The Arabian Business awards prove the experts are wrong


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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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Posted by: Bill Oders

there is an old saying:
when the wise man shows the moon, the simple minded looks at the finger.

I don't think, from what I see around me that Dubai has a self sustained economy as yet. There is a long way to go. There are many young people unemployed in the GCC. They get a lot of help, yes but they do not contribute to the economy except by spending the generous help they get. For the rest of the Arab world, the situation is desperate in many countries if not all. Unemployment if calculated right is minimum at 30%. That is a lot if you consider that Europe with the crisis is at 10,7% and Spain at 22% (and they speak about CRISIS). Most Arab world countries depend onraw material with fluctuating prices. Not a real sustainable economy neither. Corruption and bad governence do the rest. This has caused to have the Arab spring. The world is not out of the bush yet. Being humble in such situation doesn't hurt or it does?

Posted by: Tawfik

This is such a joke on many levels. You can't be in Dubai if you don't have a job or are wealthy enough to buy your self a spot. So unemployment in Dubai would look cheery. On the other hand if gulf countries were doing so great would emiratisation and saudisation be necessary? The fact is that this simply a celebration of mediocrity as Dubai has always been. No one cares when the fire system in a tower fails and a simple house fire turns into an inferno which engulfs a full tower. Yet we can celebrate the few people who had lost much in the downturn but have an interest in a cheery image to portray to recover their loses.

Ask your CEO, before he makes a statement about the experts being wrong about unemployment in the Arab world, whether he has been to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, or Syria for that matter. Do us all a favour and stop thinking that you represent anyone other then yourselves .

Posted by: Concerned Citizen

This has to be the funniest thing I have read in a while. I am still trying to figure out how came to the conclusion about the global economic situation. You, Anil, should not be so arrogant, and state that based on the economic situation of a small country with vast resources and a limited population, that the economic situation is great. Maybe in the UAE, but you should have stated that in the beginning. If this is intended to market AB awards you have reached your intended goal. FYI, I know alot of people in the UAE, and contrary what you said there have been alot of lay-offs and turnarounds.

Posted by: BCW

It's almost funny that Dubai and the Arab business world is sticking its head in the sand again. I agree with the first two commentators. It is truly stunning when the CEO of Arab Business blatantly says that the experts are wrong to focus on unemployment and the effects of the recession in Europe. You can't dispute the facts - both of those things are going to have a huge impact going forward, and they still have not been addressed!

You can't wish them away by having a gala celebration with a bunch of rick folks patting each other on the back. The Arab Spring happened as much because of the ongoing malaise of unemployment and lack of hope in the Arab world as anything else. You can try to ignore it but it will catch up with you ...

Good luck with your little party guys!

Posted by: RBH

...And this was a segment brought to you by the rich and famous of Dubai, the people who care about nothing else but themselves.

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