“Never be self-satisfied and do not hesitate to challenge the limits”

“Never be self-satisfied and do not hesitate to challenge the limits”
Published: 16 January 2020 - 6 a.m.
By: Martin Menachery
Mohammad Alkalbi may impress others by his travel history. Born in Kuwait, Alkalbi got a bachelor’s degree at North Carolina University, USA, specialising in industrial engineering. After graduation, he started his career at PIC in Kuwait and then moved to many countries for working such as Italy, Switzerland, and the United Arab Emirates.

So far, he has more than 30 years of working experience in different areas and has held different positions relevant to oil and energy industry such as sales and marketing manager, purchase and logistic manager for Equipolymers, business development and strategy manager for MEGlobal/Equipolymers, and manager of polymer marketing at PIC.

PIC, which was founded in 1963 as the first chemical fertiliser complex of its kind in the region, is a subsidiary of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC). Later, PIC became a petrochemical industry leader in Kuwait and throughout the Middle East, and an emerging leader worldwide.

Holding a management role in such big corporation, Alkalbi has to face so much pressure that he would not have been able to handle if he was not a workaholic and multitasker. He is in charge of sales and marketing area for polymer products, which are in high demand not only in Kuwait but also all over the world.

In addition to manufacturing and marketing fertilisers, olefins and aromatics in Kuwait, PIC has participated in multiple joint ventures that also produce and market chemicals both locally and internationally. Reaching outside the State of Kuwait, PIC has broadened its business by investing in world-scale manufacturing sites located close to fast-growing markets in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe, and collaborating closely with joint venture partners on sustained growth projects.

One of the key overseas projects of PIC is named Kuwait Vietnam Petrochemicals Company (KVPC), which is a 100% PIC-owned company and located in Vietnam. Alkalbi was the key person for the establishment of the whole entity and thus he is trusted to be appointed as general director of KVPC. The new position also means new challenges to him.

KVPC’s partner in Vietnam is Nghi Son Refinery and Petrochemical Plant (NSRP), which is the biggest project in oil refining and petrochemical sector in Vietnam, regarding construction scale and total investment. KVPC plays an intermediary role between NSRP and agents with commercial deals of up to 300,000 tonnes per year.

Though Vietnam is a developing country and has totally different culture from other countries where Alkalbi lived before, by his ability to quickly adapt and with his managing experience, he has built KVPC from zero. Now it has become a profitable and independent company with very successful performance. Until now, only after 14 months in operation, revenue of KVPC project is around $270mn and netback achieved is $5mn.

To achieve this, thanks to Alkalbi’s working experience in Europe and USA for many years, he has established a network which supports to promote Vietnam’s product sales in other countries. He himself worked closely with distributors to create partnership network, including the most prestigious companies such as Opec, Tricon, and Itochu while seeking more converters to promote the direct sales and align with PIC’s strategy.

Early this year, Pembina Pipeline Corporation along with PIC announced a positive final investment decision to construct a 550,000MT per annum integrated propane dehydrogenation (PDH) plant and polypropylene (PP) upgrading facility through their equally-owned joint venture entity, Canada Kuwait Petrochemical Corporation (CKPC).

After initial success of KVPC, Alkalbi continues to be appointed as a key person in charge of this project. In the near future, PIC’s strategy is to upgrade capacity of these projects to two million tonnes per year and focus on direct sales. This new direction puts him in a challenge to rebuild a team and framework to get ready for approaching converters all over the world to test and try PIC’s PP from these projects.

Not only waiting for challenges to come, Alkalbi is an active person who always pushes himself to conquer new challenges. He has participated in numerous training programmes to enhance personal skills such as managerial training, specialised and technical training, and leadership training.

Perhaps Alkalbi enjoys being a learner all the time – his image is embedded in others’ mind as a humble person but always full of positive energy. His colleagues all agree that they do not feel distance between him and staff though Alkalbi is a leader. Thus, they consider him as a teacher, a friend and a family member who has a heart of gold, and sincerely cares.

Another significant aspect of Alkalbi’s character which adds to form his wide knowledge is the sense of inspection. He never lets anything to pass without learning about it, or getting an added value, no matter what the field is. Alkalbi says: “My target is always the knowhow.

At present, at the age of 58, Alkalbi is taking a lead role of three jobs at the same time in three different nations – Kuwait, Vietnam and Canada – and he is still eager to accept new challenges. “Age is not a limit. Never be self-satisfied, and do not hesitate to challenge the limits,” Alkalbi concludes.

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