Insights into the exclusive world of the private business clubs
Emirates World Club is a Dubai-based VIP-private members’ club that has attracted not only the region’s highest-level CEOs, VPs, business VIPs and senior GMs, but a global C-suite elite that shares the common bond of bearing the unique responsibilities that come with high-level corporate performance.
When we think of the successful CEOs of well-known national, regional and multi-national firms, we imagine people who are at the pinnacle of their success – the pinnacle being the very top tip of the triangle. And thinking about this, not in business but in human terms, Emirates World Club founder Romika Fazeli has correctly identified that the only people who really understand the life, challenges and victories of top CEOs…are other CEOs and GMs at the same level.
Force of nature and powerhouse of charm, beauty and emotional intelligence, Fazeli has single-handedly grown one of the most difficult-to-enter private member business clubs in the world, based in the luxurious heart of Dubai.
Fazeli says: “The most successful and highest-achieving businesspeople are often also the most hunted individuals in the corporate ecosystem. Other businesspeople want the opportunity to meet them, few get the opportunity to network with these ultimate decision-makers, and everyone – everyone - wants to pitch and sell something to them. Can you imagine being that person? Can you imagine that there are so many people who make strategies to try and meet you, but none are interested in you as a person?
As founder of this organisation, I protect our members from intrusion. I do feel awful about having to politely decline some of the commercial offers that approach us, but even the brands that we allow to sponsor events need to meet certain suitability criteria by our advisory members.”
Here, Fazeli gives us some insights into the exclusive world of the private business club:
Can you give us a brief description of the business?
We have created a private society membership that is designed for very senior management only. We invite our members to various private-dinners and 5-star getaways to socialise and of course benefit from like-minded networking in a relaxed and luxurious setting. All new membership requests require approval by our board.
How did the idea for Emirates World Club come to life?
I have been running an event and model management business for almost 10 years and organised over 250 events for industries such as oil and gas, rail, construction and marine. This gave me the opportunity to meet distinguished guests often and form the basis of many business relationships over time. I speak multiple languages and have always found it easy to relate to people as people, without agenda.
I was often asked by business friends and clients to help with restaurant reservations, or client hospitality trips, which I provided with pleasure until one day it occurred to me that I could actually provide these services formally, within a private company structure. I didn’t actually find the idea, the idea found me, which evolved into a private society membership - the Emirates World Club. We have now grown to a membership database of 6,000 senior managers in the region, whose privacy is fiercely protected.
How did you establish whether there was a market for such a members club?
I noticed over years through my event work how effective and important networking is, and how few networking events in Dubai are exclusive just to the very senior management strata. It’s very important to consider that CEOs appreciate their privacy at such events and don't wish to meet or be approached by someone who wants to sell insurance, for example. Understanding these needs is how I designed the concept of the events to bring together the C-suite from different industries. They understand each other, they have a commonality of character and interests and they very much appreciate events that cater to their own particular social and business needs.
Did you take any outside professional advice in any aspect of the business?
Frankly speaking I am eternally grateful for the professional advice I received from mentors. To me, having mentors is the most important aspect of any business. I have always worked closely with the most successful and intelligent business leaders, and as people, I have always found them to be very kind and generous with their time and advice. The result is a private members club that is largely engineered by the needs and interests of the members themselves. I am proud of us – my management board and our members.
What was the point where you knew the club was successful in its objectives?
When the memberships were launched and after our event on 23rd of May 2017, we had to close the registration two days prior to the event, as we had reached the maximum number of guests. We had people flying in from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to attend the event - very well-known VIPs. The majority of the guests asked my team and I when the next event would be taking place. The last event was written about by more than 25 publications which made me very happy and proud.
What is next for you, in terms of growing the business?
“We are currently developing more partnerships. I am very honoured that a huge leap of expansion has just taken place. I have now been chosen as the Head of the World CEO Club from New York, and to work with such an international Club is an honour for me, but I believe is also a testament to my members themselves - the strong relationships they create within the club, and of course the size of the network itself. It effectively means that, for example, members from the GCC find it easy to meet like-minded, or similar-sector members from China or Europe and I see their own connections flourish.
We aim to extend the business in the region and also in Europe. Even though there is a strict vetting procedure for new membership applications, once a member is accepted, there are tremendous business benefits. And personal benefits too – they can socialise and network with people who understand them, they can relax in environments that befit their professional status and enjoy access to luxury products, appreciate cuisine, art and entertainment at their own level – and, again this all happens on a human level - isn’t that exactly what everyone needs?
The next exclusive Emirates World Club private event is taking place at a location that we are not making public, but I know that everyone will be getting back to their networking best for the new year. And this is an exciting way to do business – as people.”