Leveling the Field

Leveling the Field

Dr. Nada Al Farwan, founder and CEO of ALMA Smart Solutions, talks about her entrepreneurial journey and the growing trend of businesswomen in Bahrain

For many years, we are accustomed to men building empires and thriving in the business sector. But nowadays, more and more empowered women have started to take on the challenge in establishing their own companies and leveling the business field. This month, we feature a remarkable woman executive, Dr. Nada Al Farwan, as she shares her fair share of ups and downs in business and her vision to create a generation of future entrepreneurs.
Where did you graduate from?

From King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia with a double-major in English language and Psychology.

Do you have post-graduate degrees?

I did an MBA back when I was still working with Saudi Aramco. I also did a master’s degree in Human Resources Development in the U.K. and a master’s in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).

What made you decide to take the entrepreneurial path?

I’ve worked in Saudi Aramco for quite some years. At a certain point, I just felt like there is no more add-on value to what I was doing, as I’ve already learned what needs to be learned in my turf. I was seeking for further growth and other opportunities; thus, I decided to take the next step and pursue entrepreneurship.

What exactly is ALMA Smart Solutions and what does it do?

ALMA Smart Solutions is a platform that I built in 2017. ALMA delivers multifaceted smart solutions to various segments under the industrial sector of Oil & Gas, Environmental, Energy, Marine, Logistics, Supply Chain Management, and Business Development. We bring together our expertise in developing joint ventures, canvas the awards of contracts, identification of tenders and more, thus ensuring a smooth flow of transition and operation for our robust network of clients within the private and public sector.

Did you fund this startup yourself?

I had a partner when I first initiated this venture in 2017. However, it didn’t last long as we didn’t share the same vision. Fortunately, I was able to find another business partner – an entrepreneur that went through the same experience and holds the same motivation and vision as me.

Were there any major challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?

We all have our differences and ideas, and in the business world, it is not easy to find other people who share the same principles and visions as you. Convincing other people to ride along my venture was tough initially. But, once we had our first project on track, everybody just started believing in us.

How was your experience dealing with the Ministerial matters here in Bahrain?

One thing that made me decide to put up our head office in Bahrain was because the government here offers a lot of flexibility for business owners when it comes to documentation and other related stuff. Moreover, most people think that the Ministry here doesn’t understand how business people think, but in reality, they do. Sometimes, they even show and guide new entrepreneurs on how things are done in a particular business segment – enabling them to see the bigger picture and preparing them if things don’t go as planned. 

How easy was it finding the right staff?

I think this is one of the toughest circumstances I’ve encountered so far. Upon overseeing the hiring process, I found out that seasoned professionals tend to get very comfortable and confident with their experience. So, I resulted in adopting a different approach – hiring fresh graduates instead of well-experienced individuals. Using my Human Resource faculties and my previous experience as a career development person, I had to put them through a lot of tests to determine who are the most eligible candidates to become part of the company. Also, I hope that by hiring fresh graduates, I would be able to create a new generation of entrepreneurs, as I believe that Bahraini youths have a lot of promise and potential to grow in the field of entrepreneurship.

What were some of the biggest lessons that have impacted the way you think like an entrepreneur?

We know for a fact that when you’re in the wrong business circle, there’s a high possibility that they’ll drag you down with them. I’ve experienced this firsthand, and it left a significant impact on me as an entrepreneur. Another thing is to be very patient and persistent. Things don’t happen when we want them to happen; it happens when it’s the right time for it to happen. However, while you’re patient, be adaptive and modify your ideas according to the time and situations happening around you.

What do you think of the rising trend for women entrepreneurs here in Bahrain?

The increase in women entrepreneurs in Bahrain – both locals and expats – reflects an excellent business environment in general. We already have a platform that supports startups here; but imagine if there is one entity that incubates and focuses on lady entrepreneurs, monitoring them and have them share ideas and implement them on the ground. This will undoubtedly transform and bring in massive impact in the business community, not just in Bahrain, but also in the GCC region.

What is it that motivates and drives you?

I don’t want to be a selfish business person; I want to help and share my experiences and make a difference in other people’s lives. At one point, I lost my business and fell ill after that. When I came back, I promised myself that I would share and pass on to others everything I learned and experienced so that they don’t go through what I went through. I want to see how people around me can make difference in their own ways. These goals give me the motivation I need and propels me to go to work every single day.

What is your favorite book?

The Art of War, a book written by Sun Tzu. Most people think that this book is all about military stuff and wars, but in reality, it’s actually about management, how to become a good leader, and how to be more productive under pressure. Another book that I would encourage everyone to read is the ‘Mind Map,’ a book written by Tony Buzan that talks about the unlimited capabilities of the human brain.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

        Believe in yourself.

        Be clear and specific about your vision.

        Never fall and shrink when other people are pushing you away.

        Be passionate in everything you do; otherwise you will not go anywhere.

        Given the chance, be very grateful in all the things you learned, then pass it on to other people.

What do you think of print magazine in today’s digital age?

Nowadays, everyone is deeply engrossed in social media, digital space and related stuff. But honestly — call me old-fashioned – I still prefer to read magazines and books, hold them in my hand and even smell it. You wouldn’t get the same kind of intimacy when you’re reading from a mobile device or computer. I’m sorry to say, but I am against digital magazines.

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