‘If expatriates can do it, Saudis must do it’

Updated 08 July 2013

‘If expatriates can do it, Saudis must do it’

Businessman Ali Al-Shamrani is a firm believer that hard work pays off.
His proof of this is the successful business started with his brothers almost four decades ago in a tiny workshop. He is now the owner and chairman of Al-Shamrani Factory Drawbar Trailers in Jeddah Industrial City, with major customers in the Kingdom and abroad.
“Harvard is fine but it takes hard work to succeed in any business, industry or work,” said Al-Shamrani in an interview with Arab News.
Al-Shamrani said he studied only up to primary level but his children have undergraduate and post-graduate degrees. Some of them work for him. “At the factory I treat them like any other worker.”
He said they have to “behave and produce results just like the other 150 staff members” from various countries around the world.
“It is strenuous working with steel, which Saudis find hard to adjust to, but we send them for training at the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation colleges in the Western Region,” he said.
“I like to quote what the Chinese say: ‘If one can do it, we can do it.’ If expatriates can do it, Saudis must do it, or at least learn to do it. I believe that at the end of the day, Saudis will have to shoulder greater responsibilities — big or small, executive or entry-level, sincerely and whole-heartedly, if they want to maintain their standard of life and living and see the country grow and develop.”
“Their forefathers have left them a legacy of initiatives coupled with hard work, which they should adhere to and follow in letter and spirit. The nation has stood by them through thick and thin, encouraging and supporting them through various scholarships for study and training at home and abroad.”
“We advise young Saudis to fear Allah, respect His creatures and get ready for hard work.”
He said that no country is an island, sufficient unto itself. All countries need many hands, including those of immigrants or expatriates. But it is also true that a country can only accommodate a limited number of foreign workers.
He said he started the factory with his brothers in 1976 in the Eastern Region in a small six-by-six-meter workshop.
“We decided to specialize in manufacturing trailers because big projects and facilities were under construction, which needed such machinery. The projects have not stopped, so our business is strong too. We’re proud that we are able to do our bit for national development.”
He said that in those days it was extremely hard work. “To get an idea one has to think of the pyramids, how they were built. This is an exaggeration, but the point is that sheer human effort was exerted,” he said.
He said it has now become much easier in his business with fast and efficient technology, and trained workers. As a result, his company has orders from all over the world.
He said the first expansion of the factory took place 20 years ago, and now the fourth big expansion has started.
The business faces various challenges. “Problems are many, but solutions are not few. There is no problem without a solution. Every country faces problems. No country wanting top progress can do so without facing problems. It corrects, learns from experience and grows. As one experienced in the sector, we bring these to the attention of the relevant authorities, with suggestions. Communication is the door to solutions.”
He said that one way to learn and expand is participation in exhibitions, “which are windows to new ideas. We attend these shows both at home and abroad.”
Al-Shamrani said that he makes time for his family of 27, which includes four wives and 62 grandsons and granddaughters. He said the family unit remains a crucial part of a civilized and cohesive society. “Time spent with the family is as invigorating as time spent in a spa, no, even more satisfying and rejuvenating,” he said.
At the factory, he spends part of the day in a sparse loft in the big workshop. He also has a plush office and modern conference room in the main building.
Mohammed Tahqique, a mechanical engineer, who is a factory manager and has been with the organization since 1978, said he found working under Al-Shamrani a learning experience. “He does not interfere at all. He welcomes new ideas and innovations,” Tahqique said.
“He appreciates sincerity and hard work and expects the same from all of us including his sons and daughters working with us. His son Abdul Khaliq handles the key personnel department with efficiency.”
Al-Shamrani lets the workers join their family functions, and invites them to celebrate various events with his own family.

Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2018

Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.