When assessing the relative performance of key nations in the Gulf and Middle East, the IMF World Economic Outlook predicted that in 2018, Bahrain would continue as the fastest-growing GCC economy. While Bahrain has long been seen as one of the key gateways into the region - especially in terms of its prowess in financial services - the kingdom is now offering powerful advantages as a hub par excellence, with the top performance of its own economy being the ideal platform for reaching the $1.5tn market of the GCC.
Indeed, Bahrain is currently enjoying non-oil growth in excess of 5%, according to the Bahrain Economic Quarterly, the prestigious market barometer prepared by the Economic Development Board. What’s more, that non-oil growth is observed across an amalgam of key sectors, embracing advanced hi-tech fields as well as traditional skillsets. For example, Bahrain is seen as a Centre of Excellence for high-value manufacturing and industrial services, while also providing state-of-the-art environments for healthcare and medical equipment, engineering services and - very significantly - renewable energy.
THE SME EQUATION
As is also the case with near-neighbours the UAE and Oman, SMEs play a key role in driving economic growth in Bahrain - and are also prime movers in delivering some of the trending changes as to how and where the work is done. Interestingly, Bahrain (much like Oman in this regard) has a high proportion of microbusinesses: there are no fewer than 85,000 micro enterprises in the kingdom, alongside 6,735 fully-fledged SMEs. Economic success and change is being driven very much ‘from the ground up’ in Bahrain, with an environment offering a very pure seed-bed for entrepreneurship.
Start-up, business growth and in-bound investment are all within the remit of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB). While being the first point of contact for investors looking to establish their businesses in the kingdom, the EDB is a key resource for SMEs throughout their journey from set-up to enterprise-level operation. The EDB exists to enhance the ease of doing business and reduce any hindrances to successful set-up - thereby helping significantly boost an economy in which microbusiness and SMEs play a formative role.
SERVCORP AND THE ‘NEW’ WORKING ECONOMY
Fuelled by economic growth and the commitment of the EDB to encourage and incentivise business start-up, we are seeing another factor becoming increasingly important: where and how can a business best set up an office? Plus, how should it do so in a way that is affordable, fast and projects a highly professional image from Day One?
Enter Servcorp - providers of the world’s finest flexible workspace solutions - a company that is itself part of the economic story of Bahrain, deeply rooted in local market dynamics and with a presence in Manama since December 2006. Representing 40,000 members worldwide, across 54 cities in 23 nations, Servcorp is also well-placed to understand the very particular requirements of SMEs, multinationals and micro-businesses, with their need for value and a time-saving, one-stop platform.
With its finger very much on the pulse of change, Servcorp works closely with the EDB to create initiatives and working environments that fully reflect changing workplace trends and preferences. A key focus here is the Virtual Office - a concept effectively created and pioneered by Servcorp more than three decades ago - which offers a practical, innovative and highly affordable route to market.
A Virtual Office allows small and medium businesses to benefit from all the advantages of a prestigious address, landing phone numbers and office support, without committing to dedicated office space. The reality is that Servcorp has invested more than $100 million in IT and telecoms to ensure clients receive the best service possible. Plus, as a specialist in Flexible Workspace solutions, Servcorp can meet the needs of many styles of business, meeting the needs of the spectrum of industries represented in the Bahrain economy.
Examples of the world-class solutions on offer include Servcorp’s ownership of two floors in the prestigious Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH), totalling in excess of 20,000 sq. feet and featuring state-of-the-art facilities and fit-out. All of which represents one of the foremost suites of serviced offices in Bahrain. In addition, Servcorp provides more than 80 registration desks in the Diplomatic Commercial Office Tower, enabling businesses to receive a CR (Commercial Registration) from the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. The focus is to provide a solution for everyone, suited to individual businesses’ workspace requirements, with the options of a serviced office, virtual office, business registration desk or Coworking space.
Servcorp’s Flexible Workspace innovations reflect a close understanding of the methods and policies of the EDB - and indeed, this relationship was celebrated at a recent event, taking place on July 1st in the Servcorp facility on Level 22 of the Bahrain Financial Harbour, and dedicated to discussing the EDB’s activities and initial results for 2018. The event was the first in a series titled ‘Servcorp Community Meets’, dedicated to networking and the sharing of market intelligence between Servcorp members and expert agencies and practitioners. The Guest of Honour was Dr. Simon Galpin, Managing Director of the Economic Development Board, Bahrain.
As part of his well-received keynote speech, Dr. Galpin spoke about the activities of the EDB and the measures being taken to empower SMEs in their critical role at the centre of economic growth. He emphasized his commitment to core factors such as reducing capital outlay and removing - wherever possible - the formal hurdles to growth. In this respect he referenced the initiatives undertaken by Servcorp as a proponent of the Virtual Office, and the key advantages offered by the prestigious new BFH facility - which is closely aligned with the values and innovations that the EDB is currently pioneering.
Commenting on Servcorp’s role in supporting the development of Bahrain’s important SME and micro sectors - and alignment with the aims of the EDB - Laudy Lahdo, General Manager, Servcorp Middle East, said: “Servcorp has always been driven by the need to provide solutions in markets where the dynamics of business are changing rapidly and where entrepreneurs have to move quickly and cost-effectively in order to take advantage of economic growth. Offering a wide variety of workspace solutions in Bahrain is part of that commitment to the ease of doing business, providing practical, innovative and affordable workspaces. We are primarily facilitators - and this drives our close relationship with the EDB, who work on behalf of investors and the business community to make Bahrain a regional leader across diverse industry sectors. Together, we see Flexible Working as a passport to channelling and nurturing growth and to propelling the kingdom’s role as a regional powerhouse economy.”