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Syed Akbaruddin

It is a great honor and privilege for me as a webmaster that I was given the opportunity to interview Syed Akbaruddin - Indian Consul General, Jeddah. Despite of his busy schedule he agree for this interview, upon knowing our intention that we have a common interest that is to serve our community through the first-ever Indian website in the Kingdom.

Syed Akbaruddin, the newly appointed Indian Consul General, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is a gold medallist from University of Hyderabad in M. A. Political Science, He also obtained a Post Graduate Degree in International Relations from the Australian National University in Canberra on a Ford Foundation Scholarship. Born in Kerala and brought up in Hyderabad, A.P. He is a professional who means business and listening to people is his concern. He plans to reach each and every expat Indian, study the issues, see the people’s points of views and act accordingly with professionalism on his level best.

His goals are directed towards the welfare of the Indian community and to promote the common interest between Saudi Arabia and India making a difference in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).

For the smooth flow of Haj and for the safety of pilgrims, the Saudi Arabian Haj Ministry is giving guidelines and conducted conference in Malaysia. What are these guidelines and how these guidelines can be implemented ?

It was my good fortune to attend the First Conference on Haj Guidance held in Kuala Lumpur on Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, 2000. It focused on how to orient pilgrims on the Haj in their respective countries prior to their arrival in the Kingdom to perform the sacred rituals. Since the diverse backgrounds of the pilgrims from various regions is acknowledge, it was felt that perhaps regional workshops should be considered for working out guidelines which can then be considered for implementation by different countries.

In India we are already initiating orientation programs for the pilgrims. These are two tier. Two courses where held in Bombay and Delhi. These were for officials from various states Haj committees and were could be termed as “training the trainers”. Those exposed to these courses would then in turn conduct courses for pilgrims at the state and even district level. The Central Haj committee in India is considering options on how to further expand the outreach in orienting the pilgrims for the annual Haj

Along with the routine Consular services, the Jeddah Consulate has a major responsibility during Haj period. What are the services provided by the Consulate to the pilgrims?

It is the privilege of all those serving in the Consulate that we assist the Indian pilgrims in performing their religious obligations during the Haj. The Consulate, acting under the directives of the Indian Ambassador, is the sole Indian executive agency in the Kingdom to assist Indian pilgrims. This assistance is multi-faceted. It begins well before the arrival of pilgrims. For example from August onwards this year, Consulate staff are serving on the building selection teams that choose the housing of pilgrims in Makkah. From late November all details of the pilgrims will be fed into the computers of the Consulate so as to come up with computerized allocation of flights and accommodation for pilgrims. The Consulate is also the nodal agency coordinating the medical teams deployed from India as a welfare measure. The magnitude of the task can be gauged by the fact that last year more than 400,000 visits were made during the Haj season to the dispensaries and hospital set up by the Indian medical teams. All government officials who are deployed to assist in the administration of the Haj management of Indian pilgrims are under the Consulate. These officials assist the pilgrims on arrival at the airport and facilitate with their transport arrangements from Jeddah to Makkah, Madinah and return to Jeddah.

We attempt to continuously improve taking into account previous experience. For example, this year you may find us using the internet to provide information to Indian pilgrims on various aspects of the Haj.

Many countries have autonomous trade representative and permanent exhibition for promoting their national products in this county. Why India is lacking behind in this?
Promotion of trade is not a uni-dimensional exercise. With dramatic strides in information technology a number of Indian companies have their web sites which give detailed information on their product lines. This has greatly expanded their reach to markets in various parts of the world including the Kingdom at costs, which are much lower than for maintaining exhibitions of limited product ranges. There are also many B2B portals specializing in product offerings from India. In short, availability of information of Indian products is no longer a problem. Besides, the Indian Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General of India in Jeddah have full fledged commercial sections which regularly assist anyone desirous of contacting Indian exporters / manufacturers.

What is the potential of Indian information technology (IT) professionals in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is the recent entrant on the IT area and that there are already players entrenched here. It is no longer a closed environment. It is one of the most competitive environments anywhere in the world, and with globalization everybody wants a piece of the pie”. He has the positive views that Indians will make it to the top when it comes to the latest information technology. “In Saudi Arabia, traditionally, Indians are more comfortable because we have an inherent advantage in that the culture and the work environment is known to us. It’s only an incremental step, on whether Saudi Arabia requires Indian skills. In terms of value for money, we provide the best. This is acknowledged in the US and Europe, otherwise they won’t come to us. We have a good education system so it is very easy to pick up. Indians are more disciplined and easily adjustable to people. Indians have been a success story in the U.S. and their success is similar in Saudi Arabia, only that it is unwritten success story here.

This is your second posting in Saudi Arabia and first posting in Jeddah. How do you find this place?
"His eyes glimmers upon reminiscing his previous experience and related to us the sweet memories of his previous post."
My first stint in Riyadh was an immensely satisfying one in 1988-92. Since I was last here the number of Indians in KSA has more than doubled. New areas of interaction have opened up, with the liberalization of the Indian economy. Consequently, I look forward to a challenging and personally fulfilling assignment in Jeddah “the bride of the Red Sea".

What are the services being provided by the Consulate of India in Jeddah?
The individual Indian is the focus of attention of the vast array of services provided by the Consulate.

The distinguishing feature of our efforts is that same day consular services are provided to every individual who approaches us. This is at no extra-cost. Besides, our officials give up a holiday every week in order to provide emergency services on Thursdays which are holiday.

To cater the needs of those in need of legal assistance an official from the consulate is available at the labor court everyday to assist any Indian laborer who may require assistance.

Everyday a team of officials visits the deportation center to provide emergency certificates to Indian nationals so as to ensure that there is no delay in their departure for want of documentation.

The Commercial Section is regularly in touch with leading Saudi companies to facilitate “match making” with appropriate Indian companies.

What difference will he make?
I have started a system whereby our officers who are in charge of various sectors mingle with the people. I don’t like our officers just sitting in their rooms and taking decisions. Everyday I myself go down and stand behind the counter and see how the officers are dealing with the people. Similarly, I go to the consular hall just to see whether the people have any complaints. I believe in service with empathy. Anybody can deliver service but empathy is what we require in countries like Saudi Arabia. This I have been emphasizing to everybody. I would welcome anybody to point out specific instances and I will look into them.

Being a dynamic leader he advocates himself with pure professionalism in the post that he assumes. He stated that “ You will have to wait and see for yourself. You can judge me by your own standards. I think it’s unfair to my predecessors at this stage to say that I’m different, he says with humility. “Ultimately we are professionals doing a professional duty. That’s what I will basically try to pursue.

We ended up this exclusive interview with his vision of bringing much difference in serving the country for a better and brighter tomorrow. And as a part of his constituents we are ready to support him in this endeavor.

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