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Leading UAE companies at the UOWD sponsored Academy of International Business (AIB) conference

Thursday, 23 December, 2010

Jumeirah Group, Abraaj Capital, ATIC, UAE Exchange and others present cases studies before 70 international participants

Business leaders from several leading UAE companies shared their success stories before an international audience of nearly 70 industry and academic thinkers of international business at the debut conference of the MENA chapter of the Academy of International Business (AIB), a leading association of scholars and specialists in the field of international business.

The three-day event, held at Business Village, Dubai SME, Dubai Economic Development from December 10 to 12, was organized by AIB-MENA, under the theme Manara Dubai Reigniting Growth, in active collaboration with University of Wollongong in Dubai (the main sponsor); Zayed University, and professors from HCT and American University of Sharjah as well as industry champions like Abraaj Capital, UAE Exchange, JAFZA and the government sector like the Business Village.

Of the 70 participants, 30% came from the United States and Canada, and 50% from GCC countries. A total of 23 countries presented research papers on the MENA region. Leading international Universities like Richard Ivey School of Business, Carleton University, Monash University, McGill University, Texas A&M, George Washington University were represented. There was a strong response to AIB-MENAs call for more cases which not only documented local knowledge in this region but strengthened our education system 15% of submissions were cases. Research presentation covered over 19 themes, including culture, FDI, Free trade zones, market entry, marketing trends and education.

Thomas Kuruvilla, the Managing Director for Arthur D. Little, Strategy & Organization Practice spoke about opportunities and challenges to reignite growth from the industry perspective at a Gala Dinner; Dr. Melodena S. Balakrishnan spoke about overcoming adversity as the other side of growth.

Addressing a panel session on Challenges of Globalisation & Adaptability, Mr. Frederic Sicre, Executive Director of Abraaj Capital commended the region for investing prudently in the non-oil sectors and laying the foundation for long-term sustainable industries.

"As a firm specializing in private equity consultancy, Abraaj understands the potential of this region where 70 per cent of the GDP is non-oil related, and there is richness of commerce and services. We are particularly excited about the SME sector because of the amazing amount of talent and strong entrepreneurship skills, Sicre added.

Gerald Lawless, Executive Director, of Jumeirah Group, recounted the meteoric rise of the Jumeirah brand, and explained with anecdotes the strategy behind taking the home-grown UAE brand international. He revealed that by the end of 2011, Jumeirah will have 18 hotels worldwide, and the total would rise to 60 hotels within next four years.

Sudhir Kumar Shetty, Chief Operating Officer of UAE Exchange, said his companys expansion into 23 countries was due to its relentless focus on quality and a customer-centric approach. "Our penchant for quality has been the key driver for grabbing almost 5 per cent of the global remittance business, he said.

In another panel session on Building National Competitiveness: opportunities in MENA region, Sami Issa, Executive Director at the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), said "it is quite essential to partner with educational establishments to encourage the development of a competent and talented work force. We at ATIC understand this best, our human capital plans are part of our development strategy to create and operate a technology ecosystem in Abu Dhabi. ATIC is a specialist investment company which owns 73% of GlobalFoundries, the first truly global foundry business in the world and the third largest in terms of semiconductor revenues.

Prof. Rob Whelan, President of UOWD, who moderated two key sessions, said smart diversification was the need of the hour as the UAE moves away from the oil-based model. He said events like the AIB conference bring into the spotlight the need to align business curriculum with specific market needs, and also foster discussions on the desired level of localisation, while maintaining a balance between global curriculum and customization.

Prof. John Seybolt, Dean of the College of Business Sciences, Zayed University who moderated the session on International Business said this conference was a step in the right direction, and added that collaboration was key to better research quality.

Discussing the state of research in a panel discussion on "Encouraging Research in the UAE: Creating a Conducive Environment", Himanshu Vashishtha, Managing Director, Middle East Pakistan, The Nielsen Company and Hermann Behrens, CEO, Brand Union stressed the importance of looking at industry needs (both theoretically and from an insight point of view), working with universities to expose students to research and helping academics with access to data, funding and identifying current industry needs.

The panel on "Women in Management: Relook at Education, Society and HR" comprising Dr Manal Taryam, MD, Medical Director, Noor Dubai and Deborah Najar, General Manager, Salam Watch and Jewellery Division, discussed the importance of exposing young women to career women not only for mentorship but as role models. The panel was attended by young lady student researchers from Zayed University and the UOWD among other delegates.

"Through this conference, AIB-MENA successfully brought industry leaders, government and academics to discuss emerging research needs and identify new methods of collaboration. This is especially important as published research in business, management and accounting in MENA is just 0.73% of world output. We also arranged three workshops, one for students at the Masters and Bachelors level, a writing and publishing workshop by Emerald Group Publishing, the largest on-line publisher of business management research and finally a Journal of International Business workshop, to get an idea of what a top tier journal looks for in terms of research quality, said Dr. Melodena Stephens Balakrishnan, Associate Professor of University of Wollongong in Dubai and Chair of AIB-MENA.

The AIB is the leading global community of scholars for the creation and dissemination of knowledge about international business and policy issues. Established in 1959, AIB has 2,955 members in 73 different countries around the world. AIB members include international scholars, consultants and academics devoted to increased understanding of international business worldwide.