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Sun 16 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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SME Awards

The inaugural event hosted by YourBusiness took place on the 20th October at the Park Hyatt to a gathering that included companies each with a vested interest in the GCC region, and in the growth of the small business market in particular.

The inaugural event hosted by YourBusiness took place on the 20th October at the Park Hyatt to a gathering that included companies each with a vested interest in the GCC region, and in the growth of the small business market in particular.

The judging panel included Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid (Al Maktoum Foundation), Visa, HP, Etisalat, HSBC, Emirates NBD, Citibank, YourBusiness advisory board and business consultants.

The breakfast followed by awards ceremony, was sponsored by Visa; the Platinum sponsor who contributed to the elevated mood by arranging for a solid silver ingot to be waiting for us. Sadly, only chocolate and not to be exchanged for hard currency, the gift was joined by a plethora of other goodies donated by delegates, adding a sweet touch to the events advertising portent.

The overall winner award went to Content Syndicate: Words on Demand for Delivering customised content to publishers, agencies and corporates in more than 200 languages.

A thoughtfully allocated table plan ensured ample opportunity to swap ideas and exchange perspectives on the issues of the day- helped also by the speeches- delivered by officials and leaders from key business areas. Photographers posted at key points on the floor ensured that few photo opportunities were missed and the publicity machine was able to work its desired magic.

Why now?

YourBusiness now hitting its first birthday it was decided that something bigger was needed to encompass the magazines core values. Recognition of the huge contribution (roughly 70 % and growing) that sme's make to the GDP of the UAE here was thought to be long overdue. Hosted by the Editor-in-Chief Zoya Malik, the day was a vibrant opportunity to showcase the Mena regions best sme's, their products and the activities that go into making them.

In each award there were three tiers: An overall winner, a winner, and a highly commended. The awards included The Fastest Growing SME in the GCC sponsored by Emirates NBD. For this award the National Occupational Safety & Health Centre (OSHO CENTRE) had to have a turnover of below 20m AED per annum and to have demonstrated the most growth over a three year period. Best Use of Technology by SME sponsored by Etisalat, was awarded to Spectrum FZ LLC (Network training, design and implementation of enterprise network security, Strategic Consulting etc.).

Best Young Entrepreneur in the GCC sponsored by Hamriyah Free Zone, was awarded to Lammtara FZ LLC for being under 30 years of age and having developed a business from start-up that was no more than 1 year old. The entrepeneur was Mohammed Saeed Harib who is involved in Animation and Intellectual Property Licensing. You may have heard his name in connection with FREEJ, shown on the children's network here. The award for

Best Female Entrepeneur in the GCC, sponsored by FORSA, went to Geelato Trading. They developed their retail business in the tailoring and selling of Abayas and Shailas from start up in in the region (business must have been running for at least one year to make them a nominee).

Best Franchised SME in the GCC sponsored by DHL was based on a recognized franchise model either from or outside the region and was awarded to Zohoor Al Reef Ltd, involved in the retail of body and skin care products. The overall winner award went to Content Syndicate: Words on Demand.

Industry/Sector: Media/Publishing/Content services/Internet Products/Services: Content services USP: Delivering customised content to publishers, agencies and corporates in more than 200 languages.The awards are open to all SMEs in the GCC's irst and only media led SME Awards initiative Country and sector neutral.

The award committee which comprised of 13 judges came together in June earlier this year to decide who met the criteria of the nominees put forward. The judges were: The SME banking head of Standard Chartered Bank, Sunando Mukhopadhyay, Mike Solimani Priority Banking & SME Head (Emirates NBD), T.V Ramesh, director finance & strategic planning, Hamriyah Free Zone, and Ernest Azzam, graphics business manager for the Imaging and Printing Group, HP Middleast.

CEMEA Commercial Solutions Forum was held in the Middle East for the first time this year and with this in mind, we spoke to Visa's Andrew Doukanaris, Head of Commercial Solutions Visa Inc Central and Eastern Europe Middle East & Africa (CEMEA), about its significance to small businesses.

Visa is the best way to pay suppliers and is the best way to be paid as a merchant. - Andrew Doukanaris, Visa

The choice of Dubai as host of this year's forum is a reflection of Visa's commitment to the region and the belief that as an emerging market, the Middle East and CEMEA as a whole has huge untapped potential. At a time when CEMEA's economy continues to diversify, the growth of its commercial sector represents a significant opportunity for Visa and its partner banks to deliver innovative tailor made products that support the business community whether large corporates or SMEs.

Visa Commercial Solutions is a suite of commercial cards tailored to enable small medium enterprises (SME), multinational companies, medium-to-large enterprises and government entities to streamline their payment processes. It also helps to manage expenditure information which in turns helps organisations to reduce their administrative costs. In short, it effectively manages business purchases and expenses which is important for time strapped SMEs.

While the definition of an SME differs greatly, their core needs do not. Cash flow, convenience and cost containment are priorities for all SMEs; says Andrew "Visa Commercial is uniquely poised due to its global acceptance and security to serve SMEs from a payable and receivable point of view. Visa is the best way to pay suppliers and is the best way to be paid as a merchant."

Upcoming trends in finance signpost big things for the region. According to Visa's Commercial Consumption Expenditure Index released in July 2008, annual global commercial spending grew to an estimated $77.3 trillion in 2007, an increase of 12.2 percent. The index revealed that Central/Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMEA) experienced estimated growth in commercial spending of 20.5% for 2007, making CEMEA the fastest growing region in the world.

The CCE index is a financial metric that provides standardised tracking of business and government spending globally and is recognised as an industry benchmark for measuring commercial spending.

Moreover, statistics released by the International Finance Corporation and World Bank Group in January 2007, show that on average 80 per cent of the total regional business and employment market is made up of SMEs, and this figure is as high as 86 per cent for the UAE. Based on this industry commentators believe that the GCC's SME sector is poised for remarkable growth over the coming years.

"As the SME sector grows, says Andrew, we have noticed that SMEs increasingly want to become more efficient in their cashflow management." Regional research shows that SMEs value 5 main tenants above all. They are:

Cashflow management - Visa Commercial products can replace inefficient forms of payment and help SMEs streamline their payment processes as well as helping to manage expenditure information. This in turns helps organisations to reduce their administrative costs. In short, it effectively manages business purchases and expenses.

Global Acceptance -small businesses need a form of payment that is recognised globally. There is no point having a credit or debit card if none of your suppliers accept it. Therefore Visa's unsurpassed global acceptance provides the convenience and flexibility that they need.

Rewards - Visa Commercial solutions can provide them with purchasing savings, rewards and discounts that otherwise would only be available to large corporates which have the bargaining power to negotiate discounts.Discounts are currently available on products and services in 10 various categories across the UAE including: car rental services; courier services; lodging; management training; online services; professional services; software; travel services; publications and telecommunications.

The new Visa merchant offer web site offers UAE businesses global discounts wherever their business needs may take them. For example, a small business in the UAE could save 40 percent on local car rentals, while also receiving discounts on worldwide travel services.

Efficiency - commercial products can improve management reporting which gives companies the visibility to group and analyse spending data by expense type, Merchant Category Code, geography. This means less hours spent with the accountant trying to figure out which expenses were business related and which were not. This is a real value added service for time strapped SMEs.

Visa Commercial is uniquely poised due to its global acceptance and security to serve SMEs from a payable and receivable point of view. As the SME sector grows, says Andrew, “we have noticed that SMEs increasingly want to become more efficient in their cashflow management.

Safety and security - Often a business does not know the supplier they are dealing with when making a transaction but with a Visa Commercial card they can be assured of the security that comes with the Visa brand.

There are some very progressive and innovative banks in the region, particularly here in the GCC. For example, Visa recently partnered with SAMBA Bank in Saudi Arabia to deliver the first Sharia compliant Commercial product in the region and succeeded in meeting a significantly unmet need in KSA to both SMEs and larger corporates.

We also asked the corporation to give their position on bad debt, and this is what Andrew had to say: "Visa has been committed to promoting financial literacy for more than a decade having first launched our financial literacy programme in 1996. The initiative was geared towards increasing people's knowledge in the financial field and started life as a small but important idea to which we are wholeheartedly committed."

Twelve years on and the programme is now being implemented in 16 countries with each acitivity tailored to fit the needs of the local communities it is introduced to.

As part of this worldwide initiative, Visa has worked with government and financial bodies, with theatre groups and universities, with web designers and cartoonists to communicate its financial literacy message.

Financial literacy is about helping people gain the tools they need to manage their personal funds effectively. Responsible money management is a critical part of surviving in today's world. The strongest financial tool today is knowledge.

It is important to note that the Middle East have one of the lowest figures of card misuse in the world and that the latest chip and pin system is helping to minimise what little risk there.

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