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              Doctor Injects MBA Skills Into Alumni's Start-Up Consulting Firm

              Basel Hammoda used to work in healthcare but the former doctor has used an MBA in the UK to launch a start-up consulting firm with alumni.

              Before he began an MBA in the UK, Dr Basel Hammoda used to spend his time developing marketing strategies for hospitals in Saudi Arabia.

              But the Bachelor of both medicine and surgery graduate is now pursuing entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, based in the UK.

              He has joined fellow MBA students and alumni to launch a start-up management consulting firm, Blue Ocean Consulting, which will work with SMEs in Birmingham, Aston’s base and a city in the West Midlands of England.

              He began his career as a dietician and nutritionist at a private health clinic. A native of Egypt, in 2009 he moved to telecoms giant Vodafone, in Cairo. After a few months he moved into various hospitals in the Middle East, where he worked in marketing and insurance.

              He began an MBA at Aston in 2013 and will graduate this year.

              Why did you decide to begin an MBA program?

              Studying an MBA has been one of my goals since I finished my undergraduate studies in Cairo. With several years of work experience as a manager in the healthcare field, I decided in 2012 that it [was] about time to take this step, in order to prepare myself for more senior roles within the healthcare industry – or shift my career towards the consultancy sector.

              What made Aston Business School (ABS) stand out?

              Aston was unique in several ways: first of all, ABS is entrepreneurship-inclined.

              Secondly, they have a supportive, dedicated employability team working on improving their graduates’ employability.

              Thirdly, the unlimited support that Aston provides their talented students and graduates [with], whichever career paths they want to take. [Aston] provides a series of events [with] highly-qualified speakers and industry experts, interactive workshops with managers and directors from top firms in the UK, and full support in competing in globally-ranked business school competitions.

              You have worked in healthcare and nutrition-related roles – what interested you about the industry?

              Working face-to-face with your customers – patients – and being able to help them when they are in need, is an extremely fulfilling experience.

              You worked for Vodafone Egypt – what challenges did the telecoms industry face?

              The telecoms industry used to be one of the fastest growing sectors in Egypt, with Vodafone Egypt through its subsidiary Vodafone International Services  where I used to work – getting contracts to provide call centre services for global Vodafone customers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Qatar and other countries.

              However, the lack of a clear government vision coupled with the political instability over the last few years had a negative impact on the economy in general, and on the telecoms sector in particular.

              You worked in hospitals in the Middle East – what is unique about marketing in the region?

              In my personal opinion Arabs are gifted traders, and they genuinely have good marketing and sales skills. This means that you must be proactive, goal-oriented and a risk-taker to establish yourself as a good marketer.

              The way business is done in the Middle East, which is mostly informal depending on word of mouth connections, requires exceptional communication and negotiation skills. [You must] build your reputation as a credible, committed and trustworthy person – first.

              Tell us about your plans to start your own management consultancy.

              Blue Ocean Consulting is my business that I’ll be starting soon, supporting start-ups [and] small and medium-sized enterprises in Birmingham.

              Knowing that only one in every 20 start-ups make it through their first year of operations, and with the current difficulties that local businesses in Birmingham face, I believe that [they are] are in most need of expert business advice.

              We will provide creative strategies, helping them better their business models, find opportunities in the market and make best use of [them], target the right clients in an effective and efficient way, and differentiate their offerings from their competitors.

              The team of consultants will be formed of Aston Business School postgraduate degree holders and alumni, making use of the high-quality business education they have.

              Why are you interested in pursuing entrepreneurship instead of joining a corporate consultancy?

              Working for a corporate consultancy provides you with a guaranteed income and learning experiences. However, only senior consultants get to interact directly with the client – and the rate of career progression is not proportionate to the amount of time and effort you spend in the company.

              In addition my supervisor, who has years of experience as a consultant, advised me to pursue this route. His rationale is that, as an independent consultancy, we will have a realistic [and] tangible impact on our clients’ businesses.

              How well has an MBA prepared you for an entrepreneurial career?

              The MBA program at Aston is skilfully tailored to include all the core disciplines that any entrepreneur or senior-level manager will need to run a business.

              [Aston] not only provides you with a birds-eye view of different departments’ operations, but gets into the specifics of daily operations within those departments – something that enables you to develop a complete view of any business.

              What has been the highlight of your MBA at Aston?

              The strong bonds that were established among the cohort cannot be described in words. We became one big family and this helped us to adapt to life in the UK, and make the [most] out of this learning journey.

              We also got the chance to build networks with MBAs from other business schools. We were fortunate enough to participate in a number of business schools’ MBA consulting competitions that were sponsored by multi-national corporations, through which we gained hands-on experience, and worked in teams providing implementable solutions.