And the winner is…

The winners from last week’s Arabian Business Achievement Awards are testament to the strength of the Middle East’s business community.
And the winner is…
By Anil Bhoyrul
Sun 17 Nov 2013 08:09 AM

So the recession is over.

The boom is back, success is back, brilliance is back. I’m not just saying this, I really believe it – and more than ever after the annual Arabian Business Awards held last week at the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai.

Our guest of honour was former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Next week we will be delving into his politics in much more detail, and publishing a wide-ranging interview with one of the world’s biggest living statesmen.  But apart from delivering a fabulous speech, Blair kindly took time to meet and speak to each of our winners.  I asked him afterwards who is favourite winner was, and for the only time that evening, he genuinely looked lost for words.

And if you look through this week’s special issue, which highlights the achievements of our 15 winners, you can see why. In every field, in every sector, through so many companies and individuals, 2013 has been the year of quite staggering success stories.

Having been involved in choosing the award winners over the past few months, I too have difficulty picking just a few to highlight in this column but I will give it a go.

First up is our Businesswoman of the Year Joelle Mardinian. She could have had an easy life as a make-up artist for the stars, and then an even easier life as a television celebrity. But no, she choose a far more difficult path – building up her own brand of cosmetic clinics, beauty products and even her own hair and skin brand. Today, the “Joelle” brand is an astonishing business success – and proof that with the right idea and work ethic, anything is possible.

Is there a more deserving case for Humanitarian of the Year than Munib Masri? I think not. The man who has three times turned down the chance to be Prime Minister of Palestine now channels all his energy and considerable wealth into the peace process. Even Blair remarked “wow” when I told him Munib Masri was in the room.

It’s barely two years ago that Mona Ataya decided to start her own e-commerce business catering for mother and baby products. Today Mumzworld is the largest such store in the Middle East with 90,000 products and 200,000 registered users. Beat that if you can.

Could anyone else have reshaped Emaar the way Mohamed Alabbar did at the height of the recession, getting the company to focus on recurring revenues from the hospitality and retail side of the business? Today those recurring revenues top over $1bn a year. No wonder his share price is 70 percent up in one year, and no wonder he won “Visionary of the Year.”

Ahmed Heikal, our Lifetime Achievement Award winner, transformed EFG Hermes from a small-time financial consultancy into one of the world’s biggest investment banks. What he has done with his new outfit Citadel Capital is even more impressive, particularly in poverty stricken parts of Africa where his investments have helped create 38,000 jobs.

But the biggest cheer of the night, and the biggest praise, belongs to HH Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. His innovations in helping prevent crime have been gold class, but best of all is the way he has created over 30 different companies within the Abu Dhabi Police Force – effectively a string of privately operated service firms – that together are now a hugely profitable empire.  His Highness, through his leadership and vision, has shown the rest of us how to create, structure and run a business.  There will never be a better winner for “Business Innovation.”

Between them, what all our winners have proved is 2013 is the year when real leaders took risks, made big decisions and had the courage to follow through their convictions.  The results are for everyone to see in this special issue.

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