Here’s how this all-women collaboration is ready to take the industry in its stride and offer services like design, project management, and engineering under one roof
BY ROMA ARORA
Collaborations are creating a more competitive and creative world. As people’s skill-set is becoming increasingly specialised, collaboration as a practice is on the rise. Collaboration is when a group of people come together and contribute their expertise towards the achievement of a common goal or mission. One such collaboration worth talking about is by three Dubai-based experts in interior design and architecture, engineering, and project management who have launched a new service that offers a one-stop-shop solution to those seeking a professional and customer-centric approach to Design and Build. Meet architect and engineer Ankita Rao of Freeline Engineering, project and construction manager Natasha Abbas of North 51 Consulting, and interior designer/interior architect Nikki Bisiker of Nikki Bisiker Interior Design who are bringing experience and diverse cultures to customers who value a range of talents accessible under one roof.
Design Middle East spoke to the three fantastic ladies who have come together with this modern approach to consultancy to provides a positive, trustworthy, and unbiased framework for clients.
DIRECTOR OF PROJECTS, NORTH 51 CONSULTING
Natasha Abbas specialises in project and construction management and has an experience of 18 years in front-end construction, quality control and fit-out of prime and super-prime residential, retail, and F&B Projects in the UK and UAE. MSc in International Construction Management from the University of Leeds, UK, Abbas is also an Incorporated Member of the Chartered Institute of Builders UK, UAE (CIOB). A client-centric project management lead and self-proclaimed perfectionist by nature, Abbas has invariably always multi-tasked across the board to deliver successful project outcomes for her clients. She is thrilled to bring this and more to this all-female collaboration. Abbas reveals what brought all of them together: “True to Plato’s theory of creativity and necessity loosely translated as ‘Necessity is the Mother of all Invention’ applies to this exciting all-women collaboration. We have worked with each other on several projects before and as Project Management Lead on Cipriani Dolci, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Nikki and Ankita, harnessing our expertise of management, design creativity, and engineering to deliver a successful outcome for the client. This was the catalyst to this niche collaboration.” Abbas’ industry experience ranges from highways engineering to land reclamation and development, industrial to high-end residential, hotels and F&B hospitality which has a wide spectrum of seasoned experience which is a niche value add-on for this exciting unique collaboration.
Talking about her role in this collaboration, Abbas comments: “My role in this collaboration involves project management services. We offer cost and commercial management, contracts and contract administration as a bolt on service to this one-of-a kind all-female collaboration.” Nothing comes easy in life. A key challenge in setting up this collaboration was maintaining North 51 Consulting, Nikki Bisiker Interior Design and Freeline Engineering Consultants individual identities and service offerings. Abbas tells: “This collaboration whilst cohesive and niche, is a strategic response to UAE’s post-pandemic construction and fit-out industry for international and local clients who need an all-encompassing service for timely project delivery and a seamless project journey. Our strengths lie in converting international standards to be in line with local Design and Build mandatory and statutory requirements whilst considering our expert local market knowledge and cultural needs. Our collaborative philosophy and ethos benefit international hospitality, F&B concepts, and brands launching in the UAE.” The fast-paced construction industry requires bi-lateral strategic analytical thinking which is not taught in textbooks but comes with years of experience in People and Projects. “Undoubtedly, multi-tasking is something entrepreneurs would agree with worldwide,” states Abbas as that is the essence of this collaboration. Further explaining the way of working between these three different companies, Abbas states: “The collaborative approach between North 51 Consulting, Nikki Bisiker Interior Design, and Freeline Engineering Consultants is on a project needs basis and upon opportunities presenting itself. We are able to provide best in class project management, design and engineering Services with stringent risk management and value management to developers, clients, occupiers making the journey an adventure. This philosophy and ethos benefit international concepts and brands launching in the UAE given our expertise and local knowledge of construction and fit-out.”
OWNER, NIKKI BISIKER INTERIOR DESIGN
With an experience of over 30 years, Nikki Bisiker’s past and present projects are scattered across France, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, Russia, Austria, Africa, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the UK. Bisiker creates homes that are personal and unique to the owner. Bisiker is a self-taught designer. From a very young age of 13, she decided to restyle and design her small bedroom near Bristol using some money that was left to her by a Jamaican Great Uncle. It became a white and purple design haven. Her inspiration at this tender age came from both Mary Quant’s dynamic colours and patterns and her own mother’s Jamaican heritage, floral dresses, and love for vibrant colours. This was the right foundation for Bisker and the rest is history. She has delivered villas in Emirates Hill, Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Golf Estates, Arabian Ranches, as well as restaurants in Dubai. Right now, Bisiker is very excited about this new all-women collaboration.
She states: “As woman, we tend to have multifaceted thinking at one time so times x 3 and the collaboration becomes extra powerful. My experience of over 30 years with all different project types from hotels, restaurants, residential in different countries, provides a level of experience that just university education and a few years in the industry just can’t equal. Combined with the multifaceted experience of Ankita and Natasha on exclusive projects as well, again it is a triple force that we are providing and ultimately able to deliver with skill and panache.” It’s amazing to see how these ladies from different cultures and history form a rich kaleidoscope of talent, foresight, understanding and a productive and driven team. Bisiker’s role is a crucial one and she takes pride in her work. She elaborates: “My role revolves around interior architecture and interior design, concept, design development, as well as technical drawings for contractors and authority submissions. If the project comes through me and it’s residential, then client liaison, meetings, briefs, and communication are the key areas for me Bisiker also feels that the ongoing pandemic has changed the mindsets of people and they’re heavily investing in their homes now. “Clients are looking to invest more in their homes as they see the pleasure of being in them and want to see the changes, want to upgrade their surroundings, and change the environment they have been in,” says Bisiker. Bisiker is a people’s person and she is a firm follower of transformational management style as it increases innovation and creativity. “It’s very important to nurture and encourage your team You have to push your team members so that they can explore avenues and new formats of design, this helps in their skillset and makes them a diverse designer. We have to raise the bar so that they can think out-of-the-box and outside their comfort zone.”
DIRECTOR AND ARCHITECT, FREELINE ENGINEERING CONSULTANTS
For more than two decades, Freeline Engineering Consultants has delivered numerous prestigious projects. Their biggest business strength is their experience dealing with a diverse portfolio of end-to-end design projects ranging from luxury villas, schools, residential buildings, commercial facilities, factories, warehouses, and low-income housing. Anita Rao manages the technical and project management part of the business. She is ecstatic about this collaboration and knows that the firm’s experience would come into great use. Rao says: “As a firm, we are 23 years into business in Dubai alone and have a varied and an enviable portfolio of over 1000 completed projects of various scales and sizes. Our vast and diverse experience individually and jointly coupled with complementary skills-set would be an invaluable asset to any design and build project.” Freeline Engineering Consultants’ role is a crucial one for this collaboration. “All our services are in-house so it’s quite a handful task managing the operations including engineer coordination on projects, government liaisoning, managing deadlines, client liaisoning, and other building completion formalities,” says Rao.
Rao is a true entrepreneur and she considers ‘compassion and empathy’ as non-negotiable behavioural skills an entrepreneur needs to cultivate or have. “In terms of business skills, I would say effective communication, non-judgmental listening, constructive time management, a penchant to stay out of comfort zones and successful networking are top skills to have. I would describe our management style as ‘Democratic’ with a strong focus on the spirit of effective collaboration and valued inclusiveness of each member of our team.” Rao is confident about this new collaboration. When asked if pandemic has dampened her spirits, she replies: “Construction has always been a volatile industry and has seen many such ebbs and tides in the last two odd decades of existence.” She further explains how this pandemic has shifted the behaviour of people towards the residential sector, resulting in more opportunities for them. Rao notes: “Specific to the pandemic, we have seen a huge shift in the residential sector. A lot of our inquiries are steered towards either design of empty residential parcels or the demolition of existing villas and then rebuilding them. In terms of industrial developments, we are seeing a huge leap in the food manufacturing sector. A big chunk of our lead generation efforts are steered towards these two segments currently.”