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UOWD students recognised for outstanding contribution in Emirates Islamic Innovation Challenge

Wednesday, 29 January, 2014

A team of six students from the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) were honoured for their outstanding contribution at a recent award ceremony celebrating the culmination of the Emirates Islamic Innovation Challenge.

The UOWD team of Ahmed Kaisrani, Ruth Thomas, Paayal Bulchandani, Nada Tchantchane, Mohammed Rawashdeh, and Rouhollah Ebrahimabady narrowly missed out on a top spot, but were awarded special certificates in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the Competition.

Organised by Emirates Islamic, one of the country’s leading Islamic financial institutions, the Competition called upon students across UAE universities to devise innovative ways of engaging with banking customers, through new products, services, applications and media tools.

The team of students came together from four different undergraduate majors to develop a strategy that would engage new and existing customers from different user groups, in different ways. Marketing students Ruth and Paayal undertook the market research while Finance major Nada, and Accounting major Mohammed, crunched the numbers. BBA student Rouhollah was the innovation-lead and his course mate Ahmed led the team overall. 

The team’s strategy was based on an integrated campaign of three key components. The first offered customers a virtual piggy bank, where they could save money and keep track of budgets through a free and convenient interactive tool. The second targeted business customers, involving the creation of an online business to business trading community.

The third and final component was targeted at young people and involved the creation of an ‘Emirates Islamic Encyclopaedia’ that would be available across different platforms and use different strategies to engage young people, with a view to attracting them early in life to establish and retain brand loyalty.

The team came through the qualifying rounds to take part in the finals, where they presented their proposal to industry experts and technology practitioners, who judged the entries based on finance, innovation, practicality and quality. Their multi-dimensional strategy earned them special recognition with the judging panel, and they were presented with certificates of achievement by the Bank’s CEO, Mr Jamal Bin Ghalaita.

Team Leader Ahmed said the competition had been an exciting and rewarding experience. “The best thing that we learned from the Emirate Islamic Innovation Challenge was what we are all capable of. The intensity of research, the nature of the information we had to produce, and the difficulty of the challenges that we worked through during the competition pushed us all beyond our limits. I am grateful to Emirates Islamic for giving us this amazing opportunity.”

Team member Nada Tchantchane added, “The competition brought out all our passion and abilities to enhance the world of banking. We did so much research and tried very hard to come up with new ideas. Our goal was to look for innovations that could grow and create an impact by improving the bank’s cross-sell opportunities, as well as developing social media solutions to improve its customer base. We are delighted to have represented our university and achieved important objectives through our participation in this competition.”

The team was mentored by Associate Professors, Dr Mufeed Rawashdeh and Dr Melodena Balakrishnan, from the Faculty of Business at UOWD.

Dr Balakrishnan concluded, “The students earned deserved praise for their strategic approach to finding long-term solutions, particularly in the area of social media, which by its very nature is short-lived. What was particularly impressive was the teamwork they demonstrated, coming from different disciplines and at different stages of study. The seniors brought a lot of experience from previous commercial projects, which they shared with the other students in the group, and this helped them with their strategic approach to the competition, which was recognised and rewarded by the judging panel.”