Salah Michel Bouraad is a modest, almost unassuming businessman of the old school.
Unless one inquired, they might not know that in 1994 he helped found Cellis/FTML – Lebanon’s first mobile telecoms company – during the rough ’90s market or that he currently runs the Segenius group, a Beirut-based consulting firm with a globalized practice.
After achieving a nearly decadelong successful buildup of Cellis, he signed off on its subsequent sale to the Lebanese government after a tough round of negotiations that led to the nationalization of Cellis/FTML (and LibanCell).
Key figures stand at the following: revenues of $360 million in 2004 (at the time of its sale), a workforce of 420 persons, and the knock-on effect of creating more than 3,000 jobs. The company had capital investments of more than $400 million.
He also became a key figure in Beirut philanthropy. It was while heading Cellis/FTML that Bouraad founded Amour et Partage (Love and Sharing) for the care of the elderly homeless.
Giving back to the community, corporate responsibility, and helping those in need are among the top principles in his life.
As a young man, Bouraad found order in life in math and structure. He followed an uncle – close to his age – into engineering.
“I was very good in math,” he said, smiling.
After initial civil engineering studies at the University of Saint Joseph, Bouraad left for France to continue specializing and worked toward his doctorate at the University of Paris.
“It was then that I began teaching as well,” he said. “I decided to stay in France and teach and also learn.” At 28, he was granted his PhD.
In 1982, Bouraad found himself being called to public service by then-President Amin Gemayel, who wanted the young engineer to act as an adviser/counselor to the government for the Council for Development and Reconstruction. His responsibilities included launching master plans for key industry and business sectors, including the telecoms sector.
In 1986, he was tapped by France Telecom to head their SODETEL subsidiary as CEO, with a mandate for restructuring the company and the creation of new business activities including data transmission, value-added services and the-then-in-its-infancy Internet business.
He said: “This was my ticket of entry and visa to the world of telecoms,” a business sector that was soon going to explode as mobile technology went global.
He continued in his capacity as head of SODETEL until the mid-1990s, when France Telecom created Cellis/FTML initially for business in Lebanon and appointed Bouraad as CEO of the new company.
Early on in his tenure, the Beirut-based telecoms executive found himself moved by the sight of elderly homeless men near his office.
Bouraad began securing the support of colleagues and members of the community who shared his concern for those he termed “overlooked by the rest of society.” This was the beginning of Amour et Partage nearly two decades ago.
Currently, Amour et Partage provides care for more than 80 elderly citizens. Nearly 30 people are cared for at a main home in Mansourieh, Mount Lebanon, and a second home in Bikfaya. An additional 60 elderly are given nonresidential assistance.
“We provide rental, food, health care and love!” he said proudly of the additional assistance.
The present operating costs for the program are estimated at $250,000 a year, and the initial investment in buying and equipping the main property was an estimated $500,000, according to Bouraad.
His consulting firm Segenius was founded in 2005, with its initial operation leveraging Bouraad’s expertise in telecoms and engineering but soon expanding to including management consulting expertise in other fields.
The firm widened its scope in 2008 by acquiring Neoconsult SAL (specializing in telecoms construction) and by launching Segenius Offshore for foreign telecoms construction and adding Segeplus SAL for real estate development.
Segenius’ service is globalized, he added, noting that it ranges from, “the Middle East, Africa, eastern Europe, central and South America along with central and southeast Asia.”
You can always find Bouraad at Amour et Partage Wednesdays, serving lunch to his elderly friends who laugh and sing despite the rigors of age.
“Not everything is about business,” he said.