The 2019 Hugo Ramniceanu Prize in Economics was awarded to Imad Telhami, Chairman and Founder of Babcom Centers, a company that provides call center services to leading Israeli businesses as well as software development services. The company, which has 11 branches and is centered in northern Israel, employs 2,500 workers, of which 70% are from the Arab sector, and 80% women.
The Hugo Ramniceanu Prize honors the late Hugo Ramniceanu, a longtime President of the French Friends Association. It is awarded annually to distinguished personalities in the Israeli business world. The Prize was awarded in the presence of Hugo Ramniceanu’s daughter, Dr. Monique Barel, son, Gerard Ramniceanu, and members of the French Friends. The ceremony was moderated by Marc Haddad, Treasurer of the French Friends.
Telhami, a Christian Arab, was awarded the prize in recognition of his vision in founding a company that generates employment opportunities for minority groups and individuals in Israel’s socioeconomic and geographic periphery, and his civic leadership in promoting the democratic values of equality and inclusiveness as a central part of his business model.
Telhami has served in numerous civic posts and has participated in a number of projects with partners who share his commitment, including the Lautman Foundation, Appleseeds Academy and the University of Haifa. He is a member of the Board of Kav Mashve Kav, a non-profit organization which promotes equal employment opportunities for Arab university graduates within the Israeli business sector, as well as a member of the Advisory Committee for Economic Development in the Arab, Druze and Circassian sector in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Outgoing TAU President Joseph Klafter praised Imad Telhami for his entrepreneurial spirit in founding Babcom Centers and transforming it within a decade into an Israeli success story. “Both Babcom and Tel Aviv University depend on the top talent of Israel to push forward technological innovation. The difference is that Imad hires the talent, while TAU is training the talent,” said Prof. Klafter. He congratulated Telhami on his decision to donate his award money to scholarships for Arab women studying STEM fields. “It means a lot to our Arab students to receive support from a successful role model from their community,” said Prof. Klafter.
Dr. Monique Barel noted that this was the 4th decade of allocating the Ramniceanu Prize. “Nobody at that time identified Israel with economic development. Then came my father, an industrialist of Romanian origin, who recognized Israel’s potential in the economic sphere,” said Barel.
Chairman of the Board of Governors Prof. Jacob A. Frenkel said, “Hugo Ramniceanu would have been thrilled beyond words to see how successfully Israel is performing in the global economic arena. Long before the term ‘Startup Nation’ was born, Hugo put his faith in scientific and technological progress, seeing it as the prime factor for Israel’s strong competitive edge.” He congratulated Telhami and noted that one of the co-founders of Babcom was the late TAU benefactor and industrialist Dov Lautman, himself a Ramniceanu Prize winner.
An enterprise with a social mission
In his address to the gathering, Telhami said, “Unlike many of the recipients of this prestigious prize, my business is a small one. However, I see this as a prize that awards those who work hard to combine success with a social mission,” he said. “I am proud to receive this prize on behalf of small social entities serving the public interest and the Arab community on the periphery of Israeli society. I see the company I built as an opportunity to build bridges and an instrument to create a global entrepreneurial peace community. I thank all our customers who trusted us, our investors and partners and of course my family. “
The Hugo and Valerie Ramniceanu Scholarship in Economics was awarded to Alexander Zinchin, a student of economics and management.
Recent winners of the Prize include: Gett founder and CEO, Dave Weiser; CEO of Castro Etti and Gabi Rotter; Intel Israel CEO Maxine Fassberg; founders of Medinol, Kobi and Yehudit Richter; founders and developers of WAZE, Noam Baradin, Uri Levine, Ehud Shabtai and Amir Shinar; founder of the Dr. Fischer complex, Dr. Eli Fischer; and Rami Levy, supermarket titan.
Fetured image: Ramniceanu Prize winner Imad Telhami. Photo: Israel Hadari