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Changemakers Bader Nasser Al Kharafi

The education system is not keeping pace with this change, he argues. Youth unemployment in Kuwait was 14.75% in 2018, according to the World Bank; slightly higher than the global average of 13.23%. Al Kharafi says: “At Zain, we’ve looked at shocking data that shows how the largest corporations today are generating significantly higher revenues with only a fraction of the number of employees. I believe educators and leaders have a duty, more than ever, to empower young people with new skillsets and help create more jobs.”

In 2016, he oversaw the launch of Zain’s Generation Z programme, a youth empowerment initiative aimed at supporting the career development of young and enterprising Kuwaitis while stimulating a start-up mindset in the company’s own workforce. The Zainiac platform is an internal community for ‘Zainers’ to share and collaborate on new ideas and solutions.

“People often perceive a company that seems successful to be operating without any turbulence,” he says. “But any business leader can attest that their daily job is problem-solving. Problems arise continuously and are fundamental to progress.”

Zainiac was initially a far-sighted solution to a problem. “The ecosystem for all telecoms companies has changed in recent years,” Al Kharafi explains. “We embraced the need to pivot early on as the industry was being disrupted. We took the opportunity to re-identify ourselves for what the market demanded. Zain became a digital services company primed for digital transformation.”

The process demanded streamlining and cost reductions, as well as the need to focus on having a team with specific skills that matched the new vision. “The economies we operate in are in desperate need of job creation. The private sector needed nourishment; we needed more entrepreneurs.”

“Wanting to keep the staff within our family and to maintain a positive environment, we came up with the idea that, rather than letting go of talented staff, we would empower them instead. We began acknowledging and nourishing their great ideas by partnering with them, giving them the opportunity to see their idea to fruition.”

Zain created an internal process giving staff the chance to present their ideas; the most feasible were invested in. The initiative has exceeded its brief:

“The benefits are manifold. Our staff feel motivated, encouraged to break their routine and collaborate creatively with others. Not only that, we have seen a few of these start-ups within Zain opening up multiple new revenue streams.”

It is, adds Al Kharafi, a win-win situation: “Zainiac has revealed a pool of unique potential entrepreneurs and I’m looking forward to seeing their contributions across many industries.”