Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 March 2020

My UAE: the many faces of the entrepreneur Hassan Al Sayegh

A profile of the Emirati e-commerce entrepreneur Hassan Al Sayegh.
Hassan Al Sayegh, who is the co-founder of the Dubai-based eCommerce business Mena360. Sarah Dea / The National
Hassan Al Sayegh, who is the co-founder of the Dubai-based eCommerce business Mena360. Sarah Dea / The National

At the age of 28, Hassan Al Sayegh has already finished a doctorate, worked as a consultant and started his own business.

Having grown up in Dubai, studying at the British-curriculum Rashid School for Boys, he relocated to England – moving from an undergraduate degree to a postgraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Nottingham.

“During this time, I had a really cool opportunity to do a research PhD – researching what was basically a renewable energy project, creating biodiesel from forestry wastes.

“I pushed it from lab scale to pilot scale, and they built a plant in Norway.” It took three years to research and a year to write – and Al Sayegh realised that he enjoyed the commercial side of the project the most.

He then completed an internship with the Boston Consultancy Group as a management consultant, before joining the company full-time – focusing on projects in Saudi Arabia.

“It was a brilliant time there, because there was a very, very steep learning curve; especially for me, having a very technical engineering background, being surrounded by MBA graduates.

“So many skills,” he says, “were directly applicable to management consulting – the whole aspect of breaking down such a big problem into little chunks and then solving them in a topical manner, in a very logical way.”

Al Sayegh later decided to join his former colleague Idriss Al Rifai’s e-commerce startup, Mena360, as a co-founder.

“I saw the big gap between the ­e-commerce experience in the UK, where I lived for eight years, and here in the UAE. When you buy stuff online in the UK, it’s guaranteed you’ll get it next day; here, you buy something online and you don’t even know if you’re going to get it.

“For the past month-and-a-half, I’ve taken myself out of the picture, so it’s all growing by itself now – which is really satisfying.

“The plan now is to take a couple of months off, possibly do some travelling and just relax for a bit. But it’s been about a month now and I’ve ­already gotten bored.”

What are the most important things that you’ve learnt at each of your three key life stages?

Doing the PhD taught me perseverance. From the consulting, I would say how to position information correctly to get clients or your peers on board with your ideas. From the start-up experience, I would say the soft skills I learnt.

Have you had a consistent philosophy throughout your life?

I look up to my brother – he’s my role model, and he always tells me: “There’s no growth in comfort.”

Who is your biggest inspiration?

All my siblings have been very successful in their professional careers or whatever they choose to do – and it’s all thanks to my mum.

Do you travel much?

I have done a lot of travelling in the past – every summer my parents used to take us on a tour of some part of the world. It’s a very important aspect of someone’s growth as well: travelling, experiencing other cultures, being comfortable with other cultures.

What renewable-energy projects are you especially interested in?

The Government here, especially in Abu Dhabi, has done a great job building up Masdar as a renewable-energy centre of the world.

Have you had time for any hobbies at all?

I have a dog called Ralph and I love spending time with him. During my downtime at the weekends, I spend a lot of time taking him for walks – it’s one of my favourite things to do.

Are you into sports?

I’m a massive Chelsea fan; I watch every single Chelsea game. Whatever I’m doing gets dropped for that sacred one-hour-and-a-half of football every Saturday.

What films do you like?

I go through phases. I’m into Quentin Tarantino movies; they’re fantastic, but he hasn’t done a “proper” Tarantino movie in ages.

Do you have a favourite actor?

It’s got to be Robert Downey Jr.

How did you spend your Eid?

Last year I was in Sri Lanka, so this Eid I really wanted to spend time with my extended family here in Dubai.

halbustani@thenational.ae

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Updated: July 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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