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Basim Al Saie is a quiet achiever for whom core family values and business ethics are important in his daily life.
Al Saie lives in his Budaiya home with his wife Manal Fakhro and three children – Alia (17); Mohammed (12); and Isa (9).
Let’s look at the person behind the business leader in this question and answer session.
How was your childhood?
I lost my father when I was just one year old and have no direct memories of him. He (Mohamed Al Saie) was the first Bahraini to be the head of the country’s Customs and Ports, one of the prominent government persons at the time (before independence). One of the things I am proud of is that people always had great things to say about him. This was quite inspiring for me.
My mother too was a strong woman and she looked after me and my four siblings. She had her own business and it was a top fashion store for women in the Kingdom then. She was a great person and had a lot of impact on all of us. Since I was the youngest of the siblings and all others were studying abroad, I was quite independent very early in life.
I went to the American Mission School (now known as Al Raja School) for the first few years and afterwards to government school for three years. In a nice turn of events, a few years back I became the chairman of the board of Al Raja School. It was a proud moment indeed.
We are blessed in Bahrain to have gone to schools that had the whole spectrum of the society, from the working class to the middle class to people from the royal families and leading business families.
What is the impact of studying in the US on you?
The six years I spent in the US had some lasting impressions and influence on me. My siblings, who all had studied outside, told me college years are the best part of one’s life and it really is. When you look at it now, even the most boring days were like a beautiful dream.
However, more importantly, being in such a vibrant environment in the leading economy of the world, lifts you up intellectually. Just learning from the environment around is half the education and the other half is the university. Studying in such a place expands your horizon and thinking.
What are your guiding principles in life?
Values, ethics, and integrity are what I consider pillars in my life, everything I do is based on these. I believe that we get our values from home and then these values become part of us. We bring the same values to our business. As the business grows, it becomes very important that these core values are very clearly defined. When I look back at my journey and that of my company, I am proud that even in the most challenging of times, we stuck to our core values. The road sometimes looks tough, you see sometimes people passing you faster and you want to take short cuts. But I am glad that we stuck to our values, because, in the long run, people will respect you and deal with you because they trust you.
What are your habits and passion? Fitness regime?
I love reading, mainly business reading. I am always hungry for knowledge. Learning is to the brain what is sports to the body. If I don’t learn something new, I feel I am losing an opportunity.
I decided to get fit in the latter part of my life and started running seven years ago. At times I could complete half-marathon. But I am off-pace now and need to build endurance again.
Would you like your children to enter your business?
At present they are all in school. I tell them that ‘no matter what you do, just be passionate about it. I don’t want to force you to study something that you don’t like or do something that you don’t enjoy. If you find that passion, then work can be fun’.
What about community activities?
I always try to contribute to the community; I feel it’s my duty. I like to mentor young entrepreneurs and help them in their journey. I didn’t have any mentorship when I started. Being an entrepreneur feels very lonely; you face a lot of challenges that your employees or friends have no clue about. So, I would like to help and support young entrepreneurs.
What are your advices to the young?
I don’t like to give advice, but I would like to share my experiences. To me, the most important thing is attitude. There are many people with good education and qualification, but it’s no good if you don’t have the right attitude, which involves hard work, skills development and a good state of mind.
Any role models?
I have always admired my father’s legacy and reputation and that has been very powerful to me since childhood. And if someone asks me what would you like your legacy to be, I would say … when people remember me, they would say that he was a good person who helped others.
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