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Powered by, one of the most popular daily English language newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Model maker feels worst is past

10/06/2009 11:30 PM

Dubai: Cityscape exhibitions in the region have served as an opportunity for developers to flaunt their projects, with each trying to get bigger and flashier miniature models than the competition.

According to a recent BBC report, 70 per cent of the world's miniature models are made in the UAE, and the boom experienced in the industry regionally is testament to that.

Hong Kong-based 3dr Models was one of the first model-making companies to enter the region, and has been operating in the UAE for 35 years. Its chief executive, Dani Bterrani, says the industry has changed 180 degrees in that period.

With increased competition among developers and model makers, the industry in the past few years particularly has witnessed an increase in demand and a refining of tastes.

"Everyone wants their project to be the best," said Bterrani. "The industry here has grown to its limit& In the past three years, we would get very minor briefs due to major work pressure".

That has however changed now. This year could mark a turning point for the saturated industry, as has been evident at Cityscape Dubai.

"Most of the developers are reusing models this year since there aren't many new projects," said Bterrani, adding that the current economic downturn had forced two model making companies out of the game. 3dr Models, one of the biggest such companies in the world, has also been forced to downsize from 530 employees to 370 and its logistics team has shrunken from 170 to 70. Bterrani however does not expect the situation to get any worse, and said there are slight recoveries in the real estate industry.

But as Ting Liu, Vice-President of Beijing-based Micro Model, points out the downturn is also forcing some developers to outsource their model making to cheaper locations. He does not believe that is a feasible option for developers though.

"You need to have face-to-face interaction with your client. In a competitive market where quality is key and requirements are tough you need interaction with your clients and in the same time zone," he said.

Model-making companies have been criticised in the past for milking developers. Industry insiders say that demand was so high in recent years that they never had to look for business - it came to them.

Ting said prices for models could go for anywhere from Dh100,000 to over Dh1 million for a master project, but added that the cost to the model-making company and the work involved should not be underestimated.

"It's hard work. We have labour costs, material costs and design costs to consider," he said.

Model-making companies employ everyone from architects, civil engineers and CAD operators, who engineer and design the models.

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