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A P H OTO G R A P H Y P R OJ E C T B Y YA S I R S A E E D


A P h o t o g r a p h y P r o j e c t b y Ya s i r S a e e d


Faces of Dubai: An Introduction

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aces of Dubai is a documentary tribute to Dubai, its residents and their affection and admiration for the city. My objective is to create a platform that documents the perspectives on life in this city of dreams through portraits

that capture the essence of people, their feelings about the city, what distinguishes it from other cities, and why it’s special to them. For this edition of the on-going series, I met some of the city’s leading business personalities to find out their views, the secret of Dubai’s success, and how they found their own success here. I am grateful to all who have participated in the project throughout the years, and especially to the ladies and gentlemen appearing on the following pages for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet me and express their views. Like these individuals, I am constantly amazed by Dubai’s achievements under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the VicePresident and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The confidence and trust that people have in the leadership, and the underlying sense of achievement they have in their own association with Dubai is remarkable. My background as a portrait photographer made it easy for me to focus on people for this project because Dubai’s achievements in every field are inherently human achievements. Various government agencies and departments are doing an amazing job of promoting the city the architecture and innovations of Dubai. I wanted to focus more on the abstracts; the pride and deep connection that people feel with this city. I hope that you enjoy reading about these inspirational men and women and their journeys to success in the city. You can also follow each of these stories online on facesofdubai.com. - Yasir Saeed

Sign up at facesofdubai.com to become one of the Faces of Dubai

Yasir Saeed Visual Artist & Photographer


“The aim of this project is to tell the story of Dubai through the hearts and minds of its residents.�

A P h o t o g r a p h y P r o j e c t b y Ya s i r S a e e d


FAC E S O F D U B A I

Reem Osman CEO, SAUDI GERMAN HOSPITAL

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n search for the ‘perfect city’ to settle down in with her family, Reem first arrived in Dubai in October 2005. However, before making a final decision to move, she did plenty of research. “There are many factors to consider before moving

to a new city. Since I wanted to have my family here, I mainly looked at children’s education, how safe the city is, and how it would help me professionally.” Aside from finding herself in the middle of a vibrant and attractive city, Reem was surprised by how relaxed she felt when she moved to Dubai. “I immediately felt at ease; the people were very friendly and welcoming. When moving to a new city, the most important thing is how comfortable you are with its system, the people around you, and the government officials you deal with.” Reem believes that the key to Dubai’s success lies in its leadership style and vision. “The leaders believe in innovation and strive to overcome all obstacles to become number one. Their beliefs have become our beliefs in the hospital. We aim to be the best.”

“For me, personally, working here was heaven for my personal advancement.” She describes Dubai as “innovative” and thinks that it’s far more than just a great tourist destination, believing that the opportunities are limitless for newcomers of both genders. “As a female CEO, I can say from experience that Dubai is very supportive when it comes to the empowerment of women. I didn’t face any challenges being a woman; I received support and encouragement. Having said that, Dubai is a competitive city; you have to work hard to become successful. It is not a place for lazy people.”

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REEM OSMAN

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Colm McLoughlin EXECUTIVE VICE-CHAIRMAN AND CEO, DUBAI DUTY FREE

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ntensely competitive, confident, and emotionally resilient, Colm McLoughlin, the Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, first arrived in Dubai in July 1983 on the eve of his 40th birthday. He was greeted by one of the city’s

infamous heat waves. “I had never experienced anything like it in my life,” he says. It’s always a challenge starting over in a new country, especially if it has a completely different culture to what one’s accustomed to. Colm had to not only learn, but also adjust his lifestyle to fit the new culture, as well as familiarise himself with the city and its people. “Being Irish, we became involved with the Dubai Irish Society, and I was chair in 1988- 1999. We organised the St. Patrick’s Day Ball and practically everyone Irish attended.”

“Dubai in one word? That would have to be ‘Fantastic!” When asked about the secret of Dubai’s success, Colm was quick to mention the support given by local authorities, specifically to Dubai Duty Free. “Dubai Duty Free has been part of the success story of Dubai and that success is due in no small part to the support we have received over the years from the Government of Dubai and in particular my boss, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and Chairman of Dubai Duty Free.” There is no doubt that Dubai is a city full of opportunities for people with an insatiable appetite for hard work, with Colm believing that its enthusiasm is infectious. “I am always struck by the ‘can do’ attitude of the people of Dubai, and I feel honoured to have witnessed and have been part of the dramatic growth of the nation over the last three decades through Dubai Duty Free. Looking to the future, I am excited by the opportunity to continue to be part of Dubai’s continued growth and success.”

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COLM MCLOUGHLIN

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Bashar Abou-Mayalah MANAGING DIRECTOR, CONCRETE INDUSTRIES COMPLEX (HPBS, HBF, EB)

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ashar landed in Dubai in 1993 on the night of one of its most celebrated days - the 22nd UAE National Day. His first thoughts were that the streets were beautifully decorated with colourful lighting, and it immediately

became obvious that Dubai was a progressive city built for business. “In that moment I could clearly see that the UAE is a nation that has so much potential with a lot to offer not only for the residents, but also to the rest of the world.” As the MD of Concrete Industries Complex (HPBS, HBF, EB), Bashar understands the value of leadership and points out how important the UAE has been to his own company. “It started with the Late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Father of Dubai, his sons, the former ruler of Dubai, the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the highly respected ruler of Dubai right now, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who has turned Dubai into a leading player on the international stage. No-one could have expected the great success he has enjoyed in leading Dubai.” Bashar feels that the UAE has played a significant role in helping him develop his skills and knowledge. “I was always a hard-working and progressive person. I did my best to study the city to improve my knowledge and ensured I put it to good use.” When asked to describe Dubai in one word, Bashar simply stated, “Distinct. Dubai is unique in almost everything: whether it be construction, tourist attractions or the lifestyle, Dubai has an incomparable mix of modern and traditional Middle Eastern flair.”

“Dubai is competitive and always wants to be number one… and it is.” Bashar sees Dubai as the best city for opportunities and has some solid advice for newcomers. “You have to be hard-working, progressive, sincere, and one step ahead at all times. You have to ensure that you study everyday, for there are a lot of new things happening on a daily-basis from a business perspective. Keeping yourself informed and always on the look out for innovations will boost your likelihood for success.”

Concrete Industries Complex

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B A S H A R A B O U - M AYA L A H

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Osman Sultan CEO, EMIRATES INTEGRATED TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY

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sman Sultan moved to Dubai in 2005, and after living here for over a decade, he couldn’t be happier with his decision. “The last 12 years have been very exciting, innovative and the happiest in my life!”

His first impression of Dubai is the same as his current perception of the city. “When I first arrived in Dubai, I didn’t see the vast expanse of desert land. I saw a land of infinite opportunity – and over the last decade that’s exactly what Dubai has proven to be.” Osman has watched Dubai prosper and develop into “a hub for entrepreneurship, talent, innovation and lifestyle.” He believes that Dubai’s success is due to the fast developing nature of the UAE and the visionary leaders ruling it. “We are genuinely lucky to live in a country whose leadership is progressive, ambitious and willing to take risks; this is the best place to be in the world right now.”

“The future is here, the future is happy.” Having lived in several countries, Osman states that every country has given him particular insights and has shaped his views and values when it comes to professional life, and the UAE is no exception. “The UAE has really taught me both drive and resilience. The country has always been a supporter of innovation, proven not only by the Burj Khalifa and other engineering marvels, but also by the country’s high level of entrepreneurial ventures. I really admire the leadership for this and I am so proud that du is helping the government drive its vision to great new heights.” Osman is well aware of how it feels to start a new life in a country as dynamic as Dubai. His advice to newcomers: “Don’t let the fast-paced city overwhelm you, have a target and follow it.”

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O S M A N S U LT A N

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Kalyana Sivagnanam PRESIDENT OF NISSAN AND REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENT FOR AFRICA, MIDDLE EAST AND INDIA NISSAN MOTOR CORPORATION

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n a city that loves cars of all calibres, Kalyana Sivagnanam had no difficulty in making a home for himself and his family in Dubai. Living in the city for four years, Kalyana is now President for the Middle East and Regional Vice

President for Africa, Middle East and India at Nissan, bringing with him a wealth of experience from the automotive sector.

“The city is constantly evolving, with a clear vision for the future.” Holding an MBA from Dundee Business School in Scotland, he acknowledges the business vision and prowess that have allowed the city to flourish into a global metropolitan hub. “My first impression of Dubai was the sheer dynamism, growth and potential throughout the city and across all sectors. With good governance and a welcoming environment, Dubai has successfully attracted leading companies and personnel from all over the world,” Kalyana says. “In our industry, we have found Dubai to be a highly progressive and forwardlooking hub that has actively encouraged the uptake in electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as artificial intelligence. In fact, these aspects – which are central to Nissan’s strategies – have been welcomed with open arms in Dubai. We don’t find this combination of success factors anywhere else in the world,” he added. Summarising Dubai in one word, Kalyana says: “Limitless.” And his advice for firsttime visitors to Dubai is no less clear: “Embrace the opportunities. This is a truly global hub that will always present life-changing chances. Speaking from personal experience, Dubai has opened a lot of doors that have translated into tangible opportunities.”

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K A LYA N A S I V A G N A N A M

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Asgar Patel GROUP CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OF PATELS

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ooking back at his arrival back in 1978, Asgar Patel is still astonished by the drastic makeover Dubai has experienced over the years. “There were few hotels, taxis had no metres, and one dirham was equivalent to two Indian

rupees. This certainly isn’t the case anymore!” Asgar moved to Dubai from India to get his firm up and running in the UAE. He was already transporting goods and thought that there should be a way of transporting money as well. Thus, he established an international brand, Wall Street Exchange Center, which was sold to Empost in 2012. He claims to have done so with ease due to minimal interference from government officials and immense support from other stakeholders. “Banks were very co-operative. Most importantly, the nature of the Emiratis is very respectful and considerate – they not only have a tremendous amount of style, but also a great deal of courage and spirit.” In addition to that, Asgar believes that the wide variety of nationalities in the UAE helped him professionally.

“A truly smart city for smart people.” He elaborated to say that the leaders of the city have played a crucial role in Dubai’s success. The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE, the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE, and of course His Highness Shiekh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai have all promoted liberal laws and the freedom to trade without government interference. It is their vision that has made Dubai the great city it is today.” Asgar considers Dubai to be the “land of freedom” and admires the city for its excellent leaders. Speaking from experience, his advice to people thinking of making Dubai their home is optimistic and motivating, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”

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A S G A R PAT E L

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Taher Shams MANAGING DIRECTOR, ZULEKHA HEALTHCARE GROUP

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y first impression of Dubai was simply amazement, particularly regarding the infrastructure, and within a short period of time I fell in love with the place and my work at Zulekha, where I started

my career immediately after completing my education,” Taher Shams explains. Calling Dubai home since September 1995, Taher believes that the city’s success has been fuelled by the leadership of its ruler, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the entrepreneurial spirit of its people. “Many global business tycoons with big dreams have realised their potential here in Dubai. The cultural diversity and energy across all sectors, driven by discipline and strict governance, encourages business people to be innovative and positive – it is a potent mix.” Taher goes on to say that Dubai has everything one needs to succeed, including access to global markets. “Dubai is where East meets West, so in a nutshell it has the best of both worlds.”

“The warmth that we experience as expats in Dubai allows us to retain a positive and optimistic attitude.” Describing Dubai as ‘dynamic’, Taher has some good advice for first-time visitors: “If you are merely a tourist or, alternatively, someone looking to settle and reside in Dubai, you will discover many new things, meet a global audience, and learn about different cultures. It is the most vibrant and well-equipped among the seven emirates of the UAE, with sports of all kinds, luxurious lifestyles, world-class infrastructure, and well-organised transport systems being just a few of the things visitors will immediately notice. Simply put, Dubai is a land filled with never-ending opportunities.”

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TA H E R S H A M S

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Priya Khanna MANAGING DIRECTOR, ELEMENTS FENGSHUI

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oung, ambitious and determined, 25-year old Priya Khanna arrived in Dubai for the first time with her daughter on 26th September 1990. “It was an experience that I distinctly remember. My memory is so fresh with the

warmth of the emotions I felt on arriving in Dubai, 27 years ago.” From day one, Priya was amazed by the cleanliness, infrastructure and culture of Dubai. “The architecture was mesmerising due to its deep-rooted cultural heritage. The Clock Tower was my favourite structure, closely followed by the Falcon Roundabout.” She was greeted with kindness and respect from everyone and felt genuinely welcomed in her new home. “I enjoyed the experience of meeting people from a completely different culture; they seemed so focused and extremely well-mannered.”

“Dubai is my safe haven, my home and I love it beyond words.” Priya believes that Dubai’s success lies in the strong, honest, intelligent and futuristic visions of the country’s leaders. “the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the Father of Dubai is probably one of the greatest leaders ever. His successors, especially His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, have been visionaries who have taken the city to the world. Their leadership has focused on the wellbeing and growth of the entire community.” She thanks the city’s government for playing a vital role in her professional growth, as they offered her a formal platform to establish the very first Fengshui consultancy company and retail store, at a time where alternative therapies and energy modalities were not commonly known in the region. “I am very grateful to the broad-minded and futuristic approach of Dubai’s government for supporting positive living and the environmental balancing of energy.” Priya considers Dubai her home now and summarised it as “Paradise”. For anyone visiting Dubai for the first time, Priya has one simple piece of advice: “Dubai offers a multitude of opportunities in every sphere - explore them and expand your horizons.”

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P R I YA K H A N N A

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Walid Hajj EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, CRAVIA

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alid first came to Dubai in July 2000, establishing Cravia out of a small office on Sheikh Zayed Road with a small team of just four. “I remember being very impressed with everything Dubai did at the time.

“Wow” was my repeated reaction to the speed and the quality of the development and advancement of the city. I remember wondering if Dubai had peaked? Am I too late in establishing my business? Of course, little did I know that Dubai was just getting started on its journey to becoming what is today, a truly world-class global city.” Believing that leadership is key to Dubai’s success, Walid says that, just like in any organisation, when the leader has the right vision, drive and fairness, the rest will follow. “There is no doubt that His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai is going to go down in history as one-of-a-kind - someone who relentlessly seeks advancement for his country and his people, while remaining close to everyone and loved by all.”

“Whether it is cultural, art, or business events, one is always motivated and inspired to do more, learn more, and explore more in Dubai.” From the very beginning, Walid has been impressed by government offices and how they are run like private organisations. “Things like customer service and improved processes, while unheard of in other governments in countries throughout the world, are a priority here.” Searching for the ideal word to describe Dubai, Walid says: “That’s tough, but I would say ‘inspirational’ is certainly up there. In fact, one can’t help but be inspired by this city; just take a boat ride out onto the Arabian Gulf and look at Dubai from that vantage point. It is simply spectacular!”

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WALID HAJJ

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

James Mathew GROUP CEO (UAE & OMAN), CROWE HORWATH

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rom a modest beginning at the age of 24 as a fresh Chartered Accountant, it has been a journey of hard work and willpower that established James Mathew as a stalwart in the accounting arena and a successful entrepreneur

in the Middle East. He looks back fondly at his journey: “This city has given me the opportunity, conducive environment, and strength to reach this juncture. I have seen the city grow in the last few decades and believe that I have grown along with it. According to him, Dubai’s success lies in the city’s “vision, determination and speed. The transformation of the city is truly the result of the vision and determination of its leaders”. In a city where his dreams have come true, James remains humble; “I owe my success to a lot of people who have inspired me, supported me and walked along with me.”

“Dubai is a place where dreamers come together to make their dreams a reality.” James joined Horwath Mak, a member firm of Crowe Horwath International in 1996 as a Partner and rose to a leadership position as Group CEO of Crowe Horwath in UAE & Oman. He also serves on the global board of Crowe Horwath International, the eighth largest audit and accounting network in the world. As the Group CEO, he has been instrumental in the firm’s overall growth and had relentlessly worked to establish it as a leading accountancy firm in the region. Looking at the future he says, “Dubai is moving towards a sustainable and long-term growth which is evident in the government’s vision and policies.” He adds: “Dubai mirrors the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai. His vision drives and inspires the world. He famously said, ‘The race for excellence has no finish line’, which seems to be the soul of Dubai.”

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J A M E S M AT H E W

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Emad Jaber MANAGING PARTNER, LA CASA

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hen Emad Jaber first arrived in Dubai in 1984, his first impressions were of a small, hot, quiet city with very minimal attractions. How things have changed! Emad puts Dubai’s success down to one man.

“There is no doubt about it, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai is a truly great leader and without him none of what we see today would have been possible.” Emad explains that living and working in Dubai has helped his own professional growth in a number of important ways: “I was given the opportunity to work with various international architectural consultants and learn from them. I was also able to design and work on some iconic mega projects. Additionally, the technological advancements available in Dubai allowed me to be exposed to the latest tools in design and construction.”

“Dubai has provided me and my team of engineers with the perfect work environment.” Describing Dubai as “simply fascinating,” Emad goes on to say: “Dubai’s success story is the result of an entrepreneurial mindset and a business friendly philosophy. Even after decades of double-digit growth, its economy is still highly dynamic and robust. Few countries in the world have been able to maintain such an astonishing rate of growth for such an extended period of time.” His advice to first-time visitors to Dubai? “Watch, learn and enjoy. You are experiencing one of the most exciting and dynamic environments of earth; an example of what can be achieved with hard work, vision, and wise leadership.”

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EMAD JABER

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Sunita Bhatia CEO, TSSC FZCO

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unita Bhatia’s journey as a resident of Dubai commenced on 15th April 1975, when she was just an 11-year old student. Upon her arrival, she recalls being overwhelmed with emotions. “I had mixed feelings because I had just

left home and come to a new land. Fortunately, I had family and friends over here so I felt comfortable instantly. I received warmth, love and, above all, acceptance.”

“Dubai is The City of Dreams.” She believes that the visionary rulers of Dubai are the main reason for its success, along with the acceptance of expatriates, which is demonstrated by the city’s people and government. “The foundation model of Dubai has been very welcoming. The rulers have initiated procedures, policies and practices to help people with their start-ups. In those days, people wanted growth.” In addition to that, Sunita feels that the location of the UAE works in its favour. “You can see Saudi Arabia on one side, North Africa, Jordan on the other sides. All of these countries are very near Dubai, making the emirate a melting pot for all the different cultures and societies.” Being a woman, Sunita feels that Dubai is a strong advocate for the empowerment of women and has been very supportive in her journey as a female entrepreneur. “They always applaud women and their achievements. The culture in the society has accepted women on the same platform as men – they help out women in many ways. This motivation and acceptance helped my professional growth significantly.” Her advice to someone visiting Dubai for the first time is to respect the customs of the UAE as a whole and accept the various nationalities and cultures, which have become the catalyst in helping to define this city. For those who wish to establish their business here, Sunita states: “Work hard, play smart and keep updating yourself with the latest trends and always play by the rules of the city. Only then you will be successful.”

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S U N I TA B H AT I A

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Yogesh Mehta CEO, PETROCHEM

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hen Yogesh Mehta arrived in Dubai on 15th March 1990, he had one thought in mind, to put his entrepreneurial skills to work in his own specific area of interest, the chemical industry. Indeed, Yogesh wasn’t

looking for a job; he wanted to be his own boss. He had some knowledge of the industry, but only limited finance. Nevertheless, he chose to go the extra mile to achieve his goal. “I went to the library and gathered further knowledge on what new chemicals were being bought in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait. I did my research and made a business case. My idea was to show my business plan to potential clients.”

“Dubai is paradise - Dubai is a land of opportunities.” Nowadays, people instantly visualise skyscrapers and complex infrastructure when they think of Dubai. However, Yogesh’s initial impression was considerably different. “I thought it was a sleepy, fishing village. There were two-lane highways; it was a very small town where everybody knew everybody. The UAE was still finding itself, Dubai was still making itself.” Over the years, Yogesh watched Dubai evolve from a small town to a modernised metropolis. “The two-lane highways turned into seven-lane highways. Dubai has grown into an unbelievably successful city… and it’s still growing.” While claiming that Dubai is a land of opportunities, Yogesh added that Dubai is not for everyone and had some advice for first time visitors. “You need to be a high performer with a strong skill-set and a solid business plan. Only then can you succeed.” Yogesh believes the city’s success lies in “its airport and the government’s great foresight to make Dubai the gateway to the Middle East and Far East. What London is to Europe, Dubai is to the Middle East.” Given that Yogesh started off with nothing, he feels that Dubai has given him everything. “I believe when I came to Dubai in 1990, I came to the right place at the right time.”

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YO G E S H M E H TA

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FAC E S O F D U B A I

Chris Govier GENERAL MANAGER, XEROX

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hris Govier has been in and out of Dubai since 1993. “I am actually on my third ‘tour’ to Dubai. I first came for a few years in 1993, then returned in 1998, and now on this occasion, I have been back since March 2015.”

His first impression of Dubai was that it was an exotic destination, packed with excitement and an overwhelmingly friendly atmosphere. “It has grown so much since then and continues to be a melting pot of diverse cultures and nationalities.” After spending several years in the emirate, Chris believes that the secret of Dubai’s success lies in its vision and welcoming attitude towards different nationalities. “Dubai continues to look to the future and in many ways, defines it. Its entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to allow people from very different backgrounds to live side-by-side has also played a part in its success.”

“Dubai’s ability to succeed, grow and be open to create different experiences has been a big influence on my professional approach to life.” Having arrived to Dubai as a vibrant young man from New Zealand, Chris was keen to experience the numerous opportunities Dubai had to offer. “In those days, the type of people who came here were more entrepreneurial, more open to risk taking – ‘trail blazers’ if you like.” He believes Dubai has played a fundamental role in his professional life, due to its multicultural environment and abundance of experiences. “I am so fortunate to have worked with people from all over the world, and to be able to embrace and celebrate such diversity has been a privilege.” Chris considers Dubai his ‘home’, and having taken a career risk himself his advice to first time visitors is to do the same. “Remove your pre-conceptions. Open your mind. Be adventurous. Take risks. Enjoy!”

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CHRIS GOVIER

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FAC E S O F D U B A I . CO M

Faces of Dubai 2017  
Faces of Dubai 2017