As a resident of the Kingdom of Bahrain since the last 40 years and having worked extensively in the cleaning industry here, I can say that in the last 20 years, the industry has undergone a complete transformation. The cleaning practices adopted over centuries through manual labour have been converted into automation. Thanks to the fastest construction boom that occurred between the 1980s and now, along with the coastal development of Bahrain through reclamation – the country has grown by leaps and bounds with millions of square meters of reclaimed land still being added to the landscape of coastal Bahrain.
Concerted efforts by property owners who built some of the finest malls and residential properties way back in the late nineties directly resulted in a more organised cleaning industry. New cleaning contracting companies came into being along with cleaning equipment and tools suppliers who brought in automation in the maintenance of these fine properties. A simultaneous adoption of the latest cleaning methods that were practiced in Europe were implemented in the UAE and Bahrain to maintain these fine properties.
In the past couple of years, the market in general has been slow, but the cleaning industry hasn’t been affected as much. Since all the major properties have outsourced their cleaning services, the value of contracts may have been lower due to stiff competition, but the business volume has grown. This has also eliminated the smaller cleaning contractors forcing them to close their operations and bigger ones compromising on contract values to sustain. This has marginally affected the purchasing power of new equipment by contractors. The number of properties, however, has increased including shopping malls, thus enabling cleaning contractors to increase their manpower. We as traders of cleaning supplies have maintained our volumes but have not made any noticeable growth in sales or profitability during this period.
Sustainability is the order of the day in the current Bahrain market. It applies to all trades and businesses including cleaning services and related trade. This is the direct effect of the stability in oil prices and the current political scenario in the Middle East. This trend is likely to continue as per the opinion of most political and economic pundits; therefore, it is time for all to steer their business operations in the direction of sustainability. The buyer is king, and therefore it is time to offer value for money.
I have been visiting the UAE since several years now and have seen the way Dubai leads the cleaning industry of this region both in terms of machinery and practices. Bahrain has followed Dubai closely in this aspect, and I must say we are not behind technologically. Although AI has taken off well internationally, this region has taken a back seat due to economical reasons. It does not seem to be the right time to introduce robotics unless and until it proves to be economically viable. Nevertheless, it is an option the cleaning industry may welcome if the benefits outweigh the cost.
Current market trends
Outsourcing of cleaning operations has become a huge trend here including the household cleaning. Cleaning and maintenance of every commercial building, housing, school and university and government building is now outsourced. FM companies offer a complete cleaning and maintenance package to these properties, which I believe will help this sector grow tremendously. The only sector to retain in-house cleaning and maintenance is the hospitality industry, and this does not seem to be changing in the near future.
The contract-cleaning sector of Bahrain is largely labour oriented and has been slower to adopt automation. This is due to the lack of information and knowledge of mechanised cleaning amongst the top management and employers. The reluctance and the lack of interest to learn and adopt the easier and faster cleaning methods by using machinery and tools are visibly seen amongst these managers.
The major challenges faced by the cleaning industry here is the lack of investment. The top end of the market is reluctant to invest into cleaning operations, and, as always, cleaning is seen as the last and least requirement of any new project. The dip in cleaning contract values by the year is proof that properties are trying to cut corners and compromise on cleaning and maintenance. This has compelled contractors to use and reuse the same equipment and methods rather than try innovations. Perhaps they feel that the time is not right for them, and this has to and will change eventually. Besides, the cleaning of exteriors of the large and high-rise properties has posed a serious challenge to contractors and owners of buildings alike, leaving them with no choice but to adopt the rope-based façade cleaning systems. Such compulsions will change the current mentality and lead to professionalism.
What lies ahead
Bahrain is a small but unique market, and we foresee a dramatic change in the cleaning and hygiene sector. The government is inclined and is making strict regulations in maintaining hygiene in public areas. Also the products -particularly cleaning agents - that are coming into Bahrain, are undergoing strict scrutiny by the Environmental Ministry, and this has given a message to those in the region to maintain the necessary guidelines in the manufacturing of these products. We are hoping to make Bahrain a role model in the cleaning and hygiene sector in the region.
About Paragon Trading
Paragon Trading was established in 2004 as a trading company for the supply of cleaning equipment, tools, chemicals for floor, carpet and marble care. We have an extensive network of suppliers from across the globe to ensure our customers quickly receive solutions to their cleaning needs. We represent premium brands like Comac, Qleen, Klindex, Numatic International and stand apart from other companies. We have brought in innovation in Bahrain’s cleaning industry by introducing state-of-the-art cleaning machinery and tools. We were the first to introduce ride-on scrubber driers, sweepers, vacuums and glass cleaning systems of European origin in the Bahrain market. This has made us the undisputed leader of innovation in Bahrain’s cleaning industry, and we continue to be the leading supplier in the region.