Entrepreneurship is not just a word. It is a lifestyle. It is your chosen path, accepting its challenges and promising yourself to never give up. Entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship create value and always find a way to succeed. If they do not achieve, they make a new path; success is beyond the border of fear and accompanied by risk and hope for the future. In this perspective, challenges and problems eventually vanish with reliance on internal capabilities, no matter how big they are.
Emran Baoj, a young, dynamic, and successful Iranian entrepreneur has chosen a different and unique style for leadership and management throughout his life and at PetroNiro Saba Company. He is categorized as someone who believes in the power of internal capabilities and unlimited minds. Such belief has led many industry activists and workers to call him “Mr. Project Manager,” embellishing his activities and achievements in construction projects in oil, gas, and petrochemicals.
Born in May 1976, he especially insists on finding commonalities rather than differences and promoting human resources in a context of continuous and gradual improvement.
Emran Baouj holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from a university in Iran and a professional Project Management certificate from the Project Management Institute in the United States. He migrated to Tehran from his hometown without any support. He began his career by teaching and working on large national and infrastructure projects. A few years later, with a small amount of capital, he founded the Petro Niro Saba Company to play a role in the complex design, procurement, and construction of large energy projects, especially in oil, gas, and petrochemicals. He established the company in a small office in Tehran with an area of 50 square meters. Since then, he has made great efforts to create opportunities and overcome crises and challenges.
After 15 years, his company is now a capable general contractor in the private sector, relying on a dynamic perspective and well-trained human resources to undertake major projects with confidence. This is evident in the company’s ongoing activities, projects, and future plans. Despite his repeated successes in Iran and his experience in exporting goods and technical engineering services to other countries, including those in the Middle East and Africa, this prominent entrepreneur sees himself as just starting out and believes he can turn his company into a large conglomerate with tens of thousands of employees and a turnover of tens of billions of dollars.
In his opinion, the path of entrepreneurship is a challenging one worldwide, and he strongly supports a productive and production-oriented economy, envisioning a bright future for Iran, which he deeply cares about.
With this determined and sincere expression, we had a long and friendly conversation to explore his thoughts and share his perspectives, successes, and bitter-sweet experiences with the audience. At the beginning of our talk, he takes a look at the path he has taken and proudly states that he has founded a company that has been involved in 34 national projects in Iran, including the construction of parts of the Luristan petrochemical complex, Kaveh Methanol Project as the world’s largest methanol production unit, the collection of polluting flares gases in southern Iran, the Maashahr Haiku project, as well as projects related to the energy and power sector. These are productive and healthy economic sectors that add value to our country.
He believes in the power of humans to change and improve their conditions and quotes Benjamin Disraeli saying that humans are not born into their needs but rather create them, and he steadfastly promotes this mindset and value within the PetroNiro Saba organization.
He speaks about PetroNiro Saba, saying that the organization, from the beginning, has adopted a great vision and goal as the basis for its activities. We aim to become a large-scale public contractor that can Finance, Engineer, procurement, construct, and Management (FEPCM). This idea entails wealth creation while also providing the possibility of exporting technical and engineering services. To ensure the company’s continued success, I am committed to studying successful models around the world and the approaches of international competitors.
He describes the company’s future and vision, saying we aim to compete shoulder to shoulder with esteemed companies such as Total, GGSC, British Petroleum, Shell, and Hyundai in international projects. In this regard, we must know what behaviours and strategies these companies have had and how, by adopting what methods, they have managed and completed multi-billion-dollar projects at a desirable level of quality on a global scale.
An Iranian entrepreneur is among those who strongly believe in creativity and innovation and says that innovation plays a key and central role in our corporate governance. Therefore, our company has established an innovation centre to run innovation at all levels and have a serious platform in the future of the Iranian and global economy. In line with this approach, we have challenges in our young company and discover and extract innovation from within projects and in interaction with each specialist and employee. Our competitive advantage is taking on tasks others do not dare to take risks on. Life in the realm of an unlimited mind is attractive. With this approach, each major company can be a government and support many new companies in their value chain. Companies that can create value will inevitably be listened to by governments.
The chairman of the board of directors of Petro Niru Saba, who gradually takes the lead in the market of implementing large EPC projects, says: scientific thinking, modelling, having a systemic perspective, and a professional approach has been my focus for over two decades working in the energy sector. Attention to scientific concepts has a significant impact on project management. That’s why I have daily learning and active study on my agenda, and I also recommend it to others. Because through familiarity with other people’s perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds, we can take the path of excellence and progress faster and with a higher chance of success.
He believes in advising young people interested in success: Although success from an external perspective is measurable through certain parameters, the path to it begins from within and from the power of the mind and then travels outward.
Success is having the power of risk-taking and professional commitment. Therefore, if there are inhibiting factors, an entrepreneur should not shy away from facing them. They must first know that they must overcome these inhibiting factors and achieve their goals in uncertain conditions. But great success requires organizational coherence, teamwork, and human resource development.
He says, “Unfortunately, in most developing countries, the educational system usually trains human resources as employees, not entrepreneurs. As a result, these countries have been unable to guide private companies’ organizational governance systems and direct capital toward research. In this regard, to correct the course, modelling South Korea, where private companies have reached such unique positions with high government support and become the nucleus of large industrial clusters, can be useful and beneficial for other countries interested in development. Companies like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and others, which are among the best and largest companies in the world, have dynamically grown within society and have been strengthened and supported by governments. If we recognize and understand the strategic approach and perspective, we will achieve maximum results with fewer resources. PetroNiro Saba Company has had such an approach since the beginning of its activities, leading to significant growth and development. This company has been seeking to free itself from dependence on the government and its authorities.”
I always live with my dreams
He says, “I always prefer to be optimistic and give energy to those around me by looking at the half-full glass and forming strategic alliances with capable and interested individuals to influence trends. In the words of Confucius, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
According to this businessperson, many governance systems face challenges and crises, and it is necessary to diagnose the current situation to eliminate deficiencies and ultimately achieve what is emphasized in development documents. Therefore, it is essential to think about improving governance at all levels daily so that the private sector can play an effective role in an efficient platform.
He talks about the role of dreams and visualization in personal progress and success as follows: “I always live with my dreams because I think that my entry into entrepreneurship was shaped by these very dreams, and for this reason, I have to use this source of inspiration to advance myself. But I accept that having a dream is a necessary but insufficient condition for achieving great goals, so risk-taking and madness must also be used for entrepreneurship. By plunging into turbulent seas and dealing with the problems on the way, I have always analyzed and evaluated the current situation and achieved wealth creation by hunting opportunities.”
Omar Bawazeer also points out that for sustainable entrepreneurship, attention must be paid to reality. He believes that economic activity in each country has its own specific style and context, which is different from other countries. Therefore, entrepreneurs and economic activists must consider these considerations and coordinate.
He believes that in all areas of governance, the leadership of organizations should be entrusted to competent human beings with a look at the individual’s dignity. Additionally, a scientific approach and experience can provide the conditions for the country’s development.
The CEO of PetroNiro Saba envisions the company under his leadership as follows: When someone has a dream, it means they are not satisfied with the current situation, and because they are not happy, they strive to expand their goals in interactions with others and move from the current state to the desired shape. Therefore, we have not set any limits or boundaries for the development and progress of our company, which has become an international brand. In this process, we will create innovation and new strategies to reach the level of global companies every day. Our goal is to achieve an annual turnover of 10 billion dollars by the end of the new century’s first decade so that we can take on international mega-projects.
In this regard, Petro Niro Saba must be able to lead the value chain with the companies that have formed around it as key stakeholders and create value with them while at the same time promoting employment and the flourishing of talents. Our activities and initiatives are using new technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, simulation projects, project reconstruction in the meta environment, and the Internet of Things.
Therefore, with such a perspective, our more than 2,500 workers and employees will become more capable and be on the path to progress with our educational and developmental programs and access to such technologies.
He continues, “When you’re in the sea, there’s no other way but to swim. You have to keep swimming constantly. At the point of no return, you gather all your strength and power to reach your destination at any cost. I’m not proud to say this, but unfortunately, this spirit is very rare in some countries, and we have to reverse this trend ourselves. Young people should not be trained with a limited mindset and bureaucratic thinking. Everyone says to be wise, but I am one of the few who say to be crazy. You have to prepare your heart for risk-taking. Be prepared for the journey to the point of no return and extended excellence. I have always been more creative amid deprivation and difficulties.”
Another topic he wants to emphasize to our audience is quality and relationships with individuals and companies. Imran Baoj says, “Deep connections are what we need to work together and form strong links. In this approach, finding strengths and weaknesses and achieving growth through transparency and honesty in a collective movement is necessary. Another point is to establish deep connections through sincere and transparent collaboration with various groups to manage large projects with health, agility, and strength, and ultimately, make what many consider impossible possible and be reborn every day.”
He also discusses his export and related programs: “Supplying and exporting it as a purchasing and supply sector requires a logistical mindset, with the transportation industry being an important link in the supply chain.”
No country has achieved sustainable development without the necessary attention and focuses on transportation and logistics. The position of transportation is key to the economy’s progress, and I know that the main challenge in this sector is the lack of a centralized unit for managing equipment, which is not being properly utilized. The links in the supply chain of the logistics network in each country should be connected in a unified manner, and policies should be taken out of isolation.
Here, attention should be paid to the necessity of forming logistics villages, which, if achieved, will solve many of the current problems. In reality, logistics villages in many countries need to be developed and stronger.
In analyzing the current problems, he says: Another issue is that Big Data needs to be present in the transportation and trade networks of countries. In many cases, it needs to be made clear who the trader is, when the goods arrive, and where they are going. What interests do they transport, and who the individuals involved are? The major flaw in data is observable in all transportation sectors, including land, rail, and air.
Assuming I want extensive commercial and trade cooperation with African countries, I need to know which merchants are active in this market and what goods are being traded. This big data is important in the transportation sector. The groundwork should be laid for the presence of knowledge-based companies and startups in this field, and in this regard, it should help the government to solve the problem. Transportation and services have the greatest potential to bring countries high incomes.
An example of a success that can be interesting for all of us is the air transport sector in Turkey. Look at how much market share Turkish Airlines has captured. This company is flying to the world’s remotest parts and has gained an unparalleled competitive advantage. When you travel with this neighbouring country’s airline, the passenger is placed at the centre of the flight in Istanbul. So let’s not assume that Turkish Airlines is just a flight network, but it introduces and promotes Turkish culture and helps to develop this country’s tourism and economic potential.
Therefore, attention to the transportation industry creates a chain of values. In this regard, policymakers and executors such as the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Economy and Finance, Ministry of Roads and Urban Development, and the private sector must work closely together to strengthen national interests through economic diplomacy. A successful country has implemented a unified governance system in its vision document, and macro data creates new opportunities for researchers and business owners.
On Emran Baouj’s desk are plans and invitations for investment and joint cooperation in Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Persian Gulf countries. However, he is mostly disinterested in these invitations and wants to avoid explicitly mentioning the attractiveness of economic activity in Africa for us. Imran Bauj, passionate about development and interested in balancing the global economy, speaks of the social responsibility of his plans for the progress of Africa: “I have particularly observed different countries and found West Africa a very pristine area for investment. With their wise, very good, and intimate people, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Guinea-Bissau need more support and cooperation. We should empower these countries in our share.”