Winter 2020

Our Knights & Distinguished Personalities
Dreaming Big

Being an entrepreneur is as much about vision and planning as grit and ability to stay the course. He/she also needs to adopt, adapt and innovate to meet the needs and trends in the market to make a mark.  

Our Business Leader Basim Al Saie is one such Bahraini entrepreneur who has been able to make his mark through hard work and thinking big. He is passionate about what he does and has a clear vision for his company, community and country. 

Equipped with a few years of experience and a lot of fire in the belly, Al Saie launched himself into the world of business in 1996. And almost a quarter-century later, his is a name that’s heard in the upper echelons of business today.

Al Saie now wears many hats – he is the chairman of Garmco; the managing director and founder of Installux Gulf, a joint venture Bahraini-French company providing top-end architectural aluminium systems for the building and interior industries; a founding shareholder and board member of Kalaam Telecom, a leading player in the telecom sector in the region; a director of Polycon Bahrain, a joint venture company between AlSaie Holdings and AlNasser Industrial of Abu Dhabi; and a partner of Gulf  Ex, a customer experience solutions provider.

Al Saie, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering degree from Boston University, is also active in the community and business organisations. He is a board member and executive committee member of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry; a founding member of the French Bahrain Business Club; a board member and ex-chairman of Al Raja (American Mission) School; and President of Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Bahrain chapter.

As we sit for the exclusive interview, there is an unmissable intellectual aura around Al Saie, not just because he wears round glasses and sports a salt and pepper beard. He speaks thoughtfully, with conviction, and many of his sentences are quotable quotes.

One word that stands out in his conversation is ‘passionate’ and it is the driving force behind whatever he does.

Delving into how he came into business, Al Saie says he always had a passion for it. “In Bahrain, most of us have entrepreneurship in our DNA as we grew up in an environment surrounded by family, relatives and friends who are business people. In my case, I was born into a family that was into trading.

“My father (who passed away when Basim was just one) and his brothers had formed a company in the early ’50s, which had a Swiss watches shop in Bahrain and a department store in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. When we were kids, we used to go to our shop in Bab Al Bahrain and that was how my interest in business took roots,” he says, giving a background of his journey.

However, Al Saie hastens to add that he started his business from zero and he did not join the family business.

Following his graduation from Boston University in 1988, Basim worked at a small engineering company in New York for about two years. “I wanted to get some practical experience in the US before coming back to Bahrain,” he says.

On his return to Bahrain, Basim joined Balexco in 1990 as the technical support and marketing manager, as a replacement to a French professional. And thus began Al Saie’s journey in the aluminium field, the association which only grew stronger in the years to come.

Al Saie’s career in Balexco was quite successful. He was the youngest manager in the company’s history and had taken over the sales and marketing of the whole products range of the company. “But I was not satisfied and I felt my ambition was much bigger and not confined to just a title and a job,” he reveals.

The turning point for Al Saie came in August 1995. “I remember it very vividly,” he says enthusiastically. “At that time, I was planning to quit Balexco and study MBA and then I started questioning myself what I really wanted to do? Do I want to be an employee or do I want to have my own business? And I knew my heart lay in the latter.”

Then it was a wait for the right opportunity and the eureka moment came on a day in 1996. “I got out of a management meeting a bit frustrated and a picture of a product flashed in my mind. It lit the spark that built Installux Gulf, a joint venture with a French group,” he continues.

The company, which has used Bahrain as a base for the Middle East, will be 24 years this year. It has done a lot of iconic projects in the Gulf and the Middle East. “The projects we have worked on are across the skyline of major cities in the region and I feel proud when I see these buildings; it is really gratifying,” he adds.



Challenges are part of entrepreneurship, and Al Saie has had his share of them too. From cash flow issues of the initial days to convincing Bahraini clients about the products, he has surmounted many.

Some of the biggest obstacles and resistance came from Bahrainis themselves, he regrets. “If it was not for business from outside Bahrain, my company would have closed down a long time ago.  There are some people in Bahrain that I will forever remember for their support. However, there are a few who are not willing to accept us despite the exemplary work we have carried out during all these years. The challenges I face in Bahrain are larger than the ones I face outside,” Al Saie rues.

“The biggest challenge came in 2006, when we stopped doing projects in Dubai because we felt that the profit margins were suicidal and that year we also got hit by a big loss. It was a major wake up call,” says the unflappable Al Saie.

Almost a quarter-century in business, Al Saie looks back with satisfaction but is loath to use the word ‘success’. “Over the years, being a business owner, you learn a lot of things. I actually get scared of success because when things go well there is a tendency to fall into the comfort zone, be complacent.  That is when things start going in the wrong direction.

“I don’t like to talk about success; it’s for others to observe and say. I feel I have still to go, the destination still hasn’t been reached,” he says.

Al Saie has major expansion plans for Installux Gulf. The company has applied for a land parcel to build a new factory and develop its operations to the next level. “We want to position ourselves for the next period of growth. The facility we hope to build will give us an edge in our drive to becoming one of the leading suppliers in our field. If we get the green light, we can be ready by the end of the year,” he hopes.



Meanwhile, Al Saie has been doing his bit to energise the entire private sector through his role as a Board member and Executive Committee member of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 2018.

“Our aim in the four years of our administration is to transform the chamber to make it more relevant to the times we are in. Our members should feel that the chamber is active, dynamic, provides good value and is helpful to them in their endeavour to grow their businesses,” he explains.

But he admits that bringing about change is always difficult. “To change an organisation, to change how people do things, is challenging. But we are moving in the right direction and the results should be very clear to the business people in two years’ time,” says a hopeful Al Saie.



One of the most demanding assignments on Al Saie’s plate now is the chairmanship of Garmco, a downstream aluminium rolling mill that has filed for restructuring under Bahrain’s new Reorganisation and Bankruptcy Law.

Entrusted by Mumtalakat, the sovereign fund of Bahrain, to chart the new path for the company, Al Saie took the job amid testing times and he is determined to make it a success.

“Being from the aluminium industry, I am familiar with the different dynamics of the industry. Garmco is undergoing a difficult period and we are trying to transform the company and restructure it for long-term growth and sustainable profitability. It’s the biggest challenge I have had so far,” admits Al Saie.

The industry veteran becomes pensive and adds: “The challenge is much more because it involves 600 employees and their families. Knowing that you are the head of an organisation that employs and supports so many people puts a very heavy burden on you. But we are trying very hard; I believe that we will be able to transform this company soon.

“I believe that the challenges we go through are nothing more than a test and preparation for future roles,” Al Saie philosophises.

He says his association with the Entrepreneurs Organisation, a US-based body with chapters all over the world, has helped him grow and develop himself to face any challenge.


Basim Al Saie enters a different world when he speaks about Bahrain and the possibilities the small kingdom offers. He is intense and explains in detail the issues facing the country and how they can be remedied.

“I am very passionate about Bahrain and how we can transform the kingdom to resume its leading role in the region. I am a strong believer that we all are responsible for creating, developing and contributing towards making our country a better place. No matter how small it is, we have a role,” he says.

“Bahrain can become a major attraction for investment and tourism not only in the region, but beyond if we harness our advantages. We have the talent and the people to do it and we just need to provide the right direction and create an environment,” he continues.

“One of the fundamental things is that you cannot lead if you follow. So, we need to lead as a nation and find our own formula for achieving this. And that formula is very clear: it revolves around what makes Bahrain and Bahrainis respected and known for – friendliness, hospitality, hard work and tolerance.”

The dynamics of the region’s economy is changing fast and it’s imperative for us to change and change quickly, he says. “I think era of oil boom ended in 2014. We now need to recognise that the chapter of high oil revenues and the model of the state leading everything in the economy is gone,” Al Saie warns.

“Now it’s a different era, where we need to work harder and harder. The private sector has a bigger role to play and it needs to work together with the authorities as true partners,” he says.

Al Saie continues: “Before globalisation, we did not know what it really meant and how it would affect us; but now it’s very clear. Globalisation means if you are a company in Bahrain that is producing and selling products, you have to be as efficient as the company in the US, Japan, Thailand or France … if you are not competitive on the global level, you will not survive. You have to be exceptional in the new era.”

He says it is not easy to address the region’s addiction to oil and its revenues, and to move into the unchartered territory, which is the future. “This new era is a huge challenge for all of us in the region and we must prepare now for the time to come in the next five to 10 years when oil prices may see big declines,” Al Saie adds.

The main thing we need to change, he says, is the mindset. “We should stop expecting someone else to do things for us and instead, start doing things ourselves,” he advises.   



One of the priorities for Bahrain should be tourism, he believes. “I feel we have not touched even a small portion of the potential of what Bahrain can be in terms of tourism,” he begins on the subject.

One of Al Saie’s visions is to transform the old Manama Souq into a world-class attraction. “My idea is not to develop the souq physically, but in the composition of what it has to offer, bring in attractions and products to the area that will draw global tourists,” he elaborates.

He also wants Bahrain to once again embrace its marine heritage. “We seem to have destroyed our beaches, and marine environment with the reclamation and we need to restore the rightful place of the sea in our lives and make it part of our tourism offerings,” Al Saie says.

A project he would like implemented is a small seaside town with a harbour; a maritime museum that captures the rich history of Bahrain; a pearl museum; an aquarium focused on protecting the marine environment; a ship-building facility that every year will build at least one traditional ship. “It will be a marine destination modelled after a Bahrain fishing village with boats, dive centres, excursions, pearl diving, snorkelling, restaurants, coffee shops, museums and aquarium. I am sure it can be done,” Al Saie says with a sparkle in his eye.

“We as Bahrainis have not done enough to promote Bahrain and we must use our strengths to put Bahrain on the world tourism map,” he adds.



Entrepreneurship is a tough job and should not be forced on everyone, he advises. “To be an entrepreneur one has to be passionate about what he/she wants to do and must work hard to bring to the market something new or introduce a new level of service that is not yet there.”

He regrets that some people want to enter business only to ‘make’ money. “Money is the final result of doing something exceptionally well. This leads to success and then comes money.”

Al Saie is enthused by the dedication shown by the younger generation. They seem to have the right attitude, determination and being exposed to innovation and technology, they understand the value of hard work, he says.  

– By Sree Bhat


© Al Hilal Group all rights reserved. Designed & Developed by North Star.