Heritage & Ownership
The Bahwan Group made its debut in Oman’s commercial life in 1965 with a shop named Suhail & Saud Bahwan, established by the two brothers in the Muttrah ‘Souk’. Initial trading comprised of building materials and fishing nets. Following the sea-faring traditions of his ancestors, Sheikh Suhail Bahwan had his initial trading experience aboard the vessels that plied the routes to Western India and the Upper Gulf from his native village Sur, an eastern seaport of Oman. Soon he turned his attention towards securing agencies of internationally reputed brands. Initial success was in 1968-69 with Toshiba and Seiko. With His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said coming to power in 1970, Oman opened up to the outside world, creating a demand for industrial and consumer goods in Oman that had never been experienced before. The business acumen of Sheikh Suhail Bahwan won him prestigious franchises from leading international manufacturers and service providers.
The group diversified into critical areas like integrated engineering and construction, infrastructure projects, telecommunications, home appliances, electronics, foodstuff, furniture, healthcare, shipping, travel and logistics.
As the businesses grew and prospered, the Group continued to align itself with His Majesty’s vision of nation building. Based on Sheikh Suhail’s abiding belief that the private sector must work with the Government for the nation’s modernization, the Group continued to invest and work for the development of Oman’s industrial and infrastructure sector, a focus that continues till today.
Led by Sheikh Suhail’s widely respected principled business conduct and his strong desire to give back to society, the Group has always taken its responsibility to the community and society very seriously. Strongly believing that the youth are the future of a prosperous and vibrant Oman, the Group has focused on providing jobs for young Omanis and imparting knowledge, skills training and motivation to help them perform to their full potential.
Today, the 15,000 strong Suhail Bahwan Group ranks as one of Oman’s foremost business houses. It has interests in engineering and construction, manufacturing and industrial investments, Information technology, trading and specialized services, among others. Many of the Group companies are market leaders in their field, not only in Oman but in the entire Gulf Region.
Founder & Group Chairman, Sheikh Suhail Salim Bahwan Al Mukhaini
The story of Sheikh Suhail Salim Bahwan Al Mukhaini, the founder of the group, literally began on one of the dhows that used to dot the seascape off Sur in Oman. It is a story of great determination, perseverance and vision that would someday make him the head of one of the largest conglomerates in the Gulf region.
In 1952, at the tender age of 15, a young Suhail joined his father’s business. He journeyed to India with fresh and dried dates and brought back rice, oil and clothes to sell in Sur. These week-long dhow journeys strengthened him physically, even as the business dealings sharpened and shaped his business acumen. Sheikh Suhail Bahwan remembers one arduous trip that took 40 long days. Low on food and water with no winds to push them forward, he still managed to keep his will strong and they were saved by a British vessel.
It is this will that continued to drive him. Three years later, in 1955, he bought another dhow, this time with an engine. His business sense saw him diversify into building materials. He now bought Mangalore roof tiles from India to sell in Mombasa (East Africa), from where he bought wood to sell in Sur, Iraq and Kuwait. For a decade, Sheikh Suhail sailed the seas expanding and reinforcing his business.
From mastering the seas, he turned his attention to land. His vision led him to Muscat where he opened a shop along with his younger brother, Sheikh Saud, in the Muttrah souq in 1965. This first shop, named ‘Suhail & Saud Bahwan’, sold building materials and fishing nets.
There was a surge of activity in the late 1960s with the discovery of oil and the rise of modern technology. Quick to respond to this impetus, the brothers acquired agencies of Japanese giants like Toshiba and Seiko and started selling electronic goods, including home appliances and watches. When the Omani market did not come to their shop and buy, Sheikh Suhail showed his mettle once again. He loaded his pick-up truck and drove to the newly opened Petroleum Development Oman office. Within reach of the right customers, the goods sold out in a flash.
With the 1970s came the Renaissance led by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. Winds of change blew through Oman, ending the era of political isolation and economic stagnation and refreshing the land with modernity and change. In this atmosphere of change, Sheikh Suhail Bahwan’s drive now knew no bounds. He diversified into critical areas like integrated engineering and construction, infrastructure projects, telecommunications, electronics, foodstuff, furniture, healthcare, shipping, air travel and transport.
Today he has the distinction of being one of Oman’s most successful and respected businessmen. A leader, a visionary, a thinker, a gentleman, a teacher and a friend, Sheikh Suhail Bahwan’s legendary qualities have also helped shape the destiny and cultural ethos of the Group that today bears his name and ranks among the largest business houses in the Gulf region.
With an illustrious career spanning five decades, Sheikh Suhail Bahwan has been on the board of prestigious organizations. He serves as Consul General of Sweden. He is a former member of the Majlis Al Shura and a former board member of Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry. His love for his country is legendary. Oman’s people are always in his heart. A man so accomplished, yet so humble, is rare indeed and a symbol of entrepreneurship for generations to come.
Sheikh Suhail Bahwan’s journey has been full of exciting discoveries, winning over business storms and watching the rise of new endeavours. As he continues to focus on his philanthropic interests and actively mentors the Group’s leaders, there are still many more waves of discovery for him to cross.
Chairman, Sheikh Ahmed Suhail Bahwan Al Mukhaini
Sheikh Ahmed Suhail Bahwan Al Mukhaini, the eldest son of Sheikh Suhail Bahwan, has been learning the ropes of conducting a business and leading his people from a very early age from his father. Sheikh Ahmed had already been inducted into the family business while still pursuing his Bachelor degree from Rollins College, Florida. It was his education at Florida apart from his multicultural upbringing, having studied earlier in Lebanon and the UK, which helped him to introduce fresh thoughts and ideas in managing the automotive business.
As the Chairman of the Bahwan International Group (BIG) and its precursor, the Suhail Bahwan Automotive Group, as the group of businesses was commonly referred to earlier, Sheikh Ahmed Suhail Bahwan’s keen knowledge of business was instrumental in the launch of leading global automotive brands like Nissan, Infiniti and Renault. Several commercial brands from the Fiat stable like IVECO, CASE, New Holland and others were also introduced in this part of the world under his leadership.
Sheikh Ahmed has inherited many of the traits of his legendary father, Sheikh Suhail Salim Bahwan. A warm hearted man with diverse interests, Sheikh Ahmed’s keen knowledge and deep insights into organizational dynamics and business have been at the core of the growth and development of BIG and has fuelled the diversification and expansion of the business both within the automotive group and across various countries. Today the footprint of the group has expanded across the Middle East region with a vibrant workforce of 3700 plus employees. It is Sheikh Ahmed’s deep understanding of human dynamics that has helped him to identify suitable and very capable leaders to lead and manage these businesses.
Like his father, Sheikh Ahmed Bahwan, too, believes that providing jobs to young Omanis is central because youth are Oman’s future. Hence BIG focuses on providing knowledge, training and motivation to young Omanis for them to perform to their full potential.