First of all, we would like to congratulate you on the release of Tamkeen’s new Strategy. In this interview, we would like to share with our readers more details on Tamkeen’s new strategy, plans, schemes and overall direction. 

Please talk to us about the main drivers behind the new strategy? What wasn’t going well, and what actually triggered this whole transformation? 

Tamkeen has been continuously listening to the public, whether through consultation sessions, direct interaction in Majlises and community gathering, customer service centers, social media or the press. Through this continual process of listening to feedback, we’ve devised a new strategy that is based on three main themes, improving quality, becoming more customer-centric and achieving measurable results

Like the businesses that we support, Tamkeen needs to adapt to the market’s needs in order to ensure sustained success, and through this strategy, we are doing just that.

Through listening to our stakeholders, we have found that the processing time for applications and payment handling can be improved, and there are a number of elements in the new strategy that focuses on achieving this, some of which include the opening of new customer service centres across the Kingdom. So far, we have actually opened two in 2014 to reach a total of four customer service centers. In addition, we found that the public was requesting more flexible programmes that cater to different needs and sectors, instead of static support categories or ‘one-size-fits-all’ solutions. As an example, previously, we had a product offering of almost 200 programmes, each serving a different purpose, but with the new strategy, we’re working on providing fewer programmes which will be customised so that they can better serve more customers and cater to their needs. Moreover, with regards to streamlining operations, Tamkeen will pay more attention to enhancing the respective functions of planning, operations, monitoring and customer service.

 

How does the new strategy serve Bahrain’s economy better?

Tamkeen is tasked with developing Bahrain’s private sector and positioning it as a key driver of economic development. This is the core mission of our organization and does not change.

The changes are mostly reflected in terms of the strategic priorities in order to achieve this mission in the best manner possible. Our new strategy will be geared towards the identification and development of projects and activities that will achieve targeted growth for business and individuals by tackling their respective growth stages and their value added prospects in the economy. We believe that this strategy will help us achieve this by refocusing our priorities to the three themes I mentioned in the earlier question.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the process followed to develop the strategy?

The process to develop the strategy involved two parallel work-streams. For the first work-stream an “outside-in” analysis was conducted to get an external perspective on the direction Tamkeen has taken, and how it should amend this going forward. This involved a great deal of public consultations to channel feedback and insights from stakeholders and customers on Tamkeen’s activities and approach in the market, while also relying heavily on detailed research concerning the impact of our projects in the market and lessons learned.

For the second work-stream, an “inside-out” consultation programme with key internal stakeholders was conducted to gain insight into the organisation’s operational performance with respect to its current initiatives and Tamkeen’s internal strengths, challenges and needs. We evaluated our operational capabilities to deliver projects and investiogated various factors that may effect the success of our activities. This involved detailed consulations throughgout the organization to identify and pin-point shortcomings in systems, processes and tools and mechanisms to resolve these.

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In addition, before formulating the new strategy for 2015-2017, we conducted a thorough review and analysis of 2010-2014 strategy which was developed in 2009 to understand what were the lessons learned from the previous strategy from both an internal and external perspective. Since our new strategy will represent Tamkeen’s third strategy since conception, we needed to measure the evolution of the Tamkeen’s activities and assess our progress as an organization in supporting private sector development in line with our mandate and ensure we are on the right track.

  

What are the main challenges you anticipate while executing the new strategy?

 As mentioned, the need for a new strategy (2015 – 2017) arose due to dynamic market conditions and the desire for Tamkeen to focus its efforts on more impactful

programmes. Challenges will always be present, and should be adapted to accordingly, but the effectiveness of this adaptation can vary depending on how readily an institution is prepared to face them.

One of the immediate challenges that we are working on turning into an opportunity at the moment is to ensure that our stakeholders understand the new direction and focus of Tamkeen that comes through this new strategy. By ensuring their understanding, we will be able to continue to collect further feedback in order to constantly fine-tune and enhance our operations. The collection of feedback from the public helps in a big way to unmask challenges that may not be apparent. Without the public’s consultation and active participation, we would not have been able to identify previous challenges that were facing Tamkeen and the enterprises and individuals that we support, and we would have not been able to formulate this new strategy in order tackle them.

In addition, as part of this new strategy, we anticipate that our approach of providing more flexible programmes that cater to the needs of each individual or business should allow us to be better equipped when dealing with both foreseen and unforeseen challenges in the future.

In the past, our challenges were often linked to the ability of our projects to meet the needs of customers while still creating a model that would support the masses. This often led to a one-size fits all execution model of many schemes which meant that Tamkeen’s offerings were not always geared towards helping individuals and businesses grow and access opportunities in the most optimal manner.

This is understood and the new strategy is designed to ensure that Tamkeen customizes it’s support by acknowledging that customers do have unique needs requiring distinct solutions.

How was the public feedback on the Strategy in the Consultation meetings you conducted earlier this month? Has there been any strong opinions driving you to reconsider some of the strategy elements.

 Tamkeen has adopted a strong culture of consulting with the public including customers and stakeholders throughout its history, and we see this as key to building a strong relationship with the private sector and partners to enable us to deliver better products and services. Our most recent consultations, held in September, were to engage with the public about our new suggested strategy and to respond to concerns which were raised previous discussions with our thoughts and recommendations

We were particularly interested in sharing our new customer segmentation approach, which exemplifies our new approach to define our customers better and ensure that we are creating the best support packages for these segments as well as how we intend to streamline our own operations to deliver projects better. It was also important for us to identify our shortcomings and communicate clearly our intention to continuously deliver better services.

We received a great deal of useful insights and suggestions from the public who were interested primarily in the need for Tamkeen to remain responsive to the public to not only ensure that support is delivered but to achieve things in a timely manner. They felt that the new customer segmentation approach for businesses and individuals would be a step in the right direction to better understand their needs and create the appropriate eco-system of support for them.

The creation of customized solutions and offerings were deemed a critical success factor to many customers and is an area which they were pleased that the strategy was addressing. Again, this is a key reason behind the new customer segmentation approach that would enable customers to achieve their plans with holistic solutions rather than fragmented support packages.

Moreover, the public response was positive regarding Tamkeen’s interest to continue support in key areas such as fostering entrepreneurship and supporting more business diversification and expansion. Stakeholders viewed start-ups and growth-orientated businesses as key to the development of the national economy and the creation of job opportunities. They agreed with Tamkeen’s suggested approach to increase support for these key areas in order to leverage opportunities for further growth and diversification in the private sector.

The public was also clear in stressing the need for better communication of Tamkeen’s projects and providing clarity in offerings. Improving our ability to engage and manage customers was an area which was often sighted as requiring further attention. With Tamkeen’s new customer outreach plans and approach in the strategy, many of these issues will be resolved.

Regarding the Enterprise Support program, what were the main reasons to lower the financial support from 80% to 50%? 

The support wasn’t lowered to 50%. It now ranges between 50% and 80% depending on the achievement of pre-defined KPIs and objectives. When the programme first launched, the original support was 50%, then we had decided to increase it to 80%. This increase naturally caused a surge in demand to get support from the programme.

The programme was a great success, however, when we compared the behavior of institutions during the time when the programme first started, and when the support percentage was increased to 80%, we observed a change in the way benefiting businesses used the support.

As you know, risk is very crucial and absolutely critical in order to allow a business to grow. A business that doesn’t take risks cannot and will not grow. With that said, when the programme first provided support to certain business operations at 50% of the total amount, this helped companies alleviate some of the risk associated with such decisions, motivating them to undertake projects that they previously would not.

However, when the support amount was increased to 80%, the risk associated with certain business decisions became much lower, and that resulted in certain businesses taking otherwise very risky decisions if the support from the programme was not provided, which is not in the best interest of the business or the economy as a whole.

With the revised programme, the baseline support is still 50%, which we’ve found to be a good ballpark percentage that still allows benefiting business to understand that the requested support for a particular business decision still has an element of risk involved. However, as mentioned before, this percentage can increase to a percentage up to 80% given that the business achieves targets and KPIs that are part of the original application submitted to Tamkeen.

For example, if a company submits a business plan (which will now be required as part of the revised programme application process) that requests assistance to provide marketing support by hiring an agency that will design and implement an advertising campaign, then Tamkeen will provide a support amount worth 50% of the total cost highlighted in the plan.

However, if the business wishes to increase that percentage to upwards of 80%, it must submit KPIs and targets. For this particular business, let’s say that it expects an increase of 10% to 30% in sales as a result of this campaign in one year’s time. Once the campaign is complete, and the company provides supporting evidence that shows that its sales have indeed increased before and after the campaign, then Tamkeen will reimburse the business up to 80% of the cost depending on how it performed.

This comes as part of the revised programme’s new objective of instilling sound business management practices as we’ve found out from our experience that many businesses do not formulate business plans or set KPIs for themselves, which, in addition to understanding the concept of risk taking, are crucial components for the success of a business. It is also helpful for us to be able to track and measure the success of our programmes.

 

Are there any public KPIs with the new programs? Approval time? Payment time? etc? 

As part of the new strategy, Tamkeen will be looking to take further steps to ensure that appropriate targets and KPI’s are defined for all projects and activities. We must continuously seek to measure our performance in not only meeting our respective projects targets when it comes to providing the necessary support but also the timeliness of the support.

To address this we are constructing an optimised KPI framework that will enable us to define and create effective targets and measures relating to our operations, strategic impact and results, as well as our overall effectiveness in the market and economy.

Operational indicators such as approval time, payment time, and overall turn-around time for projects will be given significantly more attention to ensure that we remain responsive to customers and deliver services within a reasonable timeframe. Impact or results based indicators will be designed to evaluate the real world impact of our projects on individuals and business and to assess the true value of the support that is provided. While lastly, we will be paying closer attention to market or economic performance targets to examine the impact or effect of our schemes on the broader business environment and how we can leverage our support to further nurture and encourage private sector growth.

Our new KPI approach will be cascaded down to the individual support projects and to customers themselves. For example, as part of the revised Enterprise Support Programme, businesses are now asked to provide their own KPIs and targets. After a particular period of time, we’ll be able to measure how many of those businesses that we’ve supported have indeed met or exceeded the KPIs that they set. This type of measurement will allow us to understand how successful the Enterprise Support Programme has been during that period of time. Ultimately, the success of the businesses that we support is our success as well.

 

There is a new very interesting direction to supporting Startups in the new strategy, even the ones with no CR? Can you please tell us more about this?

As part of the Enterprise Support Programme’s new direction, we understood that flexibility is important to achieve the programme’s objectives. This is mainly due to the very highly diverse types of businesses that you find here in the Kingdom.

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Even though they are a big part of the Kingdom’s economy, business activity isn’t necessarily limited to companies with a commercial registration. There are other business activities happening without a CR. As part of the revised Enterprise Support Programme, you can apply as long as you are registered officially with government entities such as the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, or any other official government entity which issues licenses to engage in economic or professional activities.

In addition, enterprises that are in process of registering or obtaining a license can also apply given that they can provide a proof of in-process documentation from the authorising body. For example, if someone has applied for a Commercial Registration (CR) from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, they can submit their application along with other relevant documentation, however, processing will start once the license (CR) is obtained.

 This is also not the only way that start-ups can get support from Tamkeen. One of Tamkeen’s flagship programmes is the Enterprise Finance scheme, which is provided with partnering banks throughout the Kingdom. In this programme, Tamkeen subsudises 50% of the interest of an enterprise requesting funding from one of the partnering banks, in addition to providing a 50% guarantee to the bank in case of a default.

 

How about the support to Home Business owners? Can you tell us more (type of support, who qualifies, etc.) 

As long as the business activity is registered officially with a government entity, then it can apply to benefit from the Enterprise Support Programme. In the case of home business owners and productive families, many of them have official documentations of their business from entities such as the Ministry of Industry and Commerce or the Ministry of Social Development, and if they can be provided, they will be eligible for support.

With regards to the type of support, the new Enterprise Support Programme seeks to satisfy the needs of each business individually, including business owners with official registrations, and this needs the same requirements as businesses with CR. A business plan must be submitted along with the application highlighting the business’s needs together with KPIs and targets.

As of now, the support is limited to machinery and equipment, information and communication technologies (ICT), marketing and branding, participation in exhibitions, business consultancy as well as quality improvement and certification. As the programme develops, we will work towards opening it for more types of support.

  

How is Tamkeen supporting more skill-based training for students or employees? (e.g. Learning a specific set of skills online rather than taking an online accredited degree) 

Tamkeen’s current role in supporting students and employees is to provide them with sufficient guidance and information on – market needs, awareness of career opportunities, or career guidance in order to make effective decisions regarding future opportunities in the business environment.

Going forward, Tamkeen’s new strategy will seek to enhance its offerings for job seekers and employees through the customer segmentation approach mentioned earlier. A distinction will be made between the training needs of job seekers and the needs of existing employees. This has been a key insight provided by the public and validated through our own research, suggesting that we will need to create a more diversified portfolio offerings for each of customer group.

However in addition to that, another new aspect of Tamkeen’s support will be the encouragement of entrepreneurship to all the targeted segments. Whether the main request they have is skill or guidance related, it is imperative that the customers be made aware of the potential risks and benefits of starting their own businesses. Sharing knowledge and information on income generating opportunities will be key to our new strategic approach where we will be paying increasing attention to counseling and guidance efforts in order to ensure that customers make informed decisions, especially when it comes career paths and exposure to entrepreneurial opportunities.

Moreover, Tamkeen has two primary programmes that provide support for human capital development. The first is the Professional Certification Programme, which provides financial support to Bahraini individuals wishing to acquire a professional certificate. This includes many worldwide accredited certifications such as the certification to become a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, the Project Management Professional Certification, and the Diploma of the Chartered Insurance Institute. This training is provided by accredited organizations in the country, and is usually specifically designed by companies and working institutions in the field instead of academic universities. The programme was originally launched to cater to the private sector’s demands of Bahraini individuals with particular sets of skills and experiences that do not come from purely academic backgrounds.

In addition, Tamkeen also provides the Career Progression Programme, which unlike the Tamkeen Professional Certification Programme where an employee or an individual would apply, in this programme, the employer approaches Tamkeen with a particular need to train Bahraini staff to achieve a particular set of skills.

The programme is designed to help employees achieve higher productivity and improve their efficiency by identifying and addressing their work skills. On completion, the employees are entitled to receive an increment in their basic salary according to an option chosen by the employer for the development of the employee. In this programme, Tamkeen subsidises training cost, Training Needs Analysis fees as well as salary subsidies for up to a period of 24 months for the employees that are accepted.

Finally, what are the measures of success to the new strategy? How can you tell a year from now that the strategy is actually going to the right direction? 

Going forward, Tamkeen’s strategy will become more results oriented through continuous assessment of the impact of our schemes and initiatives on both the individuals and business and gauging Tamkeen’s impact on the market and the overall economy.

We will be looking to continuously appraise our own work and measure our performance while sharing these insights with public in a transparent manner. Consultations, focus groups and engagements with the public will continue to be a main staple of our operations and we will use this as a basis to report our progress.

 

Anything more you would like to share with Startup Bahrain readers?

I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to your enthusiastic, avid and entrepreneurial readers. In addition, I would also like to invite them to benefit from our programmes, especially the newly launched enterprise support programme, so that we can assist them in growing and developing their businesses or careers, because remember, their success is our success.

Thank you for your time and for all the insights shared with us.

 

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