In 2015, Dr Obai Albashir, an MBA alumnus from IE Business School, was named by Forbes as one of the entrepreneurs shaping Saudi Arabia's future.
A qualified medical doctor, he’d co-founded Mizan Health Co., a Saudi startup working to distribute public health education messages via social media. He helped form the first Saudi health support group online, the first Arabic health YouTube show, and the first Arabic evidence-based wellness website.
After building his startup, Obai realized he needed more business knowledge to take his career to the next level and—at around the same time he moved on to join EY Healthcare Advisory—he decided to pursue an MBA.
Obai chose IE over INSEAD and London Business School (LBS) for his MBA—the flexible, part-time online program. He took the ieGAT instead of the GMAT or the GRE. IE’s alternative admissions exam tests decision making, analytical skills and comprehension, and requires no prior preparation.
Just eight months into his MBA, he was promoted to a management role at EY. Now, he’s a regional manager at Al Borg Medical Laboratories—a leading innovative medical diagnostics companies in the Middle East—responsible for 11 labs and over 200 employees across Saudi Arabia.
Obai’s become a public figure in health in Saudi Arabia. He’s got over 36,000 followers on Instagram and over 92,000 on Twitter.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at IE?
I have been always interested in business and management. Coming from a technical medical background, my ambitions to progress in management positions were hindered by a lack of business training.
I weighed up my options and an MBA stood out as a business degree that would reposition me as a healthcare business professional with connections. I wanted a highly-ranked school, a part-time program, and Europe-based, because North America was too far away and exhausting for frequent visits.
I ended up with INSEAD, LBS, and IE. Surprisingly, the latter was visiting my city for their ieGAT admission exam, so I took it and passed it. This waived the GMAT which made IE much more appealing, along with its more reasonable fees and having a friend who’s an IE alum.
How have you profited from your IE MBA experience?
The IE MBA made a significant difference [in my career]. I joined EY at around the same time of starting my MBA. One great thing about the part-time option was being able to immediately apply the principles and concepts I was studying in my day-to-day work.
The MBA gave me the tools to shine, which eventually led to a promotion eight months after joining. I then started getting approached by head-hunters for the unique experience I’d developed—that made me realize the competitive edge this MBA had given me. I eventually moved to a much more senior position at another firm.
IE is also a very globalized school with students from all over the world. My class included around 120 students from 40 different countries. This kind of exposure to other cultures is a learning experience in itself.
How are you applying your MBA learnings in your current role?
I use the frameworks and concepts I learned during my MBA. In fact, I sometimes go back to my assignments to use some of the templates and rationales when faced with situations similar to the cases we studied.
Most importantly, the knowledge base it provided me helped me become a better manager, able to understand how all departments work, and to discuss issues in functions like finance, marketing, supply chain and others, with the respective teams.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business in the Middle East?
The Middle East is one of the most attractive regions for business around the world. It is a fast-growing market with a lot of potential to tap into.
Unlike developed markets, many industries here are undersupplied, which means that the market is still in need for basic services. For example, in Saudi Arabia the regulations permitting female gyms were passed only recently, giving a huge opportunity for people interested in the fitness industry with a demand for hundreds if not thousands of female gyms.
This can be applied on several other industries. However, the business environment in some countries can be risky due to the lack of clear regulations and proper laws to protect entrepreneurs. Having the right partner is very important to understand the local culture and business environment. Connections also play a major role in making or breaking the business.