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An ITP Executive Publication







An ITP Executive Publication


IN THIS ISSUE 03 EDITOR’S LETTER 04 NEWS • SMEstack launches, promising easier, more efficient, and cheaper organisation for SMEs.

• Saudi employment start-up Glowork is acquired for $16m • Qatar is set to host a new SME expo for the region


06 LOCATION, LOCATION... twofour54 is a media hub, but is it the right place for you?


It might sould crazy to work for free, but there are benefits. We explore whether or not you should do it.


We pick five of the best networking opportunities across the UAE.




MD of Caboodle, Hind Abdulrazak, talks about what inspired the hugely popular children’s play area.


Find out why Dubai has been named an ICT hub.


Founder of new eatery Fraiche, Yousef Al Barqawi, describes his transition from analyst to restaurateur.



GM of PayPal MENA, Elias Ghanem, tackles the difďŹ culties of online payments

44 CROWDFUNDING We quiz crowdfunding newcomers MMKN.


How a Peruvian fashion fan is bringing a compatriot designer’s style to the streets of Dubai.


Filmmaker Motaz Nabulsi explains how he had to be patient before realising his creative dream.



Every start-up needs a helping hand. We list some of the best free business software on the market.

Should you set up a blog or a website? Tech expert Trish Jones assesses the two.



Jennifer Bourn gives tips on how to ďŹ nd more clients for your business.

Entrepreneurs are just as likely to be found in cafes as the ofďŹ ce. We proďŹ le some of the best business hangouts.



Shahram Safai of law ďŹ rm Afridi & Angell on the leagal side of venture capitalism

Health, wellness, leadership and spirituality. Deepak Chopra reveals the secret of how to excel in it all.


Recently retired rugby star Rory Lawson talks to StartUp about life after sport, and how athletes make the transition into business.



Branding guru John Brash tells us how he heped give Dubai its identity.


vol. 1 /october 2013

Editor’s letter Registered at Dubai Media City ITP Executive Publishing PO Box 500024, Dubai, United Arab Emirates tel +971 4 444 3000 fax +971 4 444 3030 ITP EXECUTIVE PUBLISHING CEO Walid Akawi MD, ITP PUBLISHING GROUP Neil Davies MANAGING DIRECTOR, ITP EXECUTIVE Karam Awad GENERAL MANAGER Peter Conmy EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Anil Bhoyrul EDITORIAL EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Rob Corder, email EDITOR Neil King tel +971 4 444 3142 email SUB EDITOR Edward Liamzon tel +971 4 444 3474 email ARABIANBUSINESS.COM GROUP EDITOR Will Milner tel +971 4 444 3184 email DEPUTY EDITOR Daniel Shane tel +971 4 444 3316 email STUDIO GROUP ART EDITOR Daniel Prescott SENIOR DESIGNER Adrian Luca DESIGNER Rey Delante CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER Jovana Obradovic SENIOR PHOTOGRAPHERS Isidora Bojovic, Efraim Evidor STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS Lester Ali, George Dipin, Juliet Dunne, Murrindie Frew, Lyubov Galushko, Verko Ignjatovic, Shruti Jagdesh, Stanislav Kuzmin, Mosh Lafuente, Ruel Pableo, Rajesh Raghav PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION GROUP PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION DIRECTOR Kyle Smith DEPUTY PRODUCTION MANAGER Basel Al Kassem PRODUCTION COORDINATOR Sonam Bhoneshwar MANAGING PICTURE EDITOR Patrick Littlejohn IMAGE EDITOR Emmalyn Robles DISTRIBUTION EXECUTIVE Nada Al Alami CIRCULATION RETAIL DEVELOPMENT MANAGER Osama Baraka tel +971 4 444 3629 email HEAD OF CIRCULATION & DATABASE Gaurav Gulati ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR Wissam Younane tel +971 4 444 3592, email GROUP SALES MANAGER Paul Williams, tel +971 4 444 3348, email GENERAL MANAGER — SALES (KSA) Rabih Naderi tel Direct/Fax +966 1 206 8697 email ONLINE ADVERTISING DIGITAL PUBLISHING DIRECTOR Ahmad Bashour, tel +971 4 444 3549, email GROUP SALES MANAGER, ARABIANBUSINESS.COM Gemma Dickson, tel +971 4 444 3835 email INTERNET APPS MANAGER Mohammed Affan OPERATIONS MANAGER Asad Azizi MARKETING HEAD OF MARKETING Daniel Fewtrell tel +971 4 444 3684, email EVENTS MANAGER Michelle Meyrick tel +971 4 444 3328, email ITP GROUP CHAIRMAN Andrew Neil MANAGING DIRECTOR Robert Serafin FINANCE DIRECTOR Toby Jay Spencer-Davies BOARD OF DIRECTORS KM Jamieson, Mike Bayman, Walid Akawi, Neil Davies, Rob Corder, Mary Serafin CORPORATE WEBSITE CIRCULATION CUSTOMER SERVICE tel: +971 4 4443000 WEB NOTICE The publishers regret that they cannot accept liability for error or omissions contained in this publication, however caused. The opinions and views contained in this publication are not necessarily those of the publishers. Readers are advised to seek specialist advice before acting on information contained in this publication, which is provided for general use and may not be appropriate for the readers’ particular circumstances. The ownership of trademarks is acknowledged. No part of this publication or any part of the contents thereof may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form without the permission of the publishers in writing. An exemption is hereby granted for extracts used for the purpose of fair review. PRINTED by United Printing Press, Abu Dhabi CONTROLLED DISTRIBUTION by Blue Truck All photos used in this magazine are by Gallo Images/Getty Images/Shutterstock/ Bloomberg Images unless otherwise credited.



NOTIONS OF GOOD LEADERSHIP SEEM TO CHANGE FROM PERSON TO PERSON, BUT IS THERE COMMON GROUND? WATCHING THE NEWS, it’s interesting to see leaders in action. Whether it’s a head of state, the manager of a football team, or the CEO of a company, there are certain qualities clear to the naked eye. Confidence, clarity of thought, and vision are just three, but there are many other leadership qualities that are harder to spot. Soft skills such as one-on-one man management, creativity when it comes to incentives, and the conviction to build a bold business plan are aspects of leadership that are hidden from public view, but still count every bit as much as the visible ones. Each leader has their own method - their own way of steering the ship and getting the best out of themselves and everybody around them. Speaking to former international rugby star Rory Lawson, I discovered he had come into contact with a range of different leadership types, from those who quietly lead by example, to those who make a point of giving constant instruction and advice. All of whom, he said, were validated in their methods. This issue of StartUp features Lawson himself a former captain - as well as wellness guru Deepak Chopra, PayPal chief Elias Ghanem, and children’s play area MD Hind Abdulrazak. All of them with different styles, and all of whom have built successful businesses, led successful projects, and developed successful ways to direct their business. Leadership is not formulaic. To me, that’s exciting. It leaves the door open for each of us to find our own technique and lead our own path, forging our own success in the p process.


News > TECH

Careem secures $1.7m investment


Cloud application SMEstack centralises a range of SMEs programmes in one organisational tool. new cloud based business application gives SMEs a raft of organisational systems in one easy-to-use package. SMEstack provides tools to manage, promote, and grow businesses, offering a cost-effective solution for small and medium sized enterprises which want to centralise their operations. Included in SMEstack are features including CRM, accounting, HR, tasks, social, and reports, all of which work together to keep the core mechanics of your business in one place. The CRM tool allows you to manage all business interactions with customers, clients and sales prospects, while the accounting software provides users with accurate record keeping of transactions purchases, expenses and bills. The HR function covers almost all HR tasks, recording and updating payrolls and vacations, and linking with other features. The Tasks feature helps keep your work organised and manageable; allowing you to set up tasks and reminders, as well as automatically sending emails after an action is started or completed.



Social media has become increasingly important in business, and the Social tool enables companies to broadcast content to all social channels, as well as measuring and analysing the impact of that content via a social dashboard. Finally, the Reports function provides anaylsis and reports that enable business intelligence, allowing you to measure, share and collaborate on the data and metrics that matter to you and your team. With the benefit of centralising operations, SMEstack has the potential to let you focus on your business rather than maintaining various different programmes. By synchronising all the features, your company’s interactions with clients, customers, as well as employees is manageable from one place. And being a cloud application, you can access it while on the road. The developers claim SMEstack can bring benefits such as saving money and time, a leaner workforce, better teamwork, and improved ROI. For start-up businesses and SMEs, this new product could be the ideal way to keep operations streamlined and easily managed.

A UAE-based ground transportation technology startup has received $1.7m in investment, with STC Ventures leading the funding. Careem, a chauffeurdriven car booking service, currently covers Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Riyadh, and will use the cash injection to strengthen its operating platform and expand operations across the Middle East. STC Ventures, backed by Saudi Telecom Company, invested the major part of the funds, with other prominent regional angel investors also contributing. Co-founder of Careem, Mudassir Sheikha, said: “We are very excited to have STC Ventures as an investor and partner. This investment will accelerate our regional expansion plans and further strengthen our operating platform that needs to cater to relatively complex logistics of the region.”


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QATAR TO HOLD SME EVENT The first Qatar International Exhibition for Small and Medium Industries is scheduled to take place in November, showcasing Qatar as a new tech hub in the region and a destination for SMEs around the world. Organised by Trans Continent Exhibitions & Conferences, the event

will be held at Doha Exhibition Centre between 17-19 November, and will focus on start-of-the-art technologies and products. Countries including the UAE, India, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Germany, Egypt and Palestine will have exhibitors at the event.


SAS Holdings buys 51 percent stake in Saudi employment company he first dedicated organisation for female employment through the Middle East has been acquired for $16m. Glowork, founded in 2011 by CEO Khalid Alkhudair, announced the acquisition by SAS Holding, the Saudi holding company that own Azian Telecommunications, Trade, and NTC among other companies. Currently a micro SME with ten employees, Glowork expects to employ 150 people within the next two years to help expand its work in enabling women to enter the world of work throughout the region. To date it has assisted thousands of young Saudi women in joining the labour market, and has


been hailed as an initiative which has driven social change in Saudi Arabia and beyond. With an online platform to help female jobseekers and employers, an offline headhunting arm, and partnerships with groups

including the Ministry of Labour, the investment will go towards increasing the reach of the business, as well as the services it offers. SAS Holding will hold the majority share of 51 percent, with the remaining equity split between founders Alkhudair, Jamal Almonsour, and Khalid Alsaleh. Alkhudair said: “Today is a day that showcases Saudi start-ups will lead the way for future generations. “We are thankful for everyone who has supported us during the past two years, from employees, the government and the private sector. This investment will allow us to achieve our full potential and the future is bright for Saudi women.”

DUBAI SME GRADUATES PROJECTS More than 100 projects have been turned into solid businesses by joining Dubai SMEs Business Incubation Centre (BIC). Start-ups have been supported by BIC since 2002, with more than 100 graduating between 2010 and 2013, primarily from the UAE’s commercial, professional and service sectors. BIC was set up as a strategic component of the entrepreneurial development ecosystem that Dubai SME

seeks to create, and features a range of programmes led by industry experts to help entrepreneurs overcome hurdles and turn their ideas into businesses. CEO of Dubai SME, Abdul Baset Al Janahi, said: “The Business Incubation Centre serves as a complete hub for local entrepreneurs,. “We are proud of its success in qualifying over 100 entrepreneurs during the last three years.”


AstroLabs heads to Silicon Valley UAE start-up AstroLabs, which aims to help other start-ups and SMEs to scale effectively, is to take part in a conference at Silicon Valley in October. Founders Muhammed Mekki and Louis Lebbos will head to Silicon Valley in the USA,for the conference held by Google for Entrepreneurs. A select group of 100 business leaders will discuss best practices in the education of entrepreneurs from around the world. The conference is part of AstroLabs’ recent growth, which has already included programmes in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Amman in Jordan, and a second event in Dubai.





WHAT’S IT LIKE? This free zone is designed for media and entertainment companies, with facilities to help the development of all its bu u businesses. Split across two ca a campuses, there are various property types to house companies of different shapes and sizes.

Just off Abu Dhabi’s eastern ring road, next to Khalifa Park and Al Bateen Executive Airport. There are also studios and other facilities next to Abu Dhabi’s National Theatre.

a Animation is one aspect of the facility. [06]


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a twofour54 was named after Abu Dhabi’s co-ordinates.

WHERE’S THE BEST BIT? It’s all good. No matter where you are you’ll be part of a collaborative community which looks to work together.


There’s a five-step guide to setting up on twofour54’s website.


WHAT’S THE DOWNSIDE? D If you’re working with partners in Dubai, b i you’ll ’ll b be clocking up a lot of miles on the road.


WHAT SORT OF BUSINESSES ARE THERE? Mainly media and entertainment, including film, broadcast, music, digital media, events, gaming, publishing and more.


T There’s a great community feel, and d twofour54 a as a company can help you find good contacts, o opportunities and support.

a The campus has plenty of space for businesses.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW? twofour54’s partners have included BBC, CNN, Sky News Arabia, and many more. [07]

Should I...





Where do I draw the line? You won’t survive if you give away your time and effort to everybody and for long periods of time, so it’s probably sensible to put a limit on what you’re offering and for how long. There’s a danger people could start to take advantage of you if you’re not clear about how much or little you’re willing to do. Don’t let anybody wring you for more than you’re willing or able to give. As much as you want to get your name out there, this is your livelihood and you have to protect yourself.

Who should I offer free work to?

On the face of it, no it doesn’t. After all, you’re not getting paid, and start-ups need money. But they also need a client base, and a reputation, and a network, all of which free work could get you if you go about things in the right way. If you’re new on the market and you need to exhibit what you can do, then free work could be an easy way for people to find out what you’re all about.

If people are unsure about the quality you can provide, maybe offer them a free sample, or a free hour’s worth of work – whatever is right for your business. But avoid people who are just looking for a freebie – try to assess whether they could become paying customers in the future. For your own wellbeing, it could also be a good idea to offer free work to charities, non-profit organisation, or valuable businesses which are struggling. And don’t forget to look for people who could do you a good turn somewhere along the line.

Is it all about publicity?

I’m not sure I can afford not to be paid

Not entirely. Obviously that’s a big part of it, but there are also times when you can do free work for somebody in return for something of equal value. Perhaps you need some design work, or some building work done – if you come to an agreement with the designers or builders to give something they need, then they can provide their services for free. It might not be possible very often, but teamwork among entrepreneurs and start-ups is definitely on the rise. You might also be able to

If you have serious reservations, then don’t do it. Yes, free work could bring benefits to your business, but if your business can’t survive without people paying you, then there’s no point. Always be sure to weigh up the pros and cons before deciding to offer something for free or not – startups can be very fragile and free work has the potential to either strengthen them or break them, so it’s important to know whether you can afford to do it or not.

This doesn’t seem like a good idea


hone or learn a new skill in the process, which is very important to some businesses.


vol. 1 /october 2013

Networking 3) UAE AE C Companies i 2020 Vision and Strategy Conference WHEN: 19 October WHERE: Dusit Thani, Dubai WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: With the aim of identifying and supporting the outlook of the UAE and nearby countries for the next five, ten, fifteen and 20 years, this conference hopes to develop sustainable strategies for emerging companies. The event will allow business leaders to meet, discuss important issues, network and build valuable contacts.

1) HR Summit and Expo 2013 WHEN: 7-9 October WHERE: Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre – Dubai World Trade Centre WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Key issues regarding HR will be at the centre of this gathering for HR professionals. HR clinics, free learning sessions, masterclasses, and talks by experts such as Tom Peters and Chester Elton (pictured) will all make up the largest HR show in the Middle East.

4) Abu Dhabi Media Summit W WHEN: 22-24 October W and nd d WHERE: Yas Viceroy Hotel, Yas Island W h i off media di WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: This gathering c companies and leaders has an emphasis on the transition to a digital future. Past speakers include Bill Gates, James Cameron of Titanic and Avatar fame, and Google’s Eric S Schmidt. Focusing on the digital frontiers of the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, East Asia and China, this is a must for media professionals.

5) The Marketing Show 5

2)) FFashion 2 hi F Forwardd 2013 WHEN: 15-18 October WHERE: Madinat Jumeirah WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Also known as FFWD, Fashion Forward brings together some of the most established and emerging fashion designers from across the region. Consumers, buyers, the media and the designers themselves will have the chance to network a this biannual event which also features talks, panels, and workshops.

W WHEN: 28-29 October W WHERE: Madinat Arena, Madinat Jumeirah W WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Featuring three shows in one, this ev event offers advice and insights into the world of marketing. S Social Media World will give business owners models on how to best use social media, Big Data World will teach attendees how to analyse a vast array of data, and Loyalty World Middle East will serve as an ideas exchange event for customer engagement strategies.


The socialite >



log versus website is a question I still get asked despite the popularity of blog software such as WordPress, Tumblr and Squarespace. Still, it’s a valid question and today it’s not just whether you should build a blog or a website, it’s how the definition of blog has changed and how you should build your site. First of all, I need to make this ultra clear: A blog is a website. In fact, I want to take that a stage further and say that blogs are dynamic websites, meaning that the content changes frequently and there is more interaction as well as the addi-


tion of news feeds, events and social media. When it comes to using content management software such as WordPress to build dynamic websites, what you can do is only limited by ability and imagination. The software you download for free from for example, was always considered blog software and purely used for diary type entries. However, WordPress has become a powerful Content Management System (CMS) and more and more people are building their sites using the software, even if they don’t want to blog. The advantage of using Word-

Press as a CMS is that it allows you to publish content such as written text, audio and video and have it online within minutes, unlike traditional static websites which can take hours to build and hours to update and which can cost you each time. WHAT ARE THE TIME FACTORS? Some years ago, I decided to put up a new website for one of my services. I was using a template and, it came with very clear step-by-step instructions. One of the things I had to do which drove me crazy was sit at my PC for hours, writing content for the site since I couldn’t upload the site to the server |

vol. 1 /october 2013


until all the pages were complete. To me, this is the one of the biggest plusses of using a content management system. You get the site up, write your first post and you are ready to go. I do also suggest you complete your About, Services and Contact pages too, since people are naturally curious and will want to know more about you. But there is no need to wait until you’ve written those pages to publish your site for the world to see. You can build as you go, step by step - flexibility that doesn’t come with html sites. Optimising your site for the search engines is also much easier with a blog. Each time you publish a blog post, you do what is called ‘pinging’ the update services. In other words, you automatically notify the search engines that there is new content on your site so ‘come and take a look!’ This gives the search engines occasion to come and visit your site to index its new content. So, another benefit is that blogs tend to be indexed much more often than traditional static websites. ON A TIGHT BUDGET? Generally, blogs are cheaper to build than static websites. Even if you get your neighbour to build you a static site for free, you will still need a budget to maintain and update it. Also, there is no pinging feature with static websites, so you either have to manually notify the search engines of your presence or you have to wait until the search engine spiders do their rounds, which could be months. Another benefit is that bloggers establish credibility much faster than static website owners because blogs by their very nature build a stronger and more vibrant knowledge base and community. Of course you can do this by adding articles to your static site but it comes down to cost again and, in my view, finding articles on a blog is usually much easier than navigating your way through a static website. PUBLISHING NEW CONTENT With a blog, you log into your back office, write your blog post and click the ‘publish’ button and

a Jones argues that blogs are easier to start, maintain and populate than static websites.

You get the site up, write your first post and you are ready to go. your content will be immediately published, ready for anyone who cares to read it. You can even categorise your posts making it easier for people to find your content and the search feature makes it super easy for them to find archived articles. With a static website, you have to open up your editor, such as Microsoft Expression or Adobe Dreamweaver, write the article, and update the page properties before uploading that page to your site using FTP (File Transfer Protocol) software. Once you’ve done all of that, you have to wait until the search engines do their rounds again, visiting your site to get the page indexed. This could take months, depending on the strategies that you employ. I have had mine and my clients’ blogs indexed within 24 hours or

less. One of my client’s sites was indexed within 36 hours and all she did was post about ten blog articles, which were mainly snippets from her book. The crazy thing was that the posts were not even properly optimised and had zero keywords, but her blog got the attention of the search engines. It’s not enough to get traffic, but it’s a good start. MY CONCLUSION If I’m asked the question, ‘blog versus website?’ I’m going to suggest blog using the WordPress CMS every time. By this I mean downloading the free software from, purchasing your own domain name and uploading the software to your hosting account. There are some great alternatives to WordPress such as Tumblr and Squarespace, but from a personal point of view I’m not a fan of proprietary software. Even with all the bells and whistles, there is going to be some limitation. That said, I know people who have successfully used these services, so don’t let it be a stumbling block to you broadcasting your message and building your business online.

This article first appeared on [11]

How to...

_ Getting out there and meeting people is important for winning clients.

get more clients

JENNIFER BOURN OF BOURN CREATIVE EXPLAINS HOW START-UPS CAN WIN MORE CLIENTS IN A SHORTER SPACE OF TIME tart up businesses need clients — any clients. Midlevel businesses need more clients and more money. Established, successful businesses need fewer, better, higher-paying clients. But how does a business owner go about getting clients? How do you get your first client? How do you get more clients? How do you get better clients? To help, here are eight marketing tips to help you attract the clients you need: Be sure to talk to at least three people every day about your business and what you do You cannot just sit behind your computer every day and expect people to magically find you and invest their money in your products, programmes, and services. Too many entrepreneurs rely on

1 [12]

the HAP method of attracting clients (hope and pray) and it simply doesn’t work. Hiding at home and posting fiendishly on social media sites may get you a few clients, but it’s not going to sustain a six figure business. You must get out of the house. If you can commit to talking to at least three different people about your business every day, you’ll be amazed at the change you’ll see in your clients, your stress, and your income.


Get out from behind your computer. Know where your target market is hanging out and go where they are Talking to three people a day about your business is great, but only one of those can be electronic communication. You need to do your research, find out where your ideal clients go

to network, learn, and grow their businesses — and you need to go there too.


Be ever present on your social networks, join in the conversation, and provide value and help Lurkers don’t get clients, build reputations, get remembered, or get referred new business. Social media is a long-term marketing strategy with a long lead generation cycle. Typically people will follow you on Twitter, or be friends with you on Facebook for months or even years before they finally decide to hire you or buy from you. That’s why you need to be ever-present on the social networks you can commit to. Be there with great, valuable, helpful content, answer questions, assist others, join in conversations, be engaged. |

vol. 1 /october 2013


Sporadic, infrequent posting dilutes the trust your network has in you. The fortune is in the follow up. It’s where the magic that turns connections into clients happens Failure to follow up is one of the most common ways that entrepreneurs and business owners sabotage their own success by simply not collecting the money on the table. Millions of dollars are lost by businesses around the world every year simply because they get busy and they fail to follow up with leads from networking events, conferences, social media, email, voicemail, referrals, and more. If you want or need to make more money, fix your follow up and you’ll see an increase in your bottom line.



There are a lot of people trying to reach the same consumers you are. Offer them something free to pull them to you Let’s be clear, there are free offers and there are opt-in offers. Neither offer requires you to spend money, but one requires you to give your email in exchange for the item, so it really isn’t free. I believe you need to have both types on your website. Provide instant access, no opt-in required resources to build trust and credibility to strangers, and provide opt-in offers for those who feel like they know you and are ready to give you their email address. No matter what, make sure you’re giving something away of value, something people really want, that’s so good you thought maybe you should charge for it. Otherwise your offer is just taking up space. Prospects want to see you have the solution to their problem and that you offer multiple choices for them to engage When new prospects are visiting your website, they want to see that you understand what they are struggling with or need help with, and that you have the solution to their problem that they have been looking for. Visitors want to be reassured that they are in the right place by reviewing your offers and seeing that you have multiple options for them to engage with


a Communicating your services efficiently can help people trust your business.

You need to be ever-present on the social media networks you at different price points. If you can provide testimonials with or near your offers, you will help communicate the results and benefits they can receive when working with you. Be able to communicate all the important details about your business in 30 seconds or less We’ve all been there. You ask someone about their business at a networking event and they respond with an explanation that goes on forever. They never seem to stop talking and all you want to do is get away! It is imperative that you are able to communicate the core aspects of your business to a stranger in 30 seconds or less in a way that makes sense. Here’s a quick formula to help: I help ____________ achieve _____________ so they can ______________.


Ask for referrals and be very clear about who would be a perfect fit for your services, products, and programs Your happy customers and


satisfied clients want to give you referrals! They want to help their friends and contacts who are struggling find the same success they have … but sometimes they may think you don’t need their referrals (crazy, I know), or they aren’t sure how to refer people to you, or they aren’t sure who would be best to refer to you. Reach out to your clients and customers, share with them your ideal client profile, and ask them if they know anyone who fits that description and who would benefit from working with you. ABOUT JENNIFER BOURN As Creative Director of the design agency Bourn Creative, Jennifer Bourn leads all consulting, strategy and creative projects. She is an award-winning designer, specialising in custom WordPress theme design, brand design, logos, and graphic design for small business. Entrenched in the world of online business, Jennifer consults with clients around the world on branding, website planning, and marketing strategies that leverage the internet to generate leads, attract clients, and create opportunities. She speaks regularly at live events, conferences, and workshops around the country, as well as on radio shows, teleclasses, webinars, and podcasts. Learn more about Jennifer Bourn and Bourn Creative at [13]




ubai has become the undisputed entrepreneurial capital of the Middle East due to its soft and physical infrastructure and its openness to business. It attracts investors, world-class advisors and, of course, entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs can be MBAs, bankers, computer professionals, engineers, health professionals and many others. But, where is a starting entrepreneur to find money? Banks are strict and require a proven business plan, a track record, revenues and audited financials, which many entrepreneurs do not have. Traditional investors in the region focus on a 51:49 investment mentality which is more likely to become a lose-lose proposition for a start-up entrepreneur.


In such situations, most commonly, an entrepreneur’s choice will be between raising the funds from family and friends and obtaining venture capital financing. Family and friends may be willing to invest at a lower price (i.e., to accept a higher valuation of the company at the time they invest) but often bring little else to the table. Venture capitalists may demand a lower valuation but will almost always bring many intangibles that can assist the company to grow faster and to be more successful. They request a business plan but not audited financials, or a track record. Venture capital financing can be an attractive funding source for other reasons as well. Venture capital may allow the entrepre-

neur to raise all of the capital from one source, or from a lead investor who can attract other venture funds. Venture capitalists have experience with the challenges of start-ups and know how to grow a company to an initial public offering, sale of the business, or other liquidity event. Experienced venture capitalists have a large network of contacts who can help the company succeed. Venture capitalists are often able to provide valuable assistance in recruiting other members of the management team. Also, being venture-backed gives an enterprise a certain cachet, which can open doors to other financing and resources. Venture capitalists have focused on the information-technology |

vol. 1 /october 2013

industry, which includes computer hardware and software, scientific instruments, telecommunications, multimedia, and, cyberspace. Examples include Yahoo!, and Apple Computer. Venture capital investing has also been in life science companies, including those focusing on biotechnology, medical devices, diagnostics, and therapeutics. Genentech and Amgen were both venture-backed. They have also invested successfully in retail, consumer products, new materials, health services, and environmental technology. Venture capital financing has been on the rise in the Middle East and such rise is set to accelerate exponentially in Dubai in the next decade. Venture capitalists normally request preferred shares in return for their investments. The rights and protections normally given venture capitalists buying preferred shares include the liquidation preference, the dividend preference, redemption rights, antidilution provisions, voting rights, right of first refusal, co-sale rights and vesting on Founders’ shares. The following is a brief description of such rights which should be carefully negotiated and even more carefully drafted into a contract: Liquidation preference Upon liquidation of the company, the preferred share will receive a certain fixed amount before any assets are distributed to the common shares. Dividend preference Generally, a dividend must be paid to the preferred shares before any dividend is paid to the common shares. This dividend may be noncumulative and discretionary, or it may be cumulative so that it accrues from year to year until paid in full. Redemption Preferred shares may be redeemable, either at the option of the Company or the investors or mandatorily on a certain date, perhaps at some premium over the initial purchase price of the shares.

a Venture capitalists can often provide good contacts to help your business succeed.

Venture capitalists have experience with the challenges of start-ups Anti-dilution protection The conversion price of the preferred shares into common shares (i.e. for an initial public offering) will be subject to adjustment for diluting events, such as share splits or share dividends, and will probably also be subject to “price protection,” which is adjustment upon future sales of shares at prices below the conversion price. Voting rights On general matters, preferred shares usually votes along with common shares and have a number of votes equal to the number of shares of common shares into which it is convertible. The preferred shares also typically have special voting rights, such as the right to elect one or more of the company’s directors or approval of certain types of corporate actions, such as amendments of the Memorandum, mergers or creation of a new series of preferred shares.

Right of first refusal Holders of preferred shares generally will have a right to participate, usually at up to an investor’s current aggregate ownership percentage, in any future issuance of securities by the company. Co-sale right Preferred investors often will require founders to agree to co-sale rights which provide some protection against founders selling their interest in the company to a third party by giving investors the right to sell a portion of their shares as part of any such sale. Vesting on founders’ shares As a protection against founders leaving the company after the investment money is in, venture capitalists generally insist on some sort of “vesting” on founder’s shares, so that a percentage of such shares, decreasing over time, is subject to repurchase by the company at cost if a founder terminates his or her employment. Seeking investment from a venture capital fund or “angel” venture capital investor can provide much needed “smart” capital for an entrepreneur. However, the rights and protections must be negotiated and carefully legally drafted to obtain a balance between founder control and venture capital know how.

Shahram Safai practices venture capital law and represents venture capitalists, investors and entrepreneurs. Shahram is also a professional engineer and has previously worked in the Silicon Valley in California practicing venture capital law, mergers, and acquisitions. He is a partner at the law firm of Afridi & Angell. [15]


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a Rory Lawson enjoyed success with Gloucester and other rugby clubs but was forced to retire this year due to injury.

What do professional sportsmen and women do when they retire? How do they transition from the job they’ve known for their whole lives to something completely new? It’s a daunting prospect for any elite athlete. Most have spent the best part of every day of their entire adult lives honing their skills in their chosen field. So when it comes to making such a big change, many struggle to adapt. According to a Professional Players Federation survey, 24 percent of ex-professional sportsmen have fought health, addiction or financial problems, while 32 percent do not feel in control of their lives after retiring, seventeen percent suffering anxiety or stress, and sixteen percent experiencing depression or feelings of despair. But increasingly players’ associations in various sporting disciplines are providing valuable support to help ease the transition from one chapter to the next. [18]

Indeed, the same survey also painted a positive picture, with 79 percent of retired athletes saying they were content with their lives. Retirement can come at any stage, with ever-increasing physical demands leading to greater risk of serious injury. One man who was forced into early retirement is former captain of the Scottish national rugby team, Rory Lawson. A chronic wrist injury meant that at the age of 32 he was fast-tracked into find-

“The great thing about Dubai is that a lot of pople have been in my position and know what it’s like.”

ing a new career, but as the scrumhalf explains there are now plenty of opportunities for pro athletes, with many crossovers between sport and business. “In rugby we talk about individual drive, teamwork, discipline and leadership. All of these are important to succeed in business as well. “That get-up-and-go, and desire to be successful at whatever you do is there within every player, in every sport, and it’s that kind of drive that can give you an advantage in the business world.” Lawson’s professional career spanned more than a decade, starting at Edinburgh before spending six successful years at Gloucester, and finishing at Newcastle Falcons. He made 31 appearances for Scotland – five as captain – as well as enjoying three outings for the Barbarians. Now, with injury forcing him to the sidelines, Lawson is in the UAE exploring his options in business. |

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Rory Lawson

a Lawson is exploring options in Dubai.

He says: “The great thing about Dubai is that a lot of people have been in my position and know what it’s like. They have proved you can succeed when you move out here, that there are opportunities here to start something new. “I’m starting to get a lie of the land and finding out what options there are. It’s a new chapter of our lives, and it’s really exciting.” Perhaps more prepared than many for the career change, he admits that “there isn’t a day that’s gone by in the past couple of years where I didn’t think about what I would do after retiring,” and explains he’s been taking steps towards the transition for many years. “I’ve always been aware that I would have two very different careers,” he says. “You don’t get too many 65 years old playing

a Lea Leadership is one of the key aspects of sport that translates to business.

I can’t look beyond the South Africa test in 2010. It was my first g game as captain of Scotland, at Murrayfield, playing against tthe h world champions at the time. I had missed the game before w with broken hand, and we’d lost that 40-0, so training that week h had been intense. We ended up beating them, and that was a m massive moment for me and one I’ll always treasure.


SPORT rugby, after all. So I did my degree before playing rugby, to give me a good grounding after my playing career ended. “There’s a lot you can do during your career as well. There are only so many hours you can train, so if you know what’s ahead of you, there’s enough time to prepare for it. “We also have the Rugby Players Association which really helps you with preparing for life after your professional career. They are there for you to bounce ideas off, offer advice, and things like that, which is a big help. It helps with contacts and placing you within businesses, and can provide you with a launchpad to put your interests into action. “But it’s the responsibility of the player to work out and talk about what they want to do. It’s our responsibility to go to them to talk about their ideas, plans, concerns, or whatever it might be.” Studying at Edinburgh Univer-

“There are only so many hours you can train, so if you know what’s ahead of you, there’s enough time to prepare for it.”

a During his playing career, Lawson became involved in start-up businesses.

sity, Lawson enjoyed a good relationship with one of the professors, influential businessman Bill Gammell, who gave the student Lawson work experience at his oil an gas company Cairn Energy. As a player, Lawson developed his business interests despite the increased pressure that professional sport brings.

He explains: “When I went to Gloucester, I found myself in a completely new environment. The intensity was massive because of the passion they have for rugby there. They eat, drink, sleep and breathe rugby, so there was a lot more intensity to the training and the playing. “I kept up with business interests, though. My brother has a couple of businesses that I helped in, and I was involved in some

The teammates I love are the ones who week in, week out, perform consistently well doing the work that goes unnoticed.. My first captain was Todd Blackadder – he had been All Blacks ks captain, which should tell you all you need to know. He came across to Edinburgh and wasn’t a big talker but when he did, everybody listened. He led by example every time, and he told l-us that if we all did our jobs then we’d be fine. He has an excellent rugby brain. I played with James Simpson-Daniel at Gloucester. I didn’t ace know him before playing there but saw him playing and his pace was frightening. If he had been more fortunate with injuries orr had been Scottish, he’d have had at least 80 caps.



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Rory Lawson

“A lot of companies and institutions take a gamble on the qualities that these guys have as people.”

a Lawson has an MA in business studies.

start-ups. One was a business that does protein ice cream, called Wheyhey Ice Cream, and another is a company that does omega3 fish oil. “We’ll possibly try to bring that to the UAE because it has a number of health benefits for

people with type 2 diabetes. It’s used in the sport industry because it’s great for limiting the damage of bumps and bruises, but it could have a real impact here as well.” Sport, and rugby in particular, has a phenomenal track record when it comes to business. Legends of the oval ball Serge Betsen, Anton Oliver, and Gavin Hastings have opened spas and consultancy firms, acquired masters degrees in business studies, and risen to the role of director. They join an illus-

trious list of business successes from sport including boxing’s king of the grill, George Foreman; former Liverpool FC star Robbie Fowler, whose property portfolio is estimated to be worth almost $50m; and CEO of V Starr Interiors, multiple grand slam winning tennis player Venus Williams. Indeed, Lawson’s former professor Gammell was a rugby player himself before setting up Cairn Energy, a company which is now valued at $2.6bn. “A lot of players I’ve known have gone into coaching, and that’s a route I could potentially take further down the line,” says Lawson. “But others go into banks and corporations and try to work their way up. “A lot of companies and institutions take a gamble on the qualities that these guys have as people. A lot of people who are high achievers in sport carry that through into the working world. “I have a friend who is a CEO of a


of retired athletes say they are content with their lives

a Lawson made 31 appearances for Scotland, five of which were as captain. [21]

SPORT company in London and doing very well. It’s really refreshing to speak to a guy who has only been out of the game for three years and is now at the head of a company. He had the drive to succeed.” Given Lawson’s family ties, the retirement spotlight may have fallen more heavily on him than others. His father, Alan, was also a Scottish international during the amateur era, and one time president of Scottish Rugby. And Lawson captained his grandfather, Bill Scotland five times McLaren, was widely regarded as the during his career sport’s finest ever commentator. “From my dad’s perspective I think it was almost easier those days,” he says. “They had their jobs and did their work, so they weren’t faced with the same issues as today. “Don’t get me wrong - being paid to do a job and sport you love is significantly better, but it doesn’t prepare you for the next chapter. He was aware that I needed to do something, and having worked while playing rugby, he was always keen that I was prepared.” So what chance Lawson could follow his grandfather - the man he calls Papa - into media? “I’ve had little experiences here and there of TV and radio appearances, and I really enjoy it,” he admits. “I’m passionate about sport, and I enjoy being involved in it, but commentary and analysis is a small barrel full of big fish. In any case, the majority of people involved in TV have interests elsewhere as well. “Papa was ahead of his time. He probably prepared for his commentary better than a lot of


“One of the main things I’ve learnt is that there’s no right or wrong way to lead. No hard and fast rule.” [22]


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Rory Lawson

Being a scrum-half I don’t have many one-on-ones with other er players. It was always hard playing against Australia’s Will Genia – you have to shadow him everywhere and watch him constantly because he’s so threatening with the ball in hand.. Then at an international level, Scotland has produced some superb scrum halves. Mike Blair and Chris Cuisiter especially. I’ve been playing with these guys since we were very young, and have been competing with them for the Scotland ach, shirt. It’s been incredibly tough. They’ve got so many caps each, and with 31 caps for me, it means that for the about 10 yearss there have only really been three players in that position.

the players prepared for the game. He was so dedicated to what he did, and he was his own harshest critic. If he ever named a player wrongly, or couldn’t get out the words he wanted, then he’d be really hard on himself. “Preparation is the key whether you’re in the commentary box or on the pitch, and that’s yet another aspect of sport that translates to business.” A key word often associated with team sports - and captaincy in particular - is leadership. Having been captain of both club and country, and played under and alongside some of rugby’s finest, it’s a topic Lawson is well versed in.

“One of the main things I’ve learnt is that there’s no right or wrong way to lead. No hard and fast rule. I’ve played with a number of different captains who have been incredible, but who have had

“As a leader on the pitch you need to know how to treat each type of personality to get the best out of them.”

a Lawson’s grandfather, Bill McLaren, is regarded Rugby’s finest ever commentator.

completely different styles. “Again, we could easily be talking about business here. In rugby and in business, you need to understand what makes people tick - including yourself. “Nobody is a robot. Everybody has different motivations and reacts to things in different ways. In rugby you need to know how to talk with each teammate. “Some people want individual success, others want to represent their family, and others want to be read about in the paper. As a leader on the pitch you need to know how to treat each type of personality to get the best out of them. “If somebody makes a mistake and you know it’s because their head is elsewhere, then you know they need a kick in the backside. Others who are switched on and make a rare mistake don’t need that – they need encouragement. It’s those kids of soft skills that can make a difference. “It’s also important to always lead by example. I don’t know a single good leader who can be respected by his team if he’s not doing a job themselves. This goes for business too. Getting the best out of people is vital in day-to-day business, and it’s something that everybody has to strive for. “Whether it’s a rugby team or a company, if it works well, it’s because everybody is working together. And it’s a philosophy I’m certainly going to take forward into the business world. [23]




nybody with children in Dubai will know the value of a kids’ play area. Whether you’re taking the opportunity to grab an hour’s rest, stimulating your children with various activities, or bonding by experiencing something fun together, the benefits of using a play area can be huge. But with so many out there, how does a play area stand out from the crowd? Hind Abdulrazak, managing director of Caboodle Pamper and Play in Dubai Mall, believes she has found the secret. “We wanted a place that combined several factors in one space. There is the children’s play area, a space for younger kids – which isn’t so common in Dubai – a café, and a pampering area.


“It’s comfortable for the children but also the parents, the aunts, uncles, grandparents, and so on. Quality time is so fleeting in a place like Dubai, so if the play area isn’t comfortable for a father, for example, that’s really going to impact the experience. We try to be comfortable, homely, and traditional, so the whole family can enjoy it.” Having opened in 2012, Caboodle has made a name for itself as something more than just a play area. With a mission statement that identifies children as “respected and recognised individuals,” and sets out the aim of fostering “exploration, play and a lifelong love of learning,” it uses its foundation as a play area to build a genuinely beneficial centre for independence, creativity, respect, sociability, and wellbeing. All of which stems from Abdulrazak’s own experience as an aunt. “My sister has four children


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“Quality time is so fleeting in a place like Dubai, so if the play area isn’t comfortable for a father, for example, that’s really going to impact the experience.” [25]


a Caboodle focuses on traditional crafts for young children.

under four years old,” she said. “We have co-parented them, so we’ve been to every play area in Dubai, every event in Dubai. And we’ve traveled quite a bit as well, so we’ve been to play areas and events in different parts of the world too. “As an aunt, I wanted to establish a place where I would be happy to bring the children. Somewhere that did more than the usual. Play area’s are always made with the child in mind, but they often aren’t spaces for a families as a whole to enjoy. And they don’t usually focus on holistic development and entertainment, which is what we try to do.” Part of a family business that also includes the hugely popular Sisters Beauty Lounge, Caboodle hopes to emulate its success, and while it may take time to match Sisters’ growth, Abdulrazak is confident Caboodle has been established on solid foundations. “We are our own customers,

“It’s so important everything is healthy for the children.”


which is a massive help. We can ask what we would want for our children. We don’t want them in front of the TV or video game, so we can ask ourselves what we would rather do. It’s much easier to start a company this way. Half the battle is won.” She reveals it was actually Dubai Mall which contacted her family to establish a children’s venue, but that the original concept didn’t sit comfortably with them from a business point of view, leading them to adapt and change it to suit their vision. “It’s normally very difficult to get a spot at Dubai Mall, but because we already have Sisters here, it was made easier for us. The mall approached up to open a children’s area, which is something we wanted to do anyway. “However, we were originally asked to do a children’s salon, not a play and pamper area. We did all the studies we needed to do, and as a business it wasn’t sustainable at all. It’s a small industry and you can’t really do much with it as a concept. “We looked at a slightly different concept that we preferred, based on the idea that Dubai Mall would like us to do something with children. We tweaked the salon concept and came up with a business where we could do several things under one roof on a |

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Hind Abdulrazak much smaller scale. We changed the idea of the salon to include mothers, so it’s a ‘mother and me’ salon. “Then we added the play aspect, the café, and so on. It seemed like the right thing to do. It’s now much more homely and traditional, and it gives more options to the families that come here. People like the fact Caboodle feels like home away from home. The mall attracts a lot of tourists who can sometimes be overwhelmed by Dubai, so it’s nice to have something homely.” It’s not just the Abdulrazak spent traditional arts and crafts, pampering six years at Emaar options, and food before joining the and drink on offer family business that appeals to people. According to Abdulrazak the hygiene of the venue is something that draws praise. She says: “We’ve had a lot of great comments from people about the hygiene and cleanliness that a lot of play areas don’t have. “It was always important to us that our location was clean, comfortable and a great environment. We wanted to create a place where working mothers were happy to leave their children, and for families to spend quality time. We need our customers to be confident in Caboodle, and that comes by giving a lot of care and attention. “It’s not the same as Europe or the USA when it comes to ensuring the children’s safety – there are fewer rules and regulations. So it’s upon ourselves to make sure it’s of the highest standard, and we want to make sure we’re doing a good job.” This attention to detail in terms of health is also apparent in the food and products Caboodle uses. With a policy to bring in local and organic items, Abdulrazak says it’s vital the children benefit rather than suffer as a result of eating or using any of them. “It’s so important everything is healthy for the children. Everything here has been looked into by experts, be it the safety of Caboodle itself, the food in the café, or the products we use in the salon. “Organic is an important thing for us – wellbeing is a key pillar [27]


“Hopefully there will be deals in place for more branches in the Gulf next year, and then who knows?” of what we’re trying to do here. “Parents are much more wellread than ever before, and they don’t want to be in an environment where their kids might come into contact with anything that’s harmful. We put a lot of effort into making everything here organic, and people appreciate that. The nail polish, hair products, coffees – it’s all organic. “Dubai still isn’t quite used to that kind of concept and isn’t necessarily set up for it either. The suppliers you need aren’t always there, which means the price can be a bit higher, but I would rather provide quality products at a premium price that stocking things that aren’t good enough.” As an Emirati herself, Abdulrazak is keen to keep as much of Caboodle as local as she can, adding that “everything here is locally made or grown”, and that the “UAE has everything we need, but you have to do a bit more research to find the best products. But we’re happy to put that hard work in.” As with any company, Caboodle is only as good as its staff – something not lost on Abdulrazak, who admits that finding the right staff is the most challenging part of the business. “Without the right staff it can all go downhill very quickly,” she says. “Finding the right staff for you in this part of the world is definitely tricky, but we’re lucky to have done it. All of our staff have medical experience, or educational experience, or something else that’s relevant to the job, having worked in hospitals, schools, and so on. “We take a lot of pride in our staff – we’re very much a family as opposed to a business. We believe [28]

a Abdulrazak says she would like to turn Caboodle into a global brand.

that if we look after our staff, then they will look after us, and they do a very good job. A lot of the time businesses under-appreciate the qualities in a person. We try to look out for each person’s qualities that may not be on the CV, and we believe that’s the kind of thing that takes business to another level. “We train them heavily in fire and safety, as well as first aid. That’s in all areas of our business. When you’re working with children you can’t afford to do anything less.” Caboodle will soon be opening its second branch in Jumeirah City

Walk, and is currently in talks with a handful of potential franchisees to roll the concept across the GCC. Abdulrazak also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of growing the brand around the world. “We would love to branch out and make Caboodle a global brand. Hopefully there will be deals in place for more branches in the Gulf next year, and then who knows? People from the US say they’ve not seen anything like this before and would love to see it there, so there’s definitely potential for expansion.” Having previously worked for Emaar for more than six years, |

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Hind Abdulrazak

a Staffing is a difficult issue, according to Abdulrazak, but she believes Caboddle has succeeded with it.

Abdulrazak has experienced first hand the ups and downs of business. She talks affectionately about her time at the real estate company, claiming it gave her a head start when it came to becoming an entrepreneur. “Emaar was great for me. What I learnt there is what a lot of people learn in a lifetime. The company went from small to big, and then to more humble again, and I got to have a hand in various different things. “This has helped when it comes to the family business, where you have to be able to do finance, marketing, sales, and more. When you have a start-up company, you learn a lot of things very quickly. But you don’t mind doing it. When it’s your own business you put blood sweat and tears into it.” So what advice would she give to other budding entrepreneurs? “You have to be a bit crazy to be

an entrepreneur in the first place,” she asserts. “Every night is a sleepless night. It comes with the territory. You have to love what you do – a lot! You have to be fully present as well. A lot of people have staff to run the business for them, but don’t work for themselves. I don’t work that way – I’m at Caboodle itself several times every week.” Balancing Caboodle with other roles, including creative work with Sisters, indulging in her passion for interior design, and working on other projects that are “too early to talk about”, Abdulrazak may seem like a glutton for punishment. Indeed, she confesses she’s “one of those people who likes to take on too much”. But she also says that she’s in one of the few places that can allow her to do that. “Dubai is the best market for entrepreneurs. If you’ve got something you want to offer to the

“When you have a start-up company, you learn a lot of things very quickly. But you don’t mind doing it.” world, start in Dubai. The crowd here is open to new things, and it’s very cosmopolitan. Plus you have access to great support. “This place definitely welcomes start-up businesses, especially if you’re offering people something unique. Of course you have to do the ground work and research everything thoroughly, but once you do that you can really do great things here.” [29]




ubai is the best networked city in the Middle East, according to a new index released by global technology giant Ericsson. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha have been named the best regional cities for delivering technology-based benefits to its residents. The first Networked Society MENA City Index analysed the levels of ICT-driven benefits created in eleven of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s largest cities. One of the key findings of this report was that, in general, the


eleven cities covered showed high ICT maturity levels in terms of infrastructure development and usage of ICT services when compared to major cities in the global report. The report also highlighted the increasing influence of ICT in supporting entrepreneurial activities within the region. The importance of connectivity for businesses, and the empowerment it brings, was clear from the high levels of internet usage with penetration rates comparable with many international business hubs, including Shanghai and London.

Furthermore, mobility was also a key indicator from the study, with Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Doha all revealing 100 percent mobile phone usage, and other analysed cities falling no lower than 83 percent. The results revealed a strong correlation between high levels of ICT maturity, and usage, within a city to the number of start-up businesses and entrepreneurial innovations being launched, for example in music and video streaming, e-commerce and cloud services. Anders Lindblad, president, Region Middle East and North |

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Africa, Ericsson said: “ICT has become an integral part of our working environment and will continue to be an important resource for business growth. “The environment of entrepreneurship and innovation is enhanced by ICT as it provides the tools and infrastructure that make it easy for entrepreneurs to start a business. ICT nurtures innovation and helps people realise their ideas for new companies, products and services. It provides access to a market far greater than was previously possible for start-ups.” Lindblad added: “Trends suggest that more than 60 percent of all people in the region will live in cities by 2030. In the future, advances in technology and infrastructure performance will continue to change our lives, as ICT has the potential to help us meet some of our great societal challenges. “The report shows high levels of ICT maturity in the MENA region in terms of infrastructure and usage and indicates the untapped opportunities to leverage the socioeconomic benefits.” Other cities that were part of the index included Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Jeddah, Riyadh, Khartoum, Istanbul and Muscat. A total of 28 indicators were used to measure the total benefits in the index for each city. A separate report earlier this year ranked the UAE as the Arab world’s most innovative country, based on its high-quality of infrastructure, strong government support and development of economic free zones. The 2013 Global Innovation Index, produced by Cornell University, Insead and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), ranked the Gulf state as the 38th most innovative economy on the planet. Criteria of the study, which rated 142 countries, were based on factors including quality of universities, availability of microfinance and venture capital, as well as spending on research and development. The UAE scored highly in areas including ease of paying taxes, online government services, general infrastructure, creative output and competitiveness. The

a The UAE is becoming increasingly well known as a an innovative technology hub.

ICT nurtures innovation and helps people realise their ideas country was rated seventh best in the world for cluster development, with the UAE known for its efforts in designating knowledge-based free zones, such as Dubai Media City and twofour54. However, the state was down one place compared to the 2012 index. One area in which the UAE has lagged behind many of its peers, like other Arab countries, is in the output criteria, where it ranked 123rd in the world for export of creative goods. Elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia was ranked 42nd in the world, one place ahead of Qatar, while Kuwait was ranked 50th and Bahrain 67th. Impoverished Yemen and war-torn Syria favoured less well in the rankings, coming 142nd and 134th, respectively. On a global basis, the rankings were topped by Switzerland, followed by Sweden and the UK. Singapore was one of the highest rated countries to suffer in this year’s index, with it toppling out of

the top three to eighth place. The study encouraged national governments to develop hubs of innovation activity based on their own strengths, rather than try to replicate the successes of renowned clusters such as Silicon Valley. “For national-level policy makers seeking to support innovation, realising the full potential of innovation in their own backyards is often a more promising approach than trying to emulate successful innovation models elsewhere,” said Francis Gurry director general of WIPO. “These hubs leverage local advantages with a global outlook on markets and talent.” The index highlighted Dubai’s Internet City, the largest ICT cluster in the Middle East, and Singapore’s ‘Knowledge Hub’ as successful examples of executing this strategy. “What happens at the subnational level typically in clusters or among regions or in the city are at least as important as the countrywide type of data,” added Bruno Lanvin, executive director, INSEAD European Competitiveness Initiative and co-author, Global Innovation Index Report. “We see the emergence of these multifaceted, multitalented, multilayered type of clusters as an ingredient for success.” [31]





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a Yousef Al Barqawi has become a resaurateur after a career as a financial analyst.

ife changing moments can come in all shapes and sizes. For some it’s the discovery of new knowledge, for others it’s a change in financial circumstances. For Yousef Al Barqawi it was surgery. “I wish I could tell you there was a very carefully crafted plan but it was really just a spur of the moment thing. It seems a bit crazy looking back, but it was an impulse I had to follow. “I had gone in for surgery, and I woke up with just one thing on my mind – that I had to open a restaurant.” The result was Fraiche Café & Bistro, Dubai’s latest eatery, located in Swiss Tower, Jumeirah Lake Towers. Born out of a love for good food, and the desire to establish a café he would feel comfortable relaxing in, Al Barqawi explains that his journey to launch was not an obvious one, and actually has its roots in yoga. “A while ago my girlfriend and I were looking to open a yoga studio – she’s a yoga teacher so we were [34]

looking for a good space. It didn’t really happen, but we did find a good location in JLT, close to the space we’re in now. We asked a few questions but nothing came of it. “Then for Fraiche the same estate agent showed us this place, and a few days after the surgery I had signed the lease for it. It all happened so quickly, but I felt I had to do it. There was no turning back then.” A gastronome at heart, Al Barqawi studied classical French cuisine at a young age, but admits he “didn’t do anything with it”. His love for food, however, remained strong. “I grew up in family where we had lengthy conversations about how one type of food compared to

“I asked myself where would I want to go? Where woudl I want to eat and hang out?”

another,” he says. “Every Friday we would get together and have a great meal. I had a grandmother who, if anybody tells me there’s a better cook, I won’t believe them. That passed to my mother and down to myself. We care about food a great deal. “It helps that we traveled a lot by the nature of my dad’s work at the time. I experienced different countries and different cultures, and with that came different tastes and ways of cooking things. Not to be specific, but a hamburger is a hamburger anywhere in the world, but it will be done differently here than it’s done in South Africa, or any other part of the world. It’s hard to not be interested in that.” It was finance and not food, however, that Al Barqawi initially pursued as a career, working as an analyst in Canada having studied computer science and philosophy at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Moving to the UAE to continue his career, he admits that in his former professional capacity he would never advise a client to take the same route into business as he has done, adding |

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Yousef Al Barqawi that he has something of a dual personality when it comes making decision. He says: “I’m a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act really. Getting into this venture altogether was very big and bold move, but by nature I’m very contemplative. I try In the USA alone, to think four to five 130 million people steps ahead. Some eat at restaurants decisions take a long daily. time, others seem to just happen impulsively. It’s like I’m in a partnership with myself sometimes!” Fraiche has already garnered rave reviews for its relaxed atmosphere, and good food. With dishes ranging from the indulgent twice cooked lamb shoulder, 150-day aged grainfed rib-eye steak, and ox-cheek cottage pie, through the easy-going spicy prawn rap and open-faced pastrami sandwich, to the downright devilish Canadian classic poutine, Fraiche appears to have got it right. According to Al Barqawi, it all came from working out what he would want from a venue. “I started with the most obvious question,” he says. “I asked myself where would I want to go? Where would I want to eat and hang out? “There were some things I’d been missing since being in Dubai – certain types of food and a certain atmosphere. So that was really the starting place for me. I didn’t think about what would be the most popular thing, it was more about my personal tastes. “French cuisine is not necessarily my favourite, but a lot of food comes from their techniques, their themes, and so on. I can’t say that I have a favourite cuisine – I love dishes from here, there and everywhere. It’s a combination. That’s really what we’ve done at Fraiche.” The interiors are reminiscent of modern New York, Paris or London cafes, and certainly different to many venues in Dubai. But when complimented on the design, Al Barqawi gives a surprising retort. “It’s interesting because the first thing for us was for it to look undesigned – a more organic space. We didn’t want it to be contrived or manufactured, so when you look around you just see the bricks, the tables, nothing special. Whole concept was to be simple. There’s



FRAICHE a comfortable feel to it.” With a background in analysis, Al Baqarwi confesses he was one step ahead of the crowd when it came to putting his business together. “It was definitely an advantage as it meant I could probably do things a bit quicker than I otherwise would have done. The business plan, projection, and things like that were made just that little bit easier. “That said, as with anybody changing career, it’s a big upheaval and you’re facing an uphill battle because you’re not used to it. “Another way that my background helped is that we would constantly work our backsides off. If we had to work sixteen or eighteen hour days, we would do it. It was more than a full time job, and that’s the same as it is now – I can’t remember when I last had a weekend. “I work an average of twelve hours per day, and it covers a lot of jobs – writing the menus, managing the finances, and so on. But it wouldn’t be possible without great staff – it’s a lot of work, and they do a brilliant job. I try to encourage them to take ownership of their jobs and the restaurant. Their success is our success, and their integrity will show through their work. That’s the same in every industry. Every person in a There are 6,500 company has to be pulling in companies using the same direction.” JLT Freezone Fortunately for him, he is also surrounded by friends who are either entrepreneurs themdefines entrepreneurship selves, or who are experts in fields in the modern era. which could help him personally “It’s very generational. People and professionally. now are having different experiences He says: “There is no shortage of than people 20 or 30 years ago. Then surprises and difficulties that you it was more common to have a job run into and my friends have been until you retire. Our ‘normal’ is very brilliant for making me aware of different. When the financial crisis what kind of things lay ahead. It was hit, a lot of friends who had just got great to have people who could help into jobs suddenly had to find somewith that, as well as being very effecthing totally different. tive sounding boards. “It hit people hard. People had “From start to finish all the to think differently. These were jobs people I have worked with on this that were thought to be safe, and are are friends. The interior designer, what people had trained and studied graphic designer, and many others. hard for – and then people had to They’ve helped with so many things completely change their careers. right down to the staff uniform. It’s People are moving towards entrepreall collaborative. I had certain things neurialism much more as a result. that I wanted to see and do, so we sat “Dubai is the perfect place to do down and discussed them together that, as it provides the right services and developed from there.” and set-up much more than most This kind of collaboration is other countries in this region. A lot of something he sees as generational, people are trying to make the most and a trend that to some degree of it.”



A number of this new wave of entrepreneurs start their businesses with plans to grow quickly. For Al Barqawi, however, he’s prepared to take things slower in the pursuit of perfection. “I don’t think anybody opens a business saying they don’t want it to grow, but the plan right now is to get this off the ground properly. “A common mistake for many entrepreneurs is that they immediately thing how they can scale what they’ve got, losing sight of where they are at that point. Expansion opportunities will come. I’d much rather get this as near to perfect as I can.” It’s no secret that new cafes, restaurants, and dining concepts of all varieties are opening in Dubai with great regularity, so how does Al Barqawi deal with the prospect of competition? Refreshingly, he welcomes it as a relief rather than a burden. |

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Yousef Al Barqawi

“There is no shortage of surprises and difßculties that you run into.” “To be honest, the amount of competition validates my choice to go into this market in many ways. I don’t have to feel like a fool who is the only person doing what I’m doing. It makes me feel like I’m doing something that people want to be part of. “There will be lots of people before me and after me doing this, and if I can make a success of Fraiche in the meantime, then that’s great.” [37]




t’s a common complaint among e-commerce businesses across the Middle East and North Africa: The payment gateways just aren’t good enough. Expensive, unreliable, insecure, unfamiliar to banks, merchants and customers there simply hasn’t been a solid relationship between the service providers, users, and consumers. The knock-on effects for start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs are manifold, with many losing potential sales or having to instal a costlier and riskier cash-on-delivery system. Logistics, business plans, staffing, and other aspects of a business can be severely affected by the lack of a coherent, reliable and trusted payment gateway, with buyers being forced to look to other options. But all of that could be about to change. In September, PayPal published a report which could revolutionise the way businesses view online payments , driving an improvement in service across the region. PayPal Insights: E-commerce in the Middle East was compiled in conjunction with Ipsos, which carried out an extensive research project to help identify problems in the payment market, and build a



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a Elias Ghanem says PayPal is working to resolve MENA’s online payment issues.

plan to not only solve them, but to unlock the e-commerce potential in MENA. With 110 million internet users and 290 million mobile users in a population of 350 million, the number of e-shoppers should well exceed the existing 30 million. Indeed, the report predicts that the e-commerce market in MENA will be worth $15bn by 2015 - a staggering figure which is almost double the $9bn it was worth in 2012. But the report also admits there are many obstacles to overcome, something managing director of PayPal MENA, Elisa Ghanem, is well aware of. “The main problem I’ve heard from people is the problem with payments: they are difficult, they cost a lot, you can’t rely on them. It’s difficult to crack, and as a consequence people are giving cash-on-delivery and merchants are promoting it even though it’s bad for them. “We have been looking at how to solve this, and so have others – Google, Aramex, and many more. We want to contribute to the solution. Start-up e-commerce companies often have a lot of creativity but not a lot of structure. All of us have to contribute in the best way that we can to provide that structure and support.” The report may draw a line in the sand in the fight to improve online payments, but a lot of work has already been undertaken to combat the issues merchants and users face. [40]

One example is that PayPal offers its services free to start-up businesses, something Ghanem believes will not only benefit the merchant by giving them a trusted gateway which customers will be more willing to use, but also the market in general, as it forces local services to up their game. “In this region payment gateways charge you before you do business,” he says. “You’re paying start-up costs, development costs, and then paying for a gateway on top of it. We believe start-ups should be able to build their business without having to pay for extras. “That’s why we’re making PayPal available to every start-up merchant in the region for free. We’re not a charity, but you only pay as you do business. “We’re building awareness. By doing this we’re forcing local options to improve their service. We want businesses here to succeed, and we want to succeed with them. “There are more than 30 million active customers in the Middle East

“E-commerce companies often have a lot of creativity but not a lot of structure.”

and they are looking for confidence. The gateways here aren’t known by the buyers. By having the PayPal brand on their website, a merchant will be more trusted. Stats show that when a customer sees the PayPal brand on a website, the level of trust goes up a lot.” According to Ghanem it’s this lack of trust which often leads customers to use the cash-on-delivery method - something the report highlights as harmful to e-commerce. Expensive for merchants as well as the courier and logistic services, it pushes costs up for consumers and limits the growth of the ecosystem. Not to mention it wastes a lot of time, energy and resources, with 40 percent of cash-on-delivery goods returned in the Middle East. Yet it still accounts for 80 percent of all online purchases. “Cash-on-delivery comes with a lot of serious questions for the merchant and the buyer,” says Ghanem. “The simplest of these including ‘will it arrive at my house?’, ‘will the buyer go through with the purchase?’, and ‘is the product the one that I ordered?’ “We’re trying to gain people’s trust and make online payments more common for people. To do that we have to change people’s mindset. We have to educate people as much as we can because cash-on-delivery is bad for e-commerce. “We can do this by talking about security, because when you set up an account with PayPal, that’s it. You don’t share your card details with the merchants. We can talk about our buyer protection programme, where if goods aren’t delivered to your house, we stand by you. If the merchant can’t prove they have delivered them, then we pay you back. “We also need to reach the entrepreneurs and business-owners. They have so much going on that payments is only one thing they have to consider and may not be foremost in their mind. We have to make our voice heard by them. “Finally we have to make our product as good as it can be so that people want to use it. We are addressing issues with logistics and with banks, and making an effort to make things as easy as possible for everybody involved.” Currently many banks in the Middle East do not allow buyers to use debit cards online, and many buyers don’t have the requisite credit |

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Elias Ghanem

“Cash-on-delivery comes with a lot of serious questions for the merchant and the buyer.” card to make an online purchase. In a bid to enact change, PayPal led a trial with Qatar National Bank whereby the bank allowed its customers to set up a PayPal count from the QNB website, enabled debit cards for online purchases, provided an account top-up service through the QNB website, and allowed all of its customers to send money to any PayPal account in the world from the QNB website. Ghanem says: “The trial with QNB went really well. It’s really helping to make things more accessible and increasing PayPal’s reach. More people are banking online and buying online, so we need to allow credit and debit cards to be allowed by all banks. “At the moment, the majority of e-commerce businesses that people in the region are buying from are overseas. We have to change that. “If we can improve local transactions and improve trust and confidence in local e-commerce businesses, then we’re going to help in other ways too. “There’s a major The percentage problem at the of people in MENA moment called unemwho use cash on ployment in MENA. It’s huge. We lose the delivery talented people to other countries and regions because they can’t develop here. “We have to help give these people opportunities in MENA. Communities have to work together towards growth rather than fighting. All of us together are making history and we have to decide what we want to future to look like. The future is something PayPal is very excited about. Certainly in terms of mobile commerce. The rapid rise of smartphones means that m-commerce is easily outpacing e-commerce, with an



PAYPAL estimated 50 percent of all PayPal sales expected to come from mobile devices by 2015. Even the current figures are impressive, with mobile accounting for 10 percent of total global sales in 2012. That equates to $14bn - an enormous jump from $4bn in 2011, and $700m in 2010. For Ghanem, the message is simple: “If you’re an entrepreneur and you’re not thinking, living and dreaming mobile, then change job. You might as well give up now you’ve already missed the boat. You have to be thinking mobile first and foremost. Make your offering there primarily, and make it available online too. “Mobile development is essential part of an entrepreneur’s life and business, and it’s important merchants can make it as easy for buyers as possible. “If I’m on my mobile, anywhere and anytime, I don’t want it to take long to do what I want to do. I just want to tick, tick and move on. Those ticks are email The value of PayPal and password. It has to be transactions made via that simple. mobile devices “The likelihood of a purchase being completed in 2012 goes down as the number of stages involved in the purchase goes up. For example, if you go into a physical store, take half an hour choosing the right shirt, shoes, etc, and arrive at the cashier and you see four or five other people ahead of you, you think should I go through with purchase? Can I be bothered? Do I really need these things that badly? Having fewer steps ahead of you is better - you’re more likely to go through with it. “If you have to put more and more information into a form, then the likelihood of conversion goes down. If you can move quickly and safely the likelihood of conversion goes up exponentially. “This is where m-commerce is so exciting. Two clicks and you’re done. It’s the future, no doubt.” So the long-unanswered question may have finally been answered. E-commerce and m-commerce is getting the support it needs thanks to companies such as PayPal, Amarex, and others. All of which gives extra incentives for entrepreneurs to make their move now, and not - as Ghanem says - miss the boat.




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hy start a crowdfunding platform? This region has seen a splurge of entrepreneurial activity in the past few years, especially after the advent of what has become known as the Arab Spring. Many of these entrepreneurs have truly great ideas but face many obstacles in getting the right funding. We believe the region has a lot of talent and creativity, but there is a gap in the support available to this pool of talent. The gap is not about a lack of funding and venture capital, it’s more about providing those creative minds with the right set of skills to plan and deliver on their big dream. By starting a crowdfunding platform for the Middle East, we are not only hoping to bridge those gaps, but also be part of the entrepreneurial revolution by re-introducing the sense of community and helping others succeed. By doing this we hope to be part of the rebuilding of the economy across the region. MMKN – the Arabic word for ‘possible’ – will make this


happen by introducing a streamlined online platform to support creative minds. With our public awareness programmes, we believe MMKN will allow for a wider audience to be part of this revolution.

after banks in the UAE rejected our application for providing e-commerce services. We believe that the legal infrastructure and policies in the region still have a long way to go in order to support crowdfunding platforms.

What steps did you have to take to establish MMKN? We started working on the website in December and launched a beta version in July that is now accessible to all those who have posted pre-launch ideas on our landing page. We hope to have the official launch later this year. In the meantime, we have launched a Facebook page, which has had a great response given our limited presence, hitting 100 likes in less than 24 hours. After we prepared our business plan, we started the process of setting up a freezone license in Dubai. We have faced a few obstacles explaining to officials what the nature of our crowdfunding business is and proving to them that we are legitimate. We sought e-commerce service from banks in Egypt and the US

How will MMKN work? Firstly, starting a campaign on MMKN is absolutely free. What’s more, project owners get to keep 100 percent ownership of their work. The project owner needs to prepare a detailed project profile before launching, including details such as a high level description, video pitch, website and details of the team involved. Then the project owner will need to state the required funding amount and length of their campaign (up to 90 days). Then comes the fun part, where the owner defines the rewards they will be offering to each person that backs their project. Rewards are defined based on the amount pledged by any backer. Our platform allows the project owner to control their rewards budget.. |

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We have three funding models: Fixed, flexible, and hybrid. On a fixed funding model, the owner will only receive funds if their campaign hits their target before the end of the campaign. Overfunding is allowed in this model so great projects will have the chance to boom. In the event of a campaign failing to reach its target, MMKN will return the funds to everybody who participated in that project. On a flexible funding model, the project owner will receive funds for their campaign regardless of whether they reach the target or not within the time-frame. This may be the easy option for unsure project owner. MMKN fees for this type of campaign will be higher. On a hybrid funding model, the project owner will receive funds for their campaign if they hit a set percentage of their target. We introduced this model to recognise the effort and time put in by entrepreneurs who almost made their target and to give them a small push over the finish line. Once the project profile is ready it is submitted to MMKN for review, to ensure it meets guidelines. Once approved, the owner is free to launch the project at any time. MMKN will support owners by marketing project at various points during the campaign lifecycle. While active, the campaign can receive payments in various ways, including credit cards, PayPal and other local electronic payment methods. The essence of MMKN is to free the creative minds, allowing them to focus on what they do best. It still takes effort to maintain the project, however, and the project owners are encouraged to provide updates to backers. A key point for successfully funded projects on MMKN is that it represents more than the sum of money collected. By that time,

We aim to help people embrace the rise of the entrepreneur

a MMKN aims to engage deeply with the creative community.

the marketing wheel has already turned, and the project already has a following. What businesses are well suited to MMKN? MMKN is for creative projects, of all shapes and sizes. We are a home for everything including films, games, music, art, design, technology and much more. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what kind of business it is. What counts is how creative the ideas are. The possibilities are endless! On the other side of things, MMKN cannot be used to fund charity projects or causes. While there are many countless causes worthy of support, we believe that creativity deserves its own space. What makes MMKN stand out from other crowdfunding platforms? We are aware that there are a few other crowdfunding platforms starting up in the region – some with niche focus on specific types of projects, and others applying a different model based on equities and shares.

MMKN’s differentiator will be our deep involvement and engagement with the community, on both sides of the equation – the creative minds of the Middle East and their supporting community. For our primary stakeholder, the creative minds, we will provide a seamless platform where they can host their campaign and drive traffic. Out platform is bilingual to cater for the diverse crowd that lives in the region. Moreover, MMKN will provide proactive support from the day they submit their project profile, all the way through their campaign lifecycle. Our hybrid model is less common among other platforms, giving project owners more choice, and our platform also allows for local payment methods in different countries, bringing it that extra step closer to project followers and contributors, and increasing a project’s chance of success. It will also raise community awareness about small business success stories and the positive impact they have to the economy. We want to bridge the gap between our community and small business, and we aim to help people embrace the rise of the entrepreneur in the Middle East. MMKN was co-founded by Kareem Gad, Adham Gad and Islam Tawfiq. To find out more or submit a project profile, visit or [45]


We see ourselves as a tool for women to express their own beauty and build their self confidence.� [46]


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a The Michèlle Belau website has an elegent fell, reflective of the designer’s clothing.


t was the constant compliments on her outfits that sparked Veronica Smulders’ interest in her new business venture. “I’ve been a big fan of Michèlle Belau since its beginnings fifteen years ago,” she says of the designer and fellow Peruvian. “Every time I came back to Peru, because I’ve been living abroad for almost for ten years, I’ve always visited the shop and he’s been one of my favourite brands. “In the different countries that I lived in, whether it was Brazil, London or Dubai, I received compliments about the clothing.” However, the brand she had loyally followed was not yet directly available in the Middle East. “I wasn’t able to find anything similar,” Smulders explains. “In terms of the concept of the clothing and the style, but actually the whole concept of the customer service and the philosophy of the brand that really puts women at the front of everything.” Now, some twelve months after


that initial idea, Smulders is the exclusive Middle Eastern franchise owner for Michèlle Belau, on the cusp of opening its first store at Dubai’s Citywalk Mall and planning an expansion trajectory that provides for a new store opening every oneand-a-half years. So, how did a 32-year-old communications graduate with an MBA make the move from customer to franchisee? Smulders says it all started when she took maternity leave after having her first child, Daniel, now two. Contemplating whether to return to work in Dubai, her home of five years, she decided to go down the entrepreneurial path. With the idea of a retail venture in the back of her mind, she put together a business plan and contacted Belau’s owners in Peru to pitch her idea. “At that point in time it really wasn’t in their radar,” Smulders recalls. “They were expanding in South America and Latin America as such, but after conversations they were very supportive of us expanding to the Middle East.” It also helped that the label’s

owner, Farid Makhlouf, was a Peruvian with Arab roots. “So, it was quite exciting as well for him to be able to reconnect with his Arab roots while expanding to this part of the world,” Smulders says. However, the green light from Makhlouf was only the first hurdle in what has been an intense twelve month process. Smulders, whose career includes management roles in marketing and corporate communications in several countries, said she wanted to do her homework before launching in the region. “It was a smart process, because as much as I could want to open the franchise, because I am a big fan of

“I’ve been a fan of Michèlle Belau since its beginnings fifteen years ago.”


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Veronica Smulders the brand, obviously there is a lot of work to do in terms of the market analysis,” she explains. “The identification of a need in the market, whether there is space for another brand, whether there is a need for another brand and whether there is a need for the level of customer approach that Michèlle Belau Smulders hopes to brings.” open a store every Using global market research year and a half for firm TNS in Dubai, the next five to ten Smulders says this years research also extended to focus groups where participants were invited to see and touch the clothing firsthand, as well get a briefing on the Atelier, service, concept and provide feedback. The concept, Smulders says, was a key reason she was so passionate about the label. “We see ourselves as a tool for women to express their own beauty and build their self confidence “We produce timeless pieces, so it’s not about following a trend. “It’s getting inspiration from the trends and adapting them to our own understanding of how we could serve real women in their day-to-day activities and in what makes them feel comfortable. “That’s the concept of it – how can we serve women to use the garments as a tool to build their selfconfidence and don’t get limited by colours, textures and trends.” As a working mother, Smulders says catering for busy woman was also something she wanted Michèlle Belau to offer. To that end, the label’s highheeled shoes have platforms and a home delivery service is available for its VIP customers. And the in-store experience also has convenience in mind. When Michèlle Belau opens at Citywalk in Jumeirah, which is slated for this month, Smulders says the store will offer refreshments, fresh towels, bells in the fitting rooms, a personal shopper and a kids table to entertain children while Mum shops. “All of those aspects we conceived with women in mind,” she says. “How are we going to make our customer’s life easier? How can we provide added value?” So, is this Peruvian hospitality



FASHION sional as she smiles and poses for the camera, Smulders, dressed, of course, in Belau, later confides that it was her first shoot and she prefers directing models from the other side of the lens. However, her ability to adapt effortlessly to the situation and give 110 per cent at whatever task is in front of her is part of a can-do attitude that appears to encompass everything Smulders puts her mind to. Michèlle Belau in Citywalk will have five staff members initially, but Smulders is also giving herself a fairly hands-on role. “I don’t think you can run a retail business if you are not able to really be on the ground and see what people think and talk to your customers,” she says. With one store under her belt, Smulders says immediate future expansion plans would focus on “many more” Atelier stores in Dubai, with possibly other stores in the a Smulders graduated in communications and has an MBA. Middle East. “We are aiming to open a store first-hand? a few malls in Dubai, which were every year and a half (for five to ten “Definitely, we’re warm people, interested in taking on the concept, years). We have the franchise for we’re very welcoming,” Smulders but chose Citywalk Mall in the Middle East, so if things enthuses. Jumeirah for a number of go better we’re opening a “Everybody will tell you when they reasons. It was a new store yearly or otherwise have been to Peru, we’re very open to development and (every) year and a half,” people from abroad and we want to offered boutique-style she says. make them feel at home and I think spaces. With the success rate that is very much the whole concept Citywalk also had The size of the for start-ups of about 10 of the Atelier experience.” an al fresco element, in Michèlle Belau to 15 percent, Michèlle “We see the store, the Atelier, as keeping with the street store in Citywalk Belau opens into a highly our home, so we want to be the best front-feel of Michèlle Mall competitive Dubai retail hosts possible. We want to make Belau stores in South fashion market. them feel as comfortable as possible America. “We can be as prepared as and to enjoy the experience as if they Adding to the you can imagine for introducing the were guests at our place. 165sqm store’s authenticity, a team brand, but in setting up a business “From the first moment the from Peru spent a month in Dubai there are many, many challenges customer puts their feet in the Atelier working on the fit-out and opening. and we just have to work around “We’re in constant communicauntil they leave this is what we keep them and make the best of it,” tion, but I think another huge benefit in mind.” Smulders says. of it is that I speak Spanish and I’m It’s high-end, but also offering “I guess if it was easy, everybody Peruvian, so we are in communica“luxury service with high-quality would do it. tion every day and every day until products at a reasonable price”. “We’ll learn from the process the end of the day,” she says, hinting Smulders says that she met with and it is a very enjoyable experiat the timezone challenges of setting ence and you learn not only from a up a business that is based abroad. professional point of view, but also a “We have nine hours difference personal point of view and you see a with Peru, so 6pm is when South strength in yourself that you perhaps America starts working, so a lot of were not aware of. our days go until midnight.” “ It’s a very complete experience Still, Smulders appears to take it in and we’re enjoying it a lot.” her stride. And what about sharing the spot“It’s a busy time,” she admits, light as UAE women start wearing before transforming effortlessly Michèlle Belau designs? from entrepreneur to model for our “It’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to photo shoot. make,” she says with a laugh. Looking every bit a profes-

165 sqm

“We are in communication every day and every day until the end of the day.”



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ince he was a child, Motaz Nabulsi had big dreams of being a Hollywood filmmaker. A dreamer with a humble outlook on life, the creative entrepreneur risked and lost it all before he made it to the top of the tree with his latest blockbuster movie 2 Guns. [52]

“I just want to make movies, that’s my dream, to tell stories and that’s it,” said Nabulsi. “My dad produced a film when I was five years old in England, so I grew up inspired by him. I always wanted to be like him, but even better.” But the journey was not as simple as that child once

dreamed. He first stepped into the movie world when he moved to New York to volunteer at the Tribeca Film Festival. “I decided to try to apply to the Tribeca Film Festival as a volunteer because I wanted to try to get my foot in there somehow. So I started working there as a volunteer, I wasn’t even |

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doing anything related to movies, but I was observing everyday everything about movies, walking into theatres, seeing the actors and directors, going to press rooms. “It felt great even though I was doing nothing related to movies. Then finally my boss, after three weeks, asked me to be full-time. I became a production assistant and I became more involved in the festival. For me to say that I was working there was more than enough.” When Nabulsi finally decided to become more proactive, he got his first taste of how fickle the movie business could be. He invested a total of $100,000 in a movie, only for it to fall through. Thankfully, that experience did not break his spirit or stop him dreaming. Indeed, he saw the positives in the experience and caught the film-bug even more. “It was a Hollywood movie and I went through the whole process and it fell apart, it didn’t work out,” he said. “But I learnt the ropes from this experience and I noticed how passionate I was and how excited I was being involved in a movie,” Back in the Gulf, Nabulsi continued to look for opportunities while working as advisor of strategic initiatives for Saudi Oger, and finally he found some good luck when he formed a partnership with friends from New York. He said: “Since we had the same interests, we ended up becoming partners and created a company in which we created our own film called Sunlight Jr. It stars Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon and it was released in April at the Tribeca Film Festival. So I went back to the Tribeca Film Festival but as a producer. So that was an amazing experience.” His recent picture, 2 Guns, is the company’s second motion picture, with Nabulsi as executive producer. The action-comedy movie has made over $75m, collecting around $27m in its opening week, making it the number one movie at the US box office on its debut. “I put everything I could into this movie. Meetings, travelling and all my resources were focused on it. I worked with producers who have worked on more than

a Nabulsi (C) with fellow producers Joshua Skurla (L) and Marcos Tellechea (R).

“We have a lot of talent in the Middle East that’s not being utilised properly.” 70 movies in Hollywood - Emmett Furla films by Randall Emmett and George Furla - we had great chemistry and we’ve built a great relationship together.” His positive energy was infectious as he described how he felt at the start of the big budget movie. “I met pretty much everyone who worked on this movie. They’re very focused, very professional. You can tell why they are the people who they are.” When asked about what the future has in store for his filming career, Nabulsi reflects on the local filming industry in the GCC. “I believe government and also private investors or independent businessmen who are influential

could definitely contribute to Arab filmmakers. I feel that we miss proper institutions. We don’t have enough institutions or film schools or awareness to inspire people who are filmmakers, who are talented to go for the dream and provide them with the tools that are necessary to gain experience and go for what they want,” he stated. “My future goal is to make more movies and hopefully be more influential in the Arab world, to try to work with as many filmmakers as possible and to have them be more recognised internationally because we have a lot of talent in the Middle East that’s not being utilised properly. To be able to be one of the people who try to make a difference, that’s my ultimate goal. “I thought there were so many Middle East investors that would like to be involved in film and they never knew how to penetrate this market or they are intimidated by this market like I was. So given my relationships, I tried to connect people to make movies. Hopefully that is also my future goal to do the same.” [53]




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GOOD FOR ORGANISATION Say goodbye to chaotic filing systems, loose notes, a reams of paper clogging up your desk. Evernote gives you the tools you need to stay organised and run a paperless office, should you wish. Essentially a note-taking and archiving service, you can collect items from the web, type your own documents, scan paperwork, take voice memos, and tag, annotate, edit, export and store the lot of them in a simple, easy-to-use manner. The free service has a monthly usage of 60mb, and if you decide you need more, you can pay for the premium service for just $5 per month, or $45 per year, for more than 1,000mb. Available on just about every platform going, this is a must have for anyone who wants to run a tight ship. [55]




GOOD FOR STORAGE With two gigabytes of free space, virtual hard-drive Dropbox is a great way to keep essential files in one convenient place. The cloud storage keeps everything safe and accessible wherever you are, and the programme’s file synchronisation keeps everything in order. There are a number of add-ons you can pay for – both official and unofficial. Dropbox has been a popular tool for businesses of all sizes since its launch in 2007, and it has been speculated that its valuation exceeds $1bn. Business-savvy musicians Bono and The Edge of U2 are even individual investors in the company.



GOOD FOR BUSINESS PLANS Business plans have always been intimidating, but Enloop helps take the pain out of what might otherwise be a stressful slog. Serving as a blueprint, Enloop offers a step-by-step guide for entrepreneurs to help build a business plan which everybody including investors and colleagues can understand. You can pay for a more comprehensive service, but you can create a business plan and generate three-year financial forecasts for free, as well as being able to rate your performance in real time.



GOOD FOR IMPRESSING INVESTORS Business presentations have come on in leaps and bounds in recent years. Powerpoint no longer cuts it with potential investors, which is where Prezi comes in. An alternative to slideshow software, this web app allows you to create stunning presentations in 3D. Its zoom-in features creates a more dynamic experience. The cloud-based tool is also available for iPads, meaning you can make presentations wherever you are – not just in the boardroom. It has also been used to great effect by several TED Conference speakers and for presentations at the World Economic Forum, so you would be in good company if you chose to use it. [56]


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Free software



GOOD FOR PASSWORDS Passwords are vital for business owners. Not only do they keep things under your control, but they give you access to various accounts – emails, social media, CRM, and much, much more. But having so many passwords brings its own problems. Namely, how to remember them all. You could, of course use the same password for everything, but in the interest of security it’s better to have different ones. Which is where DashLane comes in. Rather than remembering 101 different passwords, all you have to do is remember your Master Password, with DashLane saving the rest. They’re held in a private place so only you have access to them, and there is a security dashboard which shows you how strong your passwords are and how safe your accounts are.



GOOD FOR CREATING INFOGRAPHICS Not many entrepreneurs are designers, so you may need a bit of help creating infographics for you blog, website, articles press releases, and so on. is one of a few infographic tools, including Infogram and Piktochart, all with varying degrees of user-friendliness and quality of templates. The drag and drop system of makes it one of the widely accessible, and can give even the least creative entrepreneurs a visual boost.



GOOD FOR COMMUNICATION Surely everybody knows about Skype these days. It remains one of the best ways to have a dialogue with people in different parts of the office, city, country, region and world without having to book a meeting room. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, and you can pay for credit if you want to make calls to land lines or mobile phones, but with so many people on the Skype network, you could quite easily get away without spending a dirham. The video function makes life all the easier for people who like to see who they’re talking to. [57]




GOOD FOR ACCOUNTING Accounting. It’s been the bane of many a talented entrepreneur. Building a business often requires vision, ideas, technical ability, and other such skills, leaving the financial side of things floundering. Freshbooks makes life that little bit easier on the money front, helping you track expenses or time on projects, as well as giving you a user-friendly platform for online invoicing and payment processing. What’s more, when you sign up to Freshbooks you get your own personal business consultant who will help you get started by customising workflows and teaching you industry best practices.



GOOD FOR EMAIL CAMPAIGNS If you need to build your customer and client list, MailChimp could be the software for you. It allows you to create a free email marketing platform, with more than forty useful features such as designer templates, personalised forms, analytical tools, and social sharing. You can send up to 12,000 emails to a list of up to 2,000 subscribers, and if you want to increase your reach – as well as avoid any risk of being put on a spam blacklist – you can pay for the very affordable premium service.



GOOD FOR MANAGEMENT Keeping your team together is an important part of any new or young business, especially when growing in size and stature. Trello is a project management tool which you and your staff can easily use collectively. It features a centralised board which is broken down into tasks that you can assign to team members, giving each task a label, due date, task details, and so on. Ideal for those who like to visualise their projects and then keep track of who is doing what, Trello gives team members no excuse when it comes to knowing what they – and everybody else – is doing. [58]


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Since opening its doors in 2011, Make has been a mainstay for entrepreneurs, creatives and startup business owners. Launched by Australian Leith Matthews, the Jumeirah Beach Residence café is inhabited by designers, freelancers, writers, web developers, SME owners, aspirational entrepreneurs, and all sorts of other business folk. Whether holding a meeting, tapping away on a laptop, or tucking into food, Make is a home away from home for many creative types. If you haven’t got your MacBook with you, you can borrow one – or an iPad – with the staff keen to make your work or play as easy as possible here.



Dubai Internet City is full of information and communications technology entrepreneurs, some of whom are enjoying one of Dubai’s newest workspace/incubator, in5. Designed to be a dynamic and [60]

a in5 gives entrepreneurs access to state of the art facilities.


vol. 1 /october 2013

engaging working environment, in5 aims to cater for people at all parts of the start-up spectrum, from those with the nucleus of an idea through to implementation and commercial launch. Opened in May this year, the hub gives selected entrepreneurs access to set and logistics support, mentoring, training, networking opportunities and access to funding. Around 100 entrepreneurs can use the facilities per year, helping start-ups reach the next stage of their development.



Describing itself as ‘not just a coffee shop’, but ‘a platform for culture’. Cafea Arab is based in Al-Khobar and offers a range of business and educational events. Not strictly a business hub, entrepreneurs and creative types are nonetheles

Make is a home away from home for creative types

a Cafea Arab is a popular spot for Saudi entrepreneurs. [61]

Hangouts welcomed with open arms to meet informally or enjoy some of the lectures, classes, clubs and coffee mornings that take place on a regular basis. A vibrant and popular meeting spot, the café is feted as a hotbed of inspiration and creativity for KSAs youth.



Another popular community workspace in Dubai, Shelter is supported by du and located in the artistic Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz. Offering a co-working infrastructure for entrepreneurs in the early stages of their startups. Shelter says it ‘aims to help good ideas grow and become viable businesses’, and provides not only workspaces, but also panel discussions, workshops, lecturers, and more on a monthly basis to support and educate attendees. Recent events include an Emirati entrepreneurs roundtable, a freelance summit, and a workshop on fundraising strategies.


a Cafea Arab aims to be a platform for culture.


Located in Downtown Dubai, this non-profit contem-

The cafe is feted as a hotbed of inspiration

a The Saudi hangout is popular among the country’s youth.

a Shelter is one of Dubai’s most popular community workspaces, hosting many workshops, lectures and discussions. [62]


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a Shelter is designed to give entrepreneurs a space where they can work independently or together.

porary art space is also one of the most popular places for businessfolk looking to work outside of the office. Developed by the multidivisional group Cultural Engineering, the Pavilion gives an artistic edge to working lunches, with two galleries, a restaurant, a cinema, a library, an espresso bar, a shisha café and a lounge. Expect to see rows of laptops set up along the benches, designers looking for inspiration among the shelves of glossy books, and young executives engaging in casual yet highpowered business talk. Currently closed for refurbishment, the new look Pavilion will be unveiled soon.



In its own words, AltCity was ‘designed from the bottom up to help facilitate, mobilise, encourage and support high impact entrepreneurship and innovation’. Based in Hamra, Lebanon, this hugely popular start-up space features a café, events areas, business support, learning resources and more, making it

a AltCity stages numerous course, programmes and events.

Expect to see rows of laptops set up along the benches

one of the finest places in MENA to turn your fledgling idea into a living, breathing creation. Various workshops, events, seminars and other gatherings take place here, and you’re sure to meet people who can help you, and you can help, as the cream of the Levant’s entrepreneurial crop meet here regularly both formally and informally. [63]


a The Archive in Dubai’s Safa Park is a culture hot-spot, with a busy events calendar.



This popular café is in the heart of Safa Park in Dubai and serves not only as a popular spot for families and casual meetups, but also a hub for culture, education, and art. A specialised library dedicated to Middle Eastern and North African Art Literature, it is a perfect spot for book clubs, design talks, workshops, and more leisurely activities such as film screenings, musical performances and exercise classes, all of which could boost your creativity. As an example, on 4-5 October the café hosts a pop-up event for food bloggers featuring networking and workshops hosted by professionals on food styling, creative writing techniques and photography.



Not billed as a business hub, entrepreneur hangout or co-working space, Kino Café in Kinokuniya Bookshop in Dubai Mall is nonetheless a popular spot for people to set up their laptops and work. With a calming atmosphere, a delightful Japanese menu, views of the dancing fountain, and literally thousands of books in the adjoining shop, Kino is a haven which has given [64]

a AltCity aims to build and support the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lebanon.

many a professional the head space they need to do some important work. The environment is probably as relaxed as it gets in Dubai Mall, but don’t be surprised if you can’t get a seat – despite the calm it exudes, it still gets incredibly busy.



Healthy, home-made food gives you the nourishment you need to work on those projects which might otherwise exhaust

your brain. Brisk’s comfortable and modern surroundings have proved the perfect spot for Lebanon’s entrepreneur community, where a regular entrepreneurs’ meet-up allows attendees to pay $1 into a pot in order to pitch their ideas. The best voted pitch wins the pot, but more importantly the event gives people the chance to network with likeminded individuals, exchanging knowledge and ideas, marketing products, and more. |

vol. 1 /october 2013




JW W Marriott M Marquis Dubai, UAE

For more information visit:








vol. 1 /october 2013

“I wake up every morning with the intention that I’m going to have a joyful energetic body, and a restful and alert mind.” [67]



don’t take myself that seriously,” says Deepak Chopra. This is somewhat surprising, given the influence the IndianAmerican doctor, author, motivational speaker and self-help guru has amongst his millions of followers. Chopra has been named by Time magazine as one of the ‘top 100 heroes and icons’ of the 20th century — although he sounds suitably embarrassed when I remind him of this. He has sold over 20 million copies of his books (21 of which have hit the New York Times bestseller list). He has over 1.5 million followers on Twitter. And, he claims, he never gets stressed. But Chopra is also a pretty divisive figure as well. Time magazine also described him as “a magnet for criticism” and he picked up the Ig Nobel Prize — an American parody of the Nobel Prize — “for his unique interpretation of quantum physics as it applies to life, liberty and the pursuit of economic happiness”. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins — himself a lightning rod for criticism — has described Chopra’s theories as “hocus pocus”. Not that any of this bothers Chopra, of course. When questioned as to how it’s possible for anyone to never be stressed, he simply laughs. “This is my life — I find it joyful to be like this,” he says. “I wake up every morning with the intention that I’m going to have a joyful energetic body, and a restful and alert mind. Then I can do a lot more, and accomplish a lot more.” More recently, Chopra has been outspoken about the state of the US, his adopted country, which has been suffering both from a weakened economy and political stalemate on Capitol Hill. “What concerns me about America right now is the polarisation in

“We have ways to resolve even what might have been centuries of conflict.” [68]

our politics and the extremism,” he says. “There is a little regression in terms of racisim, bigotry and prejudice — you know, how people are threatened by immigrants. “But it shall pass — I think America is a robust and vital country precisely because it has so many people from so many diverse cultures. So I’m hopeful, but there is a lot of anxiety in the US right now because the demographics The number of are changing.” Chopra, recently followers Deepak visited Dubai Chopra has on and Abu Dhabi to Twitter give two seminars, seems to be a fan of the region. So what did he talk about while he was in the Gulf? First up was the importance of wellbeing — not just physical wellbeing, but emotional, social, financial and so on. This is an issue that Chopra has been working on with the Gallup Organisation, where he is a senior scientist. “We have a very precise method now for measuring wellbeing in all those categories, and to see how they correlate with GDP,” he says. “The future of a country, its economy, the crime rate, the social unrest, the quality of leadership — they are all connected. “We have ways to resolve even what might have been centuries of conflict, and can improve the capacity for everyone’s wellbeing.” The polls being regularly conducted by Gallup appear to bear out Chopra’s claims. He cites studies in the US that show that around fifteen percent of America’s workforce is “actively disengaged”, at a cost to the national economy of a whopping $350bn a year. The same research also shows that another 57 percent of the workforce are “disengaged” — i.e. those that clock in, but only do the minimum required and feel less fulfilled as a result. Chopra aims to combat this loss to the economy through a variety of ways, including teaching techniques for stress management, tools for work-life balance, lessons for inspired leadership and the need for purposeful communication. Having said all that, he does point out that there is some good news for those living in this part



vol. 1 /october 2013

Deepak Chopra


WELLBEING of the world. “By the way, the emirates are doing very well in terms of wellbeing — they scored higher than the US,” he says. “It’s come about initially through economic wellbeing, and the UAE also happens to be not so large in terms of geographical territory, and it is relatively conflict free.” However, the same cannot be said for Qatar, Chopra adds. “I hesitate to say this, but there is a new epidemic of obesity in Qatar and that is a little scary for the future, especially with regard to heart disease and diabetes,” he says. “But by and large, Dubai and places like Dubai are doing extremely well in terms of wellbeing.” Much of Chopra’s work has focused on staying healthy, so what tips does he have for those who wish to maintain a healthy lifestyle? The key, he says, is understanding that your body is “a verb and not a noun, which means it’s an activity, not a structure” and is therefore influenced by everyday activities like sleeping, exercise, eating, digestion, sensory experiences and so on. “Knowing this now, we can for sure make the claim that even biological age is flexible,” Chopra says. “So you can have someone who is 80 years old, but who is biologically 60 – all this is measurable in terms of blood pressure, bone density, body temperature regulation, cholesterol levels, skin thickness, sexual activity and so on. “We did a lot of research with other collaborators at the University of California San Diego and Harvard that showed that within four days of certain mind/body practices, telomerase — the enzyme that controls our genetic clock, went down by about 40 percent in four days. It was so

“There is a new epidemic of obesity in Qatar and that is a little scare for the future.” [70]


vol. 1 /october 2013

Deepak Chopra

a Chopra has many celebrity friends and followers, including Susan Sarandon (left).

astonishing that they had to repeat the experiment many times to believe it was possible. “So I think we’re now entering a new era of neuroscience called neuroplasticity,” Chopra adds. “There is genetic indeterminism, which means that only five percent of disease-related genes are fully penetrant or deterministic. Fully 95 percent of genes are actually determined by your lifestyle.” Another topic that Chopra tackled during his trip to the Gulf is was theory of ‘just capitalism’, which aims to achieve economic recovery based on growth not only on the corporate bottom line, but on a ‘fair’ or ‘just’ bottom line as well. That means attempting to erase economic inequality and balancing “what’s good for the individual and what’s good for everyone”. As well as giving guidance on health and spirituality, Chopra is also popular in the business community for his tips on corpo-

“Exacting plans, driving ambition and hard work are the secrets to success.” rate leadership. So what’s the key to being a successful leader? “I always emphasise health awareness if you’re in a leadership position,” he says. “But you also need to be a good listener — that is what is needed for achievement and success, to help teambuilding and to nurture creativity. You have to learn how to bond emotionally and take responsibility for your own wellbeing, as well as the wellbeing of others.” Most of Chopra’s business

advice can be found on the LinkedIn website, where he has more followers than US president Barack Obama. He writes essays for the site on a frequent basis — with exotic-sounding names like ‘Cracking the Cosmic Code’ and ‘The Wisdom Principle’ — and says that it’s the easiest way to interact with most professionals. With over a million LinkedIn followers, he may well be right. Chopra cites the example of his collaboration with Al Carey, then-CEO of $13bn snackfoods giant Frito-Lay. “He [Carey] was a remarkable leader who shifted the way they did business at Frito-Lay, in terms of carbon-neutral manufacturing and distributed leadership, and I’ve done that kind of work with other organisations as well,” he says. Chopra’s collaboration with Carey resulted in the firm cutting down water consumption by 6 billion gallons, and producing more nutritious and more environmentally friendly foods. There’s no doubt that Chopra still feels he has a lot to offer, and there’s no chwance of him slowing down any time soon. It’s also clear that he still gets a kick out of his events. “I have only three criteria that I use when I engage,” he says. “Am I having fun? Are the people that I’m engaged with having fun? And is it making a difference? If I can say yes to those three then I go for it — if not, then I don’t bother.” More books are in the pipeline as well. Most authors would be satisfied with having 75 books in their back catalogue but Chopra clearly feels he has more to offer. “Recently, I’ve started collaborating with other scientists,” he says. “I did a book called Superbrain in conjunction with a Harvard neuroscientist [Dr Rudolph Tanzi] and I found that collaboration very fulfilling. Now I’m doing another one with him called Supergenes, so we keep exploring new frontiers.” So what’s the worst traits any leader can have? “That exacting plans, driving ambition and hard work are the secrets to success,” Chopra says. “We need to be creative and not manual labourers in our attitude to life.” And the best habit? “Don’t take yourself too seriously.” [71]

How I did it

FROM THE BURJ KHALIFA TO THE COUNTRY’S FIRST RAILWAY NETWORK, JOHN BRASH HAS BEEN BEHIND SOME OF THE UAE’S BEST-KNOWN BRANDS. ohn Brash’s clients, through his Dubai-based agency Brash Brands, read like a roll call for the biggest and brightest in the UAE. They include Emaar, Emirates Airline, Etihad Rail, TDIC and Dubai Multi Commodities Centre. Originally from a small town in Scotland, Brash carved out a career in London working with prestigious brands including BP, McLaren F1 and Diageo. In 2003, Brash relocated to Dubai as executive creative director MENA at global consultancy Landor Associates. “I’d come here with [Landor] to basically help grow the region and help it move forward,” he says. “My original plan was to move back to London or to New York or another posting somewhere, but a lot of my clients came and said to me [72]

“A lot of my clients came and said to me ‘John, why don’t you stay?’” ‘John, why don’t you stay? We like working with you’.” Brash says that he found the corporate environment of the UAE refreshing compared to that of London. Whereas in the British capital reaching decision makers at organisations required ploughing through layers of bureaucracy, many of the top executives in the Middle East operated more of an open-door policy. “You get to meet senior people here, and engage with them, whereas in some markets you don’t,”

Brash says. “You meet the CEOs, you meet the chairmen, and they’re interested. Suddenly you’re having a dialogue with a chairman or vice chairman who’s talking about strategy.” Brash says that there was a gap in the market when he made the decision to found Brash Brands in 2007, with most consultancies being local offices for global operations such as his former employer. “There are pros and cons with these kinds of companies, but one of the things that we said was ‘why can’t we setup a worldclass company out of Dubai, that can work not only here but internationally?’,” he explains. There is one common theme that runs through all of Brash Brands’ clients, Brash says, in that they are looking to achieve growth, whether that be in assets, geographic footprint or human resources. To assist them in doing this, he explains, it is necessary for Brash to get a “360-degree insight” into how its clients operate. “We speak to senior management, everyone throughout the organisation: clients, customers, potential customers and competition,” he explains. “Do they want to consolidate in one market? If so, they need a strategy for that. If they want to go global that’s a very different proposition.” One branding exercise that has deeply impressed Brash over the last couple of years is that of Dubai itself. In the aftermath of the emirate’s financial crisis four years ago, Brash says that the emirate has emerged stronger than before, and with the possibility of hosting Expo 2020, its fortunes are likely to remain on an upward trajectory. “Dubai is a very dynamic place. Sheikh Mohammed has pushed it onto an international stage. You look at the organisations that come out of here, the likes of Emirates, the Burj Khalifa,” he says. “The Expo 2020 will be great for the UAE. I think there’s a growing level of maturity, there was a lot of people who saw it as a lot of hype, and there was a lot of communication around being the biggest, the best and all of that. But I think it’s a bit more real now and it’s grown up.” |

vol. 1 /october 2013

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