I was recently asked to take part in judging a distinguished set of initiatives presented by a number of ambitious, starting businessmen in the Arab world. This came in the context of a very ambitious project proposed by the Abdul Latif Jameel Company, a pioneer in this field, in partnership with the firmly-established American MIT University.
The ideas that were presented were remarkable and the quality and the characters involved were distinguished and promising. The conversations I had with these people demonstrated the magnitude and significance of “examples” consolidated by art and entertainment whether it be film, novel, theatre or television. These works of art portray the image of a user surrounded by taboo issues. Yet there are honourable examples that deserve to be highlighted and their stories should be made known so that we can learn from their experiences, their characters and the challenges they encountered.
It is not odd to hear a young Egyptian businessman speak with pride about the great businessman Talaat Pasha Harb and the amazing accomplishments that he achieved for his country and in diversifying the economy.
The Palestinians are proud when they talk about the accomplishments of Abdul Hameed Shoman, founder of the Arab Bank. They boast about how he managed to establish a great financial body amid fierce economic and political challenges.
The Syrians are also proud of the accomplishments of the Al Dabbas, Al Shallah and Al Shurbaji families, all of whom managed to establish themselves in different fields amid tense and unstable atmospheres.
In Lebanon, there are many examples of success stories both inside and outside of the country in various fields. But amongst all of this, I noticed that the Saudis are not as enthusiastic about this issue, though the Saudi business sector has given rise to “unique” and “amazing” examples.
In Saudi Arabia, many successful models in the business sector emerged and have given new meaning to the term “self-made”. They work in an honourable and honest manner. Who can forget Abdul Lateef Jamil who turned a simple project of selling cars into a giant company of exceptional “business culture” and of a different administrative mentality, effectively contributing to the development of the concept of national economy.
Another example is Sulaiman Al Olayan who astoundingly expanded in a number of areas including the industrial, banking, trade sectors and the field of public services after humble beginnings that later transformed into international and unique successes thanks to his efforts and patience.
There is also the example of Abdulaziz al Gosaibi who created a unique economic body and presented materials and products mainly to the oil sector in a fundamental manner, thus achieving considerable successes and gaining an excellent reputation in the way he deals with others. He gained people’s love and respect.
Suleiman al Rajhi is another businessman who transformed a simple business idea into an integrated empire in various fields based on the principle of being able to provide- and improve- finance management, thus creating his own unique administration.
Of course, there is the pioneering Saleh Abdullah Kamel who had a significant number of his own ideas and initiatives either in the media, Islamic banking, public services and other projects.
Most of these figures achieved their successes with a great deal of honour and integrity, without having to change the nature of their real characters; there was no need for pride, hypocrisy or deceit. They strongly contributed to implementing good deeds and serving their society. They took generous initiatives before charity became “fashionable” or transformed into what has been called social responsibility.
Of course these are just names and examples of self-made men that Saudi Arabia has given birth to so that the youth do not get confused between these figures and “wheeler-dealers.” There is a big difference between them!
The experience of participating in the business initiative that I was honoured to be involved in has drawn my attention to the lack of information regarding the good examples among us. This reminded me of an incident in which I asked an Islamic preacher delivering a Friday sermon why contemporary examples of businessmen who are successful in their careers are not mentioned in Friday sermons so that the youth can see these real examples and work with them. He shouted, “Brother that would be heresy!” What a waste.