The Arabian Business awards prove the experts are wrong

Aren’t we meant to be still in tough economic times? Have we not just come out of the worst recession in living memory? The answer is no
By Anil Bhoyrul
Sun 25 Nov 2012 09:14 AM

As well as the glamour and privilege that occasionally goes with a job like this, there are often many humbling experiences.

Last Monday night at Emirates Towers Hotel in Dubai was another one of these, as we revealed the winners of the Arabian Business Achievement Awards 2012. It was no easy task finding just fifteen winners from close to 900 entries, but thanks to the time and efforts of our judging panel, we managed it.

So let me kick off by first thanking and name checking this year’s judges: Dr Saad Al Barak, former CEO of Zain; Mohamed Al Mulla, CEO of Arab Media Group; Osman Sultan, CEO of du; Osama Hamdan, CFO of Drake & Scull; Adel Ali, CEO of Air Arabia; Khaled Samawi, founder of Ayyam Gallery; and Walid Akawi, CEO of ITP and chair of the judges panel.

Like me, when it came to the judges meeting last month, they all said the same thing. Aren’t we meant to be still in tough economic times? Have we not just come out of the worst recession in living memory? Aren’t companies supposed to be downsizing, restructuring and firing?

The answer to all these questions is no. I have been doing this job for eight years now, and the awards have been running for over a decade. Times and trends have changed. A decade ago, the internet was booming. When I started working at Arabian Business, everyone was raving about a company called iMate which had developed a smartphone — something at the time that everyone thought was utterly amazing. Six years ago, there was talk about Dubai building the world’s tallest structure and these amazing man-made islands. Downtown Dubai didn’t exist, nor did the iPhone or iPad. Then came the crash, and supposedly — especially according to the foreign press — the end of Dubai.

Well, one thing that hasn’t changed throughout all this time is the performance of Arab companies. Fadi Jaber stuck in $180,000 of his own cash to launch a company selling cupcakes — now he sells 1,000 cakes a day. A rightful owner of the trophy for Small Business of the Year. Emirates Airline has just doubled, yes doubled, first-half profits to $464m. Who can argue with it winning Airline of the Year? Hikma Pharmaceuticals has seen first-half revenues jump 34 percent to $532m. A worthy winner of Healthcare Company of the Year. Isn’t Iba Masood, the 22-year-old winner of Young Achiever of the Year, such an inspiration to everyone?  Our Businesswoman of the Year, Lama Bazzari, wants to open her own manufacturing plant for NStyle to help create more jobs. Brilliant. And Businessman of the Year Abdulla Al Zamil is surely not just a regional, but a global leader.

Has there ever been a better choice for Visionary of the Year than the incredible NASA scientist Charles Elachi? Has anyone done more to promote Dubai as a business hub than Helal Al Marri, the winner of our Outstanding Contribution to Business Award?

As our CEO Walid Akawi remarked during his speech on Monday night: “We hear many experts tell us about unemployment in the Arab world. And many experts tell us that the recession in Europe could still affect us here.

“But when we announce tonight’s winners, I hope you will agree with me in one thing: the experts are wrong!”

I couldn’t agree more.

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