Basel from Egypt, founder of Blue Ocean Consulting
From: Cairo, Egypt
Studied: MBA at Aston Business School, Aston University in Birmingham
Now: Management consultant
Taking lessons from his MBA in the UK, Dr Basel Hammoda's own management consulting company aims to help small businesses get off the ground. Find out what he's learned...
Was your future career an important part of your decision to study in the UK?
'Yes, improving my career prospects was a major factor in my decision to do an MBA in the UK. I was at a middle managerial level and believed it was time to pursue the next big step in my professional development plan. A qualification from the UK is highly respected in the Middle East, and it can help to reach higher managerial levels.'
How did your studies prepare you for the working world?
'Although the curriculum was more academically inclined than I expected, Aston has a unique footprint among other business schools. Its continual engagement with blue-chip companies and hundreds of local businesses in the West Midlands region provides business acumen and industry insights to students.
'Together with a reputable academic staff with real business expertise, this helps in guiding your studies to areas that are most relevant to today’s working world.'
How did you get the idea for your own business?
'I’m starting a management consultancy firm named Blue Ocean Consulting. The idea was developed based on current business needs in Birmingham: SMEs (small and medium-sized companies) are facing difficult times due to the economic hardships and increased competitiveness, and they require strategic guidance and creative insights.'
Basel (back, right) and the team from the Aston MBA Warwick Business School International Healthcare Challenge (Photo credit ©Basel Hammoda)
'However, they are off the radar of management consultancies for several reasons – the niche markets they operate in, which require a hands-on approach to projects, and the necessity of developing a flexible and affordable fee scheme to match their financial capabilities.'
'Hence came the idea of establishing a management consultancy providing creative strategies to local businesses, depending on Aston Business School alumni with exceptional skills and expertise working as freelance consultants.'
What volunteering and internship experience did you get as a student?
'One of the merits of being at Aston is the exposure to a lot of opportunities to challenge oneself and work in teams on different projects. Throughout my one-year MBA I participated within teams in two reputable business school challenges and reached the finals in both of them – namely, Warwick International Healthcare Challenge, sponsored by GE and IBM, and Exeter One Planet Sustainability Challenge sponsored by Coca-Cola Enterprises and Interface.
'Within Aston, I reached the finals in the Aston Entrepreneurs competition with a business idea of a healthy food ‘on-the-go’ restaurant, in addition to one-day workshops with blue-chip companies like JCB, Deutsche Bank and IBM. I also had the chance to work on consulting projects with organisations of different sizes from various sectors.
'These projects built my experience and prepared me in the best way for a career in management consultancy.'
What advice do you have for students looking to build up their CVs while at university?
'My biggest advice is not to cocoon in the study rooms and stick your nose in the books day and night. Go out and explore your surroundings, attend business and social events, engage with as many societies as possible and take part actively in as many projects as you can. Your postgraduate studies are when you challenge your established mindset and exploit your potential.'
Right: Preparing to submit his MBA dissertation
What did you take away from these experiences and how are they helping you in your job today?
'You will not believe me when I say that giving something back was my major driver, but this is the truth. I believe that being able to acquire knowledge, experience and money must go hand-in-hand with supporting fellow members of our communities. Try to be of value to your society and to the people who were not fortunate enough to have the same chances.
'I learnt a lot from volunteering; I learnt the importance of my work as a management consultant and how my recommendations, when implemented properly, can help improve the livelihood of my clients’ employees, customers and partners.
'I also had the chance to work in teams with professionals from different backgrounds, who added a lot both personally and professionally.'
Basel (back row, far right) and friends from his MBA course (Photo credit ©Basel Hammoda)
What are your ambitions for the future?
'I’m a very ambitious person; more of a dreamer actually! In five years’ time, I plan to have my management consultancy standing on firm ground in Birmingham and take it to London or Manchester, and then to Cairo.
'I want to establish a creative guild of strategists, where I help in training and guidance of a new generation of management consultants who defy the current notions and are able to add more colour and a human perspective to both the consultancy and business worlds.
'On the personal side, I will pursue a PhD in strategy, focusing on improving the link between academic expertise and SMEs.'
If you had one piece of advice for graduates who want to develop a business, what would it be?
'In simple words, the success of any business should not stop at the idea phase; you have to identify the gap in the market and exploit the opportunities that it brings forward. I call this the ‘Three Components Framework’. Developing a business model by reaching a match of these three things dramatically increases the chances of success for any new business. I’ve written more about this idea here: The Three Components Framework.'