One of the most repeated catchphrases of 2013 was “Dubai is back”, reflecting a wide agreement about Dubai’s re-emergence as a centre of commerce and tourism, led in part by a resurgent stock market, booming real estate sector and a boost in confidence from the Expo 2020 win. While Dubai and the UAE as a whole were undoubtedly shining stars in 2013, the same sense of optimism was also shared across the Gulf as countries experienced significant economic growth.
It is with these accomplishments of the past year that I cannot help but look towards 2014 with optimism, especially as it relates to business where I predict our region’s buoyancy will morph into energised ambition and an environment where more local brands not only have the confidence to take their products and services global, but the means and support necessary to do so as well.
Although we in the UAE are proud of well-known companies like Emirates, Jumeirah and Mubadala that have all shown that it can be done, there is still a distinct lack of brand ambassadors who properly represent the creativity and talent that exists in our region on a number of different levels.
Take, for example, the sad reality of walking along any high-street in London, New York or Hong Kong and finding it virtually impossible to discover any brands of consumer products, including fashion or food, being bought and sold whose origin is from the Gulf region. Equally apparent, if you were to turn on the radio or go into a cinema in any of these cities, you would be hard-pressed to hear a song or watch a film by an artist from the Gulf. This undeniable evidence alone proves that it is high time as a society that we recognise the need, and indeed the huge opportunity, to highlight the talent, products and services we possess and can create within our region.
An area I have personally invested time and energy into are the often over-looked cultural facets, especially that of music and film, that exist in the region. In 2013, one of Crescent Enterprises’ companies, Global Gumbo Group, organised the first ever Dubai Music Week with the specific goal of unearthing and celebrating fresh, local musical talent. What was apparent to everyone involved in the event, including our partner the legendary music producer Quincy Jones, was that there are a huge number of gifted singers and musicians in our region waiting to be discovered; they just need the proper platform to be nurtured and heard. The same principles apply within the movie industry, where we have an incredibly rich library of stories just waiting to be told, and a group of talented young filmmakers ready to tell them. Through these arenas and by exercising cultural diplomacy, we are not only fostering regional talent, but also exporting it internationally, creating affinities between youth and connecting cultures and economies on a unique and very rewarding level.
Luckily one of the most vital tools at our grasp today, and which will serve as the most important catalyst for change in 2014, is the desire and innovation of an entire generation of young entrepreneurs flooding the region, who inspire us to think creatively about our future and all of the possibilities that lie ahead. It is these pioneering professionals who will lay the foundation of looking beyond success in their home markets, and instead concentrate on developing export-focused business models. Allied with the ongoing expansion of established local companies and family groups, it will not be long before we start to see these leading entrepreneurs emerge, driving Gulf brands to compete and succeed on the international scene.
It is through our demonstrable talents, strengths and ambition that the region continues to shine bright, and is why I envision 2014’s top business catchphrase to be “Gulf brands go Global.” An expression I hope not only catches on, but proves true that the Gulf’s best home-grown brands have both the ambition and opportunity to achieve significant international growth in the coming year, and the ability to make a positive influence on the world stage.