices is essential, something that can only be achieved by hiring the best local talent available,” van der Staak continues. “And when we do hire internationally, we ensure that these employees have worked locally for the majority of their professional careers prior to joining the Craft team, and so have an adept understanding of the market and what we’re trying to do.”
Each of these employees are provided with both short- and long-term incentives and equal opportunities for progression that are achieved solely through merit and hard work.
Van der Staak continues: “Building on this communitive experience, young managers are given the opportunity to move up within the organisation, not only to gain experience but to fully understand the challenges and more importantly the benefits that a company such as Craft offers.
“With pan-Asia coverage and projects in various disciplines, from façade to roofing to interiors, the opportunities for growth and development are widely available.”
Moving forward, Craft’s status as a champion of coherent, progressive construction seems unlikely to change.
The company is partnered and working with major developers and architects in Asia, for example, to ensure its design and engineer projects have a minimised ecological footprint, recognising the environmental, economic, health and productivity benefits.
Further, March saw Craft sign a joint venture agreement with one of India’s leading building and construction materials suppliers to create an entity, named Aparna-Craft Exteriors Pvt, that will manufacture and retail aluminium exterior solutions.
“This latest cooperation with a well-established and extremely successful local entity is a continuation of Craft’s proven strategy of leveraging its own designing and engineering expertise with the execution capabilities of local teams to create the right type of synergy in order to successfully enter these new markets,” van der Staak says.
And it is this that will be a crucial part of Craft’s strategy moving forwards, the company looking to both grow and consolidate its position over the coming months.
Van der Staak concludes: “With the newly established joint venture in India we are entering the third biggest economy in Asia, where in the next three years we are planning to move from having regional coverage to full pan-India involvement.
“We’ll also continue to bolster our position in areas such as Australia, Philippines and HK, while closely monitoring the regions around us, in particular Thailand, which appears to be on its way back up, and the ever-growing needs of the Indonesian construction market.”