Ask any entrepreneur and they’ll tell you that business success – by any measurement – is never easily obtained. In addition to hard work it requires shrewd decision making, a fortitude to see things through, help from the right people, and a bit of luck. Achieving success in a struggling economy, in which scores of other businesses are failing, is even tougher.
Bilal Hydrie, founder and president of Inclusive Energy Ltd. and Global Centurion Investments (GCI), among other businesses, not only defies those odds, he uses them to his favour. His first company, Inclusive Energy, is a private oilfield equipment supplier that has continued to grow since 2009, in spite of the downturn in the economy. At the same time his private equity firm, GCI, has expanded far beyond Alberta’s energy sector.
At the helm of both companies and several other ventures that continue to expand, Hydrie’s goal now is to give back to the province that has given him so much, and to help build an economy where future generations, including his own children, can thrive.
Born into a business-oriented and established family in Pakistan, Hydrie always knew he was destined for entrepreneurship. He is a member of his family business, the Habib Group – a large group of international investors headquartered in Pakistan and Dubai with businesses in a range of sectors around the world including banking, manufacturing and retail, insurance, and several schools, colleges and universities. He grew up in both Pakistan and Dubai, watching his family run these businesses and understanding that one day he would do the same.
And indeed, today, he does. With a growing roster of companies under his control, all of which have grown the family business exponentially, Hydrie is realizing the dream he arrived in this country with, almost 20 years ago.
“My goal when we moved here was to get an education, go back home, and run the family business,” he says of moving to Canada as a young man with his parents. However, life, as it often does, took an unexpected turn. Opportunities began to present themselves. An eager Hydrie decided to stay and seize them.
“I saw a problem that I wanted to solve and had a passion for,” he reflects. “This, to me, is an attribute that every entrepreneur needs to have in order to succeed. It’s not only about solving the problem, it’s first having the skills to identify the problems and then finding a way to solve them.”
Take, for example, his creation of Inclusive Energy. After graduating from the Chemical Process Engineering program at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), and with several other certificates to compliment his diploma, Hydrie entered the workforce. “I worked in the oil and gas industry for six years and I noticed a gap in the drilling and completion sector where demand was high and supply was at an all-time-low for customized equipment,” he says, noting that companies were outsourcing jobs to third parties and paying huge dollars for equipment that took a long time to receive. “I realized, I could do this myself.”
His concept was to bring together a team of professionals under one roof to offer the full package. “I established Inclusive Energy with the goal of being a one-stop-shop for our clients,” he explains. “The word ‘inclusive’ means we offer and include all services from designing, drafting, custom fabrication, delivery, setup and even flexible financing options.”
With limited experience and still-lingering newcomer status, Hydrie started Inclusive from scratch with a $50,000 investment of his own money. “It was a struggle,” he concedes. “I knocked on a lot of doors trying to convince clients to give me one opportunity to prove myself.” He reminisces about the many hours travelled through rural Alberta to meet potential clients, barely knowing where he was or what he was doing.
“Failure is a part of business,” he notes. “With market fluctuations over the last five to six years I have failed several times before succeeding, but I’ve learned from my failures and applied my learning to return bigger and better each time. I had to work for my success. Nothing was handed to me.”
His (literal) blood, sweat and tears eventually paid off, and Hydrie landed his first deal with a major key player in Alberta energy. He realized then, the money to be made in his new venture. “The margins I made were too good to be true,” he smiles. “That was such a motivation to grow the business.”
At Inclusive, his strategy has been one of acquisition and maximum customer satisfaction. “We’re focused on buying distressed assets,” Hydrie explains. “It’s a gamble, buying when people say don’t buy. But you have to buy right. You have to have the right deals in order to get the right equipment. We take a risk for our customers so that we have the right products in stock and ready for them with a single phone call.”
Today that equipment is predominantly for oil and gas drilling, including surface equipment, storage tanks, process production equipment, and other customized items. “The downturn the market is so tight and there isn’t much drilling activity,” Hydrie explains. “Many companies are struggling. They don’t want the liability of carrying equipment, transportation costs, or anything. So, we go in and buy assets for very aggressive prices, killing two birds with one stone: we help the businesses with their balance sheets, and in turn, acquire equipment that we can then sell at competitive prices to keep our clients coming back.”
Purchasing in bulk is key. “Many companies lack funds, have huge payroll and no profits,” he says. “They also have assets sitting on the books not generating any value. We go in and make an offer on a larger quantity for amounts greater than $1 million. It’s very appealing for the sellers because they can use those funds to pay bank debts and other expenses, and keep their businesses running.”
In some instances, assuming the liability for transportation costs and clean-up is all Inclusive must give in order to obtain equipment. This is often the case with government-owned abandoned well sites, as well as with companies that have equipment sitting idle in the field. “The value of that equipment is zero to them,” Hydrie explains, “and they don’t want to spend more money to move it. We take all the liability of removing the equipment and cleanup. They have zero liability and get rid of the inventory.”
It’s a risk, Hydrie acknowledges, to assume the costs of cleanup of a site, but it’s one he’s willing to take. “We do our due diligence. Our team goes in and determines the cost before we decide. It’s all about our team. We have the right people working for us who can tell us which deals are good and which deals are not. So far we have seen success.”
As a result, Inclusive now has a huge inventory of stock stored at five different yards in Alberta. They are located along the highway for maximum exposure in Crossfield (three yards), Edmonton and Leduc.
“One hundred thousand vehicles pass by every day and see our equipment,” Hydrie says. “We plan on getting more yards with highway exposure for easy access for our clients. Our goal is to have a yard every 200 kilometres.”
Despite the slow market, Inclusive does have many clients for whom it’s able to quickly supply needed equipment. “We have the majority of required equipment in stock,” he says, “with quick turnarounds.” Typically, a standard tank takes up to four weeks to be delivered; with Inclusive, standard tanks are always in stock, available and ready for next-day delivery. Whereas a custom tank normally takes up to three months, with Inclusive it takes only two weeks. “We buy steel in bulk and keep cans in stock for quick modifications.”
Inclusive also offers clients a variety of payment options. “In addition to rent-to-own options, we also have lease-to-own selections.” Hydrie explains. “Instead of borrowing from the bank, clients can borrow from us.” He notes that banks are conservative and are often reluctant to finance small or start-up oil companies. This is where Inclusive can fill the gap.
“We are coming up with different ideas and different products, and trying to put it all under one umbrella of Inclusive where we can supply everything to our clients,” he points out. “We’re looking at different ideas where we can be a one-stop service for everything, so companies can come in after drilling. We even offer in-house engineering.”
While growing Inclusive, Hydrie identified another opportunity. Faced with the lack of adequate capital available for start-ups, he decided to launch GCI, his own private equity firm. Today GCI helps many different companies reach their full potential with financial investments and other support.
“We offer our time, assistance, and guidance to companies in need,” says Hydrie. “We don’t just offer funding, but complete guidance with the growth process, including equity participation and enterprise risk management. We love small and growing businesses and entrepreneurs who are innovative and driven to bring change.”
In Alberta’s oil and gas sector, GCI has acquired or established joint ventures with several service and trucking start-up businesses who were unable to obtain funds from the banks. “We are heavily involved in energy sector equipment leasing and helping start-up companies grow their businesses,” Hydrie explains. “We’ve invested millions of dollars.”
In fact, the firm recently brought on a couple of new investors from Toronto. “A non-negotiable aspect of this business is that we treat investors’ money with the utmost importance,” he advises. “We are even more cautious with it than with our own. I have found the right team to run this business with me, one whose passion aligns perfectly with mine.”
As a result of the synergy among investors, GCI has now expanded into energy, technology, real estate development, textile and food industries across the globe.
Having achieved so much, Hydrie is proud of his contributions to Alberta’s economy. “Alongside being a key player in the oil and gas service sector, we’ve become a support system to the industry and the economy of Alberta. By providing capital, purchasing assets to provide relief and sometimes just keeping the shops busy, we’ve helped prevent an endless number of companies from going under.”
Hydrie reveals, “My long-term goal is to become directly or indirectly involved with Alberta politics, so I can strive to make a difference in the energy sector.”
Today Hydrie considers himself a Calgarian and doubts he’ll ever leave. Along with his wife and two children, he is part of the community. “Calgary gave me everything – who I am – so I want to give back,” he says.
To give back to the community, Hydrie currently he pays for the food, lodging and monthly expenses of two international students at SAIT. He is also actively involved in helping the community by organizing charity events and volunteering. Inclusive has also assisted students in completing internships.
With a sharp talent for spotting and capitalizing on opportunities, Hydrie will undoubtedly enjoy more success in the years to come. His companies, employees, partners and associates – indeed, the entire province – will benefit greatly. Boldly confident despite tumultuous times in the economy, Hydrie’s approach to everything he does remains optimistic.
“The glass is always half full, never empty,” the businessman concludes.