BY ANAAM IKRAM
An entrepreneur by heart, Sheikh Hesham Bin Mohamed Al Khalifa has always been passionate about developing an idea into a tangible product and bringing creativity to life. Heading the Development Services department, Sheikh Hesham is the Deputy General Manager of BDB and oversees all the entrepreneur development programs and services, in addition to establishing and introducing innovative programs to help support entrepreneurial growth. Sheikh Hesham spoke to Perle Magazine about his plans to evolve Bahrain into an entrepreneurial hub and encourage the youth to take steps towards the notion.
Development services at BDB offer Advisory Services, Rowad Program (home to all the incubator facilities and clusters such as Riyadat Mall, Bahrain Business Incubator Centre, Rukn.me, and soon to come Arts Clusters and indoor Farmer’s Market) and the support services that make it all happen, which was all possible under the leadership of Sheikh Hesham. Working with a team of 30 people, Sheikh Hesham is responsible for the overall provision of support platforms for the entrepreneurs at any stage of the business cycle, or the “entrepreneurial cycle”, starting as early as a start-up all through growth and even distressed enterprises. “It’s the adventure, it’s the feeling that your days do not look the same. There is always a challenge. There is always something to do”, Sheikh Hesham says on being drawn to the entrepreneurial culture. Risks, he says are part of the passion itself and adds that is it essential to take risks otherwise it is easy to become complacent and stagnant by constantly staying in the comfort zone. “I’d prefer to take risks than just have a usual day at the office”, he says. Sheikh Hesham is also actively involved in mentoring the entrepreneurs himself and his team, as well as development of new services and products to ensure the entrepreneurial culture in Bahrain receives the support it needs to grow steadily.
Starting off with the Bahrain-Arab Model for Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion, Sheikh Hesham developed this model with two of his colleagues in the late nineties to encourage entrepreneurship, and is now used in 42 countries worldwide. The model focuses on the importance of guidance, training, incubation and looks at it as a model of progression for the ability to have an entrepreneur start-up. Developing further on this model, Sheikh Hesham co-founded and is the Preseident the Rowad Program, a holistic platform for entrepreneurs at any stage of the entrepreneurial cycle. The program, which has been running officially since 2014, offers support as early as idea stages all through to growth and expansion. The Rowad program is more bespoke and includes funding solutions as well as elements of development for individuals who are at the idea stage to develop prototypes, and has included the importance of mentoring and working within networks.
The Rowad program is an entrepreneurial venture itself that is led and managed by entrepreneurs. The program is innovative and dynamic to meet entrepreneurs’ needs at any stage they may require, and adapts to changes within the market, Sheikh Hesham explains. Within a year of the program being in operation, over 2,000 individuals (not including those incubated within the Rowad Centres) have been offered services. He adds that in the New Year, the program will be launching its online platform and new services to further support entrepreneurs. Sheikh Hesham says he focuses on working in collaboration with partners to help offer the best product and services to entrepreneurs, and in addition the Rowad Program has also recently launched the Rowad Majlis to help bring the entrepreneurial community together on a quarterly basis.
The Rowad Incubators include the Bahrain Business Incubator (BBIC), Riyadat Mall (women’s incubator centre) that was designed and launched by Sheikh Hesham, Rukn.me that is the first ICT incubator, as well as the upcoming Arts Cluster that will focus on uncovering the art industry in Bahrain, and the Farmer’s Market that focuses on food sustainability and the initiative of HRH Princess Sabeeka on food security in partnership with the Ministry of Municipality and Agricultural Affairs.
Sheikh Hesham explains that each entrepreneur starts his journey with the Rowad Program, starting with an initial meeting where the entrepreneur is introduced to the eco-system available. They are assessed to find out the requirements they need to help start their business and sessions such as training, coaching, incubation, funding and mentoring are offered. The first two meetings within the Rowad Program are free and introduce the entrepreneur to a full overview of what they require to start up, following which other services are suggested as the entrepreneur takes the next steps.
The program is not limited by age, time, or industry, and an entrepreneur can join by sending in a request. If the person is business-savvy, they may not require as much training, however, this is decided based on the primary assessment that is done. In addition to highly trained coaches and mentors that guide the entrepreneurs, Sheikh Hesham also delivers inspirational speeches and talks to various audiences, which range from high-school students to retired individuals. “I have to assure that they are doing what they passionate about. Do not look at the profit side, do not look at your abilities, as much as you should look at your passion and follow that, and you will always be good enough to make a success out of that”, he says. The entire process takes no more 4 years, and throughout, the entrepreneurs are constantly guided to ensure they are taking the right steps to success.
“Challenge the known and embrace the unknown and don’t let perfectionism delay you”, Sheikh Hesham’s incomparable drive, determination, creativity, and innovation have led the Development Services to noticeable growth every year. With the addition of new programs and services, as well as more platforms for the entrepreneurs in Bahrain, Sheikh Hesham’s efforts to provide a solid foundation for the entrepreneurial culture in the Kingdom have seen promising results. Sheikh Hesham emphasises on the fact that there are ample opportunities and support platforms are readily available, all that is required for the keen entrepreneurs to approach them. With the help of programs such as “Takween”, which is done with the Ministry of Education, Sheikh Hesham says they are also eager to educate the younger generation and encourage them to consider entrepreneurship as a possible future career plan. He adds, “Development Services and the Rowad Program are here to support all entrepreneurs regardless of their age; after all age is not a factor for entrepreneurship, as entrepreneurship is a mindset.”
For more information on Bahrain Development Bank:
(00973) 17 511111
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