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January 2018







9 - 11 April 2018

Dubai World Trade Centre

Achieving Sustainability through Innovation: Showcasing the Cities of the Future

Smart Cities Report

Sessions & Panel Discussions

MoU Signing Stand

Launch Revolutionary Products

Sustainability Tour

Company & City Presentations

Global Reception

Future Cities Show is a global platform for local & international corporations to showcase, discuss and network about smart cities supporting overall sustainability, innovation & happiness. It focuses on education, wellbeing, knowledge sharing, collaboration among government-private-universities-society, user-driven innovation, livability discussions, sustainable energy solutions, sustainable economic development and sustainable societal development to drive the well-be of all nations. Please contact for more information: Future Cities Show 2018


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FOREWORD WELCOME TO ANOTHER bumper-packed Middle East edition of Business Chief. This month, we have an exclusive interview with James L Williams COO, Ramy Boufarhat, who describes how the construction company has grown from its initial focus on design-and-build projects to become a leading MEP firm in the Middle East. “This is a market of efficiencies. If you’re not an efficiently-run company, you’re not going to be able to survive,” he explains. Awj is the Arabic word for pinnacle, and it is entirely apt when it comes to AWJ Investments, which has grown over just a few short years to become a key player within the Emirati restaurant industry. The company’s mission is simple: to lead international markets with unique restaurant concepts, explains Rami Nasr, Head of Procurement and Logistics. We also catch up with Chris Folayan, founder of MallfortheWorld, the thriving ecommerce site linking the Middle East to thousands of western brands. “We have developed a patented product that allows anyone to shop with these leading retailers without having to worry if the site ships to their country or not. With our app, US sites can send their products to a variety of different countries and accept different forms of payment”, says Folayan. Elsewhere, our cover story is an in-depth look at the host of Expo 2020, Dubai, while our top 10 ranks the fastest-growing companies in the Middle East.

Enjoy the issue!

http://middleeast.businesschief.com www.bizclikmedia.com



08 The best of the US inside an app MallfortheWorld: PEOPLE


16 26 Indeed shows shows how how to make an ‘unlimited ‘unlimited leave’ policy work work

34 S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

Can the UN and World Bank’s ‘Roadmap for a Sustainable Financial System’ lead to a brighter tomorrow?




TOP 10










Tehran Energy Consultants ENERGY




80 122 OpenSooq



James L. Williams Pty Ltd CONSTRUCTION

Awj Investments LLC FOOD AND DRINK


Gulf Health Council SUPPLY CHAIN



The region’s leading international trade event for the power industry








sales@middleeastelectricity.com 7

L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y

MallfortheWorld: The best of the US inside an app


L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y MIDDLE EAST RETAIL has, traditionally, been a difficult market to disrupt. With digital payments only just making inroads into the region and with customers preferring to visit bricks and mortar outlets, ecommerce has been slower to take off, although things are starting to change. The young, in particular, are wanting to shop online. Online shopping in the Middle East is undergoing a massive transformation and has grown by 1,500% over the last decade. The Middle East has a dynamic young population and that, coupled with one of the highest global per capita internet penetration levels, the online spending potential in the region is one of the ripest for disruption. According to a recent report, 62% of

people in the UAE and 39% in Saudi Arabia made an online purchase in the last month, which represents a 25% and 57% year-on-year increase respectively. Of these, 47% in UAE and 33% in Saudi Arabia made their purchases using mobile phones. “Many people outside of the United States and the United Kingdom are unable to purchase items from international ecommerce sites,” says Chris Folayan, Founder of MallfortheWorld. “To address this issue, we have developed a patented product that allows anyone to shop with these leading retailers without having to worry as to whether the site ships to their country or not. With our app, US sites can send their products to a variety of different countries and accept different forms of payment.”

“My plans for the future are to predominantly focus on growing both MallfortheWorld and MallforAfrica to their full potential as the opportunities are endless. I am looking forward to seeing how we can change the landscape for cross-border ecommerce” CHRIS FOLAYAN Founder of MallfortheWorld 10 January 2018

MallfortheWorld opens up hundreds of US brands to consumers

MallfortheWorld is the first-ever logistics, product delivery, payment, and ecommerce integration company offering consumers billions of products with zero inventory. Launched last March, the concept for MallfortheWorld is simple. Customers from the Middle East can download the app and instantly have access to 150 US stores. These stores include Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom, Louis Vitton, Bloomingdales, Cookies, UrbanOG,

Nine West, Zappos, eBay, Madison and Moda Express. Shoppers wishing to gain access to stores in the UK will have to wait a little while longer – they are still in progress, and are set to be released soon. Using the app has been made as simple as possible. Customers log into the app, select their store, pick out the items they want, add them to their card and check out. Everything else is handled by MallfortheWorld. “We have a very 11

Chris Folayan


January 2018

L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y

62% Proportion of UAE citizens who made a recent online purchase

distinctive approach to the way we do business. Apart from managing payments, we also take care of the shipping, clearing, and delivery of the product to the customer. Our mission is to provide a simple way for merchants to sell into countries where they don’t ship and for customers, the ability to purchase items from foreign websites as conveniently as possible,” adds Folayan. So how did the idea come about? Surely not just a craving for a Hershey bar in the middle of the desert? “I was travelling back and forth to Nigeria where my parents still live and would always get these long lists of items to bring back from the US,” explains Folayan. “At one point I had 10 suitcases packed and most of the items were for other people. It was the day when I had too much luggage for my flight that I realised that this was a business.” Both MallfortheWorld and MallforAfrica were this entrepreneur’s solution to a problem faced by many people in the GCC and beyond. By opening up accessibility to the trends and brands that flow freely in the United States, Folayan completely disrupted the retail industry in the ME and opened up thriving revenue streams for the retailers, giving them access to an entirely new pool of customers and income. For the retailer, working with MallfortheWorld makes sense. They’re able to increase their customer base with crossborder ecommerce that’s simple and efficient, while customers get to indulge in brands and stores they love. “Customers are thrilled to be able to purchase any kind of product they could possibly want at a price that cannot be beaten locally in the UAE,” says Folayan. “Retailers are constantly contacting us, wanting to join 13

L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y our platform so they can ship to the UAE with zero hassle and liability.” Growth has been exponential and far faster than originally anticipated. Today, the app operates in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar, with plans to expand into other GCC regions in the future. “We are MallfortheWorld and our expansion plans are in our name,” says Folayan. “We plan to ship to any country that we believe wants access to retailers from the UK and the US. Wherever there is a market, we plan on taking that market on. Our value is in delivering true ecommerce as it was intended to be delivered to people and customers who haven’t had the opportunity to engage with these retailers and brands before.” MallfortheWorld removes the global

boundaries that prohibit shopping around the world and a lot of its success and innovative design stems from the mind of the entrepreneur who created it. Chris Folayan is a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience across C-level roles in marketing, technology development and acquisition in various global high-tech companies and startups. “Prior to founding the award-winning MallforAfrica and MallfortheWorld, I was the founder and CEO of OCFX Inc, a globally recognised software and web-design agency that served clients such as Sony, LSI, HP, Epson, Tyco, Visa and more,” adds Folayan. “My plans for the future are to predominantly focus on growing both MallfortheWorld and MallforAfrica to their full potential

“My plans for the future are to predominantly focus on growing both MallfortheWorld and MallforAfrica to their full potential as the opportunities are endless. I am looking forward to seeing how we can change the landscape for cross-border ecommerce” CHRIS FOLAYAN Founder of MallfortheWorld 14

January 2018

as the opportunities are endless. I am looking forward to seeing how we can change the landscape for cross-border ecommerce.” MallforAfrica is one of the arms extending out from MallfortheWorld and its goal is to be in more than 20 African countries in the next two years. There are, of course, challenges that have cropped up along the way, but for Folayan, they make the journey worthwhile. “Getting people to know your

company exists and what it is about is always a challenge when starting out,” he concludes. “But with social media and radio, we are getting the word out and membership levels are soaring and sales volumes are increasing.” For anyone living in the UAE or Africa and a hankering for some of the delectable brands on offer from the United States, MallfortheWorld could very well become your first port of online call.




T E C H N O L O G Y T R A N S F O R M AT I O N THE INTERNET OF Things is ready to take its rightful place at the forefront of business in 2018. Or so it would seem: a recent report from Navigant Research claims that combined cumulative global revenue for Industrial IoT (IIoT) devices, software, and services is expected to total more than $1trn between 2017 and 2027. IoT is essentially the glue which binds people, machines and data – so it’s no surprise to see it becoming a major point of focus for businesses around the globe. The Navigant report also states that revenue from annual global shipments of IIoT devices is expected to grow from $47.9bn in 2017 to $129.3bn in 2027. Ralf Gladis, CEO at global payment solutions provider Computop, can see the change happening. “The Internet of Things is fast becoming a reality around the world,” he says. “Both small and large devices will process payments for us. Our cars will automatically pay for fuel and parking fees, our smartwatches will pay for taxis and our smartphones will prove to be a universal tool to buy and pay everywhere. 18

January 2018

“With that scenario in mind, payment will become a silent, smooth and automatic process. Only payment methods that support this will have a future.” But for the technology to become a truly global phenomenon, Gladis believes ensuring consumer trust is key. “How do you want your car to pay for fuel? Credit card, PayPal or your company’s fleet card? Handing that process over to our devices will be a big change in consumer behaviour. “New payment brands with no history or trust would keep consumers from embracing new technology and would slow the process down. Established brands will probably make the decision easier.” Gladis is speaking in terms of the end user, and IoT disrupting numerous industries: especially manufacturing, energy, agriculture, healthcare, and automobiles. As a result, more and more organisations who are embracing IIoT are beginning to recognise the potential of leveraging the technology. “We are starting to see more and more companies across the spectrum adopt IIoT strategies,” says Neil

How the Internet of Things Will Change the World

“How do you want your car to pay for fuel? Credit card, PayPal or your company’s fleet card? Handing that process over to our devices will be a big change in consumer behaviour” RALF GLADIS CEO of Computop

Strother, principal research analyst with Navigant Research. “They are deploying hardware and software platforms to help lower operational spend and to serve as a competitive differentiator that can help them sell products and services at lower costs. “IIoT technologies also support a broad digital transformation initiative within a business, enabling it to offer customers enhanced services and improved experiences.” 19



January 2018

At this moment, there is an argument that IIoT solutions appear somewhat overwhelming to deploy for managers unsure how to harness the array of technology choices. Industrial managers face additional costs, complex technologies, big data, and uncertain outcomes with the result being a confused potential customer base and a market which has both the desire and potential to grow more quickly. Further research, from $7.4bn turnover IT services company HCL Technologies, drilled a little more deeply into these struggles. Their work, based on a Vanson Bourne survey of 263 organisations across Europe and the United States, found that as many as 49% of organisations surveyed are struggling to get off the ground with IoT, due to an uncoordinated and siloed approach, with 43% saying their customers will suffer as a result. The findings of this report indicate that despite widespread acknowledgement of the potential benefits of IoT, many organisations are limiting its use to just one process or function, as opposed to a businesswide approach. According to HCL, 21

T E C H N O L O G Y T R A N S F O R M AT I O N this represents a major threat which could derail IoT projects by postponing the time-to-value, and thereby reducing the competitive advantage that businesses stand to gain. Matthew Dunkley, a Director for IoT at Flexera who works with businesses to monetize their IoT investments, recently penned some notes around best practice for intelligent device manufacturers. “The Internet of Things is transforming today’s landscape – promising higher margins, new revenue streams and steep profits. Manufacturers used to be able to deliver updates yearly, which seems almost inconceivable today,” he says. “Constant updates are now the

“The Internet of Things is transforming today’s landscape – promising higher margins, new revenue streams and steep profits” MATTHEW DUNKLEY Director for IoT, Flex


January 2018

norm – be it weekly, daily or even hourly. Producers must absolutely do that to keep their software safe and secure and mitigate vulnerability risk. “Companies making this transition are already reaping the rewards and commanding premiums. Why? Because they understand the power of their device is in the software, which includes all of the features buyers desire. And managing the software in devices requires a different way of looking at their entire business model.” He expands: “Take software upgrade management, for example – the process of making sure customers have the latest and greatest technology powering their devices. IoT companies that think like software companies know they must manage the core processes (renewals, delivery of software and updates, maintenance and services). If they do not do this right, they will suffer from low renewal rates. “For instance, IoT companies often do not have processes in place to manage the software lifecycle over time and drive renewals – meaning that end users are often unaware of available upgrades, or have trouble finding them. When

Lenovo Tech World - Internet Of Things

that occurs, satisfaction falls.� Customer satisfaction will be the key to making the technology more widely popular, particularly with end users. The HCL report also pinpointed security concerns as being the principal reason as to why the technology has not been taken up more widely to this point. Indeed, 38% of respondents cited this as the primary barrier. Global security company Forcepoint has just released its 2018 predictions, and the report asserts that because of the wide-scale adoption of IoT

devices in consumer and business environments combined with the fact devices are often both easy-to-access and unmonitored, these devices are now a highly attractive target for cybercriminals wishing to hold them to ransom or obtain a long-term, persistent presence on the network. Whilst ransomware of these connected things is possible, it remains unlikely in 2018. The main new threat that will emerge this year is what the report is calling ‘the disruption of things’. The belief is that, because the 23


IoT offers access to both disruptive possibilities and massive amounts of critical data, we will see attacks in this area, and may also see the integration of a ‘man in the middle’ (MITM) attack. In short, IoT will not be held to ransom but instead become a target for mass disruption. “At the heart of our predictions is a requirement to understand the intersection of people with critical 24

January 2018

data and intellectual property,” said Dr. Richard Ford, Chief Scientist at Forcepoint. “By placing cyberbehaviour and intent at the centre of security, the industry has a fighting chance of keeping up with the massive rate of change in the threat environment. “We know that data leakage and ransomware will continue to be the focus for remediation and prevention,

“By placing cyberbehaviour and intent at the centre of security, the industry has a fighting chance of keeping up with the massive rate of change in the threat environment” DR. RICHARD FORD, Chief Scientist, Forcepoint IOT revenue is expected to surpass $1trn in the years up to 2027

but behavior-centric risks are now behind a multitude of security incidents. People’s behaviour should not be set in opposition to security: the two are not mutually exclusive. “Users have the potential to unintentionally compromise their own systems in one minute and be the source of innovation in the next, but we can only empower users if we truly understand the ways they

interact with critical business data.” Caution must therefore be exercised by anyone in business who is choosing to embrace IoT. Without doubt, the future of IoT is a positive, if uncertain, one. No doubt there are multiple barriers which will need overcoming if the technology is to reach its full, disruptive potential. Could 2018 be that year? Let’s wait and see. 25

Indeed shows how to make an ‘unlimited leave’ policy work Indeed’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of HR, Paul Wolfe, explains how and why the company implemented a policy of unlimited leave for staff Writ ten by STUART HODGE


PEOPLE AS A COMPANY specialising in recruitment, it should come as no surprise that Indeed, the world’s number one job website, knows what it takes to be a good employer. Indeed, which now has over 200mn monthly visitors to its global website, offers all manner of benefits to its 5,000 or so global employees including parental leave for both primary and secondary caregivers, adoption assistance, back-up child care, student loan repayment management, a wellness programme and even pet insurance.

The company also ensures that all offices are stocked with healthy snacks and beverages, with remote workers receiving a monthly box of snacks, similar those available onsite. Indeed implements a casual dress code in open offices with convertible desks that offer a sitting or standing option for employees, and there is plenty of comfy seating and spots where employees can go for some quiet time or one-on-one meetings. Communication access is also a premium consideration, with Indeed ensuring that video conferencing

Indeed believes it helps to have spaces for staff to break out, work and collaborate. Opposite: Indeed’s 9th floor terrace at its New York office. 28

January 2018

“Compensation consistently ranks as the least significant factor when it comes to considering what makes people happy at work” – Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President and Global Head of HR.

is available for all employees to connect with the rest of the company’s global workforce. But despite that myriad of resources and benefits available to help keep employees comfortable and happy, there is still one policy we are yet to mention which seems the most innovative and potentially groundbreaking of them all: Indeed allows all of its employees unlimited leave. Under what the company calls its ‘Unlimited PTO’ policy, employees can take as much time as they wish

– for sickness, personal days or vacation days. There are no limits. A company statement says: “Open PTO empowers current employees, makes for happier workers in the long-term, and also demonstrates to potential talent that the company cares about the health and wellbeing of its employees. “Beyond salary and benefits, most workers will gravitate towards opportunities that are employeecentric. Compensation consistently ranks as the least significant factor when it comes to considering what 29

PEOPLE makes people happy at work.” This last statement is backed up by findings in the company’s own Workplace Happiness Index, 2016. Indeed considers the unlimited PTO policy to be an unmitigated success, so we caught up with the company’s Senior Vice President and Global Head of HR Paul Wolfe to find out more. “An engaged workforce is critical - if you don’t have an engaged workforce, you are going to be facing constant turnover, low productivity and a lacklustre employer brand,” he says. An engaged workforce is really


January 2018

the foundation for a successful company and a company’s greatest asset - a happy employee is your best brand ambassador. “These days it’s rare that you would interact with a candidate who hasn’t researched your company either formally using tools like Indeed Company Pages, or informally by asking their family, friends and extended network what they think about your company brand. Happy employees will have strong messages to share about why your company is a great place to work.

Chill out areas help to keep staff happy and motivated

“We believe that trusted, empowered and rested employees have a better chance of being happier and also performing better” – Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President and Global Head of HR “Companies who are actively engaged in offering a rewards culture need to make sure they are promoting it in their job descriptions to help bring candidates in, and companies who are struggling with retention should think about ways they can make their environment more attractive to effectively compete for talent.

“Ultimately, the investment it takes to create a supportive work environment is rewarded with happy, highperforming and retained employees.” And unsurprisingly, the policy proved mightily popular with staff. “It was extremely well received and is very popular with our employees,” Wolfe says. “Part of the reason this


PEOPLE is successful is that we are showing we trust our employees to take the amount of time off that makes sense for them and their roles. “We also encourage people to take time off: managers have conversations with employees who aren’t taking time away, and also take time away themselves to set a good example that rest and recuperation is important. We consider our paid PTO programme a success because employees have taken a healthy amount of time off and simultaneously been very productive.

“These days it’s rare that you would interact with a candidate who hasn’t researched your company” – Paul Wolfe, Senior Vice President and Global Head of HR


January 2018

In fact, we saw a 28% increase in the number of days taken off by employees after the first full year.” The unlimited leave policy is not a global first. It remains pretty rare but there are other companies within the technology sector who have done the same or similar – however, the size of Indeed as a company makes its rollout of this kind of policy particularly noteworthy. Where did the idea come from for Indeed to do this and how does it make sure that employees

Open-plan eating and meeting spaces (above) along with chill out areas (below) help staff unwind yet remain productive

don’t abuse the privilege? “We believe that trusted, empowered and rested employees have a better chance of being happier and also performing better,” says Wolfe. “Our leadership team thought through the pros and cons of implementing an Open PTO programme and the benefits were overwhelmingly outweighing any cons. Ultimately, we want to create a great work environment for our employees so they can, in turn, help others find great jobs as well. “The open paid time off policy was rolled out on a global scale at Indeed, and managers were provided with FAQs and support on monitoring their team’s time off. The unlimited vacation policy also reflects Indeed’s core mission of helping employers attract the talent they need, and job seekers find work that they enjoy. “Our managers are responsible for approving time off - so we don’t really have any issues of abusing the policy. Managers and employees work together on discussing PTO and covering off on responsibilities during time away.” It seems then like a good idea,

well-executed, by a successful company. As well as the higher performance of a highly-motivated and cared-for for workforce, what other positive benefits has Wolfe seen as a byproduct of the policy? “Indeed is a rapidly growing global company,” he explains, “so like any growing company, we have to make sure we are keeping engagement high as we grow and that we don’t lose our culture and the things that make Indeed a great place to work. “Numerous factors go into this: the office environment, the kind of work staff are doing, their manager and team, to name just a few. You have to work on all of these aspects which in concert contribute to an engaged workforce. “And tenure is certainly a byproduct of motivated employees. We want to keep people that we hire with Indeed as long as we can, and motivation is critical to that. “We realise it is unlikely we will keep all of our employees for the length of their careers, but while they are at Indeed, we want them to be happy, and if they decide to leave, we want them to look back at their experience with us positively.” 33


Can the UN and World Bank’s ‘Roadmap for a Sustainable Financial System’ lead to a brighter tomorrow? A range of commentators have mixed reviews on the potential impact of research from the UN’s top environmental body and the World Bank Group Writ ten by STUART HODGE


AXA and the United Nations Environment Program Inquiry held a conference to discuss ‘New Rules for New Horizons: Reshaping Finance for Sustainability’

SWEDISH FINANCE AND sustainability expert Sasja Beslik knows that things need to change: the status quo with the current construction of the global economy and the rate and means by which we are using the planet’s resources is not sustainable. Beslik, one of his country’s foremost experts on finance and sustainability, feels an awakening and a global 36

January 2018

recognition of the need to reshape how financial challenges are looked at is necessary to effect meaningful change and bring long-term solutions. At the end of last year, the UN’s top environmental body and the World Bank Group released a roadmap “to help governments and the private sector design a global financial system that is fit-for-purpose”. The research found that climate

“The challenge is not about what to do any more, the challenge is how to do it and how quickly you do it� SASJA BESLIK, Head of Group Sustainable Finance at Nordea Bank

action has opened up an initial investment opportunity of $22.6trn from 2016 to 2030 and stressed how the next two years will be crucial to build on existing initiatives and finance sustainable development globally. Beslik is pleased to see a progressive move towards recognising the issues we are facing, but is adamant that this can only afford to be the mere 37


January 2018

The roadmap is built on traditional logics that are linked to alternative and innovative finance

S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y beginnings of any real progress. “The roadmap is a very good first step, but the devil is in the implementation side,” he says. “The challenge is not about what to do any more, the challenge is how to do it and how quickly. “When I started working 10 or 15 years ago, sustainability was not on the agenda in the financial sector, but now it is. We all agree that we have responsibility but now we need to figure out how to meet it.” The UN and World Bank research backs Beslik’s assertion, showing

“The UN and World Bank roadmap for a sustainable financial system includes three major insights: a definition of sustainable finance, clear mapping and certain actions”  ARINE GIRARD, Finance Professor C at Audencia Business School

that policy and regulatory measures targeting sustainability have grown 20% year on year since 2010. “I think it’s a very ambitious road map,” Beslik continues, “but a good first step. The magnitude of this transition that we need to happen in the financial sector is huge, but it’s so needed. And it needs to happen much more quickly, because while you and I can do things on a personal level to, say, reduce our private impact, we are digging a hole beneath ourselves if we don’t get financial systems to act much more swiftly on this.” But is Beslik, who works as Head of Group Sustainable Finance at Nordea Bank, surprised at how often these challenges are ignored by vast swathes of the market? “Saying we have a long way to go is an understatement, but all of us have seen more focus on sustainability within the financial sector over the last three years, purely because more players are understanding the market opportunity in this from the product side. Also I think some are feeling more pressure, both from regulators and from customers, and they think they need to take a stance on this.” Carine Girard, Finance Professor 39

S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y at Audencia Business School in Nantes, France, believes the report has provided clarity. “The UN and World Bank roadmap for a sustainable financial system includes three major insights: a definition of sustainable finance, clear mapping and certain actions,” she says. “These proposals were developed from a multi-level analysis that was international, national and marketbased. This analysis integrates not only the stakes in terms of governance, but also environmental, social and governance risks as well as We have seen more focus on sustainability within the financial sector over the last three years


January 2018

impact investing. Such an approach is designed to ensure effectiveness, efficiency and resilience. “This type of financial system makes sense because it is built on traditional and local logics using high-impact drivers that are linked to alternative and innovative finance.” Technology investor Jeff Stollman has an MA in economics and many years spent as an environmental economist, and he takes a different stance. “The concept addresses currently popular trends, but is, itself, unsustainable for a number

Proposals were developed from international, multi-level analysis

of reasons,” claims Stollman, who currently manages Rocky Mountain Technical Marketing, Inc. “A key element of the programme is redirecting negative externalities, especially environmental externalities, so that they are accounted for in the cost of production. “Problems with that could include businesses resisting adding cost to their products because it will make them less marketable, or because the redirection of externalities will be uneven across industry sectors and across pollutants and other deleterious impacts, there will be

‘The entire financial sector since 2008 has been facing a cultural revolution needed within the industry’ ongoing crises moving from industry to industry as products that have grown costly are displaced with alternatives. “This will upset the employment market and create a significant downward shift in the value of capital assets used to produce goods 41

S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y and services that are impacted. In turn, this will cause bankruptcies of industries which are no longer sustainable. And while this will be beneficial to the environment, it will have an uneven impact on those displaced by the shrinking or closing of their employers’ businesses.” It is perhaps a change in consumer attitudes that will be necessary to effect real change, but even then Stollman points out this could be problematic. “Another issue is that one of the biggest impacts on the global environment arises from wanton consumerism: people buying “stuff” because advertising makes them want things that they don’t need. Environmentally, much could

‘Beslik is adamant that the release of the report was a ‘crucial’ step in the hope of any meaningful move towards a sustainable global financial model’ 42

January 2018

be gained by merely reducing this surplus consumption, but doing so would cause a massive contraction of global markets. How will we keep people employed if we stop producing this surplus?” he asks. “I could go on endlessly about the deficiencies of the program, but I don’t mean to suggest that it is not worth pursuing. I just expect that the results will be mixed and the benefits will remain hard to justify.” Beslik understands Stollman’s concerns but is adamant that the release of the report was a ‘crucial’ step in the hope of any meaningful move towards a sustainable global financial model. He wants to see more guidance given to politicians to help lobby for legislative change and feels there is certainly an appetite for this. “The entire financial sector since 2008 has been facing a cultural revolution needed within the industry,” he says. “I think it now demands awareness from the top. The leaders of the big financial institutions really need to step up and show what to go for with regards to sustainability within the role of the financial sector. “Still, the majority of the financial institutions in the world do not educate

A change in attitudes will be necessary to effect real change

financial analysts and professionals with a full understanding of sustainability aspects related to their future jobs, and how the investment or lending of banking decisions will impact the societies they live in. “We need to reform the educational system, because then you get people that are educated about this in the financial system. They will embrace the change and make that change happen. “I think we are at the beginning of a very big shift, with big players getting engaged, and we see a lot of interest from customers and clients.” For Beslik, it comes down to a triumvirate of issues. “I call it a

triangle,” he explains. “You have an income inequality or income distribution on one hand. Then you have climate change as one of the sort of risks that are not related to any particular society, it’s more of a global issue. I think income inequality is also. “The third one I think is related to transparency and participation – how transparent are you about your business and the way you run it, and also how do you participate in solutions that we need as a society going forward? “I think these three things interact with each other in a very interesting way going forward, and they all demand a quite big mental shift.” 43




Seque rest volorum aute velestio intem illibus es qui ut alit et, sita iuntur? Writ ten by AUTHOR

O 2020 HOST




January 2018

Business in Dubai Dubai is an internationally recognised centre for activities and business relating to IT. It is the centre for TECOM (Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media Free Zone Authority), a zone which hosts internationally-renowned companies including Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and EMC, as well as media firms like the BBC, Sky News, and CNN. Although initially built upon it, Dubai’s economy continues to move away from dependence on the oil industry. Dubai.com estimates oilbased revenue accounts for only 5% of the city’s GDP. That being said, Forbes still places it at as receiving the greatest oil wealth benefits in the Middle East. Dubai’s expansion orients itself around two main sectors, tourism and foreign trade, which make up 28% of total GDP. The business and finance sector closely follows, making up 27%, with transportation at 14%. In 2014, Dubai expanded notably in the foreign trade sector, increasing its business with China by 29% from the previous year. Its other trade partners in decreasing order are India, the US,

Saudi Arabia, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, the UK, and finally, Iraq. World Atlas establishes international trade, real estate, tourism, aviation, and finance as the main pillars upon which Dubai’s GDP is built. In the most recent quarter, according to the Dubai Statistics Centre, Dubai’s GDP stands at approximately $26.8bn. This makes up a sizeable portion of the UAE’s GDP, which Forbes cites as $370bn. Dubai.com names Dubai the second-wealthiest emirate in the UEA, second only to the capital state Abu Dhabi. Expo 2020 Dubai is set as the host to the highly anticipated Expo 2020, the world’s largest exposition. The event is expected to inject large quantities of revenue into the economy, as well as create 270,000 jobs. The expo occurs every five years, continuing for up to six months, and brings together millions of people to discuss international relations, developments in technology, and socioeconomic topics. It also serves as an opportunity for the host country, Dubai, to showcase itself, its economy, and its culture, to the world. 47

CITY FOCUS In January 2017, Dubai announced 47 construction projects in aid of Expo 2020 which would be worth a total of $3bn and awarded by the end of the year. It went on to announce 98 more non-construction projects worth a further $98mn. Dubai Expo 2020’s first international Premier Partner is SAP, which will support the delivery of personalised experiences to millions of visitors during the event. Throughout last year the city announced it was looking for producers of Emirati and regional products like coffee, sweets, dates, chocolate and spices. It said Arabic producers of perfumes would be given a special platform at the event and also began to search for manufacturers in the GCC of apparel and homeware. The 2020 Expo will be the first in the Arab world and over 150 countries will take part. It has been reported by BNC Network that the combined value of Expo 2020 development projects reached $33bn in October 2017. Dubai is working in conjunction with UNIDO (the UN Industrial Development Organisation) to promote entrepreneurship and investment around the world and help realise sustainable development goals. The themes for Expo 2020 will be around “connecting minds; creating the future” with subthemes of “opportunity, mobility and sustainability”, helping it become a “platform to foster creativity, innovation and collaboration globally…we want to trigger new thinking for a long-term effect in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) and the wider world”. 48

January 2018



DUBAI’S BIGGEST PLAYERS The three largest companies in Dubai, according to Arabian Business, are Emaar Properties Co, Emirates NBD, and Dubai Islamic Bank.

Emaar Properties Co is a real estate development company, focused around shopping malls, property, hospitality and leisure, as well as retail. Although its central focus is downtown Dubai, it is in the process of expansion to other parts of a city. Established in 1997, it is ranked at 208 on Forbes’ ‘Global 2000: Growth Champions,’ with 6,600 employees and market cap of $14.6bn. It also tops Forbes Middle East’s ‘Top 100 Real Estate Companies in the Arab World 2017’.

Emirates NBD was established in 2007 and is, according to the company website, the leading regional banking group. The company employs over 9,000 people of 70 nationalities and places at 82 on Forbes’ ‘Global 2000: Growth Champions’, with a market cap of $12.5bn.

Dubai Islamic Bank is a provider of Islamic banking to over 400 institutions and handles a variety of banking matters from smallmedium businesses to individual accounts. Established in 1975, it has continued to grow, currently at a market cap of $7.8bn. It sits at 249 on Forbes’ ‘Global 2000: Growth Champions’, with 34,389 employees. 50

January 2018




TOP 10

Recently, Forbes partnered with Statista to gather statistics for its Global 2000 list of companies for 2017. Statista examined the compound rate of revenues from 2013 through 2016 for all 2,000 companies, and here are the top 10‌ E d i t e d b y ANDREW WOODS

TOP 10


10 SAUDI ARABIAN MINING COMPANY Saudi Arabian Mining has made an appearance on several notable Forbes lists including a 132 ranking on a Top Multinational Performers roundup, 154 on Top Regarded Companies and 222 on Growth Champions. Headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabian Mining specialises in the exploration, development, and extraction of metals and minerals resources such as phosphates, gold, aluminium, industrial minerals, base metals, and more. In addition to returning a market cap of $12.7bn, Saudi Arabian Mining also posted a profit of $106.8mn, sales revenues of $2.53bn and assets of $25.87bn.


January 2018

By the numbers, Saudi Investment Bank looks like this: $280.7mn in profits, $1.05bn in sales revenue, $2.6bn market cap (as of May 2017) and $25.15bn in assets. This Riyadhbased banking services company provides its customers with a range of commercial, wholesale, and retail financial products.

7 ALAWWAL BANK Alawwal Bank, whose sales revenues of $1.4bn and a market cap of $2.4bn earned the company 167th place on Forbes’ Global 2000: Growth Champions list, is headquartered in the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadh. Reporting profits of $283.9mn and assets of $28bn, Alawwal Bank focuses on providing its customers with Islamic banking products including trade finance, loans, structured finance, and more for its commercial and corporate clients.

8 EMAAR PROPERTIES Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, Emaar Properties posted a May 2017 market cap of $14.6bn. Focusing on developing real estate properties, Emaar Properties’ portfolio includes diverse projects such as shopping malls, commercial leasing, masterplanned communities, entertainment venues and more. The company posted $1.42bn in profits and $26.23bn in assets. 55

TOP 10


6 ALINMA BANK With a market cap of $6bn as of May 2017, Alinma Bank is headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The company, which posted sales revenues of $1.11bn, focusing on retail banking, investment and brokerage, corporate banking and treasury as segments. Alinma Bank returned $400.5mn in profits and posted $27.91bn in assets.


January 2018

Ezdan Holding Group, which is headquartered in Doha, Qatar, focuses on the sale and acquisition of land and properties, as well as general contracting, investment and property consulting services. The company, which posted sales revenues of $538mn, includes the following segments: investments, malls, residential and commercial property, and hotel and suites. Ezdan Holding Group also returned profits of $497.8mn, a market cap of $11.5bn and assets of $13.68bn.

3 QATAR NATIONAL BANK Boasting revenue of $11.69bn, $3.4bn in profits, and $197.64bn in assets, Qatar National Bank maintains four segments – international banking, consumer banking, asset and wealth management, and corporate banking – that are designed for the company to engage in Islamic and commercial banking activities. Qatar National Bank also posted a market cap of $37.7bn as of May 2017, earning it the number 96 spot in Forbes’ list of Growth Champions.

4 BANK AUDI With sales revenues of $3.96bn, the Beirut, Lebanon- based Bank Audi provides commercial banking services through a number of segments including retail and personal banking, treasury and capital markets, group functions, corporate and commercial banking and head office. The company also posted profits of $445.6mn, assets of $44.25bn, and a market of cap $2.8bn as of May 2017. 57

TOP 10

2 JABAL OMAR DEVELOPMENT Another Middle Eastern business that focuses on real estate, Jabal Omar Development is listed as number seven in the list of Forbes Global 2000: Growth Champions. It also earned recognition by Forbes as being 121st on a list of Top Regarded Companies. Headquartered in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Jabal Omar Development focuses on construction, maintenance, development, and other key areas of real estate within the Jabal Omar region. It returned sales figures of $450mn, assets of $6.09bn and profits of $196.2mn. Jabal Omar Development also posted a May 2017 market cap of $16.9bn. 58

January 2018

1 DAMAC PROPERTIES Damac Properties, a real estate developer for leisure, commercial and residential properties in Dubai as well as throughout the Middle East, earned the number one place on Forbes’ Growth Champions list. Based in the UAE with its headquarters in Dubai, Damac Properties posted sales figures of $1.95bn. It returned $1.01bn in profits, $6.71bn in assets and a market cap of $4.7bn as of May 2017. 59

BMMI Group: Empowering employees with innovative IT Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Craig Daniels


With global operations spanning 10 countries, BMMI Group is one of the fastest growing companies based in the region, with a history that goes back over 130 years. Aiman Alorayedh, Head of Information Technology, discusses how BMMI is striding ahead of its competitors and empowering its people with IT systems


January 2018



n today’s digitally adept business world, IT management is no longer about computers and printers. It’s about acting as custodians of data and information for both a company, its employees and its customers. BMMI Group is all too aware of the importance of enriching its IT and e-commerce services and therefore, system management is an integral part of the company’s business plan. “People, processes and technology all form part of our performance strategy,” explains Aiman Alorayedh, Head of Information Technology. “My job is to essentially execute this strategy and ensure that IT is aligned with our business needs because technology is such an important, integrated part of our business.”

TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION Based in Bahrain, BMMI is a diversified retail, distribution, contract services, hospitality, logistics and supply group. Specialising in the wholesale, distribution, retail and production of food and beverages, the company represents a leading portfolio of renowned external global

bands, in addition to its own brands. With such a broad range of operations and expertise, BMMI Group is using technology to empower its staff and drive efficiency. “Being in logistics and retail, our employees and customers expect services to be online and reachable at all times,” explains Alorayedh. Therefore, BMMI invested heavily in their fully-integrated Oracle ERP back in 2007, and again later in 2013. This year the company has been focusing on further enhancing their ERP solution and expanding into the e-commerce market through two of its divisions, Alosra supermarket and BMMI Shops. “Our senior leadership recognise that technology and digitization are not optional in today’s economy,” Alorayedh notes. “Expectations have changed in the past decade, and BMMI has gained a competitive edge over its competitors by investing in its people and technology early on.”

DRIVING EFFICIENCY The group also offers a comprehensive range of contract based services



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The number of countries where BMMI has a presence in the Middle East and Africa

(warehousing, distribution and shipping) as well as sourcing and supply options. Therefore, the company is keen to drive efficiency by using state-of-the-art logistics, supply chain infrastructure, and human resources development. “With our technology systems, we’re looking to drive efficiency,” Alorayedh adds. “You can have disruptive technologies but, at the end of the day, we’re still a business. What’s most important is efficiency in our time and our employees’ time.”

GLOBAL REACH WITH A LOCAL FOCUS Spanning across 10 countries in the Middle East and Africa, BMMI also offers fully-fledged end-to-end supply chain solutions. Although it has a global reach, the group is keen to champion a local focus by streamlining its operations in each country it operates in. “We are an international business with offices in countries across countries in Africa, such as Djibouti, Kenya and Ghana, and in the GCC, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and




Qatar. However, we’re really trying to streamline and centralise our technologies, our people’s skills, and their experiences to drive efficiency in our operations.” With over 130 years of success, BMMI is reaping the rewards of its innovative strategy. Since its creation, the group has mobilised into new markets, diversified into new sectors, and is boasting strong fiscal results.

POSITIVE WORK CULTURE However, the key to the company’s success not only lies it its technological advancements, says Alorayedh, it also lies in its people. “Being a diverse group, our competitive edge would be our culture and our people,” he notes. “BMMI’s core mission is ‘Winning the hearts and minds of our customers by delivering exceptional service’ and so at BMMI, we adopt a performancedriven, customer-focused business approach.” Today, more than ever, harnessing the right culture in an organisation is

66 January 2018

critical to success and this is something which BMMI truly appreciates. With a multicultural workforce representing over 40 different nationalities, the company uses IT to empower its staff and users. It has been a winning tactic, however, Alorayedh doesn’t underestimate the work that lies ahead. “New technologies come out every other day,” he says. “Our main challenge is to keep up with the innovations that are happening around us because, if you don’t have the technological advancements that separate you from your competition, then your competition has the advantage.”



Aiman Alorayedh is a Bahraini who has been passionate about electronics and computers since a young age. Aiman holds a degree in Computer Networking and Security Systems, as well as a Masters of Business Administration. Aiman is currently the Head of Information Technology at the multinational BMMI Group, headquartered in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Since he joined BMMI in 2010, Aiman’s career saw rapid growth.  He developed from Technical Support Officer, to System Administrator, Assistant IT Manager, and then IT Manager, and now he heads the entire IT department for the whole BMMI Group. Prior to joining BMMI, Aiman previously worked for Microsoft as a Technology specialist between Bahrain and Oman, and has also worked in Jordan with an international bank.


NEW OPPORTUNITIES The need to keep up with everevolving technologies is a challenging prospect, but it is one which also offers new opportunities in the sector. Therefore, Alorayedh and his team are excited about what new innovations could bring to BMMI. “In this dynamic environment, I see Business Intelligence (BI) and cloud services gaining more popularity in the region, along with robotic process automation (RPA),” notes Alorayedh. “These new trends are helping to reshape business models, create new opportunities and reduce risks, as well. While BMMI has already begun with BI, cloud and RPA are another two trends that we are looking into so that we can get a competitive edge over our competitors. The way I see it, the next few years are going

to be more challenging and exciting with new technologies and services being introduced into the group.” With a performance-driven, customer-focused approach, BMMI Group has enjoyed significant growth and promising sales. Together, with a significant investment in its infrastructure and technology systems, the group has cemented itself as a dynamic international company with a promising future in the Middle East and Africa. “BMMI has continued to pursue its ambitions of growth and expansion by upholding its existing initiatives and investments,” reflects Alorayedh. “We are improving and streamlining our operations year on year, with a focus on our talent and people. This positions BMMI for a promising future filled with success and achievements.”



IBM Watson and the cognitive computing revolution

Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Craig Daniels

Driven by analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, IBM’s Watson IoT platform and its new personal assistant could be poised to change your life

Mr Watson – come here – I want to see you.” Famously spoken by inventor Alexander Graham Bell, these were the very first words ever said on the telephone. Since then, speech has become the natural mode of conversation across the globe. Even as technological advancements have seen the rise of written messages via text, email and social media, humans still gravitate towards natural conversation. IBM’s Watson didn’t gain its name from the invention of the telephone, but rather from IBM’s first CEO, industrialist Thomas J Watson. Founded in 1911, the tech giant is world-renowned for its continual innovation. Yet despite the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), IBM hasn’t lost sight of what’s important – the human connection.


January 2018

IBM’s Watson, has made it possible for computer systems to understand natural language. Driven by analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning, the cognitive computing system is built to aid decision making, reduce costs and optimise outcomes by simulating human thought processes. With its sophisticated reasoning capabilities, Watson seeks to augment human abilities by ingesting immense amounts of data, learning at scale, understanding the context of this data, and answering questions in real-time – all whilst using natural language. From traditional programming models to the new cognitive computing era, IBM has seen a dramatic change in the way systems and humans interact. However, Gabi Zodik, Director and CTO of Development for Watson IoT Consumer Business, says that this


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is just the beginning of the journey. “People no longer want to interact only by touch-screen because, really, the most natural thing is to speak to each other,” says Zodik. “That’s what’s different about what we’re doing at IBM. We are heading towards what we call cognitive IoT, which is much more people-centric. It’s driven by analytics, AI and machine learning, and it offers real-time insight and reasoning capabilities that can’t be done in any other way.” The ability to understand natural language and its nuances has made IBM’s Watson a gamechanger for diverse areas, such as health, hospitality and transport. The ability to understand natural language and its nuances has made IBM’s Watson a gamechanger for diverse areas, such as health, hospitality and transport. For example, the Watson Assistant is being used in hospital rooms to allow voice control that can activate the room’s air conditioning or lights, answer questions about upcoming treatment procedures, or even provide general information

about the hospital, such as dinner menus, visiting hours, or stores. “The solution uses the Watson platform to continuously gain data about factors like upcoming treatments, physician rounds, or physical changes in the room,” explains Zodik. “It gives the patients insight about their surroundings and procedures, which is something that can go a long way towards keeping the person calmer and better informed, in addition to saving the time of hospital staff.” On a mission to help people in everyday life, IBM’s Watson is also helping to revolutionise workplace safety through wearable technology. According to the International Labour Organisation, every 15 seconds, 151 workers will have a work-related accident. By tapping into IBM’s Watson IoT technology, the tech giant has produced the IBM IoT Safer Workplace solution that helps employees stay safer in dangerous environments. The solution uses embedded sensors to gather and analyse data on workers’ activities and surroundings to help prevent




overexposure to heat, injury from falls, overexertion, or other accidents. “Today’s workers receive a limited amount of protection through basic safety equipment like a hard hat, but not much more than that,” observes Zodik. “We realised that if we could equip workers’ personal safety equipment with sensors, we could analyse their activities and surroundings and prevent many of the accidents that unfortunately happen today. Work-related accidents are a big financial issue for many companies, but even more important than the financial aspect are the hundreds and thousands of people who are injured or killed in workrelated accidents every year.” Although wearable sensors exist to provide individual pieces of data, the IBM solution extends the power of cognitive computing to collect and analyse information from a group of many sensors. Watson then brings the information together, analyses it to understand what is happening in the environment, and detects hazardous combinations that might be overlooked if they were


January 2018

detected individually. For example, a combination of high skin temperature, raised heart rate, and no movement patterns for several minutes could mean a person is suffering from heat stress. Each of these signs individually would not be a cause for alert, but together they indicate a serious situation that warrants intervention. IBM’s cognitive computing platform can be applied to a broad spectrum of industries, but it can also be harnessed to make simple, everyday life more enjoyable. To this end, IBM has invented a unique voice-enabled personal assistant platform called the Watson Assistant. Unlike other voice-powered apps that respond to a standard set of commands or questions, the IBM platform is highly personalised, as it can recognise the user and continuously learns about them. It’s portable and can show up in mobile apps, connected devices, cars, conference and hotel rooms; and it is proactive, as it can make suggestions or take actions on your behalf. Powered by IBM’s Watson, the general-purpose assistance goes


Watson was named after former IBM CEO, Thomas J. Watson




beyond triggered responses and zombie skills - and it does so using conversational, natural language. “The way I like to describe it is this: think about famous people or celebrities. They get VIP treatment throughout the day,” notes Zodik. “No matter where they go, there is always somebody in their team who makes sure they go to the type of restaurant they like, who schedules transportation for them, or books their hotels.


January 2018

“Now, imagine that we could create a digital, virtual assistant that you could have throughout the day,” he continues. “It would be a conversational device, but unlike other solutions on the market, it would be highly personalised and would continuously learn your behaviour and preferences. The Watson Personal Assistant would be with you wherever you go, whether that’s at home, in your car, at your office, and it will continuously think ahead of you and


“We thought if workers could wear safety solutions and sensors, we could analyse their surroundings and prevent many of the accidents that unfortunately happen today” – Gabi Zodik, Director and CTO of Development for Watson IoT Consumer Business

offer insight to make your life easier. The system is unique in its ability to offer proactive suggestions and to maintain privacy for personal data.” IBM’s Watson Personal Assistant could wake you up earlier during a spell of bad weather so that you’re not delayed for your commute or it could reschedule a meeting that you are going to be late for. In doing so, it aims to transform how we go about our daily lives. The innovation is a testament to the company’s commitment to R&D, notes Zodik, who also serves

as the Department Group Manager of the IoT and Cloud Technologies department at IBM Research - Haifa. “IBM is a world-renowned technology company and as part of our research, we really strive to experiment with new, upcoming technologies. There’s a saying ‘the world is our lab’ and indeed, at IBM, we are coming up with ideas, such as the Watson platform, that our customers have never even thought of. We have shown them added value and a new way of thinking they had not even perceived to be possible.”



OpenSooq: Online searching in the Middle East made easy Written by Dale Benton Produced by Craig Daniels

OpenSooq is an online platform tailored to the Middle East and North African regions, providing ease of access to more than 155 million users


n 2017, Arabic is currently the fourth most spoken language in the online digital space. Over the last seven years there has been a surge in online traffic across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and with more than 155 million Arabic users today, there needed to be a platform that could cater to this significant volume of users. This is where OpenSooq comes into play. Founded in 2013, OpenSooq is a classified marketplace to sell, buy and advertise online goods and services across the MENA region. “Despite being the fourth most spoken language, which will only continue to grow, nobody was focusing on it or providing solutions that could cater for it,” says Ramzi Alqrainy, Head


January 2018

of Technology at OpenSooq. “But the numbers don’t lie and we have to focus on the Arabic language. Its what I do for the company and its what I’ve specialised in for my entire career.” Alqrainy is one of the most recognisable names in the information retrieval and artificial intelligence (AI) space. Having worked on search engine optimisation and back end solutions for a number of leading technology companies throughout the Middle East, Alqrainy’s first task was to build a search engine system that could facilitate Arabic content. “I started by building an analytic system that utilised machine learning, artificial intelligence and image and text recognition in order to ensure that when a user




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accesses OpenSooq, the post that they seek is in the right place under the right category and is clear and understandable,” he says. One of the biggest challenges with the fourth most spoken language in the digital space is text recognition. The Arabic language, when written, has more than one thousand rules and variations all while using the same letters. For Alqrainy, this was the first hurdle that needed to be cleared and as the company serves all across the MENA region, it is a challenge that persists even now. “To put it simply, the characteristics of the Arabic language are very, very hard,” he says. “The way that Arabic is written, the same shape and word formation can be used but with only the slightest of alterations and suddenly it’s a completely different meaning or understanding all together.” “It continues to be our biggest challenge because, when you consider localisation and where we operate there are different dialects to factor in. Egypt has

a different dialect to Jordan, which has a different dialect to Iraq, and Syria for example.” To that end, Alqrainy can call upon his significant experience in dealing with this exact challenge, particularly his time working on the Apache Solr program. Apache Solr is a highly reliable, scalable and fault tolerant indexing and configuration tool that powers the search and navigation features of many of the world’s largest internet sites including eBay, Netflix and Disney. But Alqrainy couldn’t possibly be able to do this alone, especially with more than one and half billionpage views per month. In this regard, OpenSooq pools together the thought process of everyone, from management to customer service teams right through to the technology team and for Alqrainy, he feels this really is key to the success of the company. “We all head into one room and we brainstorm together and we identify the challenges or the solutions collaboratively,” says Alqrainy. “OpenSooq’s technology




“I started by building an analytic system that utilised machine learning, artificial intelligence and image and text recognition in order to ensure that when a user accesses OpenSooq, the post that they seek is in the right place under the right category and is clear and understandable” – Ramzi Alqrainy, Head of Technology, OpenSooq


January 2018


and innovation comes as a direct result of this mentality as the management is a firm believer in our technology and what we are doing, rather than focusing solely on the market.” Alqrainy is keen to stress that despite OpenSooq’s incredible growth over the years, there is still a company-wide mindset that continues to think like a start-up. By this, Alqrainy refers to the way in which the company registered to an online portal in which staff members all across the company can access. This platform is called GitHub. Github is a development platform inspired by the way companies work, allowing users to host and review code, build software and infrastructure all alongside millions of other developers. This, Alqrainy feels, is crucial for OpenSooq to continue to grow as the user base continues to grow. “So, with GitHub, we can to develop open source projects and share both our knowledge and the knowledge of others in order to think outside the box and share in our successes,” he says. “When you are growing exponentially, with 400-page views per month becoming one and half billion page views per month, this growth cannot be accomplished without thinking outside of the box.” Operating across the MENA region, OpenSooq’s market base is undoubtedly dynamic. To achieve this, Alqrainy must continue




to push the localisation for every country and every market to push users to the website. “When the product is growing, you need to take every function inside the product and we need to change the architecture of the product in order to scale, and give us the flexibility to add more changes and more features in the future,” he says. As OpenSooq continues along this growth path, one which may very well expand the product offering beyond the Middle East and North Africa, Alqrainy keeps one key element at heart. “It’s about the user at the end of the day,” he says. “As we continue to grow and continue to develop our product, be it AI, be it machine learning and information retrieval, it’s about helping the user get what they want.”


January 2018




The Middle East’s top MEP contractor Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Craig Daniels


Initially focusing on design and build projects had helped James L Williams Middle East carve a niche in the ever-competitive construction sector. Chief Operating Officer Ramy Boufarhat describes how the company has grown since then to become a leading MEP firm in the Middle East


amed for its breath-taking skylines and architectural feats, the Middle East’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) sector is an aggressive industry to be in. With stringent competition and tightening margins, it’s all about differentiating yourself from the market, and no-one understands this better than the team at James L Williams (JLW) Middle East. Since it was first established less than a decade ago, the UAE division of James L Williams has grown exponentially, emerging as one of the top MEP players in the region. This success is largely down to the company’s initial decision to target a niche segment


January 2018

of the market and then grow the company thereafter says Chief Operating Officer Ramy Boufarhat.

Focusing on ‘design and build’ contracts “We had seen that there was a void in the market for technically astute, design-oriented engineering contractors in the region,” explains Boufarhat. “We found a niche - design and build EPC contracting – and in 2011, we moved the organisation away from the traditional engineering project based approach towards a centralised engineering model.” As a ‘design and build’ engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor, James L Williams


Ramy Boufarhat is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of James L Williams Middle East (JLW), the company specializes in the electro-mechanical (MEP) design and construction of large-scale projects and is based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). JLW directly manages approximately 6,000 employees; 2,000 as direct company employees, supplemented by 4,000 specialist sub-contractors under its management. Its annual revenues are in excess of $180mn (AED 670mn). Ramy is a master’s qualified engineer with experience as both design consultant and contractor in Australia and the UAE. Ramy arrived to the UAE in 2009 from Australia and from 2010 to 2012 held the position of Engineering Manager for JLW. During that time, he played a vital role in establishing one of JLWs core strategic competencies, its engineering excellence. Since late 2012, Ramy has held the post of company COO and oversees all ongoing business operations. middleeast.businesschief.com


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undertakes a project throughout its entire lifecycle - including its design, procurement, and commissioning stages. This strategic approach ensures that clients don’t face any hidden costs due to errors, omissions, ambiguities in documentation or changes required to meet the projects designed intent. Clients also save time as they don’t have to go through multiple consultations, tendering or re-tendering processes. Nowadays, James L Williams works on various types of contracts but it is the ‘design and build’ projects which undoubtedly give the company a competitive edge. “We’ve gained a reputation as a reliable company in the sector and this has really helped us to grow,” notes Boufarhat. “Because we’re well-known for our engineering excellence and focus on delivering a ‘fit for purpose’ end product, we’ve grown to become one of the larger MEP companies in the region.”

Sustainable growth Starting off with and developing a

specialised area such as ‘design and build’ has paid off. In its beginnings, James L Williams Middle East started with 40 employees and today it has over 2,000 direct employees and 4,000 indirect employees. “We’ve kept our highly-centralised engineering, procurement, testing and commissioning unit all in-house and we’ve grown massively,” says Boufarhat. “When I was made COO in 2013, we had just started a big period of growth. At that time, we had a turnover of $35mn and now, several years later, we have a turnover of $182mn,” he adds.

An efficient approach to MEP services Created in the midst of the global financial crisis, James L Williams Middle East has always taken an efficient approach to mechanical, electrical and plumbing services. It is this mind set which has been integral to it’s the company’s prosperity, explains Boufarhat. “Whilst other companies had to adapt to the market after the Global Financial Crisis of 2007, from day




one we had to be efficient to grow and survive,” he says. “This is a market of efficiencies. If you’re not an efficiently-run company, you’re not going to be able to survive in today’s market because, whilst work is plentiful, the margins aren’t there. It’s a very aggressive market to be in.”

Technological innovation Part of this efficiency undoubtedly stems from the company’s technological prowess. For instance, the company first began using 3D modelling several years ago and is now moving towards advanced state-of-the-art 4D and 5D technology. Boufarhat says these advancements are critical as they allow the firm to conduct precision on and off-site installation and to control time and cost, and they can also produce smart building information and engineering analysis. “Construction companies and people don’t like change, especially some of the old-timers,” he adds, “but you’ve just got to keep pushing the technology if you want to be efficient.” With this technology,


January 2018

James L Williams Middle East can efficiently prefabricate off-site. This means that the company can design, procure and install components offsite with precision engineering and then transport these to site for fixing. “What you effectively do is work off-site in a well-ventilated workshop, on floor/table height level rather than working on a construction site with a 45-degree ambient temperature, at an elevated height on a ladder or scaffold with the chaos of a construction site. By prefabricating off-site, we are really increasing our efficiency,” explains Boufarhat.

Prestigious projects With mega-projects underway such as the Dubai Mall expansion, Al Maryah Central, Bluewaters Hospitality, Masdar Neighbourhood 2 and ICD Brookfield Place, James L Williams has garnered a reputation as a reliable and trustworthy MEP company. The company is selective over which projects it undertakes and these mega-projects all have one thing in common - James L Williams’ also trusts in them.

“We saw that there was a void in the market for technically astute, design-oriented engineering contractors” – Ramy Boufarhat, Chief Operating Officer


The Expo 2020 Dubai project

“During the old oil downturn, a lot of projects were put on hold, but the majority of the key, strategic UAE projects kept going and that’s what we have always focused on from the offset,” notes Boufarhat. “We have always focused on what you might call prestigious projects. They’re always niche and lower risk but they’re also a lot more difficult. They’ve got more technical considerations, accelerated construction, and very tough clients


January 2018

that know exactly what they want and expect it yesterday. But, most importantly, these are not projects that are going to go on hold. They’re going to finish because they’re essential for the Middle East.”

The top MEP firm in the Middle East As more and more buildings are added to Middle East skylines, it looks like there is a bright future ahead for the contracting industry.

EXPO 2020 DUBAI, SUSTAINABILITY DISTRICT Expo 2020 is forecast to contribute approximately $19.1bn (AED70.15bn) in gross value to the UAE’s economy during the course of its development and operational phases. The event is expected to sustain more than 207,000 jobs, directly and indirectly. Located in Dubai South, the future site of Expo 2020 occupies an area of 4.38km2 – equivalent to Disneyland California. The plaza will connect the three thematic districts – Opportunity, Sustainability and Mobility – and the other main concourses, including the Dubai Metro link and the UAE Pavilion, through its seven entrances and exits. JLW is proud to be working on the Sustainability.

Competition may be stringent, but the team at James L Williams is confident that its leading talent and expertise puts it ahead of the curve. “At one stage, there was more work than there were contractors,” reflects Boufarhat. “Those days are gone. Now, you have to be a quality contractor, you’ve got to be efficient, you’ve got to be able to deliver. We’re seeing a lot of projects, which is a big plus. We’re seeing clients being selective, which is another big plus. I

see that there’s a positive trend here in the UAE, especially for a company like James L Williams Middle East.”

Growth and expansion In less than a decade, James L Williams has steadily grown to become one of the top MEP contractors in the Middle East. The company has seen steady profit margins and a growing workforce and now is eyeing growth further afield. “We’re always going to have



JAMES L WILLIAMS MIDDLE EAST our base in the UAE, but we hope that in five years’ time we will have diversified into other Middle East regions using the UAE as a base,” says Boufarhat. “We’re not going to do it unless there’s a location where we can see a sustainable 10-15 year look ahead, but it’s definitely something that we’re looking into.”

A reputable name The company has strode past its competitors in recent years, but what is it that firmly places James L Williams Middle East ahead of its competitors? For Boufarhat, it is the trust that’s placed in the company’s name. “By offering a turnkey package and taking on their risks, we’ve had to develop a level of trust with our clients,” he explains. “When we first started to deliver these ‘design and build’ projects in the market, clients started talking, we had repeat clients, and then people started asking more and more of us. “We wouldn’t be able to do that if they didn’t trust in our engineering, procurement, construction and our testing and commissioning. Basically, from the get-go, they have only you to deal with for all of those. Our clients really put a lot of faith in us, they truly trust us.”


January 2018


In 2013, James L Williams Middle East had a turnover of $35mn and now, a few years later, it has a turnover of $182mn

The Dubai Mall – Zabeel Expansion middleeast.businesschief.com


SchĂźco: Harnessing unique technology to stay above the rest Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by Rob Gray


Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi


January 2018


Ammar Alul, General Manager of Schüco Middle East, discusses how the company’s digital solutions enable it to remain ahead of the competition


ounded in north-western Germany in the early 1950s, Schüco has expanded into over 80 countries and became a key figure within the Middle East construction sector. Behind the development of new products and services, Schüco continues to win a number of residential and commercial projects by delivering a complete, integrated system to its customers. “There are basically two categories of items which we sell: one is profiles and the other is accessories,” explains Ammar Alul, General Manager of Schüco Middle East. “We insist on selling the integrated system which ensures performance, quality, and reliability. We pride ourselves on the completeness of what we sell, whereas in some cases, others might offer solely

profiles, and then a factory fabricator chooses the accessories, or, in some cases, competitors give options for accessories. “We ensure better installation, increased durability and further reliability, minimising wastage and energy.” Schüco’s quality, support, and complete ‘one-stop shop’ approach for its customers has seen it gain increased prominence. Key projects in the Middle East are countless, including the Damac Towers by Paramount in Dubai, Kuwait Investment Authority headquarters in Kuwait City and the ongoing King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah. Heading up Schüco Middle East since 2011, Alul has seen the company grow its services and increase its focus on providing




“We ensure better installation, increased durability and further reliability, minimising wastage and energy” – Ammar Alul, General Manager of Schüco Middle East

THE 1st ALUMINIUM EXTRUSION & 1st COMPLETE ANODIZING LINE IN QATAR Manufacturing and coating aluminium extruded profiles in different finishes (mill finish, powder coating and anodizing)

info@qalex.com.qa | www.qalex.com.qa P.O. Box 201698 | New Industrial Area, Street No. 12 Building No. 132, Pink Zone | Doha, Qatar


January 2018

Tel. No: +974 44 333 555 Fax. No: +974 44 333 500


ongoing maintenance, replacement and exceptional technical support, leading customers to choose Schüco for future projects. “We believe in ethical and professional partnerships supported by competitive, top-quality products and superior support to all our stakeholders,” says Alul. Technological investment The construction sector continues to grow apace, with new technologies set to reshape the way in which materials are manufactured and projects are delivered. Guaranteeing sufficient cost savings and high quality within its service offering, Schüco’s technology centres have supported its ongoing business growth, alongside the business’s ability to remain competitive across its operations. “Our technology centre is the largest by miles, and is above anything else in the industry,” reflects Alul. “This gives Schüco the number one brand that everyone recognises in terms of quality and quantity.” The implementation of a new, heavy-duty,

digitised factory floor system has also provided increased efficiencies within Schüco’s traditional fabrication processes and allowed for the rotation of 3D images and realtime updates across the board. Empowering and strengthening relationships A founding member of the popular Windows, Doors, and Facades show in Dubai since its inception in 2016, Schüco has grown its presence internationally and participated in global construction events. One such example is construction trade show, Bau, held this year in Munich, Germany, at the beginning of 2017. Here, Schüco displayed its continuing efforts within the augmented and virtual reality space. “Once a user puts a set of goggles on they are able to access a virtual showroom, where they can choose our products and see how they would look when installed in their project,” notes Alul. “Augmented reality is having the real images of a space, then augmenting that with one of our




products to see how it would look. The images are real but then the augmentation would be virtual.” However, such technological advances would not be possible without an engaged, passionate workforce. Schüco’s nonstop commitment in developing beneficial relationships with its suppliers has seen the need for increased communication and worker engagement within its various operational layers. Consequently, Schüco focuses on guaranteeing positive worker morale, with low turnover rates at both staff and management level seeing it go from strength to strength. “In many cases we have employees turning down higher paying jobs because they’re not willing to jump ship, even for a 20% pay increase,” observes Alul. “Also, empowering the team is critical. The golden rule is to communicate and support each other, as long as that does not affect your own deliverables.” This outlook is also applied to Schüco’s relationship with its suppliers and customers. Mutual


January 2018

trust has seen the company gain a solid reputation surrounding its service delivery. Alul explains that if one customer convinces Schüco of the need for a lower price on a project, they are given that lower price, but so are the other customers who are competing on the same job without having to ask for it. “For different jobs, customers might get different prices because of the competitiveness of each job and each project. All the companies on a single job will get the same price. This grants a huge amount of respect for Schüco Middle East because customers recognise the professionalism, fairness, and ethics of our operations,” adds Alul. “Sometimes a supplier does not want a company to be on the job, so they give that company higher prices than others. We don’t do that. We face that company head on and we tell them, ‘we don’t believe you should be on this job’. This is of course for professional reasons only, which could be surrounding pricing, capability, or any another reason of concern.






January 2018


“The bottom line is ethics, fairness, communication, and a true sense of partnership.” Further growth This attitude even extends to current challenges, such as payment delays from customers, as well as the issue of demand, which is currently lower than supply, driving down prices for the industry. However, the company continues to remain competitive in its pricing and continues to strengthen its market leadership. Long-term ambitions Giving back to local communities, Schüco’s strong corporate social responsibility focus will see the company work with the University of Sharjah team in the UAE within the upcoming solar decathlon

competition. Set to be held in Dubai, competing university teams are challenged to build an energy efficient house, with a zero-carbon footprint. Schüco has donated a scope of its works not only to promote projects that highlight the importance of sustainability within construction and design, but also to signify a growing demand for energy efficient buildings, in line with the Paris Agreement. “We have a plan for the next three years to take the company above and beyond the percentages that we have been growing at,” concludes Alul. With plans for further investment in its staff and facilities, Schüco will increasingly work to support its customers through competitive pricing. This, in alignment with its high-quality services and delivery of a complete, integrated system, will see the business go from strength to strength.



Tehran Energy Consultants’ mission to transform the Iranian oil and gas industry Written by Dale Benton Produced by Robert Gray


T E H R A N E N E R G Y C O N S U LTA N T S ( T E C )


January 2018


Tehran Energy Consultants continues to provide market leading consultancy services to the oil and gas engineering sector in Iran


or more than 26 years, Tehran Energy Consultants (TEC) has been a leading consultancy, providing services to most of the biggest players in the upstream oil and gas engineering sector across the Iranian oil and gas industry. Founded in 1991, the company’s main focus was to provide technical advice and assistance across the oil and gas space, covering exploration, exploitation, optimal reservoir development and management all while utilising state-of-the-art technologies. For Dr Abolfazl Ghaemi, Founder and MD of TEC, the company was born out a desire to transform the oil and gas upstream sector in 1991, particularly an over reliance on foreign expertise. “I come from a robust background in petroleum engineering, and so I feel I have a solid grasp of the Iranian oil and

gas industry space,” he says. “There was certainly a substantial reliance on international oil consultancy, especially if there was a certain degree of technical expertise that was required. As an Iranian petroleum engineer, this was not acceptable to me. Not one bit.” And so, TEC was established to localise the consultancy across the sector and to reduce that significant reliance on foreign help as much as possible. “It’s main duty when established some 26 years ago was to develop static and dynamic models for the reservoirs and to forecast their production under different development scenarios and by conducting economic evaluations, to determine the optimal development scheme for the subject reservoir or field,” he says. “The outcome of our studies serves



T E H R A N E N E R G Y C O N S U LTA N T S ( T E C )

“There was certainly a reliance on international oil consultancy, especially if there was a certain degree of technical expertise that was required. As an Iranian petroleum engineer, this was not acceptable to me. Not one bit” – Dr Abolfazl Ghaemi, Founder and MD, TEC

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January 2018


as guideline for our clients in optimal drilling development and production of its oil and gas fields. TEC services are now extended to supervision of field drilling development activities as well.” TEC will forever hold the title of being the first of its kind in the country, the first consultancy that is geared towards the oil and gas engineering market. Ghaemi feels that with his own background, that has seen significant experience both locally and internationally in engineering, coupled with more than 26 years building and developing partnerships with key customers, TEC can stand tall against any new entrants into the market. As the starter of upstream consultancy in the oil and gas private sector of the country and its commitment for rendering technical services of international quality, if not beyond that, TEC is known for its commitment to professional ethics with independency and integrity. “The TEC ambition is to retain its good reputation and brand by offering world class services and aligning itself with the forefront of the technical knowledge and services in

the context of its scope and mission.” “That means maintaining a leading role in rendering state of the art engineering consultancy services in domestic oil and gas upstream and midstream market and extending it to the international arena with emphasis on Middle East market,” he says. Naturally, working as a consultancy, partners, clients, and alliances play a crucial role not only in the success garnered over the last two decades, but they will also continue to play a key role in the future growth and success of TEC. TEC has worked with some of the biggest companies in the world, including Total, Shell, BHP and Maersk to name a few. Ghaemi stresses that the portfolio of work that the company can boast was only made possible through its approach to client relationships. “They are relationships that we build around the commitment to quality and to the reliability of the services we provide,” he says. As a consultancy, one of the key attributes that help enable this quality is rendering reliable



T E H R A N E N E R G Y C O N S U LTA N T S ( T E C )

services with a good level of agility and being able to respond to what the clients want without sacrificing the quality of our services. “While keeping our independency and integrity we try in every way we can to listen to what the clients are saying and what they want without prejudice,” says Ghaemi. “This collaborative approach allows us to be in the best possible position, not only in terms of our growth and success, but also from a service level that we are providing and we find it is right.” Operating in a sector that is extremely centred on technology and technological processes presents a high degree of challenge, not only for TEC but the clients that it works with. After all, prior to Ghaemi’s founding of TEC, the Iranian oil and gas upstream studies sector relied heavily on international expertise in order to navigate the ever-changing challenges that technology innovation brought with it. “New technologies for increasing the recovery factor is the main challenge not only in tight carbonate and rather heavy oil reservoirs but also in our numerous fractured oil reservoirs as well ,” he says. “The other main challenge is financing of the development of fields and reservoirs in the context of Iranian Petroleum Contracts (IPC) which is known as the fourth generation of the Buyback Service Contracts. Though as of this date, the Iranian oil industry has attracted billions of dollars


January 2018


Number of employees at Tehran Energy Consultants (TEC)




“These are technologies that are transforming the industry and so we must partner with the right people in order to expand our capabilities. We often work collaboratively with international partners who are active in oil and gas upstream consultancies which allow us to align that expertise with our services” – Dr Abolfazl Ghaemi, Founder and MD, TEC


for investment in Iranian oil and gas fields, and petrochemicals, under the prevalent international situation, financing of the projects appears to remain as an important challenge for the years to come.” The recovery element is arguably the core value in the oil and gas sector and Ghaemi is fully alert of this. Enhanced Oil and Gas Recovery methods (EOR and EGR) such as, thermal methods, miscible injection and chemical flooding are but a few examples that he points to as crucial technology processes in the current industry, processes that the company and a lot of the sector does not have hands on experience with, as it has not yet been - implemented within the country. To this end, TEC has continuously explored ways in which it can expand and enhance its services by engaging internationally renowned

partners which it has worked with across different sectors and working with these partners to bring new experience and new capabilities into its already diverse portfolio. “These are technologies that are transforming the industry and so we must partner with the right people in order to expand our capabilities,” says Ghaemi. “We often work collaboratively with international partners who are active in oil and gas upstream consultancies which allow us to align that expertise with our services”. As for TEC’s short and mid-range plans Ghaemi says that “Our motto from the outset has been to strive for quality and excellence. As ever, we will remain loyal to this motto and thus keep our excellence both technically and morally and doing so keep on with continuous and dayto- day progress of the company.”



A digitised, centralised restaurant supply chain: How AWJ Investments offers a competitive edge Written by Fran Roberts Produced by Heykel Ouni

Awj, the Arabic word for pinnacle, is entirely apt when it comes to AWJ Investments, which has grown over just a few short years to become a key player within the Emirati restaurant industry. The company’s mission is simple – to lead international markets with unique restaurant concepts


treet food has been sold around the world by vendors since ancient times, but it’s a relatively recent trend that has seen the emergence of high quality offerings. According to thefoodpeople, the global food trends agency, street food is now consumed by an estimated 2.5bn people worldwide each day. One of the most ubiquitous forms of street food, and one that hails from the Middle East, is of course falafel. “AWJ Investments is an investment group which was founded back in late 2013 with a couple of concepts in mind. The main idea behind founding AWJ Investments was to introduce a very vibrant and effective system of change to the look of Arabic street food,” explains Rami Nasr, Head of Procurement and Logistics.


January 2018

Operation Falafel is the flagship brand of AWJ Investments, with the first branch opening in March 2014 at The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR). The Beach is a retail complex constructed on the actual beach in front of JBR, a waterfront community located against the Persian Gulf in Dubai Marina. “Operation Falafel offers the authentic Arabic street food. Once you enter any of our Operation Falafel outlets, you feel the industrial and urban ambience with the interiors of the shops. Operation Falafel is the company’s flagship store and it is our mainstream brand,” Nasr says. “Since we started Operation Falafel, we’ve had a great acceptance from the local market and the customer feedback is amazing. At the moment we are running 10 different locations

RAMI NASR Head of Procurement and Logistics



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for the brand. We recently opened one branch in Riyadh, and Operation Falafel has been registered in 82 countries all around the world. We’ve already signed many franchise agreements

obtaining the rights to operate Operation Falafel abroad in different countries such as the US, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands.”

Contemporary concepts The Beach is also home to a number of other concepts operated by AWJ Investments, such as Awani – a contemporary restaurant serving the best of classic Levant cuisine. Catch-22, a seafood fusion restaurant, alongside Chicks ‘n’ Friends, which specialises in fried chicken and accompanying sides, join the selection at The Beach, as well as Yalseh, the latest concept operated by AWJ Investments. “Yalseh is the first Emirati beach lounge in Dubai,” states Nasr. “It has been operational for one year now, and we offer most of the traditional Emirati food items where a person can go and have dinner and a

“Since we started Operation Falafel, we’ve had a great acceptance from the local market and the customer feedback is amazing” RAMI NASR Head of Procurement and Logistics


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hookah directly on the beach.” AWJ Investments also operates Smoky Beach, Surf Bite and Lulu & Murjan, and is the sole franchisee of Filicori Zecchini Italian Coffee in the UAE. In order to maintain such an array of brands – each specialising in different types of cuisine – AWJ Investments works hard to maintain a robust supply chain. “Managing our supply chain is a very complex process, taking into consideration that we have many concepts that we cater to,” acknowledges Nasr.


January 2018

A competitive advantage In order manage its supplies, AWJ Investments has a main centralised warehouse that functions as a hub. “Everything gets delivered to this warehouse. We have a very proficient team there who takes care of segregating the items based on the specification of every item that they receive, and then it gets dispatched to each outlet based on their requirements. Our consumption of the raw materials is really remarkable,


taking into consideration the number of outlets that we have, so this puts us in a position where we have a competitive advantage over the other competitors in the market to receive better pricing,” Nasr remarks. AWJ Investments is well known in the market for having a very transparent strategy. “Economy of scale allows us to be more competitive and to be ahead in the market. Having our own logistics team where we cater to all our outlets gives us the responsibility of getting all the items to each and every outlet, based on their timelines, so this is what puts us ahead,” explains Nasr. “We have a centralised procurement system, centralised production facility and a centralised warehousing unit. This definitely gives us an added value and an advantage against other players in the market. Also, we have a designated team for each concept that we own, and that team is well trained on the requirements of each concept that they are taking care of.”


The current number of outlets in the UAE

90 MN AWJ Investments’ annual revenue

Data is power Technology also plays a substantial role in managing the complex supply chain at AWJ Investments. “Using technology in the supply chain is crucial for any firm nowadays. We are using a very advanced ERP system, which connects all our divisions together in our company. We have a very solid software system, which is being solely used for

1,300 The number of employees at AWJ Investments




our supply chain,” Nasr states. “Our warehousing system is also connected to this, as is our logistics side. We can monitor and control our deliveries through this advanced system and this also enters through our delivery process where we have centralised deliveries. Of course, data is power in our current times, so having the latest technology enables us to use the data in the best possible way when we plan our supply chain – whether the forecasting or the actual order placing or opening any RFQs, it all goes through this technology.”


January 2018

An extensive journey It’s a very extensive journey for any raw ingredients to make it to the plate at any AWJ Investments location. “From the moment that we choose a menu and we start creating the menu items, we start collaborating with a chef and design the menu item or the dish,” comments Nasr. “The journey starts from the chef choosing the best match for his recipe, after which we go through item sourcing and getting the product entered within our sample production facility, where different chefs observe this single ingredient.


“From the moment that we choose a menu and we start creating the menu items, we start collaborating with a chef and design the menu item or the dish” RAMI NASR Head of Procurement and Logistics

“After this we start sourcing that supplier in a very clear frame process, where we invite the suppliers to get the total specification achieved, which should comply with external regulations, the governmental regulations of the food items and internal quality standards that we use in the company. Once an item is chosen, it then gets into an approved items list, which is totally systemised. Being a supplier or being a trusted vendor with AWJ investments is a privilege. We’ve been lucky to work with different vendors throughout the local and international market.” AWJ Investments’ suppliers are evaluated almost quarterly.

They get rated on different levels, including the consistency of their service, the quality of the product chosen, how consistent the quality is, and how fast their delivery was. Choosing a supplier for an item for AWJ Investments goes through a cycle that starts with selecting a menu item, until this ingredient gets to be supplied on a daily basis to the company’s state-of-the-art production facility located in Dubai. “We have a collection of vendors that we are meeting with and they are our partners of success,” continues Nasr. “Quality comes at a certain cost, so it is always a challenge having the best cost and maintaining the best quality possible.”




Eye for detail Exploring global opportunities, AWJ recognises the potential of a rapidly evolving food and beverage market, with the aim of acquiring and growing a brand that is internationally recognised and loved. In order to leverage on such global opportunities, AWJ Investments is seeking to draw from the key factors behind its impressive success so far. “There are many factors of our success during the past four years in which AWJ Investments has been operational. One of them is basically the eye for detail that you can witness if you visit any outlet that is owned or operated by AWJ Investments,” Nasr observes. “We ensure that for each client that enters any of our outlets it’s a very pleasant journey from the moment they enter until the moment they leave.” In order to provide a pleasant experience for all customers, AWJ Investments strives hard to maintain the highest standards. “Our key success is our customers and the view that we get from customers, and that underscores many processes,” acknowledges Nasr. “Making sure that every single item is consistent for every client whenever they come to try. Making sure that our standards maintain the highest level possible. Making sure that once the customer receives their food it’s exactly as if they are eating it out of the chef’s hands.”


January 2018





“In 2018 we are planning to have 47 outlets spread over the Middle East with one outlet in the United States. Our strategic vision is to operate 97 outlets by 2020� RAMI NASR Head of Procurement and Logistics


January 2018


Future plans Despite already operating myriad concepts, AWJ Investments is already working on its next restaurant. “Coopers is our newest project and it is yet to open,” Nasr reveals. “Coopers is a beach urban diner. The food presentation is very simple yet the taste is very flavourful. It is a grab-and-go concept that has been in the making for the past seven to eight months.” Within the next five years, AWJ Investments plans to travel and explore markets across Europe, North Africa and the US, experimenting with new tastes and old, and infusing traditional flavours with a fusion of traditions. “Our future plans are to expand regionally and internationally with the different brands that we have. At the moment

our expansion plan is towards many territories or countries. Our first franchise branch of Operation Falafel opened in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia last month. This is one of many units that we are looking to have in the Saudi territory,” Nasr enthuses. “Of course, our next step will be the United States and we are going there very soon. We are almost done with the preparations for Operation Falafel to be presented to this market. In 2018 we are planning to have 47 outlets spread over the Middle East with one outlet in the United States. Our strategic vision is to operate 97 outlets by 2020.” Having achieved much already in such a short space of time, AWJ Investments certainly shows no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future.



Narrowing the gulf in healthcare procurement Written by Fran Roberts Produced by Heykel Ouni

2016 marked the 40th anniversary of the first meeting of the Gulf Health Council, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Today, regular meetings are held to discuss the health issues of concern in the states. Part of the Council is Gulf Joint Procurement programme, which ensures the standardisation of the medicines directory and medical supplies of all specialities across the GCC


he Gulf Health Council is a regional technical specialised organisation with its membership restricted only to the Cooperation Council States, plus Yemen. Within this organisation sits Gulf Joint Procurement programme. “The Council enjoys a legal impartiality and financial and administrative independence,” advises Fatthi Alkathiry, Director at Gulf Joint Procurement. The Health Council of the GCC aims to develop cooperation and coordination among member states in the preventive, curative and rehabilitative health fields, as well as other mutually beneficial activities. The idea of the joint procurement for medicine began in February


January 2018

1976, when the Ministers of Health of the GCC states requested that the Council form a technical committee among the states. The committee’s main objective was to study the possibility of member states benefiting from direct control, like the processes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. A second key objective was to standardise the purchase of certain medicines. “The set objective at that time was to study the development of a unified system for the registration and control of medicines and the development of a guide for medicines in the GCC states,” Alkathiry explains. “The Gulf Health Council for Joint Procurement seeks to standardise the directory


Fatthi Alkathiry Director

A leading Procurement Director, currently working with in Gulf Joint Procurement for Gulf Health Council, Mr Fatthi AlKathiry focuses on developing the vision, mission and operational plans for Gulf Joint Procurement. Providing leadership, strategic planning and assurance for procurement administration, AlKathiry acts as the vendor management partner for all the business units, ensuring all relationships are strategically, culturally, and ethically aligned with GHC’s mission and values. Throughout his career with GHC, AlKathiry has continuously enhanced the organisation’s sourcing, procurement and performance management capabilities by attracting public and private hospitals to become participants in Joint Procurement. With a proven ability to develop, maintain and execute procurement policies, Al Kathiry consistently supports the Joint Procurement mission and meets the stakeholder requirements, facilitating a seamless implementation and adoption of solutions.



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“The Gulf Health Council for Joint Procurement seeks to standardise the directory of pharmaceutical devices and medical supplies throughout the Gulf Joint Procurement programme” –Fatthi Alkathiry, Director, Gulf Joint Procurement


January 2018


of pharmaceutical devices and medical supplies throughout the Gulf Joint Procurement programme, with the controls in place across the GCC member states.”

High-quality medicines With vast potential to impact the lives of others, the Gulf Health Council takes very seriously putting the interests of citizens in the Gulf countries above all considerations. With a growing population in the region, healthcare is set to become even more important. The GCC healthcare market is projected to grow at a 12.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from an estimated US$40.3bn in 2015 to US$71.3bn in 2020, according to Alpen Capital. “The mission of the Gulf Joint Procurement programme is the development of a unified directory for medicines and medical supplies for all specialities, and the provision of high-quality medicines, medical supplies and devices to member states and participating hospitals, to the right location, at the right

time, and from the manufacturers registered with the Central Registration Programme, at fair prices. The ambition of Gulf Joint Procurement programme is to be the benchmark in the provision of standardised procurement services, based on global procurement standards,” reveals Alkathiry. In order to adhere to global procurement standards, Gulf Joint Procurement programme coordinates the process of selection, standards specification, and quantity of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and equipment required by Ministers of Health in member states, as well as standardising the preparation of tenders.

Ensuring safety The most prominent services that indicate the extent of progress and modernisation in a country are those services that concentrate on sustained health welfare and safety of the people. To this end, Gulf Joint Procurement programme ensures that all of the medicines it procures meet the highest safety







THROUGH MUTUAL PARTNERSHIP AND HONEST DIALOGUE, WE CAN FIND SOLUTIONS THAT BETTER SERVE PATIENTS. Learn more at medtronic.com/furthertogether 1. World Health Organization. 10 facts on ageing and the life course. http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/ageing/en/. Accessed September 17, 2015. *Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development 2. World Health Organization. Tracking universal health coverage. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/174536/1/9789241564977_eng.pdf?ua=1. Accessed September 17, 2015. 3. Porter E. A world of rising health care costs. New York Times: Economix blog. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/27/a-world-of-rising-health-care-costs/?_r=0. Accessed September 17, 2015.

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standards. “We supervise the process of receiving samples and ensure the safety of their use, storage and preparation during the tender stage,” states Alkathiry. The tendering services offered by Gulf Joint Procurement programme are possibly the most integral ones to the success of achieving its mission. “We receive tender documents, and source and prepare schedules of comparison between tenders. Also, we plan, coordinate and prepare meetings of the joint procurement committees,” reveals Alkathiry. “We follow-up on the recommendations of the executive committee and decisions issued by these committees and coordinate with the member states as to the combined quantities required. Finally, we announce the results of the purchase decision and recommendations, and we receive, verify and study complaints and objections concerning tenders, and refer to the supplementary commentaries.”

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January 2018




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Fatthi Alkathiry, Director, Gulf Joint Procurement, taking part on a discussion panel for a healthcare forum the most important factor in the procurement process. “The most important reasons for the success of Gulf Joint Procurement programme is committing to the time of tendering over the next 40 years. The whole tendering process takes around four months, starting from the directory updating meeting and preparation for tender until the tentative notice of award,” explains Alkathiry. “This attracted several bodies, other than the health ministries in the member states, to apply for participation in the Gulf Joint Procurement programme.”

Upgrading the health sector In order to achieve such success, Gulf Joint Procurement programme collaborates with a number of other key players. “Our partners are the ministries of health in the GCC. We have six countries there – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar. They are members of the Gulf Health Council. Also, we have more than 20 public hospitals like King Fahad Medical City, King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh, and King Abdullah Medical City in Mecca,” states Alkathiry.




Fatthi Alkathiry, Director, Gulf Joint Procurement “All suppliers from our programme are our partners also. We have about 18 categories of materials. “The mission of the Health Council is to promote and upgrade the health sector in member states by providing constructive initiatives and responding to the regional and global health issues. We challenge and support the decision-making process, and the health policies with the aim to strengthen the cooperation and integration between the member states, the health sector and among


January 2018

that, achieve the Council objectives. Its values are accountability, professional leadership, continuous development, evidencebased decisions, creativity and innovations, quality, cooperation and coordination, integrity and ethics.” Such partnerships and values have been key to the success of Gulf Joint Procurement programme. “I think we’re not successful without three main key factors – coordination, collaboration and integration,” Alkathiry comments. “Without these

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three main factors, the 40-year old Gulf Joint Procurement programme would not be successful.”

business, so if you don’t encourage your people to innovate, you are wasting your resources, I believe.”

Encouraging innovation

Automation for the people

Out of 50 employees within the Health Council, seven employees are serving in the Gulf Joint Procurement programme. Alkathiry strives hard to attract and retain the best staff to ensure the continued success of Gulf Joint Procurement programme. “I create a workspace where every employee is engaged by the work they do and inspired by who they work for. Without good staff you will not achieve your goal. The management structure achieves this by encouraging everyone to innovate. “It doesn’t have to be earthshattering. It can be a small change, but innovation equals improvement. Innovation must streamline, must enhance, must endure. Innovating our business by looking for ways to reduce expense, speeding up or streamlining processes, improving customer interactions and experience, making our products or services better. Innovation drives

Such innovation is central to Gulf Joint Procurement’s future plans. “I’m working now with my team to automate our processes. There are plans in the future, to implement a new system for the Gulf Joint Procurement programme. Currently we have requirement to automate our process, and link with the GCC countries and the suppliers to make quotations align, and to organise everything historically. The second thing - there are plans for expansion of the service procurement to market our services to the private hospitals to join in our programme,” Alkathiry concludes.



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