There’s been a quiet revolution taking place along the roadsides of Kuwait. It can’t have escaped your attention. Where once we’d only fuel our cars at the ubiquitous state-owned gas stations, today we have a choice. Some might find this a trivial advancement, but certainly not Hamza Bakhash who sees any opportunity to combine freedom of choice with greater levels as customer service as the right step forward. Naturally we agree, and spoke with him about his aims.
Bakhash is emphatic - “We have a great opportunity”. Looking around at the parlous state of many of the country’s gas stations, it’s easy to see how this opportunity presents itself. Given that most of us require a visit to refuel on at least a weekly basis, any way that the experience can become more pleasant is a good thing.
He sees his locations as more than merely gas stations. “In the same way that when we travel abroad we are able to do far more than fuel our cars, we at Oula want to bring the same level of service to Kuwait”.
Already, along with their spruced up fascias, Oula have introduced modern and efficient car wash facilities. Ultimately gas-filling stations will become full service-stations allowing motorists access to a wider range of services including mini-markets too.
Perhaps the most significant contribution that these changes will make to Kuwait comes through the signaling of the importance of private enterprise to the continued growth of Kuwait’s economy and through the improvement of the social experience.
Being part of a continued shift towards private enterprise does not come trouble-free for Hamza Bakhash and his colleagues at Al-Oula however, and he is critical of the amount of ‘red-tape’ and administrative procedures that persistently slow down his development plans for the company.
“When I travel and look around at the level of sophistication in this sector across the region, I’m frustrated by the many slow steps we have to take before we can even hope to begin to catch up”, he remarks.
He came to Al-Oula after a career in the oil business, latterly as Deputy Managing Director at Kuwait National Petroleum Company and a board member at Kuwait Petroleum International.
He was enticed out of retirement to take up the role at Al-Oula, and remains energized and excited as he manages a dynamic team focused on growth through serving their customers better. Of competition, he speaks of welcoming it. As more players join the market, he sees standards only getting higher.
Doubtless, within Bakhash lies the spirit of a free-marketeer, one who understands that even for a basic commodity such as fuel (and that even in Kuwait) customers do have a choice. He and his team at Al-Oula are working to ensure that their business becomes your destination.
First Published in Mens Passion issue #35 November 2011