Interview with Mohammed Alawi Shubber, business development manager of OSHO Centre

Currently operating out of The Kingdom of Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf and working as far as Asia, Europe, and Africa in the field of Health, Safety, & Environment (HSE) services, The National Occupational Safety & Health Centre (OSHO CENTRE) grew from an idea to physical tangible reality. The diversity of OSHO CENTRE services and industries served largely developed since its inception. Currently, OSHO works in the fields of construction, oil and gas, petrochemicals, Marine operations and ports, water and power plants, aluminium and steel, IT, healthcare, and logistics serving companies through safety project management, training and awareness, and consultation services. Mohamed Alawi Shubber, Business Development Manager of OSHO CENTRE in Bahrain, explains how the combination of experience and talent of the first and second family generation lead to a most successful family business model.

“Before we are business partners, and before we are family, we are friends,” says Mohamed Alawi, Business Development Manager of OSHO CENTRE and 2nd generation owner. “We operate as an organisation with a management structure, but in essence, we are always working side by side, complementing each other with our strengths and capabilities.”

The beginnings of OSHO CENTRE, however, far overshadow its development and growth into a leading global service company. Established in 2004, Managing Director and 1st generation owner Alawi Shubber was keen on developing a first-of-its-kind company in the region that would cater to the health, safety, and environmental demands of companies in different industries. A retired government official, Alawi Shubber worked in the Ministry of Labor of Bahrain for 35 years and retired as the Director of the HSE department in late 2003. For years, Shubber had seen the opportunities in The Kingdom and the Arabian Gulf for HSE services, especially, given the great room for development in the region compared to that of the United States and the United Kingdom. The growth of the financial sector in that period promised further infrastructure and industrial development in the Kingdom with a unified country vision of becoming a financial hub in the Middle East. With investor’s assets, holdings, and acquisitions, multi-billion dollar projects entered the Kingdom’s atmosphere; it was at that time that the company was founded.

“This development coincided with my eldest child’s university completion,” states Alawi Shubber. Nada Alawi graduated with an MBA from the United States. “When I had my children educated in the U.S., I believed that knowledge is the key to success; knowledge would dominate ignorance, illiteracy, and deprivation from privileges. Whether they worked with me or didn’t, if I left money with ignorance, I would lose the money. If I left money with education, it would be used effectively and garner results.”

Noor and Mohamed had also joined Nada in the state of Texas to receive their higher educations. “Living together in the United States, away from our family pulled us even closer together,” comments Nada Alawi, General Manager and 2nd Generation owner of OSHO CENTRE “We would travel around the country, spend most of our time together amongst friends, help each other in our studies, and even work together. This led to our closeness and friendship with each other.”

By the time that Noor graduated with an MBA and joined the family-business, OSHO CENTRE was well into its 2nd year and had already amassed a great extent of international exposure, through working with multi-national companies, and had a good market share of local projects, providing safety project management for projects totalling in over $2.7 billion.

“I saw in my children an ambition that was different from what I saw when I worked in the government or the regular 9-5 jobs. What I saw exceeded this threshold, so I sought the opportunity to channel these ambitions towards the success and growth of the company.” Shubber continues, “Facing the private business challenge is not an easy task to undertake. Over time, however, I saw that their ambitions and energy were on par with the level of challenge that would eventually lead to the company’s development and prosperity.”

Mother, Fatima Al-Kooheji, mentions that raising their children into becoming adults within a healthy family environment, was an important and key step towards their maturity and personal development. “Nada, Noor, and Mohamed all have different characters and personalities. We gave them the freedom to undertake their paths from their own interests and goals, academic and career-wise.” Fatima had also pushed for her children to study together and strengthen their bonds as a family unit.

With Mohamed graduating with a Bachelors in Finance, and finally joining OSHO CENTRE, the management team was completed. Now, each and every family member could contribute through their own strengths and focal points. “There were different ingredients utilised in shaping the company,” comments Nada Alawi, “The experience, networking, and business relationships accumulated by our father in his years in government were key factors that led to our quick start in the business. Companies requiring our services trusted my father, given his long background in shaping the HSE rules and regulations in the Kingdom of Bahrain and knowledge in the subject matter. Our academic experience, as well as business experience, were also key factors in creating business strategies, maintaining operations, and utilising our international exposure to the market. By the time I returned to Bahrain, I was VP of Marketing for an oil and gas equipment drilling company and so was Noor. Mohamed was working in the academic field for one of the colleges in the state.”

With the blend of their academic and professional backgrounds, and alongside their father’s technical experience, the Alawis have grown the company five times over since its start. Currently employing full-time engineers with different backgrounds such as civil, industrial, mechanical, etc., and internationally recognised trainers and consultants, OSHO CENTRE caters to the global market needs offering turn-key solutions to different industries’ requirements.

As a company, OSHO CENTRE’s purpose is to create and maintain an effective non-compromisable safety culture within organisations. Also, formulating an effective internal value system communicated across to all the employees has been key towards reaching company goals and objectives. The internal core values are continuous learning, practice what we preach, 1st class for less, and never ever give up.

As of 2009, The company holds 3 offices in the Arabian Gulf, with plans of opening 2 more, as well as expansion plans in the MENA region. In terms of training, since its inception, the company has conducted training sessions for well over 20,000 people in technical safety operations with their material translated into eight different languages. Also considered an ILO (International Labor Organization) Center for Information on Safety, OSHO CENTRE is connected to all the international governments worldwide sharing its experiences and knowledge on a global front and acting as an active member through corporate social responsibility and awareness campaigns. The company also participates in different events such as conferences, exhibitions, and seminars, such as The 1st World Summit on Safety & Health in Seoul Korea, The Institute of Occupational Safety & Health Conferences & Exhibitions in the UK, and the National Safety Council Conference and Expo in the US.

“For our clients, the solutions we are creating have great benefit and results” states Mohamed Alawi. “they recognise the effectiveness of our services and the results that mend their problems and provide sustainability to their business continuity and reputation.” On their internal values, Mohamed comments “our relationship as a family in the business workplace is based on honesty, transparency, confidence in others’ capabilities, mutual respect, forgiveness, simplicity, minimising bureaucracy, and maintaining a decentralised system.”

“We are a family, a large family, at work,” concludes Noor Alawi, Administration Manager and 2nd Generation Owner. “We don’t call them employees, but close family members whom we care for, respect, and appreciate. Most of the employees refer to our Managing Director as Baba (‘Dad’ in Arabic) in all their communications with each other. We share our success with our employees and their families. We know their sons, daughters, wives, and always make sure to celebrate their birthdays. Birthdays are probably the most important events we host in the office!”

Tharawat Magazine, Issue 5, 2010