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Mohammed Mansoor, Bahrain-based businessman and Founder & CEO of Saara group, heads a series of ventures and organizations spread across the domains of information technology, energy, oil & gas, sports, seed capital investments. Well-known social activist and philanthropist, he was recently appointed as the Director of World Youth Group Council.

He has been actively supporting an array of social and cultural initiatives to empower community relations and strengthen the social fabric. He plays a pivotal role in supporting the sports initiatives in the Kingdom of Bahrain and holds the positions such as President of Bahrain Premier League and Advisory Board Chairman of Bahrain Cricket Federation.

Mohammed Mansoor speaks to Gulf Madhyamam about his various activities and future plans.

Please tell about how you started your business in Bahrain?

There is a quote by Steve Jobs that has always resonated with me - "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." My life and my work are very intrinsically connected and frankly, it has been an unexpected journey. I came to Bahrain in 1987 as a software engineer. Those days computers were not so easily accessible as they are today.

I started building software for Financial accounting, Hotel Management system & Garment industry and banks and one thing led to the other and I established my own company which diversified from development of software to Information Technology, Energy, Oil & Gas, Digital Media, Sports Infrastructure, Seed Capital Investments, and Social Initiatives. The operations span of Saara Group covers the GCC, United Kingdom, United States of America, ASEAN and India.

Apart from that a large chunk of my operations are spread across the GCC - especially - KSA and UAE as Oil & Gas trading & industrial support.

I am immensely grateful to the opportunities provided by the wise leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain that has given me the opportunities that helped me diversify my business into several sectors.

Your companies are in a variety of fields. Could you please explain your main business activities?

In addition to the Saara group, which I spoke about earlier, there is Exelon & Exelon Energy which are subsidiaries of Saara Group. They operate across the Kingdom of Bahrain, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of India. It has secured strategic relations supporting SABIC and ARAMCO, apart from managing key investment portfolios in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We recently launched NESBO Enterprises Private Limited in India.

Renewable energy is the future and we have recently launched joint ventures with global companies in this sector.

What are your future plans?

Abraham Lincoln said that the best way to predict the future was to create it and that is what we are proactively working towards. We are working with several international consortiums especially in the renewable energy, Electric Vehicles Industry and manufacturing sector through which we plan to bring investment to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Your business activities are not restricted to Bahrain. They are global. Could you please explain about those activities?

To have scale, growth and create something that has value, globalization is essential. We realized this in 2017, when we established JVK USA E&P (JV between Mitsui japan and KNOC of Korea) headquartered in Los Angeles, California, USA as an expansion into joint ventures that support focused sectors of industry and infrastructure worldwide by integrating cutting edge digital technology.

I've also recently succeeded in bringing in $1.5 billion investment to India as Head of India Development for one of the most promising EV companies based out of the US - Triton which includes a signed agreement for setting up the first plant for the manufacture of Triton EV's vehicles in Telangana.

How Covid-19 impacted the business activities in Bahrain and how long it will take for complete recovery?

Firstly, I want to thank His Majesty King Hamad and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister, under whose wise leadership Bahrain has navigated the COVID 19 pandemic with such success. Bahrain's leadership and policies have been globally appreciated especially in the way that the crisis was handled.

Bahrain spent an estimated BD250 million on healthcare measures in the last two years but that did not impact the fiscal plan the government made in 2018. Finance and National Economy Minister Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa has recently said that even with the fiscal challenges of Covid-19, Bahrain's expenditure was in line with the original spending and fiscal balance plan of 2018. Additionally, a multidimensional economic recovery plan has already been rolled out. Bahrain's economy was on the right track, as non-oil GDP reached 12.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2021. And according to reports, Bahrain's economy is forecast to see real GDP growth of 4.1 per cent in 2022, with the expected VAT increase also helping the country to build its finances and increase non-oil revenues.

However, the impact of Covid-19 on the livelihoods of Bahraini citizens and residents cannot be denied but as a businessman I have seen firsthand the effect of Bahrain' leadership's wise policies and to be honest, we have done better that even some of the more developed nations in the world during the pandemic - in the health and the economic sector.

Could you please explain how supportive is Bahrain to the business people?

Reiterating my earlier response, we have to salute the forward-thinking leadership of Bahrain for working towards the aspirations and development of its people and standing tall at each stage to support its people. Whether it's through government entities like Tamkeen or successful initiatives like Feena Khair launched by HH Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Representative of HM the King for Humanitarian and Youth Affairs, National Security Advisor and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Humanitarian Foundation during the pandemic.

As a business hub, the ease of setting up and doing business is second to none. A small example is that recently the Economic Development Board (EDB) has reported it has attracted almost $40million in the tourism sector alone.

Apart from that Bahrain's Ministry of finance and national economy also announced a strategic projects plan that would catalyze over $30 billion of investments and a regulatory reform package aimed at supporting $2.5 billion of foreign direct investment by 2023.

Bahrain plans to achieve this target by simplifying the business licenses approval procedure and launching a new residency permit program to attract talent and investors. The government also plans to create more than 20,000 jobs annually for citizens and train 10,000 Bahrainis annually until 2024 as part of planned labor market reforms.

Bahrain is also looking to implement a new sector strategies plan for oil and gas, tourism, logistics, financial services, telecommunications, IT and digital economy, and manufacturing. The strategy is aimed at achieving 5% annual growth in the non-oil sector by 2022.

You are also engaged in several sports activities. Could you please elaborate on it?

Sports is my passion and I want to thank His Highness Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa for giving me the opportunity to help promote sports in the Kingdom of Bahrain. It was under his patronage that I was able to put together the first ever franchise based T20 Cricket Bahrain Premier League in 2018.

As the Vice President of KHK Heroes I spearheaded the KHK Heroes Foundation initiative of His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Hamad Al Khalifa, assisting the economically vulnerable communities and expatriates throughout the Kingdom of Bahrain during the Coronavirus pandemic helping more than 5000 families with food, medicine & support in repatriation

As VP, India & South east Asia for the Kingdom's flagship sports media property, BRAVE Combat Federation, I have helped take the federation international by participating in events across multiple venues around the world as well developing the India market for the sport and recently, helping initiate a collaboration with Indonesia.

Apart from this I am also Director, The Council for World Youth Group in association with United Nations Member States, United Nations Agencies, youth and student groups; All-African Students Union (AASU), European Students Union (ESU), Young Republicans National Federation (YRNF), Young Democrats of America (YDA), higher education institutions, the private sector, and individuals from around the world to implement UN's five Sustainable Development Goals.

My work for the Indian expatriate community in Bahrain resulted in me being honored by the NRI Welfare Society of India with the Hind Rattan Award at the 38th International Congress of NRIs on the eve of the 70th Republic Day in New Delhi.

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