New generations of entrepreneurs in the Middle East are looking to change perceptions, drive societal change and improve quality of life.
Among them, Saleh el Khazen, a Lebanese innovator using sports to make a social impact. Over the past decade, Saleh has worked on construction projects in Qatar and Lebanon.
He’s a partner and board member of the pioneering ELKA construction group and founded its Lebanon-based subsidiary - project development and management company Sminds - before embarking on a project management-focused EMBA at SKEMA Business School.
The French “Grande école” jets its EMBA students off to study at a range of international campuses; in Oslo, Shanghai, Dallas, and, as of 2017, Belo Horizonte in Brazil. The program culminates in the “capstone project” where students can build business plans for their own entrepreneurial ventures.
And it was there that Saleh developed his construction plan for a sports park in Jounieh, a coastal city in Lebanon, located 16 kilometres north of Beirut. His aim: to unite a troubled community through sport.
Saleh completed his EMBA at SKEMA earlier this year. Now, he’s getting permits, planning permission, developing designs, and looking for investors.
How did the idea to your sports construction project come about?
The idea was to create a safe environment, far from tension and noises, to bring people of different ages together and unite them under one umbrella called sport.
In Lebanon, healthy living has become a trend and people are giving much more importance to sports. In 2006, in the middle of the Lebanon War, sports facilities kept their doors open even though almost everything else was closed.
The Jounieh sports park plan is for a venue for all kinds of indoor and outdoor sports, with a gym, swimming pool, running track and a playground for kids.
What do you hope to achieve?
I am definitely aiming to develop my business plan. This market is not yet well exploited in Lebanon, but it is considered a growing market worth investing in. So I can be a pioneer in the field.
What challenges do you face?
The economic and political situation in Lebanon, and the Middle East in general, has the potential to explode at any time. The risk in developing a business and investing a lot in it cannot be underestimated.
Why did you decide to pursue an EMBA at SKEMA?
I have always been an inquisitive person and I strongly believed that an EMBA would benefit my career and help me grow as an individual.
SKEMA ranks as a leading global business school and among the best in France. It offers a very flexible blended-learning program that combines e-learning sessions and interactive workshops with highly renowned lecturers.
How have you profited from your EMBA experience at SKEMA?
The EMBA gave me the ability to innovate, to take a new idea and to build a successful business around it. It made look at my business from different perspectives. I was able to discuss it with a network of professionals and get a range of useful feedback.
There's no denying that an EMBA will grant you access to a better career and a higher quality of life. I acquired the knowledge, skills and tools that I need to succeed in the world of business. I expanded my network, visited different countries and developed my strategic vision.