Name: Toscana Landscaping
Business type: Landscaping
Partner and Business Development Manager: Sami Azrak
Location: Palm Tower, West Bay
Qatar is a desert country, where conditions can be mostly hot and arid – which is a blessing for the sun-seeking tourist, but a major challenge for the keen landscaper or gardener. Nothing impresses family, friends and visitors like a well-tended garden space outside the home, but with the prevailing hot weather meaning that water is at a premium, it can be expensive and time consuming to maintain perfect looking gardens, lawns or pathways all year round.
Young entrepreneur Sami Azrak identified a significant void in the landscaping market in Qatar and decided to set up a landscaping business to help people achieve those lush green areas. And to do this, he is utilizing alternative products within the landscaping industry that can create a warm, welcoming yet striking outside area to a home that combines the splendour of natural greenery with minimal maintenance.
Tell us about how you got into this line of business?
We discovered a lack of professional level of service in the local landscaping market, which is always a key driver for us to start a new venture. The unavailability of professional landscaping services, combined with the need for us to integrate existing levels of service within our company was the main drive to create and expand our Toscana Landscaping branch.
Tell us a bit more about yourself?
I joined the family business about five years ago, after graduating in Spain in the fields of international business and psychology. I have since initiated several new branches for our company, including landscaping and gypsum services, facility management, a security division and a hospitality branch. During this time, I have also completed an MBA at the IE University.
I am originally from Syria, but migrated, along with my family, as soon as I was born and I have lived in different cities throughout my life, including Dubai, California and Madrid. I am now 27, married, and I am blessed with two children.
Tell us more about your company and the services you offer?
Our landscaping division designs and implements top quality landscaping through the supply of premium grade artificial or synthetic grass. We are also responsible for aftercare and maintenance. Toscana landscaping also supply and install vertical gardens, both artificial and real, as well as other complementary products such as water drainage sheets and garden lights.
How long have you been in this business?
Our mother company Toscana has been in business for over 13 years.
What advantages does artificial grass have over real grass?
In a time where water is fast becoming a precious resource, artificial grass solves the major problem of water wastage experienced not only in the GCC but all around the world. Synthetic grass looks great, feels great, is long lasting if maintained correctly, and requires minimal maintenance. Here in the GCC, artificial lawn owners do not have to worry about going away for their vacation and coming back to a brown, fading or dead lawn because the colour of synthetic grass – (in particular, that of our main product, Royal Grass), does not fade. This provides the client with the perfect lawn all year round, and no matter how hot the sun shines, our products look perfect. Artificial grass is a superb choice for people or organizations that don’t want the hassle of creating and maintaining a perfect lawn. Additionally, our landscaping experts can turn any arid or dry-looking desert area into a lush green one, be it a small terrace, a parking garage or a rooftop, all of which would be difficult to do with real grass.
What are the most common questions people ask you about artificial grass?
The most common question of all is if our synthetic grasses will burn, especially under the extreme heat here in the GCC. The answer is simple – synthetic grass will not burn, even under the heat of the sun. And if it does ever happen to catch fire from a direct source of heat such as a barbecue, cigarette butts, or candles, it will only melt. It does not spread fire because it has been treated to make it fire retardant.
The second most common question is whether it is safe for children. Again, we point out that the grass fibre contains chemicals that are not harmful and non-toxic, in the rare event that children should swallow or inhale the product. Our customers are also safe in the knowledge that we offer a completely zinc-free product, which makes it 100 percent safe for kids and pets. Although the grass contains certain chemicals that are necessary to manufacture it, Royal Grass fibres have been subjected to rigorous health and safety testing to ensure that they are safe for everybody. It also helps clients to keep everything cleaner, because there is no soil, muddy feet or paws are no longer a problem! And any pet mess can be hosed away and will not cause discolouration.
We are also often asked whether the colour will change. To allay any fears of this happening, we provide a colour guarantee based on tests undertaken on Royal Grass over a period of eight years, where it is constantly exposed to the high UV index in the GCC. Very few other brands can compete with us in this regard, and our colour guarantee makes us unique in the market.
What do you think will be some of the long-term effects of the adoption of artificial grass in residential areas?
We have noticed an increased demand from both the consumer side and from government authorities to create more green areas using artificial grass. Water consumption would be significantly reduced, and general costs would fall, as no irrigation systems would have to be installed or operated. The widespread use of synthetic grass would also lead to safer and cleaner gardens and playing areas for children. Artificial grass is a durable and safe alternative to natural grass.
Who are your customers?
Our customers come from all walks of life, from locals and expats for residential projects such as apartments and villas, through to commercial clients for shopping malls, and government organizations for public parks. One unusual project was when a retail clothing chain used our products to create a green wall made entirely of Royal Grass.
How much does it cost for per metre?
Our products range from QR 130 to QR 200 per sq. m, including installation.
How long does the artificial grass last?
Our artificial grass comes with an eight-year warranty on the stability of the colour. If it is installed and maintained according to our manufacturer instructions, it can easily last eight years in the hot climate of Qatar and other GCC countries. Most artificial grass surfaces can last up to ten years.
Where does the grass come from?
The grass fibres and materials are manufactured and assembled in the Netherlands.
Does artificial grass need extra care? If so, what kind?
Not really, although artificial grass does need to have its fibres brushed occasionally to keep it from being flattened. Our brand, Royal Grass, has a V-Shape fibre, which is a patented system that helps to keep the grass fibre in an upright position, which ensures minimal care. Apart from that, a quick rinse every now and then helps to clean the dust away, and no extra special care is needed.
What challenges do you currently face, and what do you do to solve them?
Finding qualified installers is our biggest challenge, and we manage to solve this through a programme of extensive training to ensure that our teams of installation experts are certified to install the products correctly and in a professional manner.
Do you have any advice for those who want to enter this line of business in Qatar?
Maintaining good levels of stock is a must, as this is a product that people want immediately, and they will not tolerate waiting time. I also think that we need more informative customer awareness consumer awareness campaigns to differentiate our product from the low end, more inferior products that are currently available on the market.
What are your plans for the future?
We hope to continue growing, adding new employees and a larger warehouse to our business structure. We also look forward to constantly add new products to our extensive range, especially in the currently fashionable field of vertical gardening, and combine those with innovative design to achieve stunning and unusual landscape effects for our clients.