Entrepreneurs: the Gulf’s most valuable natural resource in the post-oil era?

Here in the UAE, we are blessed with abundant natural resources – oil and gas – to help fuel the global economy. But, as we all know, these resources are finite, and we must also move towards more sustainable, renewable energy sources. While energy revenues have allowed the UAE to become an influential global nation, diversification has long been on the national agenda as we move towards an economy that thrives on a variety of industries.

And what underpins such an enormous shift is people – entrepreneurial people, that is.

The UAE has now become a globally renowned centre for entrepreneurs, attracted by the attractive tax regime, easy business set-up schemes, and government-backed incentives to encourage innovation.

The UAE attained the highest score of 6.8 on GEM’s National Entrepreneurship Context Index (NECI), making this the best country in the world to launch a start-up.

While there is still some reliance on oil and gas revenues, the UAE attracts globally-significant inflows of foreign direct investment. But real economic diversification needs more locally produced goods which can be exported.

To achieve this, the government is aggressively pursuing entrepreneurs. The UAE, and Dubai more specifically, are aiming to attract entrepreneurs with a raft of schemes, including:

A $100.73 million (AED 370 million) Venture Capital Fund for start-ups

This recently launched Dubai-government-backed fund aims to bolster Dubai’s economic growth, and strengthen its position as a global hub for financial technology (FinTech), innovation, and venture capital.

The fund is overseen by the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), which is a 15 per cent contributor. The AED 370 million aims to deliver capital to finance SME start-ups. It’s envisaged that the funding will help foster a stimulating environment for the establishment of similar funds or financing instruments.

What’s more, the fund is set to contribute around AED3 billion to the emirate’s GDP during its eight-year implementation period. It is expected to provide more than 8,000 jobs for emerging talents, underpinning Dubai’s position as a regional centre for entrepreneurship and financial technology, innovation and venture capital, and ensuring it draws in global investors and entrepreneurs.

Golden visas

Entrepreneurs might be more inclined to set up a longer-term business plan in Dubai and the UAE with the promise of a longer visa option. The rules around local work and residence visas are evolving. A recent development which will encourage longer-term investment in the UAE is the ‘Golden Visa‘ – a new five-year visa category exclusively available to entrepreneurs.

Applicants must be an “entrepreneur who owns an economic project of a technical or future nature, based on risk and innovation” and have received a letter of approval to apply for the visa from Dubai Future Foundation.

There’s also the chance for investors or company partners to apply for a Green Residence visa, which provides five-year residency for investors establishing or participating in commercial activities. Applicants must seek government approval of the investment and proof of investment to be eligible.

Emirates Development Bank’s $27.2 million post-Covid accelerator (Sanad) to support UAE SMEs

Emirati-owned and managed SMEs can benefit from easy-to-access flexible EDB loans, designed to rapidly accelerate post-pandemic businesses growth.

The AED100 million offering underlines the continuing focus the UAE holds on entrepreneurship, helping SMEs thrive under tough global economic conditions.

The initiative aligns with the UAE’s National Strategy and initiatives to support the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE.

Furthermore, EBD’s new credit guarantee platform – in partnerships with nine commercial banks – resulted in credit guarantees worth $90.38 million (AED332 million) to SMEs.

Venture Capital firm Shorooq Partners’ $150 million seed-stage fund for fintech, software, and digital asset start-ups

Another example of funding for ambitious entrepreneurs is Shorooq Partners’ new fund, which the company says will focus on firms in fintech, software, platform verticals and digital asset creation.

On announcing the fund, founding partner Shane Shin, said: “We believe Web 3.0 models like DeFi (decentralised finance), NFT (non-fungible tokens), Metaverse are going to be the key players in the next iteration of online business.”

I believe we will see more VCs like Shorooq looking for innovative start-ups, keen to tap into the region’s rapidly accelerating start-up ecosystem.

What makes a country truly great is its people. And we are blessed with a young, vibrant, educated and entrepreneurial population. But what makes the UAE even greater is our government’s unwavering commitment to a bold future, focused on successful SMEs, innovation and measured, sustainable growth.

Our entrepreneurial journey together certainly looks exciting.

One-year leave to start businesses in UAE: Initiative will create more jobs, say experts

Source: Khaleej Times

The UAE government’s initiative to grant one-year leave to UAE citizens to start their businesses will create more job opportunities for citizens and also reduce the burden on public and private sectors to hire Emiratis, say Emiratis, business consultants and HR experts.

On Thursday, the UAE announced that those Emiratis who will avail of one-year leave to start a new venture would get half of their salaries and also retain their government jobs in order to encourage more citizens to start their entrepreneurial journeys.

Abbas Sajwani, CEO of AHS Properties, said that as more Emiratis leave the workforce to start their own businesses, a natural gap in the workforce would need to be filled.

“This (initiative) will create more jobs and, at the same time, motivate Emiratis to pursue their passions.”

He added that the initiative would help create new Emirati entrepreneurs.

“As a business owner myself, I understand the time commitment needed to oversee all the details of running your own business. This (initiative) will naturally motivate them to pursue their passions and make their mark in the private sector,” added Sajwani.

He said Emirati youth are tech-savvy, educated and very exposed to the world through their dealings with expats and their ability to travel nearly anywhere in the world, whether it be for educational purposes or just as tourists. “Therefore, they have a lot of innovative potentials that only need to be encouraged and tapped.”

 

Is 2022 the best year ever for Dubai’s luxury real estate market?

All the signs are there – Dubai’s property market is booming. We’ve witnessed some record-breaking sales already this year, and it looks like the market isn’t cooling off anytime soon.

According to a property market analysis from JLL, robust demand and abundant liquidity spurred a flurry of activity, making Q1 2022 the most active first quarter on record. Global transaction volumes climbed 47% year-over-year to US$292 billion.

Locally, total transaction volumes between January and March 2022 hit US$15.3 billion across more than 20,000 transactions, the highest first-quarter rates to date. Off-plan sales were up nearly 95%, and secondary market sales increased by almost 75%. Compared to Q1 2021, 77% more apartments and 58% more villas were sold.

There are several reasons why I think 2022 marks a watershed year for the city’s luxury real estate market:

Post-pandemic confidence

People are keen to invest again, to travel again and to make reliable, solid investments. Also the confidence in Dubai has certainly grown, mainly because of the national response to the pandemic, which has been widely lauded for being swift and effective. Add the renowned safety, world-class infrastructure, global transport links, and year-round good weather, and we can see why the market holds such strong global appeal.

Portfolio diversification 

Investors are keen to align their investment strategies with longer-term economic and demographic shifts, and after the fear of the pandemic has subsided, they are looking to make more property investments.

There is still concern over investments in more traditional areas of the world, as the economic issues surrounding the pandemic continue, share prices are volatile and investors are looking for places such as the UAE where economic growth remains stable, at least. A recent report from international bank UBS suggests the UAE’s economic growth is projected to accelerate from 1.4 per cent in 2021 to 4.3 per cent in 2022 and 5.2 per cent in 2023.

Changing society

There’s an influx of wealth coming into the region, and more and more local people view luxury properties as a combination of a weekend retreat and an investment. UAE nationals are keen to invest in their own country, of course, but we are seeing more people looking into luxury property investment as the region exudes positive signals across all economic indicators.

The tax breaks

Dubai’s excellent tax regime – read low to no tax – is now bolstered by liberalising visa rules. Under most circumstances, investment in a luxury property now comes with a long-term residency visa, without clauses or catches. The ten-year Golden Visa is available to those making a secondary or off-plan (mortgaged) purchase over AED2 million, and represents a valuable proposition for investors, delivering longer-term security in the form of residency.

Scarcity

By its very nature, the luxury property market involves scarcity, and we’ve seen prices rising for some of Dubai’s most incredible luxury properties. In terms of the ultra-luxury segment, a lack of supply is causing prices in certain areas to double. As an indication of the price hike, property prices in the Burj Khalifa registered a 23% increase in 2021, according to property firm Knight Frank. Europeans and those from the CIS region are showing a great deal of interest in Dubai’s uber-luxury sector, as are GCC nationals.

Scarcity, of course, will lead to a flurry of new luxury real estate construction activity, I believe, as developers scramble to meet growing demand for ultra-premium properties.

Branded residences

An emerging corner of the luxury market is a rising trend of branded residences and uber-luxury serviced apartments and villas. We will see this continue to grow, mirrored by a surge in the number of ultra-high net worth individuals in the region.

The trend I’m seeing is for larger, more luxurious properties. The concept of a developer joining with an established, renowned luxury (hotel) brand is highly appealing to a wide segment of ultra-luxury investors, given the higher level of amenities, services and build quality.

Investors can even earn an income on a branded residence, as it can join the brand’s global rental ‘pool’ of exclusive properties, earning a decent yield.

However you view the market, it’s clear that the above factors bode well for Dubai and the region’s expanding ultra-luxury segment.

Expo 2020 Dubai succeeded in spreading Emirati values to a global audience – now let’s consider its legacy

The dust has settled on Expo 2020, and as it evolves into an exciting new district, I believe it’s important to pause for a moment to think of the event’s legacy.

Technology

Every aspect of the Expo had a technology element, from the 150 state-of-the-art greeter robots to futuristic innovations such as 3D-printed food and the world’s first compressed-air train.

Visitors to the Netherlands pavilion could examine an integrated climate system that harvests water, energy and food through sustainable innovations such as a vertical farm.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic Pavilion showcased how to create fertile land from barren desert by extracting water vapour from the air using solar energy.

And at the heart of Expo, Terra – the sustainability pavilion – allowed us to meander through forest roots and dive into ocean depths while learning about a range of global projects which provide solutions to help preserve our planet for future generations.

The legacy here is in sharing a global vision of an innovation-led, technology-centric future.

Sustainable Nation 

Key to the themes running across the six-month event was sustainability. Indeed, Expo led by example – such as the 4,912 solar panels on sustainability pavilion Terra’s 130-metre-wide canopy and 18 energy trees, which could create 4GWh of alternative energy annually – that’s enough electricity to charge over 900,000 mobile phones!

Of the million-plus visitors to the Terra pavilion, some 95 per cent pledged to bring about a sustainable change, such as undertaking meat-free days and swapping cars for public transport.

Many of those taking the pledges are UAE residents, so a clear legacy of the event will be in changing the habits of local residents.

It’s worth noting that the Expo site included renewable energy systems with a combined total capacity of 5.5 megawatts on all permanent buildings, which will remain as the site transforms into a new district.

The sustainable actions that permeate the entire site underline the UAE’s ongoing efforts in this field – and support the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sustainable lifestyle 

With more than 24 million visits during the Expo’s six months, people are bound to have taken away not only new ideas and ways of looking at things but sowed the seeds of new habits – such as the renewed effort to act more sustainably.

Expo 2020 provided the opportunity for people to move around a sustainable space. The event was brimming with practical sustainable solutions, and visitors encouraged to learn about and interact with exhibits.

One simple element which was a first in the UAE was charging for carrier bags across the entire site. This generated increased awareness of the lifecycle and journey of this everyday item and raised awareness of just how many bags we (unthinkingly) use.

Alongside the strong sustainability message, people were encouraged to view new means of transport, new ways of collaborating, and, of course, understanding. With 192 nations participating, there was a genuine chance for people to build a beautiful habit: of better understanding each other through the lens of sustainable activities.

Stronger global collaborations and networks

Every Expo is a chance for greater ingenuity and collaboration. We saw nations talking to each other, new business partnerships and a coming together of scientists, academics and thought leaders.

An enduring legacy of Expo is the fact that despite the devastation of the pandemic, the very human ability to endure, adapt, and progress was underlined every day at the event.

The UAE wisely took the opportunity of hosting Expo to introduce sustainable initiatives in the ‘test’ environment of the Expo site. This not only validated some concepts but created a great deal of interest among other nations.

One of the greatest legacies of the Expo is that it represented an unmatched opportunity to test different concepts, often using trial and error, and to explore whether ideas, tools and technology used in other countries could work in the UAE.

It’s clear that sustainability was a key pillar of every aspect of Expo 2020. With the vision of delivering one of the world’s most sustainable Expos, the concept was ingrained in every element from infrastructure, energy, construction and buildings. By paying heed to these factors, the site established a lasting sustainability legacy, which will endure long after Expo is over.

What does luxury mean to you?

We are seeing a surge of interest in luxury homes in Dubai – which has long been a global capital of uber-luxury – and even though true luxury is characterised by scarcity, we can all take steps to create a little more luxury in our homes.

Stamping your style on your property is like creating your own USP – something personal, something special, something luxurious.

Having launched my own luxury property company last year, AHS Properties, I’ve become fascinated by what actually constitutes luxury. And it’s a very subjective – and often contentious – subject.

For some, it’s a gold-plated clawfoot bathtub. For others, it’s the latest technology. For others still, it could be a terrace, a shaded garden or a hot tub.

Heated driveway? Maybe not here in the Middle East, but for some, a luxurious touch that speaks volumes.

And it’s these extra touches that often make the difference between a great property and a luxurious one.

Key to the concept of luxury is a sense of exclusivity. I see many villas in Dubai featuring imported marble, ancient artefacts and bespoke furniture.

But what does luxury mean to you? In Denmark, there’s the concept of hygge (hoo-geh), which revolves around creating your own cosy, comfortable space, embracing nature and warmth. That sounds like creating a luxurious vibe in the home to me.

Creating luxury in your home is very personal. Perhaps you would like to add electric curtains, a state-of-the-art home theatre system or an oversized shower room?

One area with a luxury twist we are seeing in 2022 is driven by the pandemic trend of working from home. As more and more of us work from home or adopt a hybrid approach, spending a few days at home and a few in the office, we are looking for the ultimate home office set-up – a luxurious workspace we dream of when we’re ensconced in an office cubicle!

A simple approach is perhaps best – with people looking for the most comfortable chair, a (standing) desk, and a distraction-free environment.  This year, we are seeing a greater need for delineating spaces around the home for different functions – work, play, relaxation – and each area can have its own luxurious touches.

Each and every home can easily have its own style, and often, elements that give it a wow factor. While you might not opt for a home elevator, something simpler like a kitchen re-style can be effective, and lift your space up with a renewed sense of luxury.

But what constitutes a luxury home? It means different things to different people, but in 2022, luxury goes hand in hand with sustainability. Plants, more natural light, and air quality monitoring are little luxurious touches, while the macro-level of luxury – certainly in Dubai – revolves around having your own beach, pool, hot tub, plenty of parking, large gardens and multiple bathrooms.

Location and views are important factors when it comes to luxury living, alongside having more space than the average home. Palatial hallways, extra high ceilings and wide staircases are all high on the luxury scale.

Inside, it’s not uncommon for luxury properties to boast facilities more akin to hotels – such as hot tubs, oversized bedrooms with upmarket ensuites, a cinema room, gym, spa and even a private hairdressing salon.

Outside, you might find landscaped gardens, tennis courts, pools and barbeque facilities that wouldn’t look out of place at a beach club.

Building a USP should mean creating luxury elements that are personal to you – that could be anything from rare stone flooring to diamond-encrusted mirrors in every room.

While trends in luxury change and have certainly evolved, I think the most luxurious aspect of any property is very simple – that it makes you feel good to be there.

Middle East travel and tourism community must invest in start-ups to ensure continued spirit of innovation

Travel and tourism, as I’ve said before, have had a rough ride during the last two years. While Expo 2020 showed that the appetite for travel and leisure is still there, things have changed pretty rapidly and the sector must now adapt to survive.

People have missed travel. There’s been a surge in staycations, glamping, and short-distance weekends away.

We’ve also seen a rise in more environmentally aware travel and regenerative tourism – where your stay has zero impact on the environment.

And technology underpins modern travel, from access to the amount of carbon your journey produces, to keyless entry, app-driven activities and dynamic pricing engines.

Younger travellers crave experiences over a week lying on a beach, and expect to book sustainable, yet off-the-beaten-path trips with ease online.

New trends are linked to innovation, which is key to the next era of travel. And innovation is driven by start-ups – bold, disruptive ideas that challenge the status quo, bring new ideas to the table and perhaps even make us re-think how we’ve always done things.

The Middle East might be blessed with year-round good weather, endless soft, sandy beaches and world-class travel infrastructure, but competition is high, and there needs to be innovation and a degree of imagination and creativity in the sector to encourage people to visit.

I’ve examined some of the start-ups in travel and tourism, and the future certainly looks bright.

For starters, how about a health and safety tracker super-app to help travellers ensure their safety? Utilising artificial intelligence and machine learning, tracking and warnings for severe health, unrest, and climatic events have now been developed. In the post-pandemic era, the need for on-the-fly monitoring of health and safety is paramount.

The 2021 Business Travel Show highlighted some sector innovators worth investigating. Firstly, the Climate Neutral Group was highlighted for its efforts in helping sector companies move along the road to carbon neutrality. Its TravelScan software analyses the impact of flights and helps reduce them.

At a time when corporate travel is only just beginning to bounce back to something approaching normality, PayPense, a Germany-based travel payment and expenses business, removes cash advances by allowing travel purchases to be billed to and paid for by the company.

PayPense also plans to launch carbon footprint accounting, calculating the greenhouse gas emissions of travel bookings and payments made via its platform. It also provides a personal CO2 footprint report.

According to Accenture, the global professional services company, the Middle East attracts more than 60 million tourists a year. The company, which opened a tourism innovation hub in Dubai in 2020, is helping sector start-ups bring their ideas to fruition. The hub promotes use of cutting-edge technologies such as AR, IoT, Machine Learning and AI.

Accenture predicts a 2% growth in the tourism sector’s contribution to regional GDP by 2024, valuing it at $29bn. The company also suggests there are more than 60 travel start-ups headquartered in the Middle East.

Leveraging the power of technology and innovation are the keys to success. Consumers expect a more seamless, personalised experience than ever before, from the moment they leave home.

I believe that truly innovative companies in the travel sector will combine high technology, good data and the need for transparent sustainability practices to make unbeatable products and services.

Innovation in travel is more crucial than ever, and technology will play a pivotal role in market recovery and transformation. We should all keep abreast of start-up activity, and do our bit to support them in making the world a better place to travel.

When to avoid competition in busienss- Abbas Sajwani

When to avoid competition: sometimes it’s better to pursue a niche

As we all know, Dubai and the UAE are great places to launch a business, with an environment designed to support innovation, ideas and entrepreneurship.

But, as with everywhere else, unique ideas can be few and far between. And even if you have had a one-off idea, there will quickly be ‘copycat’ companies jumping in on your business idea and copying your innovation, design and even business model.

As a start-up, if you are launching a ‘copycat’ business, it can be extremely tough. You haven’t got the brand cache, first-to-market advantages or clients that established players may have. You might have the passion, but often it seems like your business is playing catch-up with other players from the get-go.

So, when thinking of a business, isn’t it better to carve your own niche?

A desire to simply emulate a successful business often isn’t enough for survival. Yes, markets can be large enough to allow for several operators, but the more players, the more price-sensitive the market can be.

We know from history that some of the best business ‘eureka moments’ spring from unexpected sources. Entrepreneurs must be ready to think outside the box and create companies that are agile, lean and ideally, serving an emerging niche.

Having your own niche delivers a number of advantages, including:

Discovering a viable gap in the market, or creating a new product provides you with immediate market advantage, being first to market, and a new product will surely generate its own ‘buzz’.

You can develop your product or service to your own specifications and create pricing that doesn’t have to adhere to existing structures. Not having market expectations means you can get creative, make sure the product is exactly what you want it to be, and allow for dynamic, swift changes to the product in the first few months of business, as you learn on the fly.

Small is beautiful – as a start-up, you’re probably going to be lean, agile and can react swiftly to changing market needs and dynamics. This is a great advantage, especially in the fast-moving markets of today.

The local business environment lends itself to encouraging innovation, so why not take advantage of that? There are dozens of incubators, labs, co-working spaces and networking opportunities. Carve your niche, and let others follow.

Taking on huge companies with well-established markets, marketing strategies, and huge war chests isn’t as much fun as discovering a need no one else has, pursuing that idea and turning your vision into reality.

And of course, a small, responsive start-up with lower costs and overheads can organically create a niche market. A small player might make very good business selling vegan shoes for nurses, for example, but could fail if it simply sold shoes.

Ask yourself if you – and your company – has what it takes to master the niche, and check if the potential customer base is viable.

Niches can be highly lucrative, and larger, established companies might not have the focus of a passionate start-up business. Take advantage of local knowledge and market understanding to fight competition from large, powerful multinationals.

You might be highly successful creating a chai or gahwa outlet in the UAE, for instance, but it might not work in Paris, and your competition, such as Starbucks, for instance, will simply not localise their business strategy to that extent.

India’s biggest scooter manufacturer, Bajaj, survived Japanese scooter giant Honda’s arrival in India, for example, by doubling down on its brand cache, and its cheap, reliable scooters, served by a national network of cheap roadside repair shops.

Think carefully before embarking on any business. But my key advice is to spend a great deal of time on due diligence before embarking on any venture.

Top tips to turn your passion into your business

I’ve been extremely lucky to have gained enormous business acumen from my father, Hussain Sajwani, Founder of DAMAC Properties, and most grateful for education. But I still treat each and every day as a learning experience.

Like many of us, I’ve had many business ideas, some viable, and others simply pipe dreams. Quite often, our business ideas are driven by our passions. You are interested in a particular topic, and through your interest, you identify a problem and then, logically, perhaps think up a solution to that problem. But how do your turn that potentially great idea into a viable business?

I’ve been looking into how we can best turn our passions into business ideas, and here, humbly offer six tips.

Mentors and inventors

Mentors can help us at all stages of our business life. Having the humility to listen to someone else’s trusted advice is a great quality in any entrepreneur’s playbook.

Likewise, industry experts, inventors and creatives can all bring new, alternative or fresh insight into how to turn your business idea into a reality.

And don’t be afraid to ask questions – most people are more than happy to field your queries – and let’s be honest, we all enjoy sharing our subject knowledge.

You might need to talk to scientists, engineers or coders – basically, seek out experts in your field that can help you with major pre-launch research, such as conduct a feasibility study into product viability, initial costs, development and design, for example.

We live in a country geared up to encourage business start-up success. I recommend reaching out to your own network, your family and friends, and making contact with the growing number of incubators, accelerators, and mentoring programmed based right here in the UAE.

And of course, the more people you talk to about your business idea, the better idea you will get of its feasibility.

Research, research, research

Following on from that point, research is crucial if you are to turn a dream into reality. You might discover your idea is already being done, or you might find the start-up costs are simply too prohibitive without funding.

Again, use your existing network as a sounding board. Speak to your family, your friends, and people already involved in the sector you’re pursuing.

An online survey is a great way to gauge interest in your idea. Take the time out before you get deeply involved in a new venture to analyse current and potential market volumes, geography, material availability and supply chains, for example.

Depending on the sector you will be working in, it can be extremely useful to develop pre-launch focus groups – made up of a wide cross-section of society, including potential customers, suppliers and perhaps even competitors.

Examine the competition

An entrepreneur knows their competition. You must work hard to understand the market and sector you’ll be working in. Ask – and research – whether anyone else is offering your product or service, or something similar?

What will you be up against? Is your idea innovative or unusual enough to dent existing players’ business? Do you really have the passion to carve a niche, or even a new sector? Remember, Henry Ford failed twice before settling on his ubiquitous vehicles’ famous Ford production model.

As he put it: “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Today, we have the tools and technology to start off with more intelligence, drawing on our own knowledge and the collective knowledge offered by history, business experts, coaches and mentors. Competition is always good, and you can learn from your competitor’s mistakes.

Embrace tech

In our tech-driven world, before you embark on a new business journey, examine how best to utilise technology to maximise ROI, reduce cost and enhance services. One area it’s definitely worth maximising investment in is technology.

Before you start a company, invest time and energy in ensuring you have the best technology solutions in place for managing customer relationships, your supply chain, your finances and accounting…to begin with. You might be a technology company, but you must spend time focusing on your own tech-based systems before you can offer great technology solutions to others.

Funding the foundation

Funding and cash flow are vital in the early days of any new business. You might be driven by your passion, but carefully examine the initial and ongoing costs.

Will you need an office, warehouse or production facility? Again, Dubai is blessed with a vast variety of real estate options, from shared workspaces to huge free zone warehouses. Examine your needs carefully, and allow for expansion or contraction of your real estate footprint. In the early days it’s a great idea to join an incubator or co-working hub, as they offer a space to work alongside all the other benefits of being in a shared space, such as training, mentoring, networking, lower costs and flexibility.

Decide if you will need investors. There are a great many investors out there, but they will all want to see solid business plans, a sensible approach and solid profit projections.

Could a business incubator or business consultancy help you create the right pitch deck for investment? That’s down to you, but my advice is to always seek advice. Don’t assume you know all the answers, and trust in the experience of others to guide you onto the right path.

Networking 

What comes across in each of these tips is the value of human connection. Networking, training, speaking with family and friends. We are surrounded by people who love us, believe in us, but also those who we know will be honest with us. Your best friend might support your business idea, but a coach will tell you how it really is.

And spreading the word about your new idea will certainly help spread your passion. People are your best tool for marketing, awareness and encouraging interest – so get out there and find your tribe.

Having that initial idea for a business is a wonderful feeling. Getting it off the ground tests your resolve, your strength and your spirit. But don’t do it alone. Use all your knowledge contacts and abilities, and go for it! Best of luck!

Most UAE investors eye sustainability – and it’s time everyone else did the same

Late last year, a survey from Standard Chartered Bank revealed that 74% of UAE investors would like to leave a positive legacy through sustainable investments – a figure that compares favourably to the global average of 65%.

As Marc Van de Walle, Global Head of Wealth Management at Standard Chartered Bank, said: “The world is becoming more aware of the pressing issues we face, from economic and social inequalities to the catastrophic effects of climate change. While the pandemic has heightened these issues, it has given us the chance to pause and reassess our priorities.

“With growing awareness of these global problems, investors recognise they have a responsibility to make a difference,” he added.

In light of this, I conducted my own Twitter poll, which gave some similarly enlightening results. I asked what people prioritise when choosing where to invest their money. No surprises that among both Arabic and English investors, price remains a key concern.

But sustainability came a close second, with 37.1% of the 3,594 Arabic poll participants prioritising this factor, and some 25.5% of the 1,520 English speaking voters considering it their number-one concern.

So it seems interest in sustainable investing is at an all-time high. Increasingly, investors are looking beyond their returns and considering how their choices can make a positive impact. What’s more, the two needn’t be mutually exclusive.

We live in a world where investment has become much easier – with banks, apps, crowdfunding sites and financial companies all vying for our money. And with this ease has come a great deal of information about investments. We can quickly find out where our money is going, and how corporations make profits. The power lies with us as investors, regardless of the level of sophistication or funds in question.

UAE Minister of State, Ahmed Al Sayegh recently agreed that there is an upswing in companies incorporating sustainability into their post-pandemic recovery plans. We’ve all come to expect a higher degree of corporate responsibility and – more than ever before – people are voting with their wallets.

And when you consider that investment luminary Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock – one of the world’s largest asset and investment management companies – revealed in his 2020 industry-shaping annual letter that his firm was putting sustainability at the centre of its investment strategy, it’s clear that the time has come to take this issue seriously.

Following up in his 2022 letter, Fink revealed that BlackRock’s sustainable investments have now reached a staggering $4 trillion. He also highlighted that “all markets will require unprecedented investment in decarbonisation technology”, and asked “businesses to demonstrate how they’re going to deliver on their responsibility to shareholders, including through sound environmental, social, and governance practices and policies”.

However, while sustainability has obviously gained significant momentum within the world of business, what surprises me is that 26% of UAE investors – according to the Standard Chartered survey – simply do not consider sustainability when making investments.

With this in mind, I thought I’d set out the case for why we should all ensure sustainability when looking to invest, and not only for altruistic reasons…

The clue’s in the name

First off, a sustainable company – by its very nature – is more likely to have carefully considered the future of, and the effect of its activities on our world. Increasingly, companies are being asked for transparency in terms of their actions, with consumers, stakeholders and governments requiring a higher degree of corporate responsibility.

Measurable goals are already in place

Both locally and internationally, governments, authorities and organisations are all working towards sustainability goals and emission targets. Investing in a company that is either blissfully unaware or wilfully ignorant of these goals surely represents an unwise move over the longer term.

While environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting is still mostly voluntary, we are moving towards more concrete requirements, and some 38% of respondents to Deloitte’s Global Risk Management Survey named ESG as one of the three risk types whose importance will increase most for their institutions over the coming two years.

Fossil fuels are finite

Perhaps one for the “well, obviously…” column, but it’s surprising how many people seem to ignore this consideration when choosing where to spend their money. While it’s true that these energy sources are still heavily relied upon at present, forward-thinking investors would do well to add future fuels such as solar, wind and hydro to the portfolios.

While investment giants such as the aforementioned BlackRock have not stopped investing in fossil fuel companies en masse (a short- to medium-term strategy, one would hope), those same companies are nevertheless actively seeking greener, more sustainable energy sources.

Our future is virtual

With the rise and rise of cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and digital property, the virtual world – although arguably not yet a sustainable environment – represents an exciting prospect for investors. While blockchain and NFT transactions have come under fire for their energy usage, their environmental performance is likely to improve as virtual transactions become increasingly powered by greener fuels.

The writing’s on the wall

In short, those not considering sustainability in their investment portfolios are in danger of being left behind. It is vital for any savvy investor to keep their fingers on the pulse of current trends, and it very much seems to me that in 2022, these trends will be heavily focused towards sustainability.

The five most enticing global destinations for luxury real estate

Let me start by making a confession: I’m biased. For me, when it comes to ultra-luxury real estate, Dubai – and the UAE in general – tick all my boxes as an investor.

Our nation boasts a wide array of advantages for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), including, but not limiting to, a mature legal system, a range of residence visa options, tax-free living and – let’s not forget – year-round sunshine.

That’s why I chose Dubai as the launchpad for AHS Properties; because when you’re focusing on real estate units with values in excess of AED 80 million, it’s vital you select a market with the capital to match.

However, despite my strong preference for Dubai, there are a handful of other wonderful locations around the world that offer similarly tantalising properties with the ability to gain the attention of HNWIs.

So, without further ado, here are my top five overseas locations for ultra-luxury real estate, but be warned – only those with deep pockets need apply…

Monte Carlo, Monaco

What uber-luxury real estate list would be complete without mentioning the jewel in the Monégasque crown? Situated on the French Riviera at the base of the Maritime Alps, Monte Carlo is home to stunning sea views, beautiful weather and Monaco’s only public beach.

As you’d expect, property in the playground of the rich and famous doesn’t come cheap, but prices begin to get particularly eye-watering when you venture into the area’s ultra-premium segment. With ‘average’ units costing at least a million dollars, the sky really is the limit when it comes to Monte Carlo real estate.

For context, Le Tour Odéon penthouse in Monte Carlo’s La Rousse neighbourhood boasts an estimated value of $335 million (AED 1.23 billion).

So yes… This certainly isn’t a location for house hunters operating on a budget.

Los Angeles, CA, United States

Financial commentators are fond of pointing out that if California were its own country, it would rank among the biggest economies in the world (the fifth largest as of 2021). It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that the US’ ‘Golden State’ boasts enough high-end real estate to rival most sovereign nations.

From San Diego and Atherton to San Francisco Bay and Santa Barbara, there’s no shortage of locations for anyone on the hunt for premium property. However, if you’re talking uber-luxury, there’s one city that stands out from the rest.

A magnet for the entertainment industry’s rich and famous, Los Angeles is home to more than its fair share of enviable real estate, with high-end properties regularly selling for tens of millions of dollars.

If you want to tap into the ultra-premium segment, the city’s most expensive property is valued at approximately $250 million (AED 918.2 million).

London, United Kingdom

A perennial favourite for UAE investors, it wouldn’t feel right to discuss uber-luxury real estate without mentioning London.

Of course, the UK’s capital is not exactly renowned for its spacious villas or sprawling mansions, but don’t let the city’s unassuming façades fool you. Some of these homes need to be seen (on the inside) to be believed.

With expansive living spaces, unparalleled interior designs, and ‘mega basements’ sporting everything from swimming pools to artificial beaches, there’s just no telling what may await you when you step inside the ultra-luxury properties of neighbourhoods such as Kensington, Chelsea and Belgravia.

As you might expect, this kind of densely-packed opulence comes with a hefty price tag, so make sure you have upwards of $200 million (AED 735 million) at your disposal if you’re interested in buying one of London’s most expensive properties.

Hong Kong, China

Interested in uber-luxury city living but worried London might be a little westerly for your tastes? If so, it might be worth checking out Hong Kong’s premium property scene.

Naturally, living in one of Asia’s most vibrant cities doesn’t come cheap at the best of times, with valuations for ‘entry-level’ units starting at approximately $500,000 (AED 1.84 million).

Those looking to secure a home in one of the city’s more upmarket neighbourhoods, such as The Peak, can expect to pay anywhere from $15 million (AED 55.1 million) to more than $300 million (AED 1.1 billion).

Saint James, Barbados

If, on the other hand, you’d prefer your uber-luxury property to benefit from a chilled-out beachside location, look no further than the Saint James parish of Barbados.

The international transport links may not be what you’d call ‘rapid’ (we’re talking about a flight time of more than four hours just to reach Florida), but the island nation’s remoteness may well strike you as a plus point.

Barbados’s record real estate sale – the Palazzate in St Peter – fetched $125 million (AED 459.1 million). If, on the other hand, you’re looking for uber-luxury an uber-luxury property below the hundred-million-dollar mark, you can currently get your hands on a 10-bedroom coastal villa for around $40 million (AED 146.9 million).

Tourism- Abbas Sajwani

Destinations need to come together to secure the future global tourism industry

Expo 2020 Dubai has shown the world how careful planning, pandemic control and strict health and safety protocols can ensure everyone can enjoy a tourism experience.

Yet the global tourism industry’s future remains uncertain, with complex issues such as the pandemic, sustainability and fuel prices combining to create myriad issues.

And yet another pandemic lesson was how swiftly all nations and people could work together for a common aim – in creating not only one vaccine, but many.

If we could apply this same approach to the tourism sector, we might ensure its survival for the benefit of all.

I believe we can all work together to help ensure the sector’s future success in several ways.

The pandemic has been a call to action for global governments to respond in a coordinated way, highlighting the importance of adopting integrated tourism policies to help recovery.

Many corners of the world rely on tourist dollars to support the national and local economy, and the pandemic has left them devastated.

The events of the last few years have thrown the need for rapid action in the face of crisis into stark relief. Governments must work to help communities, workers and districts struggling without tourism.

Of course, we can help by donating to fundraising efforts and drives to help those most affected by the crisis.

Alliances, I believe, will be critical to ensure the survival of the tourism industry. Perhaps regions can come together to encourage multi-centre trips, but for now, the problem is more fundamental.

Governments and international tourism sector representative organisations must work together to help ensure the safety of tourism workers, travellers and destinations.

While 2022 is the year we may well see the world opening up again, many people will still be reluctant to travel for fear of new COVID variants, fear of getting stuck far away from home, or falling foul of changes in local and international travel rules.

Ensuring a multilateral approach to travel rules, with nations supporting each other, will certainly help.

I’m reminded of the ‘green’ and ‘red’ list travel corridors agreed upon between certain nations, such as the UAE, to help facilitate safe travel.

And, of course, better international coordination will help nations deal with future unplanned events in a swifter, more effective and efficient way.

As mentioned earlier, some developing nations heavily rely on tourism dollars. Nations must invest heavily in helping the sector survive – from helping international hotel chains to providing grants for grassroots souvenir manufacturers. In many countries, the tourism sector’s contribution to GDP is substantial.

Tourism is also an industry that not only helps people earn a living but also fosters innovation, encourages understanding, builds better communities and helps wider economic recovery. These are all certainly worth supporting.

With continuing support from government and tourism sector organisations, the tourism sector should slowly bounce back become more sustainable and resilient.

And part of that resilience, I believe, can come through more reliance on technology. We can use technology to gather more evidence – gathering information can lead to research and data analysis, which in turn can help inform better national and international policy decisions.

While the pandemic has been a tough experience, we can hope that it is also viewed as an opportunity to make bold changes.

In terms of the tourism sector, I hope that lessons learnt over the last two years will lead to fairer, more sustainable and resilient tourism development.

And, of course, my final point must surely be that the responsibility lies on us all – those privileged enough to be able to travel – to seek out sustainable new adventures in some of the world’s more interesting places, and support the re-growth of the tourism sector while enjoying ourselves. That sounds like a good plan for 2022!

Five steps aspiring entrepreneurs

‘The Founder’s Mentality’: five steps aspiring entrepreneurs should take to make the most of the UAE’s start-up-friendly environment

There are so many opportunities right now in the UAE for entrepreneurs, start-ups and scale-ups. But with so many options can come confusion – like how to set up, where to set up and how to seek the best possible investors…so I’ve taken some time in researching how to navigate the UAE’s ever-expanding start-up scene.

There are so many attractive reasons to launch a business venture in Dubai. Not only is it a perfect testbed for a new product, given the international, cosmopolitan population, but the tax-free environment can really make a difference to a start-up’s success.

Ministry of Economy figures suggest the SME sector represents more than 94% of UAE companies. In Dubai alone, SMEs comprise almost 95% of all companies – contributing around 40 per cent of Dubai’s GDP.

While Dubai enjoys a world-class infrastructure, there are many local business incubators and accelerators, and business-friendly local laws.

A straightforward approach to business formation and set-up is also encouraging more and more entrepreneurs, and with around 30 free zone locations in the city-state, there is a place for all sorts of activities, industries and sectors.

But still, it’s worth taking a moment to go over what we should all do before embarking on any venture – a set of guidelines that we can perhaps call the ‘founder’s mentality.’

Due diligence

With so many set-up options, it’s easy to go for the first option. The company formation sector is competitive – so look for a deal! Many company formation organisations offer incentives; your overriding thought should be on looking into how long the formation company has been in business, how many clients it has, and how happy those clients are.

You might wish to speak to relatively new companies that have used the services of the formation company.

Having researched the myriad ways of setting up your company, consider whether or not you need a partner – local or otherwise.

While the laws are changing, many types of companies still require a local partner, and indeed, benefit from the local experience, contacts and assistance.

Profits are still retained in the company’s name, and partnerships can be drawn up by contract, to ensure both parties enjoy mutually agreed benefits.

Sometimes it’s useful to seek a partner with relevant experience in an area of the business you perhaps have no experience in – like finance, sales or global markets.

Another question to carefully consider is whether to start an onshore or offshore company. Both offer different benefits, and free zone companies come with restrictions on where and how your company can trade.

Finally, there are different benefits to registering locally or internationally, but both options bring their own benefits. This due diligence process shouldn’t be conducted in isolation.

Reach out to business formation companies, lawyers, and network with other business holders.

Funding

It’s well known that most start-ups struggle in their first year. So, will you need funding? Where might that funding come from?

You’ll need a solid business plan and an accountant to ensure your business model is solid. Banks and investors alike expect to see your figures and a solid plan in place.

It’s worth investigating funding options, from government-backed schemes such as the Mohamed Bin Rashid Innovation Fund to help for smaller home-based businesses, such as Intelaq.

A number of free zone funding and business assistance schemes are also in place, such as the Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Center (Dtec) within Dubai Silicon Oasis.

There are, of course, private investors always looking to invest in your fantastic business idea, and crowdfunding has really taken off in the last few years. Again, you’ll need solid plans and financial statements to access crowdfunding.

Finally, don’t forget family and friends – a great way to help get your business off the ground and to involve a team of people who trust and believe in you from the get-go. Just ensure everyone understands what they’re getting into and manage expectations.

Are you ready? 

When people believe in their business ideas, they often jump in without much business knowledge, training or understanding.

Is the market really ready for your product or services? Are your financials realistic?

Perhaps examine the range of courses available – both online, at local business schools and colleges in subjects that will help give you the knowledge and confidence to pursue your business.

Experience counts for a lot, but in today’s ever-evolving markets, it’s worth refreshing your actual expertise and re-considering what you think you know.

A mentor is another way to ensure your readiness – seek someone who has experience in your planned sector and spend time with them before you dive into your new venture; there are now many websites where you can link up with a potential mentor.

Take the early days of your business to learn what you need to know, and take advantage of having the time to fill any knowledge gaps before you get deeply into business.

Incubators

As well as mentoring, joining an incubator can help navigate the issues many start-ups face. And Dubai is a hotbed of business incubators.

A good starting point might be Dubai Start-up Hub, a Dubai Chamber initiative, which offers a wide range of help for entrepreneurs, and puts them together with corporates looking to work with start-ups, as well as linking the emerging business community with investors. It also hosts events, training and workshops.

Meanwhile, The MBRIF Accelerator, a federal government-backed programme sponsored by the Ministry of Finance, “identifies, equips and provides bespoke services to the highest potential innovators to thrive.” In practical terms, the Accelerator offers mentorship-level business advice and a helping hand to get your innovative business idea going.

SANDBOX is the incubator element of Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Center (Dtec), helping early-stage tech entrepreneurs navigate their first year of business with a 12-month programme delivered by the Dtec Ventures team.

SANDBOX is built around six pillars – product development, traction, scaling, financial diagnostics, legal support and wellness, with a bespoke programme of required resources.

Networking

Finally, talk to everyone you meet about your business idea. A true leader is a great storyteller, and every time you tell someone, it helps spread the word about your new business.

Take advantage of the UAE’s rich business landscape by attending events, joining like-minded groups, and finding your tribe.

Try joining websites such as meetup.com and Eventbrite to gain access to local networking events.

Tourism marketing- Dubai

How to stand out from the crowd in tourism marketing

As the world moves back to being able to take holidays and travel again, global competition to win back tourism dollars has perhaps never been so heightened.

And I’ve been thrilled by the UAE’s efforts to attract people back. You may have seen the pizza and flamingo adventurers enjoying an animated Dubai – here – and what this fun advert achieves in 30 seconds is quite incredible.

Firstly, employing the voices of two of the world’s most popular and famous Hollywood A-listers – Zac Efron and Jessica Alba – brings warmth and familiarity, not to mention the subliminal power of association.

Next, the animation is just the latest in a series of carefully-curated film trailer-style adventures in Dubai – called ‘Dubai Presents’ -starring the famous duo, with films taking inspiration from familiar Hollywood scripts – mysteryromanceadventure and action.

As Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, puts it: “This synergetic approach to showcasing Dubai’s diverse offering involves the enlistment of celebrities, influencers and community personalities to create a steady stream of ambassadors and advocates to narrate Dubai’s story across gastronomy, retail, tourism, leisure and events [showcasing] it as the best city to live, visit and work in.”

What this does for me – and I can only speak for myself – is to create a sense of excitement, wonder, and possibility.

I think applying Hollywood-level production values to these incredible short stories makes Dubai and the UAE seem like a truly aspirational, fascinating and unusual place to visit.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi teamed with actor and wrestler John Cena to produce another super-inspirational film trailer-style ad for the capital city, which draws upon everything the city has to offer as the actor parachutes in.

Tourism and the travel trade has undeniably had a rough couple of years. And there’s no denying a large part of Dubai’s move away from reliance on oil and gas revenues is to promote tourism.

Having battled the pandemic with foresight and vision, the move to employ exciting movie-style promotion, in my opinion, is inspired.

Expo 2020 has worked wonders for tourism to Dubai – despite the uncertainty of the ever-changing nature of COVID-19 and its variants.

The UAE news agency, WAM, recently reported that the emirate enjoyed an incredible 4.88 million visitors between January and October 2021 – with October alone welcoming more than one million international visitors.

And as Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, puts it: “…through the effective citywide management of the pandemic, the city has strengthened its position as one of the safest destinations in the world. With the support of our stakeholders and partners, Dubai’s ability to evolve and adapt has been critical in ensuring that the city continues to retain its position at the forefront of the world’s leading travel and business destinations.

“As part of our strategy, we have consistently used innovative global campaigns to further highlight the city’s multi-faceted touristic appeal and reach our overseas markets.”

Figures reveal the massive success – and appeal – of the Dubai Presents campaign. In 2021, the campaign broadcast more than 3,500 assets in 25 different languages, specifically targeting audiences seeking international travel, and those who had engaged with previous campaigns or were searching for Dubai on digital channels.

In a highly competitive sector, strong partnerships and high levels of creativity such as this film series serve to create a distinctive vibe around visiting the UAE, and I’m proud to see our nation being promoted in such an imaginative way – which will ultimately benefit us all.

Dubai uber real estate market

The uber-luxury real estate market isn’t for everyone

What a month it’s been. Since launching my latest venture, AHS Properties, at Cityscape Global 2021, my life has seemed like a non-stop whirlwind of phone calls, messages and meetings.

Not only have I had fun interacting with people from across Dubai’s vibrant property community, but I’ve also had the opportunity to extol the virtues of our emirate’s thriving uber-luxury real estate market.

As you’ve probably guessed, I absolutely love this sector. The problem is that when I’m passionate about something, I sometimes forget that not everyone will share my enthusiasm.

It’s therefore given me pause for thought to find that a small minority of property professionals seem somewhat uncomfortable about the timelines and volumes involved in uber-luxury real estate.

Why is it, I wonder, that a market that excites me so much makes some people feel nervous?

Most of those I’ve been speaking to about my new business appear fascinated by Dubai’s uber-luxury real estate sector, and why wouldn’t they be? After all, aerial shots of sprawling beachfront villas on Palm Jumeirah seem more at home in a Hollywood blockbuster than inside your average property brochure.

People become even more interested when our discussion turns to AHS Properties’ business model.

The potential yields within this market are extremely attractive from an investment perspective, and certainly have the power to turn heads.

Nevertheless, a minority of real estate professionals become somewhat jittery when our conversation shifts to volumes and project timelines.

I expect renovations on our AED150 million Amara Villa at Emirates Hills property, for example, to take upwards of a year, and I’m perfectly comfortable with this timeline.

When it comes to properties with values of this magnitude, quality is paramount, because even the slightest slip in standards could cause a deal to fall through. In this sector, you simply cannot afford to rush.

The need to deliver the very best product that money can buy also means that it would be foolish for any uber-luxury real estate company to spread itself too thin.

AHS Properties has launched with a total asset value of almost AED400m, yet our portfolio comprises just four villas. Even at full capacity, I do not envisage dealing with more than 20 properties at any one time.

In truth, I suspect that’s why this sector makes some real estate professionals nervous. High-quality, low-volume, long-term projects are bound to rattle the nerves of those used to turning around hundreds of units as quickly as possible. The uber-luxury real estate sector is, in essence, the antithesis of ‘flipping’.

My decision to focus on quality over quantity, both in terms of our portfolio and timelines, is both deliberate and strategic.

AHS Properties is targeting high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and, while they may not necessarily be constrained by budgetary concerns, they will nevertheless demand value for money.

And that’s fine with me because I have every confidence in Dubai’s uber-luxury sector. Market confidence has returned following the pandemic and (perhaps because they had to spend more time than they would have liked confined to their apartments during lockdown) many prospective buyers are looking for the type of space only afforded by villas.

Megaevents such as Expo 2020 Dubai and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, meanwhile, are attracting millions of new residents to the Gulf, boosting both short- and medium-term demand for luxury properties.

Don’t take my word for it. Just look at the recent Knight Frank report, which found that villa prices in the emirate rose by 5 percent in Q3 2021.

Even more encouragingly, the number of homes worth more than $10m sold in Dubai during the first three quarters of the year was 54, almost doubling the previous record set in 2015.

Dubai’s uber-luxury real estate market is stronger than ever, so I couldn’t have picked a more opportune moment to launch AHS Properties.

In my opinion, our willingness to take our time and do everything properly is going to play a crucial role in our long-term success.

The trust of our customers is our most important asset and, if we can build a reputation for delivering immaculate properties to market, a streamlined portfolio will offer a competitive advantage.

Source: Arabian Business

District 2020 Scale2Dubai- Abbas Sajwani

Start-ups get dream opportunity thanks to Scale2Dubai

Like many of us, I’ve been wondering what will happen to the beautiful, inspiring Expo 2020 Dubai site when the event sadly closes its doors next March.

Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, the enormous (4.38 square kilometre) site is set to be transformed with great vision and flair into a new residential, office and leisure zone, District 2020.

This ‘people-first’ community has some fantastic ideas at its heart – such as sustainability and the chance to fully achieve a healthy, balanced lifestyle in an environment that seems truly attuned to the needs of all in the 21st century.

District 2020, according to its own vision, is being carefully designed to support the future of working and living.

The master plan aims to attract those seeking a “more balanced” way of life – prioritising well-being, inspiring new ideas, facilitating growth and enabling human potential.

To me, such lofty ideals are what makes Dubai the most exciting city on earth, and District2020 looks set to create a new paradigm for the way we live in this region. I’m mindful of the ongoing success of Sustainable City, a regional benchmark for net-zero living.

A key aspect of the District 2020 plan is the ‘Scale2Dubai’ initiative, which is worth studying in more detail.

I’d like to share my discoveries about this initiative here.

Firstly, Scale2Dubai is a globally-focused entrepreneurship programme designed to attract top start-ups and small enterprises, with proven business models, to this new city district.

By the time Expo2020 concludes, some 80-100 companies will have been chosen to take part in the programme.

Each chosen company – which must be at the Series A or Seed funding stage – will be given a range of incentives to take full advantage of conducting business in and from District 2020.

These incentives include:

  • A two-year visa
  • Two years of subsidised urban living
  • Two years of free workspace
  • Business setup support
  • Guidance on how to scale-up the business
  • Clear pathways to funding and deal flow
  • Networking opportunities and connections with renowned global players

Ahead of the launch of Scale2Dubai, Tala Al Ansari, director, innovation ecosystem and Scale2Dubai, said: “Start-ups and small businesses from Scale2Dubai will have the opportunity to collaborate with large corporations, government entities, accelerators and, universities at District 2020. They will also have access to venture capitalists and funding entities to support their growth plans.”

The Scale2Dubai programme seeks to attract future-forward businesses. Key sectors the first wave of applicants will be chosen from include those companies working in smart cities, smart logistics, smart mobility and Industry 4.0.

With a focus on advanced technology, District 2020 aims to attract SME start-ups creating business in Artificial intelligence (AI), big data, 3D printing, robotics and Internet of things (IoT), to name a few.

Having applied to take part in Scale2Dubai, a judging panel will choose the successful applicants in March 2022, coinciding with the conclusion of Expo2020.

The finalists will actually be announced during the Expo closing ceremony, and by October 2022, the first cohort under the Scale2Dubai scheme will be onboarded and set-up within the brand new District 2020 site. The plan is then to attract several cohorts, with the second cycle welcoming new business to the site in April 2023.

I believe Scale2Dubai is an exciting, bold and visionary step towards encouraging innovation, partnerships and collaboration – three concepts which are increasingly driving business in the UAE and 21st century.

District 2020 and Scale2Dubai are exciting programmes that I will continue to watch avidly, and I look forward to becoming part of this emerging masterplan in whatever way I can.

Dubai luxury real estate market

I love the uber-luxury real estate market, but it’s not for everyone

What a month it’s been! Since launching my latest venture, AHS Properties, at Cityscape Global 2021, my life has seemed like a nonstop whirlwind of phone calls, messages and meetings.

Not only have I had fun interacting with people from across Dubai’s vibrant property community, but I’ve also had the opportunity to extol the virtues of our emirate’s thriving uber-luxury real estate market.

As you’ve probably guessed, I absolutely love this sector. The problem is that when I’m passionate about something, I sometimes forget that not everyone will share my enthusiasm.

It’s therefore given me pause for thought to find that a small minority of property professionals seem somewhat uncomfortable about the timelines and volumes involved in uber-luxury real estate.

Why is it, I wonder, that a market that excites me so much makes some people feel nervous?

Most of those I’ve been speaking to about my new business appear fascinated by Dubai’s uber-luxury real estate sector, and why wouldn’t they be?

After all, aerial shots of sprawling beachfront villas on Palm Jumeirah seem more at home in a Hollywood blockbuster than inside your average property brochure.

People become even more interested when our discussion turns to AHS Properties’ business model.

The potential yields within this market are extremely attractive from an investment perspective, and certainly have the power to turn heads.

Nevertheless, a minority of real estate professionals become somewhat jittery when our conversation shifts to volumes and project timelines.

I expect renovations on our AED150m Amara Villa at Emirates Hills property, for example, to take upwards four to five months, and I’m perfectly comfortable with this timeline.

When it comes to properties with values of this magnitude, quality is paramount because even the slightest slip in standards could cause a deal to fall through. In this sector, you simply cannot afford to rush.

The need to deliver the very best product that money can buy also means that it would be foolish for any uber-luxury real estate company to spread itself too thin.

AHS Properties has launched with a total asset value of almost AED400m, yet our portfolio comprises just four villas. Even at full capacity, I do not envisage dealing with more than 20 properties at any one time.

In truth, I suspect that’s why this sector makes some real estate professionals nervous. High-quality, low-volume, long-term projects are bound to rattle the nerves of those used to turning around hundreds of units as quickly as possible.

The uber-luxury real estate sector is, in essence, the antithesis of ‘flipping’.

My decision to focus on quality over quantity, both in terms of our portfolio and timelines, is both deliberate and strategic.

AHS Properties is targeting high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and, while they may not necessarily be constrained by budgetary concerns, they will nevertheless demand value for money.

And that’s fine with me because I have every confidence in Dubai’s uber-luxury sector. Market confidence has returned following the pandemic and (perhaps because they had to spend more time than they would have liked confined to their apartments during lockdown) many prospective buyers are looking for the type of space only afforded by villas.

Megaevents such as Expo 2020 Dubai and FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, meanwhile, are attracting millions of new residents to the Gulf, boosting both short- and medium-term demand for luxury properties.

Don’t take my word for it. Just look at the recent Knight Frank report, which found that villa prices in the emirate rose by 5 percent in Q3 2021.

Even more encouragingly, the number of homes worth more than $10m sold in Dubai during the first three quarters of the year was 54, almost doubling the previous record set in 2015.

Dubai’s uber-luxury real estate market is stronger than ever, so I couldn’t have picked a more opportune moment to launch AHS Properties.

In my opinion, our willingness to take our time and do everything properly is going to play a crucial role in our long-term success.

The trust of our customers is our most important asset and, if we can build a reputation for delivering immaculate properties to market, a streamlined portfolio will offer a competitive advantage.

Ultimately, this sector is unlike any other within real estate because you cannot ‘flip’ this type of property. To make it in this market, you need guts, persistence and an unwavering dedication to quality.

So, if you’re only interested in making a quick buck, you’re probably right to be nervous. Dubai’s uber-luxury real estate sector is not for you.

Abbas Sajwani

Lifestyle of the Rich & Famous: Meet Abbas Sajwani, Founder of AHS Group

Emirati entrepreneur Abbas Sajwani has been surrounded by the real estate industry his whole life. Son of Hussain Sajwani, the Founder of DAMAC Group, he was inspired by his father to open his own company in 2017 at the age of just 18.

AHS Group’s portfolio includes Ventures, Properties and Investments and it has an ambitious objective to be one of the leading business groups in the Middle East by 2025.

With entrepreneurship in his blood, Abbas has big plans to expand the business further and follow in his father’s footsteps by entering the property development market.

Earlier this year, Abbas set up the property sector of the business after seeing a gap in the market for super high-end properties in the UAE.

Sajwani noticed many high-income expats were beginning to move to Dubai during the global pandemic and he wanted to find a way to facilitate their needs, providing no-expense-spared homes.

AHS Properties focuses on renovating and selling premium properties within some of Dubai’s most luxury neighbourhoods.

The company currently has four luxury villas on the portfolio with its flagship property in Emirates Hills being valued at AED150 million.

Can you tell us why you decided to launch this new real estate sector as part of AHS Group?

I opened the company last March as I started to see that Dubai was changing in terms of the luxury, high-end property market.

The people it was attracting was different. Many were coming from Europe, Russia, American and India.

Because of the COVID restrictions everywhere else, all these nationalities decided to come to Dubai and that directly boosted the high-end market.

When you are dealing with the super-wealthy, they don’t mind spending on houses.

They don’t negotiate or try to lower the price. They know what they want, they like the location and the product and so they buy it.

So, I saw the demand for high-end properties increasing and there was limited supply. The top communities in Dubai remain as Palm Jumeirah, Emirates Hills, and Bulgari Island.

There are houses available but many of them are starting to age now and the person who wants something uber-luxurious, isn’t happy with that.

The people who are coming to Dubai don’t have the time to come and completely re-do something, they want things to be ready.

When I started this sector of the business, the market had already started to pick up, for example, in one Frond on The Palm Jumeirah, a house sold for one hundred and ten million dirhams – the highest price for a single house – so I think the high-end market is very stable.

The buyers are all end-users, so we don’t have house flipping, people are buying these houses to actually live in. That gave me the comfort of the market sustaining.

So far, you have four villas in the portfolio, what are the plans for the company moving forward?

Yes we have started off with the four villas. Our main property is in Emirates Hills – it’s a 45,000 square-foot house and it has all the amenities you can think of.

From seven bedrooms to an indoor club, indoor pool, outdoor pool, cinema room, cigar lounge, sauna, steam room, spa – this house has become our flagship.

On Palm Jumeirah, we are not able to have a house of that size as the land is much smaller, but we have taken three villas there which we are working on. So, the idea is to stay within villas and super-high-end properties.

How do you go about finding buyers for these properties?

It’s not as hard as you think! I used to think it would be difficult, but today, there are more buyers than you would think.

And we are dealing with the top brokers in town, so they bring the clients. The idea that a client comes only occasionally is no longer the case. High-value transactions are happening every week.

What do you think is drawing people to Dubai?

Obviously, in the summer Dubai is not very attractive because of the weather, but in the winter, it is the nicest place you can be.

I’m not saying this out of bias – the security here is unbelievable, it is so safe you can leave your door open, and you cannot do that anywhere else.

The weather is another aspect because we have a great climate here. And then there’s the lifestyle – we have the best restaurants, the best shopping malls, the best of everything and the quality of life is I think, the best.

Also of course we have no tax which is a big drawing point for people. The location is excellent and with channels like Zoom, many people can live here and work for their companies elsewhere.

What made you decide to launch your own company?

We first ventured out a couple of years ago, but this is the first time we are entering the property sector.

We are already active in facility management; we have a media company and an investment division which has investments around the world.

So, AHS Group is already established, but we decided to get into property because we saw this gap in the market and the demand was there.

You have seen your family in the real estate business growing up, how do you think that has inspired you? 

I learnt everything from my dad – every detail –he is the one that motivates me and pushes me. Most of my inspiration and where I get my ideas from comes from him.

Tell us about your relationship with your brothers and sister?

We are four siblings which is a good size family! As a family, we are very close. We have regular outings – my dad likes us to spend time together, so we have a lot of family dinners, lunches, and trips. We have a very close bond.

This year we are celebrating fifty years of the UAE – what does that occasion mean to you and what is a message you would send to your country on the occasion? 

What the UAE’s leaders were able to do in just fifty years is incredible.

No country in the world was able to achieve what the UAE has achieved in such a short time. From creating a global city to all the investments abroad. What they were able to achieve overall is something amazing and I think it’s unseen before.

What is something you would still like to do that you haven’t done yet?

In terms of business, I like to see where the market takes me and there are always new opportunities, especially in today’s times with things like Bitcoin.

I think these kinds of things are amazing. Going back to the property market, one of the big reasons for prices being high is also connected to Bitcoin, you have many Bitcoin buyers who have moved to Dubai.

There was recently a transaction on the Palm for a villa for 20 million dollars and the person paid in Bitcoin.

Right now, I want to focus on the property market, and I think there is a lot of room for expansion. We are also looking at international cities that have super high-end properties.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that you have?

In the high-end sector, I don’t see too many challenges. We don’t have the challenge of too much supply as there is in the mid-market because you can’t create another Palm or Emirates Hills overnight.

In this business, your margins could become less as your land cost goes up for example in certain areas. This would be the main challenge that could occur.

What advice would you give to people to start investing in this country and what are the selling points to coming to do business in Dubai?

The ease of doing business and how it’s super easy to open a company here. The returns are still great compared to other markets, the initiatives that are put in place every day by the government drive the market.

For example, the new initiative of giving longer visas etc., all these kinds of things bring investors to the UAE and help the market to grow.

Giving passports to people who have lived all their lives here makes them feel more secure. It allows people to feel that they are at home.

So, these initiatives from the government and the leadership of the country are what is driving the market.

Who is a leader from the UAE that inspires you and why?

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. How he built the city in just fifty years and how it competes with the world’s best cities inspires me.

Dubai has reached the levels of New York and London which took hundreds of years to build, and we have done it in such a short time.

If you look around at the buildings, the infrastructure, it’s incredible. It’s all coming from the top and the leadership is excellent in all aspects.

Source: A&E World

Dubai uber real estate market

Dubai looks set for solid economic growth

No one could have predicted what the long-term effects of the pandemic were, but as we move further away from the height of the virus’ hold, I’m keen to know how Dubai’s economy will fare.

The analysis and economic indicators all point to solid growth. While Dubai Statistics Center (DSC) reported a 10.9% contraction in the city-state’s economy year-on-year in 2020, most pundits agree that 2022 will see a gradual uptick in economic activity, with DSC analysis suggesting a 3.4% uptick in growth next year.

Meanwhile, research firm Fitch Solutions puts UAE growth next year at a conservative 3.7%, revising it down (from a 4.1% 2022 forecast) in light of the global impact of new variants of COVID-19.

While its research suggests the ongoing COVID-19 virus might dampen growth, it equally expects the UAE economy to be bolstered by increasing visitor numbers and strong domestic demand.

A Fitch analyst said: “We expect real GDP growth to accelerate…in 2022 due to stronger hydrocarbon output, a sustained recovery in tourism activity and resilient domestic demand.”

After a concerted effort to control the virus, Dubai became one of the first cities in the world to re-open to tourists (In July 2020), perhaps underlining its incredible efforts to stamp out the virus while underlying its strong economic reliance on tourism, leisure and entertainment.

As expected, Expo 2020, the winter weather and the rapid rollout of vaccinations has led to a notable surge in tourism as we approach year-end.

Real Estate 

After a slow decline of many years, the real estate sector is seeing a strong rebound.

In a recent report, S&P Global Ratings said residential property prices in Dubai: “have been rebounding strongly from a record low at end-2020 — since the peak in 2014 — on the back of pent-up demand from both international and local buyers, improved investor and consumer sentiment, a rebound in oil and gas prices, and gradual macroeconomic recovery, which in Dubai has been supported by high Covid-19 vaccination rates and new visa and corporate ownership rules.”

S&P analysts predict GDP growth of 3.5% in 2021 and 2.5% in 2022, after a record contraction in 2020 – experienced all over the world.

But they suggest there will be sustained momentum in tourism – which they also put down to Expo2020.

S&P also cites the raft of new residence visas, including for remote work and retirees, as a catalyst for “population and investment growth over the longer term.”

With this steady, organic growth in mind, I felt the time was right to launch a luxury property company, AHS Properties, which offers very high-end, exclusive properties in some of the city’s best locations.

The company will attract interest from foreign investors, but we hope our portfolio will also appeal to those already living here in Dubai.

My faith in Dubai’s wise leadership, cautionary, planned economic growth and drive for success underlines my commitment in the new venture.

In some very small ways, I hope that the new venture will help bolster the nation’s economic growth.

Given the gradual return to ‘normality’, most analysts see steady organic growth in Dubai and the UAE for next year.

Expo 2020, while delayed for a year, has brought a host of tourists and business opportunities that will reach far into the future.

Thanks to careful strategising, I’m excited to see the Expo2020 site develop into District2020, a fantastic, master planned community, that will ensure the positive economic effects are not a temporary bubble.

Abbas Sajwani

Riding the wave: Abbas Sajwani shares his ultra-luxury real estate vision

Dubai-headquartered DAMAC Properties is a name that has become synonymous with high-end real estate across the Middle East and beyond.

The lucrative property arm of DAMAC Group, an organization that was founded in 1992 by Emirati business magnate Hussain Sajwani, boasts iconic projects across the UAE as well as in several other international markets, including Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.

Even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, DAMAC Properties’ audited results for 2020 showed total revenue of 4.7 billion dirhams ($1.28 bn) and assets amounting to 21.244 bn dirhams ($5.79 bn) as of Q3 2021, according to Bloomberg.

Hussain Sajwani’s track record is impressive, to say the least, and one certainly wouldn’t blame any of his children for feeling a little intimidated when faced with the prospect of following in their father’s footsteps.

Abbas Sajwani

Surprisingly, however, nerves appear to be the farthest thing from the mind of the DAMAC chief’s second-eldest son, who has his sights firmly set on one of the most exclusive property markets on the planet.

Refined heir

Abbas Hussain Sajwani launched AHS Properties at Cityscape Global 2021, setting out his personal vision for Dubai’s ultra-luxury real estate sector. Far from feeling daunted by his father’s success, Sajwani explained that he has been his greatest mentor.

“I learned everything from my father,” Sajwani told AMEinfo. “I learned far more than anything you can pick up from school or university. He took us to his office, drilled business into our youthful minds, and taught us about finance and property development. Everything I learned in business was from him.”

So, what sort of business advice did Sajwani receive from his father?

“Take risks and don’t be scared. That’s what my dad used to say,” Sajwani replied. “When you see an opportunity, take it. React fast and don’t be afraid when you see the market picking up. Don’t start feeling bad for not investing earlier. Look at the future, not the past.

“I know everything can change overnight so I have to manage [my affairs] well and be ready for a crisis, should it happen,” Sajwani continued. “I hope for the best but plan for the worst.”

Sajwani certainly appears to have taken full advantage of the unparalleled access he and his siblings have had to their father’s vast experience.

Nevertheless, the 22-year-old entrepreneur also seems to have perfectly good instincts of his own.

“I see Dubai as being one of the top luxury destinations in the world, the same as London or Los Angeles,” said Sajwani. “We have great weather, unparalleled safety and security, superior quality of life, luxury lifestyles, and prime hospitality venues.

“I notice a lot of wealthy people from Russia, Europe, and the US, all looking to move their bases to Dubai for a minimum of six months a year.”

Eyes on the prize

That there are opportunities within Dubai’s ultra-luxury property segment is hardly surprising.

The emirate’s luxurious lifestyle and business-friendly regulations have been attracting wealthy buyers and investors for decades.

So, what added value can Sajwani bring to the market? What does he see that others don’t?

“These factors have helped Dubai’s ultra-luxury real estate sector historically, but we’ve started to see [an additional] boom over the last couple of months,” he explained. “A villa in Emirates Hills was rented out for $2 million per year, for example, and that’s something we haven’t seen before. The luxury sector is picking up and I only see it going one way… Up.”

Even so, the November launch of AHS Properties would suggest that Sajwani had confidence in this market long before its recent uptick.

AHS Palm Jumeirah-beachside view

“Dubai’s luxury sector has always been there but it is only now scaling up to these volumes,” he continued. “Two to three years back, you wouldn’t expect homes to be rented or sold at these prices. A single house in the Palms recently sold for 120 mn dirhams ($32.7 mn), and a couple of other transactions exceeded 100 mn dirhams ($27.25 mn) each.

“The market is new to these transactions and, though pure-play luxury is still needed, there aren’t many players out there that are able to fulfill this sort of demand.”

The best of the best

Spotting an opportunity to meet rising demand for ultra-luxury properties is one thing, but how does this work in practice? It seems that a focus on quality over quantity is key.

AHS Properties has launched with a total asset value of almost 400 million dirhams ($100 mn approx.), yet its portfolio is made up of just four villas: one in Emirates Hills (valued at more than 150 mn dirhams) and three on Palm Jumeirah’s exclusive beachfront (each valued at about 80 mn dirhams).

AHS- Palm Jumeirah

“The UAE luxury buyer we’re seeing today wants to walk in and buy something that’s fully ready and renovated to the highest standards,” explained Sajwani, adding that AHS Properties is deliberately focusing on a small number of projects to ensure superior quality. By using the most sought-after builders and designers in the world, he believes he can ensure that his customers are extremely happy with their purchases.

“The buyers coming into this market are different, and what they expect is different,” Sajwani continues. “They expect the best of the best. For this reason, we don’t want to mass-produce 20 projects in a year. All we want to do is give 100%.”

This philosophy obviously extends to the way in which AHS Properties is approaching work at ground level. Sajwani’s strategy appears to be to invest in ultra-high-end real estate – the type of property that most people could only dream of owning – and to make it even more luxurious.

“We are taking on renovation projects,” he explained. “[These are] older villas which we renovate from the ground up. We strip them back to their shell and core, then redo their interiors, their landscapes, their façades, their MEP – we make new villas out of them. Obviously, renovation work is much faster than new-build projects. A villa can be finished in the space of a year if we take this approach.

“However, we wouldn’t be against starting from zero – especially if it means we can get a better price for the land. We’ll see.”

Exclusive by design

Whichever way you look at it, AHS Properties is a purely luxury development company that is focusing solely on prime locations. In fact, Sajwani revealed that his experience of international travel often informs his approach.

“We only go for A-plus locations,” he stressed. “We’re not catering to the masses, rather only to the high-end luxury sector.

“I have traveled to many places around the globe and I always bring back fresh ideas from the resorts and luxury destinations I visit. I work closely with architects so I would never say, ‘Here’s a job, do it.’ I want to be involved so that I can help build the perfect project.”

AHS- Palm Jumeirah

Despite the diverse range of global influences that Sajwani is bringing to his projects, there are some commonalities that look likely to take priority: especially his love of the sea.

“The beach and the sea are beautiful, relaxing things to have at your disposal,” he said. “It’s not just [my preference]. The most expensive homes in the world tend to be beachfront properties, particularly those that command high rates of square footage. Look at Miami or Malibu. I love blue-water living and I intend to cater to it.”

New horizons?

Sajwani has an uncluttered vision for AHS Properties in the short-to-medium term, but what about the future? Does he have any plans for other segments?

“We only started work around March 2021, so we haven’t thought about diversifying from our core projects,” he said. “So, no golf courses or hotel projects, for now anyway. We saw a luxury boom in Dubai and we went for it. We’re now riding that wave, literally to its crest.”

AHS- Palm Jumeirah

Owing to his background, which is steeped in real estate, Sajwani also appears acutely aware of trends and opportunities in other geographies. However, when I asked whether he had considered Riyadh as a prospective location for development, he seemed perfectly content to focus on Dubai for the time being. Indeed, he does not see these markets as being in direct competition.

“Both cities are developing, attracting businesses, and each has its own vision and strategy,” Sajwani explained. “With a population of approximately 35 million people, Saudi Arabia’s leadership is clearly working hard to advance their country and economy. However, I don’t see this as a competition. Both Dubai and Riyadh have different attractions and will therefore attract different people. So, right now, I haven’t looked at developing properties [in the kingdom] but, in the future, why not?”

While Sajwani may be considering AHS Properties’ long-term strategy, for now, he seems completely focused on his company’s core market. Even when I pressed him on whether he had considered the legacy he would like to leave, he remained modest.

“Look,” he said, “I’m only 22 years old so I haven’t thought of that yet. Let’s see where things take us.”

This single-minded focus on the task at hand will no doubt be a valuable asset for AHS Properties. When it comes to the Sajwani family, it seems real estate is in their blood.

Sustainable travel- Abbas Sajwani

Time to get serious about sustainability in travel

As we pivot back towards more travel – both for business and leisure – one thing that’s caught my eye in the travel sector is (loud) moves towards more sustainability practices.

If companies are leading the charge to some extent – with Virgin, Google, and IATA announcing major sustainable travel initiatives, consumers are more likely to pay heed and give more attention to their own carbon footprint.

A recent survey conducted in the UK cited COVID as the primary concern for business travel, closely followed by cost.

However, only 11% of employers mention sustainability as a concern when booking business travel.

And powerful resolutions, such as those set by IATA, are not without problems.

As United Airlines’ chief executive Scott Kirby told IATA delegates at the recent October conference for the air transport industry, carbon offset is not enough, from an industry perspective, at least: “Carbon offsets are planting trees.

Noble as that is, if we planted trees on every acre on the planet that could grow trees, it accounts for less than five months of mankind’s emissions.”

And yet, it’s a firmly held point of view that has gained traction during the pandemic, and we must all take action – firstly, to be mindful of how and where we travel, and secondly, to understand the impact of our journey on the planet and its resources.

So how do we calculate our carbon footprint and offset it? Let me take a short moment of your time here to explain my take on this critical, growing phenomenon.

Offset directly with the airline on booking a flight

When booking with many international carriers, you can opt to pay an extra fee on top of the flight cost, which is donated to a carbon offset scheme.

Around a third of international airlines have carbon offset programmes, but how they work varies.

Sadly, even airline CEOs don’t hold much faith in their own schemes, evidenced by recent comments from Wizz Air CEO József Váradi, who described passenger carbon offsetting schemes as “a bit of a joke.”

It could be conscience-salving to pay more to offset your flight, or as Váradi suggests, greenwashing, but I believe it’s a step in the right direction – and good to see a shift in mindset from simply getting on a plane to flying with a conscience.

Our own Emirates airline believes it’s the company’s role, not individuals, to offset emissions.

The airline has invested billions of dollars in one of the world’s newest, most energy-efficient fleets, with an average aircraft age of just six years old, compared to the global average of 14 years.

The airline also has invested in recycling, water efficiency and waste minimisation programmes, along with backing conservation-based tourism developments.

Buy offset credits from a company online

If you are beginning to travel regularly again, whether for business or leisure, you can annualise your impact by buying offset credits from any one of a plethora of online companies.

The catch here is that the terminology can be confusing. Annualising offsets may be seen as merely paying lip service to reducing the impact of corporate travel or avoiding paying proper attention to the amount you or your company is contributing to climate change.

So-called Scope 3 emissions – emissions a company is indirectly responsible for – are the most complex to quantify.

Add in the wording, from carbon neutral to net zero, and I think there’s a need for greater clarity in precisely how emissions are calculated and neutralised.

Look for alternatives

Perhaps easier said than done, but the pandemic has taught us all that regular communication is entirely possible thanks to video conferencing and online business communication solutions.

With this pivot to working from home and remote meetings, more awareness of the necessity of travel has come.

I expect to see less international travel in future, even though nothing beats a face-to-face meeting.

If meeting in person is imperative, consider rail travel, carpooling or switching to an electric vehicle.

It’s increasingly common to see vehicles powered by energy alternatives. The hyperloop plans for a link between Abu Dhabi and Dubai certainly heralds a futuristic solution to emission-free travel.

Directly invest in an energy efficiency scheme

If – maybe having read this – you feel less inclined to use any of the above methods, you can also opt to invest in an energy efficiency scheme, as they directly reduce fossil fuel usage.

Renewable energy projects are a safe option. Renewable energy projects might include wind, solar and hydro sites globally.

Investment in such projects means you are helping to bolster the availability of renewable energy, create employment, reduce fossil fuel reliance and support global growth in this crucial sector.

As everything related to climate change, the responsibility is threefold. Firstly, governments – such as our own forward-thinking executive – must make clear legislation pushing for better, more sustainable travel options.

Secondly, organisations such as airlines, must actively seek to take responsibility to reduce their scope 1,2 and 3 emissions.

Finally, we, as consumers, can take action with our wallets to offset carbon footprint and with our booking choices. In 2021, it’s time we all take individual responsibility for our travel choices!

Abbas Sajwani

Cityscape Global 2021: Abbas Sajwani wants to pick up older super-luxury homes – and he has a reason

Dubai: A Sajwani getting active in Dubai’s property market and launching a company? You read that right – but it’s not Hussain of Damac who is making the news this time.

Instead, it’s the son Abbas, who is getting into the property act. His AHS Group has launched a new company that focusses on luxury property – but with a difference.

The new business, AHS Properties, will buy older super-luxury villas in Dubai – those in the Dh50 million and plus range – then put them through an extensive fitout makeover, and then sell them.

In other words, be a fixer-upper, and there are some fairly outsized margins in the business. But the upfront costs are heavy too, because AHS will acquire the properties and then get started on them. Typically, these luxury homes will be of five- to 1—year vintage, but they could be older too.

AHS Properties currently has four such properties, three on the Palm (around Dh80 million apiece) and one at Emirates Hills (an eye-watering Dh135 million). “The full renovation works will take about a year and that’s when we sell them,” said Abbas Sajwani. “A year is not too long for these kind of properties – we brought in top designers in town to work on them. Three of them will be given an updated modern look, while the other will have a classic theme.

“There should be no difficulty in finding buyers – the market has been seeing some crazy transactions, with one rental deal in town signed for Dh7.5 million. These are never before kind of numbers.”

Dh100 million

In the year-to-date, Dubai has recorded multiple Dh100 million plus transactions for homes, most of which have been on the Palm.

On his own

Abbas makes it clear that AHS Properties – and the Group – operate well outside of Damac. “Sure, I have had some help, but AHS is not part of the group,” he added. “In the past year, AHS has made investments in the local property market and those did pay off.

“We will reinvest some of the funds generated from future sales into the business to acquire more properties, plus some bank finance.”

No buying in bulk

Abbas will stick to maintaining four to six properties at any time for the makeover. “It will never be 20 or higher – each property has to be crafted to a certain standard and it will take time to get the concepts right,” he added.

Why can’t he think of entering deals with the property owners rather than buying in full? That way, can’t he better manage his outgoings?

“Doing so would be difficult because of the time involved in reworking it and the selling,” said Abbas. “Most clients would rather take the cash upfront – that suits us fine. They are looking to sell, not re-develop the property. Waiting for a year is not for them.”

Source: Gulf News
Dubai luxury real estate market

Abbas Sajwani sets up real estate firm to sell ultra-luxury mansions in Dubai

Emirati entrepreneur Abbas Sajwani has launched an uber-luxury real estate company, AHS Properties, with a total asset value of more than USD100 million, just ahead of Cityscape.

Spotting an opportunity to meet rising demand for ultra-luxury properties, the Dubai-based AHS Properties is selling premium estates in Emirates Hills, as well as beachfront villas on Dubai’s exclusive Palm Jumeirah.

The company currently has four luxury villas in its portfolio, of which three are being valued at Dhs80 million each and the fourth valued at more than Dhs150 million.

Sajwani, Founder of AHS Group, the parent group of AHS Properties, said: “We are excited to launch AHS Properties to enrich Dubai’s luxury property offerings, which is growing in demand and set to boost sales growth in 2021.”

The UAE’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic has attracted the world’s wealthiest investors, who continue to flock to Dubai, snapping up the most expensive homes in locations such as the Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah Bay, according to Knight Frank.

This has played a big part in driving up villa values, with villa prices in Dubai provisionally up by 5% in the third quarter of 2021. The number of homes worth more than USD10 million that have been sold in the emirate currently stands at 54, breaking the previous record of 31, set in 2015.

AHS Properties’ asset portfolio comprises sought-after and high-end properties which includes the uber luxurious Amara Villa at Emirates Hills worth Dhs150 million (USD40 million).

The mansion has 45,000 sq ft of built-up area and living space with seven en-suite bedrooms.

The 12,500 sq ft Azalea Villa located on Palm Jumeirah is built with natural materials and textures, has six en-suite bedrooms and its own pool, gym, gardens, and bar.

“The launch of AHS Properties comes at an exciting time in Dubai, as they city welcomes millions of people from around the world at Expo 2020. There has been exceptional growth of high-net-worth end user buyers who are looking to move to Dubai which will definitely boost demand for luxury properties in the short and medium term,” Sajwani added.

Abbas Sajwani is the son of Hussain Sajwani, founder of DAMAC Group. At a young age, Abbas has followed in the footsteps of his father and demonstrated acute prowess as a budding entrepreneur. He was only 18 years old when set up AHS Group in 2017.

Source: Construction Business News

AHS Properties

Emirati entrepreneur sets up real estate company aimed at selling ultra-luxury mansions in Dubai

Emirati entrepreneur Abbas Sajwani has launched an uber-luxury real estate company, AHS Properties, with a total asset value of more than $100 million, just ahead of Cityscape — the region’s leading property exhibition that takes place annually in Dubai.

Spotting an opportunity to meet rising demand for ultra-luxury properties, the Dubai-based AHS Properties is selling premium estates in Emirates Hills, as well as beachfront villas on Dubai’s exclusive Palm Jumeirah. The Company currently has four luxury villas in its portfolio, of which three are being valued at AED 80 million each and the fourth valued at more than AED 150 million.

Sajwani, Founder of AHS Group, the parent group of AHS Properties, said: “Today, we are excited to launch AHS Properties to enrich Dubai’s luxury property offerings, which is growing in demand and set to boost sales growth in 2021.”

The UAE’s rapid response to the Covid-19 pandemic has attracted the world’s wealthiest investors, who continue to flock to Dubai, snapping up the most expensive homes in locations such as the Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah Bay, according to Knight Frank.

This has played a big part in driving up villa values, with villa prices in Dubai provisionally up by 5 per cent in the third quarter of 2021. The number of homes worth more than $10 million that have been sold in the emirate currently stands at 54, breaking the previous record of 31, set in 2015.

AHS Properties’ asset portfolio comprises sought-after and high-end properties which includes the uber luxurious Amara Villa at Emirates Hills worth AED 150 million ($40 million). The mansion has 45,000 sq ft of built-up area and living space with seven en-suite bedrooms. It is designed to offer everything a resident wants within a short drive from the most famous tourist attractions and business hubs in Dubai such as Palm Jumeirah, Mall of the Emirates and Expo 2020 Dubai.

The 12,500 sq ft Azalea Villa located on Palm Jumeirah, built with natural materials and textures, has six en-suite bedrooms and its own pool, gym, gardens and bar.

“The launch of AHS Properties comes at an exciting time in Dubai, as they city welcomes millions of people from around the world at Expo 2020. There has been exceptional growth of high-net-worth end user buyers who are looking to move to Dubai which will definitely boost demand for luxury properties in the short and medium term,” Sajwani added.

Abbas Sajwani is the son of Hussain Sajwani, founder of DAMAC Group, a successful conglomerate that has a diverse portfolio ranging from capital markets, hospitality, data centres, fashion, retail and, of course, real estate.

At a young age, Abbas has followed in the footsteps of his father and demonstrated acute prowess as a budding entrepreneur. He was only 18 years old when set up AHS Group in 2017.

The AHS Group’s portfolio includes Ventures, Properties and Investments. The company’s objective is to be one of the leading business groups in the Middle East by 2025.

 

Brick & mortar

Will we ever return to bricks and mortar?

A big US e-commerce solution provider, Channel Advisor Corporation, recently released the results of a major survey into US consumer spending habits, which revealed some interesting trends.

More than half of those surveyed (52%) predicted they will shop online in future more than pre-pandemic, while more than a third (37%) said they plan to do more holiday shopping online than last year.

This survey serves to underline what I’ve been witnessing – that the pandemic accelerated the retail sector’s move to e-commerce, and that trend looks set to stay.

There are a number of reasons why e-retail will continue to dominate shopping habits:

Especially in retail, the customer is always right – and if people want to shop online, that should be a key asset in a multi-channel approach

The world has adjusted to online retail, dominated by vast corporations like Amazon. Still, there is room for innovators in the space, for example rapid grocery delivery, online arts and crafts like Etsy, and creative niche retailers like buymeonce.com, which is bang on trend with its longer-lasting products designed to halt the behaviours of a ‘throwaway’ society.

Regionally, food delivery aggregators such as Talabat and Deliveroo have seen massive growth in online orders amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Online sales in the UAE’s food and beverage market surged 255% year-over-year in 2020 to reach $412 million, new analysis by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry has revealed.

The analysis forecasted the value of online food and beverage sales in the emirates to reach $619 million by 2025.

The cost of accelerated pivoting to e-commerce platforms – for many retailers, the large costs are yet to be recouped

The accelerated speed of shifting a retail operation online saw increased, unexpected costs. Many supermarkets, for example, are still not actually profiting from home deliveries, considering the cost of maintaining a large fleet of refrigerated vehicles, extra staff in-store to fulfil deliveries and extremely complex websites and logistics.

Then there are associated costs of marketing, database management, data security and privacy rules, stock control, imagery and written content.

Most consumers expect fast – and often free – delivery, further costs which have to be absorbed by modern retail firms.

The norm – for many people previously resistant to shopping (and paying) online, the pandemic forced them to try it, and now it’s become the de facto way to shop

For many people, old and young, shopping was often something they preferred doing in person. But there are also those who were technology adverse or felt uneasy doing card transactions online.

As we moved deeper into the pandemic, online shopping became the safe, easy way to get not only essential groceries to your home, but also other products.

Those previously adverse to online purchases are now familiar and comfortable with the platform – even if they were ‘forced’ into it.

Technology continues to improve, with new ways to shop including 3D product views and virtual store walk arounds

For many of us, nothing can replace the real-world experience of bricks and mortar shopping, but even the traditional mall experience is being enhanced by technology.

I’m seeing 3D product views, and clever marketing from some brands allows a ‘virtual’ store experience. Those of us who embrace technology are thoroughly enjoying this retail renaissance.

Of course, there are many of us who like to do product research online before heading out to a store to touch and feel the product in a real-world store.

But if a retailer isn’t online nowadays, most people would be surprised or consider the retailer to be behind the times – and probably doomed to failure.

Success in the retail sector today demands a multi-channel, highly creative approach, and it’s us consumers who benefit from this new era.

Meanwhile, the irony was lost on me when I recently discovered Amazon, the online retail behemoth – arguably is the reason for a lot of retail store closures – is moving into bricks and mortar, with plans to open department stores.

Our Malls and High Streets may have changed; they may have to adapt to a different reality, but when the most significant online retailer is eyeing real world sites, I think it’s safe to say bricks and mortar retail experiences are here to stay.

Digital nomads

How to cater to digital nomads

Expo 2020 got me thinking about the enormous number of people who will shift their workplace to Dubai for at least six months. Such an influx of global talent is exciting, interesting and will do wonders for the economy, too!

The temporary boost in the talent pool adds to Dubai’s already rich cultural mix, and I am hoping to spend time over the next six months with a variety of guests, visitors, innovators and business people from all over the world.

But I’ve also been thinking about how easy it would be to move and work from somewhere else for six months.

So, for people to come here and work for a brief period, we must ensure everything is in place to enable our gracious guests to achieve all they need to.

The hospitality sector, globally, has always used technology as a differentiator – from advanced in-room connectivity sockets (remember the days of cable connections?) to free Wi-Fi throughout a property.

But what do we now expect, and what must be delivered, to the ever-growing cohort of so-called digital nomads?

Provide space to maximise work productivity 

Most digital nomads manage their workload to get work done and enjoy time visiting nearby attractions. You should aim to provide space that makes managing time easier, which will lead to greater work productivity.

For instance, providing a separate room for an office, if possible, or have a makeshift cubicle for someone to work at.

Your lobby cafe could easily provide access to computers, printers and Wi-Fi.

Some hospitality venues now provide co-working spaces. Some even have co-living spaces that offer a co-working area and a communal living area. Allowing 24/7 access to co-working facilities is a given in our always-on global community.

Provide the amenities needed

Simply put, if you don’t have the amenities a digital nomad needs, they’re not going to stay with you. Some amenities important to a digital nomad include:

  • Fast, reliable internet and charging outlets.
  • Secure door locks and safes (laptop locks are also appreciated).
  • Free toiletries for the road.
  • Free water bottles.
  • Access to supplies such as a printer, notepads and pens, for example – and the ability to purchase these items in your venue or nearby.
  • Contactless check-in and checkout options.
  • Enough space to work – or even cook, if needed.

These may all seem simple, but I’ve travelled enough to discover many venues don’t cover these basics. And while provision of the above might affect the bottom line, such facilities can be a game-changer and engender higher customer loyalty.

There are more new brands popping up across the UAE that have to service digital nomads at their heart.

Older, more established brands must battle these disruptors with equal or higher levels of facilities designed to attract international working guests.

Highlight the area’s local attractions

Digital nomads aren’t just staying with you to work; they want to see what’s in the area. If your hospitality venue is close to Expo 2020, the Burj Khalifa, Bastakiya, the Creek or any of the myriad of the area’s top attractions, advertise it.

This way, digital nomads will know you’re also able to provide the free-time activities they’re looking for.

Working remotely while travelling is a trend I believe will continue to grow in the future.

Being prepared for it is vital if you want to meet all of your customers’ needs and see those customers returning again and again.

Sometimes, the smallest detail like free coffee or a 24-hour printing service can make all the difference.

Growing food in the UAE

Growing food in the desert

The theme of Expo 2020 is ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ through sustainability, mobility and opportunity, so my thoughts recently turned to sustainability – and that led me to consider food production in the UAE.

We live in a nation richly supplied with abundant fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, and supermarkets heaving with international products. But a great deal of this abundant food supply is imported.

It may shock you to learn that in Q1 2020 – the latest year I could find records for – the UAE imported food to the value of AED17.98 billion.

Our nation has around 10 million people, so you can easily see the cost per capita of imported food. To hammer the point home, we currently import about 90% of our food.

This unsustainable statistic was thrown into stark relief during the pandemic, but the UAE’s supermarket shelves remained full – thankfully.

COVID-19 threw supply chains off-kilter globally. This caused supply disruptions and increased the price of food globally, factors that catalysed our forward-looking leaders to consider growing more food in our deserts.

Speaking to Bloomberg in April 2021, Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, said: “Realistically, we’re looking at maybe increasing our domestic production going toward 30%-40% in the next ten years. We all know that being dependent on global food supplies is not a good thing.”

HE Almheiri is charged with implementing a UAE National Food Security Strategy launched in November 2018, which lists 18 strategic food items and focuses on combining technology, innovation and alternative agriculture methods to bolster domestic food production.

Plans include farming rice in the desert, vertical farming, aquaculture and even space research.

Farming rice in the desert

Think of rice cultivation, and most of us think of vast, water-logged fields across southeast Asia. Rice is a sensitive crop and doesn’t fare well in the dry, arid, extreme heat of the desert.

Undeterred by these facts, a UAE team of scientists has been successfully growing special rice crops developed by South Korean scientists in the deserts of Sharjah for the last two years.

The South Korean Asemi rice strain is known for its ability to tolerate heat, salinity and poor soil conditions. Flooding the growth sites between furrows has proved to be the most successful growing method. In 2020, the 1,000 square metres Al Dhaid test site successfully yielded 1,700 kilograms (two tons) of rice.

Vertical Farming

Advances in technology and innovation have seen global interest in vertical farming – using minimal water, grow lights and maximising space.

Vertical farming lends itself to the UAE’s climate, as vertical farms can be in temperature-controlled indoor environments.

Last year, Abu Dhabi-based RainMakers Capital Investment and Netherland’s based GrowGroup IFS announced the largest indoor farm in the world in the UAE at a cost of AED650 million (US$177million).

As a result of the partnership, GreenFactory Emirates will produce 10,000 tonnes of fresh produce every year – produced in a way that saves 95% of water consumption compared to standard cultivation methods, as well as reducing its Co2 footprint by up to 40%.

Greenhouses are go

One company, Abu Dhabi-based agriculture technology start-up Pure Harvest Smart Farms, is leading the charge after securing US$60 million in funding to expand its operations in providing climate-controlled greenhouse growing environments.

Pure Harvest’s proprietary solution has made it a pioneer in high-yielding, year-round, local production of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The company’s breakthrough growing system is specifically designed for addressing the challenging summertime climates of the Arabian Gulf region.

Indoor temperature, carbon dioxide levels and humidity are carefully balanced and automated using an advanced climate management computer system.

‘Magic’ Sand

UAE-based Dake Group, an investment management company that focuses on finding farming solutions through innovative technologies, is offering Chinese-developed breathable sand, which retains water and allows crop growth.

I’ve been impressed with this relatively simple concept – Rechsand Technology Group of Beijing takes common sand and coats it using proprietary technology to allow the passage of air through its particles and harness the water contained it in.

Dake Group says this technology could be applied to desert sand to retain water and decrease farming water and fertiliser usage by 70% and 50%, respectively.

Fishing in the desert

Aquaculture has been described as a central component in the country’s food security strategy by the Minister of Climate Change and Environment, HE Almheiri.

Aquaculture is less land-intensive and has a lower ecological footprint than traditional farming, with ponds or tanks used to grow certain fish species.

These tanks are much smaller than the space required to produce the same amount of protein from cattle.

The Minister told UAE news agency WAM that “we can expect the aquaculture sector in the country to grow substantially over the coming years.”

This growth is expected to be government-backed, with initiatives to attract investors in this growth sector.

Tripling the proportion of locally produced food within a decade will provide greater sustainability, food security and ensure (continuing) fair prices for all.

It will, of course, also mean less carbon production, as the air miles/ transportation costs and ‘food miles’ will be greatly reduced.

We have already made great progress in farming quinoa and salmon. There is more to be done, but I feel certain that the global companies attending Expo 2020 will be very keen and interested to help us achieve full domestic food security.

A key part of growing food in our desert nation is a reliance on technology. I’m reminded of the rise in vertical farming, but we must offer incentives to agri-tech and food-tech companies to come to the UAE and help us provide domestically-produced food for all.

COVID-19, what can we do to help our immune systems?

COVID-19, what can we do to help our immune systems?

The number of people suffering from ‘flu and other diseases is down, as a result of global mask wearing, hand sanitising and increased awareness of the spread of airborne viruses.

This fact has been attributed to the pandemic, mask wearing and increased, urgent greater understanding of good hygiene, especially in public places.

However, German virologist Sandra Ciesek described in March how we usually live in natural “balance” with viruses — but how that had been disrupted by the pandemic. Ciesek heads the Institute of Medical Virology at Frankfurt’s University Clinic.

Speaking in a podcast, Ciesek explained how children, in particular, had been cut off or sealed away from viruses and other illnesses.

“It just shows how we usually coexist with viruses. And it shows how artificial conditions, like limiting personal contacts, can influence [the spread of] viruses, and that rates of infection can get artificially moved from [one season to another],” said Ciesek.

This begs the question: Will kids have more severe infections after the COVID-19 pandemic if their immune systems missed out “training” during lockdowns?

We may see more infections, but not necessarily more severe ones. I was pleased to recently learn that the immune system is not like a muscle that’s become weak during the pandemic.

Our immune systems have had enough to do, even during lockdown, because germs also enter our bodies in other ways, such as through food.

And because of the various lockdowns, more people will gradually experience sickness as global lockdowns lift. We may well see more common colds, flu and other respiratory infection.

After a while, it’s just your turn again. You’re going to get sick. An unfortunate consideration, but it’s a truth of human existence. We must be thankful for our immune systems.

So, what can we do to our immune systems to avoid illness other than COVID-19? How can we help our immune system to fight off the constant barrage of attacks?

You can easily make several lifestyle and dietary changes today to strengthen your immune system.

These include reducing your sugar intake, staying hydrated, working out regularly, getting adequate sleep, and managing your stress levels.

Exercise regularly

Our immune system is boosted by exercise. A scientific review from 2019 in the Journal of Sport and Health Science suggested exercise can improve your immune response, lower illness risk, and reduce inflammation.

Aerobic exercise is best, according to the experts – such as walking, running and cycling.

Eat healthy food

Just like exercise, this is an easy win, and something we all know we should be doing anyway.

Moving away from processed foods, fried foods and high salt and sugar intake is always a good idea, but I like to think of the body as a factory, and we need to invest in good raw materials to enjoy the best end result. Schedule your meals, and eat fruit and vegetables more than other foods each day.

Hydrate

Do we need to talk about the need for water? Especially here in the UAE, we all know the importance of water.

Through my research into fitness and hydration, I discovered the equation we all need to work out to know exactly how much water we need to consume each day.

Forgot the ‘8 glasses a day’ or ‘ten glasses a day.’ All you need to do is take your weight, then multiply that weight by 2/3 (or 67%) to determine how much water to drink daily.

For example, if you weighed 79kgs you would multiply that by 2/3 and learn you should be drinking about 3.5 litres of water every day. Of course, this amount needs to be altered according to your daily activity levels – add 350ml more water for every 30 minutes of working out.

Reduce stress

Over time, stress builds up into a range of health conditions. This allostatic load – the cumulative effect of long-term stress can lead to some serious illness.

So, a major step in ensuring a strong immune system and good long-term health is to simply reduce the stress in life.

I should perhaps recommend a meditation or relaxation app here, but sometimes it can be just as effective to talk things through with your closest friends and family.

Quit toxins – smoking and alcohol

I don’t need to say anymore on this subject. We all know the dangers of such toxic substances.

Although none of these suggestions can prevent COVID-19, they can enforce your body’s defences against harmful pathogens.

And let’s not forget, it is, of course, conceivable that many infections contracted in the last 18 months have gone undetected, because a lot of people have been avoiding unnecessary trips to the doctor or the hospital during lockdown.

Whichever you decide, the pandemic, at least, has taught us all to be more aware of our immune systems.

Glamping in UAE

Why glamping is such an attractive investment proposition

The global glamping market size was valued at US$ 1.88 billion in 2020 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.1% from 2021 to 2028.

According to research by Arizton, the glamping market in the US is expected to reach a revenue of around US$1 billion by 2024.

The pandemic, travel bans and travel uncertainty has made ‘staycations’ more popular, and people are realising they can enjoy a more quirky, adventurous break in their home country.

Glamping also allows access to some unusual, off-the-beaten-track destinations that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Glamping is trending – especially among urbanites frustrated with city living who want to escape their hectic lives and experience a rural, more peaceful, relaxed pace of living.

As per a report published by Kampgrounds of America, Inc., in 2019, 67% of consumers agreed that glamping provides a unique outdoor experience, 63% want their glamping experience to come with services and amenities that aren’t available with camping, and 56% say that they want to stay in unique accommodation. These factors are acting as major drivers for the market.

With the eyes of the world upon the UAE ahead of Expo 2020, those of us who live here might feel the need to escape to the desert or mountainous landscapes for a weekend – and the UAE offers no shortage of glamping opportunities.

Desire among travellers to take a glamping trip is highest among those who have had a prior experience with glamping (77%), according to the Kampgrounds of America report, which also reveals that demographically, the most interest expressed is among Gen X and millennial travellers, and especially those with children.

With millennials seeking cool adventure breaks, instagrammable experiences and lower-cost vacation accommodation, there’s no doubt in my mind that glamping holds a great deal of promise as an investment.

  1. It offers relatively low investment and high return. Glamping sites by their very nature will not involve as much investment as an hotel or converting a building to an ‘Airbnb’ style vacation home. Glamping sites can be under canvas, in a treehouse, a converted vehicle…all of which mean lower investment for a quirkier, less traditional, and often more appealing stay.
  2. Glamping’s popularity isn’t fleeting. Since its recent rise to fame in the late 2000s, glamping has increasingly become a travel trend that’s here to stay. It’s widely popular amongst younger generations, who make up a large portion of the general vacationing population.
  3. Glamping tackles a number of groups, which helps support the argument for investment. Beyond Millennials and Gen-Z, families have taken to glamping. Glamping provides the quality time that many families seek without some of the hardships associated with more traditional camping. It offers wide appeal among those who might never consider camping, and is equally attractive to wealthy and budget travellers, and the young and old alike.
  4. As we all become more eco-conscious, glamping is in the sweet spot of combining luxury with eco-awareness. Not only are you often surrounded by nature itself when glamping, but your site can easily be made eco-friendly, with solar power, showers and low impact building.

As interest in glamping grows globally, now is a good time to invest, in my humble opinion. We should encourage growth in this sector, which, at its heart, revolves around bringing people together in nature, sustainability and healthy outdoor activities.

How technology is driving people of determination to new heights

How technology is driving people of determination to new heights

There are more than one billion people of determination globally – those whose hearing, visual, cognitive, mobility, speech or neural functions are impaired – making them the largest minority group in the world. Ergo, inclusivity is vital in modern society. I feel the UAE is a leading light in the journey towards giving people of determination equal rights and respect in society.

I remember, for example, feeling proud, impressed and delighted when I saw a thin strip of concrete on Jumeirah beach, designed specifically so those in wheelchairs and mobility scooters could get close to the ocean.

Accessibility, in technology terms, is an exciting, bold new horizon. I believe it’s where we see some of the most exciting innovations, and for that reason, it’s a sector worth watching.

And let’s not forget every time you switch your iPhone to night mode, dictate an email while you’re driving a car, or ride a hover board, you’re taking advantage of technologies initially designed to help people of determination.

Indeed, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum himself launched a national strategy to empower people with disabilities in 2017, further codifying plans to make Dubai an accessible, inclusive place for people of determination.

The UAE also has a Disability Act, which became federal law in 2006, and is a signee of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Innovation and creative thinking are being applied to every aspect of disability, heralding a new era of independence, mobility and inclusivity for people of determination.

In the UAE, disability is not even a word we use, and I think we are working towards a society where your physical and mental abilities should not hold you back from achieving what you want in life.

A 2016 report by Nielsen found consumers with disabilities, along with their families, friends and associates, make up a trillion-dollar market segment.

A 2018 Accenture report found that if companies engaged in greater disability inclusion, they’d gain access to a talent pool of more than 10.7 million people.

It’s worth investigating the trends, and what we might see in the next few years. As ever, trend watching, gaining knowledge and developing understanding of a subject area vital part of any entrepreneur’s toolkit.

Here’s some of the trends I’ve identified in my recent reading around technology and people of determination:

More effective/efficient computer accessibility – Bluetooth QWERTY/ Braille keyboards, text-to-speech converters and voice assistants like Siri and Alexa are bringing technology closer to everyone.

Hearing – I’ve been enormously impressed by news of AI-driven hearing aids, featuring neural networks which learn new sounds and process them to sound more natural. To think technology can help alleviate the issues associated with audio and visual impairments is simply thrilling.

Seeing apps – Like Google Maps but driven by audio, visually impaired users can keep their phone in their pockets while being told where to go, and how to reach a destination independently.

Internet accessibility – Websites are increasing built with accessibility options, like being able to adjust font size, text and background colours and have a page read to you. Just a few years ago, this was the realm of sites aimed at people of determination, but is now much more mainstream…the pandemic has also seen speech-to-text apps improve exponentially.

Home automation – As this trend grows, so does the realisation from manufacturers that home automation products have huge potential among people of determination.

Smart assistants/speakers like Alexa, Google Home Mini and Apple’s HomePod can remind us of essential tasks, answer questions by searching online for us, and play music.

Smart sockets mean you can make ‘dumb’ gadgets smart, enabling you to turn things on/off from your tablet or phone. Smart heating can be controlled by your phone or your voice.

Smart locks can be unlocked from your phone, doorbells allow you to know who is at the door, and robot vacuums clean for you.

Electrical stimulation – Nine years ago, David Mzee was left paralysed by a gymnastics accident and told he would never walk again.

He recently competed in a charity run during which he walked 390 metres, thanks to an experimental treatment that uses electrical stimulation of the spinal cord to rejuvenate dormant circuits in patients whose spinal breaks are not complete.

Bionic exoskeletons – American Lyle Fleming was able to walk for the first time in six years thanks to an exoskeleton that has been described as a “legged Segway”.

Designed to help those with paralysis to stand and walk, a similar wearable robotic frame was approved in 2012 by the US Food and Drug Administration for physical rehabilitation, to be used with crutches or walkers.

Future exoskeletons may replace wheelchairs, providing greater mobility and health benefits.

Giving voices to the speech-impaired – Scientists in the US, UK and China are working on prototypes of gloves that translate the hand movements of sign language into speech, allowing real-time verbal communication with people not proficient in sign language.

These exciting, forward—looking innovations are certainly worth watching, and herald an increasingly bright future for people of determination to fulfil their true potential.

It’s thrilling to live in a society that not only respects equality but enables those who are differently-abled to enjoy a rich, purposeful life.

plant-based food

Why is plant-based food becoming so popular?

Food is at the heart of every culture, and a lot of our celebrations revolve around sharing food with family and friends. But access to information means we are learning more about the food we eat, where it comes from, and the effect it has upon us and the planet.

I’ve seen a rising interest in plant-based food in the UAE, driven by a number of factors:

Knowledge

We live in a time where, thanks in most part to better education and information access, there is increasing consumer knowledge of food, its effects, its provenance and environmental impact.

I for one, feel happier eating food when I know a little more about where it comes from, and what it might do for my health and overall wellbeing.

And I’m keen to better understand the concept of food as medicine…as this article states, “many people are catching on to the notion that certain eating styles have the potential to influence disease prevention, too, not to mention influence quality of life, health, and longevity.”

A little reading and you’ll discover than processed foods – whether they are meat or plant-based – are simply not good for the health.

The UAE market

We live in a largely affluent, multi-cultural, tolerant society, so many companies view the UAE as a fantastic test bed for new products.

Food innovators can test new products in the UAE, taking full advantage of the start-up culture, funding opportunities, and access to affluent, savvy consumers.

In recent times, we’ve seen the development of vertical farms, and I’m a great admirer of organic farms such as Mawasim which supplies a growing percentage of foods to the UAE community via its own farm and stores.

Sustainability

You might blame streaming services, YouTube or social media, but people are far more aware and concerned about the environment and sustainability today.

We are seeing a rise in interest in eating local produce, reducing food packaging and food miles, reducing food waste and eating to preserve good health.

For context, I learnt that around a third of all food is wasted globally, amounting to 1.3 billion tons each year. Food waste not only results in an economic loss of $1 trillion each year, but also has a significant impact on the environment and food security.

Sustainability is close to my heart, and I am proud to live in a nation that has taken bold steps towards pushing a strong sustainability agenda.

This trickles down into our food, with the UAE pledging to cut down food waste by 50% by 2030 to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) has prioritised tackling the problem of food waste, driven in part by a national initiative encouraging kitchens in the UAE’s hospitality sector to reduce their waste.

Cultural, social and health imperatives

Whether you are influenced by friends and family, or worried about your long-term health, a plant-based diet is proven to be better for your health, the planet and, of course, the animals.

The old norms are being shattered as more people choose healthier and cruelty-free diets.

Celebrations that focus on eating meat are now being catered for with meat-free alternatives, and grandma’s legendary dishes are now being adapted with plant-based ingredients.

With the rising consumer knowledge and desire for healthier eating, we are seeing a shift towards plant—based foods. Many of us are eating more mindfully, ignoring societal and cultural pressures in favour of pursuing stronger personal beliefs regarding our health, our environment and the rights of animals.

This cultural shift is further evidenced by the willingness of local supermarkets to provide a wider range of plant-based foods.

Funding

One of the world’s most renowned and respected advocates for plant-based eating is Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, himself an avowed vegan and founder and chief executive of KBW Ventures, a company which is investing heavily in global plant-based business initiatives.

His admirable philosophy is that the companies he invests in have to be capable of generating revenue — but must have a positive impact on the world as well.

Here in the UAE, the entrepreneurship which is a significant characteristic among locals and expats alike has led to a start-up culture with a significant number of funding opportunities available.

A locally-based plant-based children’s food start—up, Sprout, recently received US$200,000 in funding from Bahrain-based FA Holding. It plans to use the funding for retail expansion.

Innovation

We grow vegetables in the desert. We’ve harnessed water from the oceans for drinking, and the power of the sun for energy. I’m reminded of Sheikh Zayed’s insistence that Sir Baniyas island could become an oasis for wildlife, despite experts telling him the opposite. With perseverance, he literally turned his vision into reality.

We are a nation of innovators, and at the moment, key global issues include food poverty, food scarcity and security. Innovating with new forms of protein and food – from crickets to lab-grown meat – will help feed a hungry and ever-growing population.

Why are we seeing more UAE homegrown business?

Why are we seeing more UAE homegrown business?

The UAE has a long history of trading, primarily because of its desirable geographical position between Europe and the Far East. The region became an attractive place for global merchants to meet and trade, with Indian and Chinese merchants meeting their European counterparts to trade in exotic spices, herbs, jewels and textiles.

We all know the history of the pearl industry and the oil and gas industry in the UAE, and how our forefathers worked so hard to develop our nation. Their industriousness has allowed the country to thrive.

Today, the UAE is widely considered an excellent place for businesses to grow, and the rich trading history means we have a great reputation globally as a nation of merchants and entrepreneurs.

And since the formation of the modern nation as we know it today in 1971, great leaps have been taken in terms of infrastructure, regulations, laws, taxation and visas to ensure the UAE remains an attractive place for people all over the world to conduct business. Let’s not forget that the vision of our leaders in creating the UAE, was to retain a strong sense of cultural identity, by remaining mindful of tradition while building a solid, future-proof administrative structure.

Attracting foreign companies to the UAE was relatively straightforward in the early days of the nation. A youthful nation, with vast energy income and a desire to rapidly develop world class infrastructure and facilities saw a flood of interest from foreign business concerns. Mindful of the need to protect national interests and income, the sponsorship model meant any foreign concern wishing to begin operating in the UAE had to seek a local partner.

This model ensured solid economic benefits for everyone concerned and boosted the national GDP. Yet today, that model has changed, with a plethora of free zones and cutting-edge business set-up models to suit all stages of business.

Governments, private business set-up companies, lawyers and accountants are all on hand to help create new businesses, supporting an increasingly international urban, savvy population.

Time to diversify

While oil and gas revenues helped build and develop the UAE, we are now moving towards an economic model which is diversifying away from reliance on the ever-depleting fossil fuels. And that national model must be underpinned by a number of factors, including a laissez-faire economy, entrepreneurs and creativity.

At a time when global economies are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, impartial analysts at FocusEconomics still forecast the UAE’s GDP to expand by 3.0% in 2021, and by 3.6% in 2022.

And the latest figures available from the same analysts suggest in 2019, the UAE exported goods to the value of US$316 billion, a clear indication of a powerful economy.

An attractive proposition

Given the historical perspective, geography, infrastructure and legal and regulatory framework, it’s easy to see why business finds the UAE an attractive proposition.

And now, as a further indicator of a maturing economy, we are seeing a number of homegrown brands – across all sectors – going from start-ups to scale-ups to eyeing international markets.

Innovation is a key government strategy, codified within the exciting raft of sustainable development plans, including the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, Environment Vision 2030 (Abu Dhabi), Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, Abu Dhabi Transportation Mobility Management Strategy, Surface Transport Master Plan (Abu Dhabi), Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy, Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, Dubai 3D Printing Strategy and the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

The UAE is increasingly considered an active test bed for new business ideas, given the size of market, the international population and the business breaks now offered.

Taking Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 as an example, this plan, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, in June 2016, aims to elevate Dubai into a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovation-focused businesses.

The strategy revolves around five key objectives: to increase total output and value-addition of the manufacturing sector, enhance depth of knowledge and innovation, make Dubai a preferred manufacturing platform for global businesses, promote environmentally friendly and energy-efficient manufacturing and make Dubai a centre for the global Islamic products market.

These ambitious aims centre upon six sub-sectors – maritime, aluminium and fabricated metals, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, food and beverages and machinery and equipment.

Whether entrepreneurs choose to invest time and effort into these recommended sectors remains to be seen, but Dubai Industrial Strategy is projected to generate an additional AED160 billion by 2030.

We can all understand, therefore, why the UAE is not only a fertile ground for new business, attracting global talent, but also why these businesses, on achieving great success at home, are increasingly looking to expand further afield.

And our task must surely be to support these businesses, not only to benefit ourselves and our national economy, but to help them carry the flag globally and remind other countries of the success of our visionary leaders’ drive to instigate business success, both at home and abroad.

The future of tourism and how this lends itself to budding entrepreneurs

The future of tourism and how this lends itself to budding entrepreneurs

Tourism is changing, whether it’s a pandemic-induced inclination to take domestic breaks or the rising awareness of eco-tourism.

Consumers are savvier and more aware of the impact of travelling on the environment, which has seen the emergence of new trends such as long-haul flights carbon offsetting or the demand for eco-friendly in-room products.

These are just a few of many changes shaping the tourism sector, which is ripe with opportunities for keen entrepreneurs, who by their very nature, must do everything in their power to keep abreast – and if possible, be ahead of emerging trends.

Despite the tragic nature of COVID-19, there were opportunities, and these will continue as the sector’s entrepreneurs think-up creative new solutions to health, safety, hygiene and environmental issues.

A key driving factor is technology, now a crucial part of the tourism and travel industry. Technology solutions help businesses with day-to-day operations, while also improving the customer experience.

For this reason, it is important that hotels, airlines, F&B outlets and other companies keep-up with the latest technology trends within the travel industry.

So, what are the trends, and the opportunities that flow from them?

Firstly, the need to be always connected. Travellers, whether for leisure or business, expect to be ‘always on’, whether it’s to keep in touch with the family at home, or send a vital email.

Beyond simple communications, there’s the exciting developments surrounding 5G and Elon Musk’s Starlink global satellite internet service, which will be a game-changer.

Connectivity, by extension, leads us to the Internet of Things, or IoT as it’s known. IoT brings smart devices together in a highly interconnected web, allowing one device to talk to – and control – another.

Hotel guests will benefit from using a smart device (even one they may own, like a phone or watch) to gain access to their room, and control the temperature, lighting, TV and curtains, for example, as well as easily order and pay for food and beverages.

Guests are delighted by a smooth, seamless, intuitive approach to controlling their experience, while hotels will benefit from reduced costs and delighted guests.

And this space is wide open for eager entrepreneurs. IoT will even spread to journeys, with luggage tagging, airport check-in and purchasing all potentially handled via IoT-based technology.

Big data is increasingly being used in the tourism sector. Both have enormous advantages in predictive analysis of customer behaviour. Risk analysis is better understood with access to real-time data.

Drilling down to the granular level of mass data groups means we will see true personalisation. Information might just be the differentiator which wins customers over; from understanding customer needs to better management of staff shift patterns, and stock management.

Data can also be used to analyse and review business performance. Hotel owners, for example, can use big data tools for revenue management, using historic occupancy rates and other past trends to better anticipate levels of demand.

When demand is predictable, pricing and promotional strategies can be optimised.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is making inroads in the sector too. Artificial ‘chatbots’ on websites are the new normal, and AI-driven learning can further help the sector deliver deep levels of personalisation and business performance analysis.

There’s also a host of tech like virtual reality, which has already forever altered leisure and entertainment, while voice- and biometric-activated solutions not only bring convenience but are helping people of determination navigate travel with greater independence.

Virtual tours and cultural experiences helped us all get through the pandemic lockdown, and the sector pivoted towards the virtual world with admirable speed.

Why not search for your next holiday using virtual reality?

There’s never been a better time to launch a tourism-related business, and with the rise in tech-based solutions, we are seeing a new raft of tech-related tourism solutions.

Entrepreneurs in this sector must clearly be technology experts, and that expertise does not come overnight.

What we will probably see is technology-based companies from other sectors pivoting to provide solutions in the tourism sector. And that’s to be welcomed!

 

Entrepreneurship

Why an increasing number of young professionals are choosing entrepreneurship

We are seeing such growth in entrepreneurship right now. Of course, the UAE has always been a place that fosters the perfect conditions for new businesses, but the current global trend is towards younger and younger entrepreneurs.

A decade of Forbes’ magazine’s ‘30 Under 30’ underlines the growth and effect of this ever-expanding cohort of young, ambitious, business-savvy people, who are taking a different approach to life and work.

Perhaps it’s because they’ve watched parents and grandparents working hard, struggling financially and not really enjoying life, but it is also because technology has given rise to a plethora of exciting new roles that can be performed from anywhere, and provided everyone with access to the world’s greatest library of resources.

Traditional work ethics have shifted, just as the pandemic taught us all how we can’t rely on job security and working from home does actually work for most of us.

People aren’t so inclined towards being tied to ‘the office’ anymore and working for yourself, in most cases, means you can work when you like and where you like. It, therefore, offers appealing freedom to the younger generations who are shunning many societal norms – like taking a mortgage, working the 9 to 5, ‘settling down’ and living for the weekend.

While the term ‘Millennipreneurs’ – Millennial entrepreneurs – hasn’t really caught on, research (*) shows that those under 35 are starting their own businesses at a phenomenal rate.

Of course, social media has a big influence on steering the economic Zeitgeist, and we are bombarded every day with positive thinking messages, images of alternative lifestyles from those eschewing the 9 to 5, and, of course, news and information regarding some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs, from Elon Musk to Arianna Huffington.

Entrepreneurship is cool, co-working spaces occupy some of the hippest spots in most of the world’s cities, and everyone is looking to create or back the latest ‘killer app.’

Governments globally have played their hand, of course, encouraging and funding entrepreneurship programmes to help offset unemployment, boost their economies and reap the wider societal benefits – after all, entrepreneurs create jobs, increase innovation, raise competition and are responsive to changing economic opportunities and trends.

The OECD suggests that youth unemployment leads to health issues, and increases the likelihood of poorer wages and being without a job later life. So, clearly, there are wide benefits to encouraging entrepreneurship among the younger generations.

Research by Human Resources and Workforce Management News has revealed that Millennials – and certainly Gen Z – want meaningful work. Suggests that youth unemployment leads to health issues and increases the likelihood of poorer wages and being without a job later life. So, clearly, there are wide benefits to encouraging entrepreneurship among the younger generations.

Research has revealed that Millennials – and certainly Gen Z – want meaningful work. That might not be too radical a change from their parents, but what’s different is that they are more vocal in their needs, and more willing to pursue that meaningful work under their own steam. According to Forbes, “77 percent of millennials say that flexible work hours are a key to productivity in the workplace.”

Greater knowledge of entrepreneurship, greater access to technology, a desire to pursue meaningful work without the shackles of a large corporation, and a lack of trust in traditional work models and practices has led to a situation where one in three people under 35 have said they’d like to be an entrepreneur.

The world is changing, and young entrepreneurs are leading that change. We must not ignore this!

 

(*) Source: Super Founders: What Data Reveals About Billion-Dollar Startups by Ali Tamaseb

Entrepreneur

Becoming a successful entrepreneur – is it only about the big idea?

I’m taking a stand with all the young entrepreneurs out there who have come up against some pushback when introducing a new business idea.

It’s a daunting prospect taking those first steps into launching a new business; however, if you’ve had the lightbulb moment, you’re already halfway there. Hopefully, some of the advice below – which has stood me in good stead over the years – will provide guidance and food for thought for any budding entrepreneur starting his or her business journey.

Identify and plug the gap in the market

Although obvious, it’s one of the most important pieces of advice I can give. I identified a gap in the market when regularly visiting hangouts with friends. It became clear that some of these establishments required a Facilities Management (FM) company to look after the premises. I put a plan in place and was able to launch a company to bridge the gap.

There have been FM companies in this region for decades; however, it was about doing something different to fill that void. I analysed the competition and got an idea of what worked well for them and what didn’t. The result was to implement the best practices, combined with my own experiences, to create something different and unique.

A great example I recently read about was an Abu Dhabi-based start-up called The Concept. They have partnered with Etihad Airways to develop an IoT-based food tray that will help reduce food waste in the aviation industry. This is a fantastic idea that is unique and will have a long-lasting positive impact for the future.

The customer is king

The adage ‘the customer is always right’ is as relevant today as it’s ever been. However, for any budding entrepreneur, it’s essential first to identify who your customer or audience is. Many people will fall into the trap of thinking their product is for everyone and market it accordingly. This is a sure-fire way to failure.

Understanding your target audience, what it is they require and how your product or service will benefit them is key. So, do your market research. Social media can be a goldmine of information as people are far more likely to air their grievances when doing so behind a keyboard. Do your research, find out what people like and adhere to it.

Business plans

As an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking of the next big idea and how to achieve it so the thought of putting a business plan together is pretty low down on my priorities. But, it’s a necessity. Putting a plan in place can help you project results and stay on target. Having a solid business plan not only underscores your intent to make it work but will also make all the difference in getting your business off the ground.

Mistakes will be made

I’m fortunate to have grown up around incredibly successful entrepreneurs. Listening to their advice has undoubtedly shaped my business acumen and whetted my appetite to become an entrepreneur in my own right. I can look to my family for guidance and mentorship; however, numerous sites can provide you with the help and direction you need.

Growthmentor, ThinkBold, Score, and Micromentor are just a few of the online platforms across a range of industries that provide access to handpicked mentors and experts in their field.

Don’t forget, mistakes will be made. It happens to the best in the world, so don’t be put off.

Utilise your network

I’ve previously spoken about the importance of your network. With a start-up, it is crucial. Their combined experience and insight alone are invaluable.

Maximise your networking opportunities, put yourself out there at events, business seminars, and social gatherings – a professional working relationship could potentially develop at any time.

My final piece of advice, or rather statement, is that starting a business and making it work isn’t easy. Seasoned entrepreneurs and billionaires such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have it all their way. Yes, they built global superstar companies, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Gates’ first product didn’t make enough money to cover the Microsoft overheads. The first Apple product was built in Jobs’ family garage with money from selling his Volkswagen minibus and Steve Wozniak’s programmable calculator.  Branson, I’m sure, would be the first to admit he faced several challenges and endured many failures in the early years. But one thing they had in common was they never gave up, and neither should you.

I’m certainly not suggesting that sticking to the above points is a foolproof plan to success. There’s so much involved in getting an idea off the ground. Hopefully, they give you a solid grounding and the confidence to take your business idea to the next level.

As ever, get in touch and let me know if these words of advice helped. It’s always good to hear about your success stories.

Gen Z

150,000 reasons why more than 50% of Gen Z in the US want to be entrepreneurs and why the workplace will need them

According to research carried out by Nielsen last year, over half of Gen Z who were interviewed – 54% to be precise – indicated that they wanted to start their own company.

So, what made one-in-two of this demographic want to start their own business?

Well, if they are living and studying in the US, here are 150,000 reasons to begin with. The cost of studying for a four-year undergraduate degree works out at $150,000 ($37,500 per annum).

The costs in the UK and the EU are similar depending on where you study. Even though it only takes three years to gain a degree from a UK university, the average cost is still around $100,000 and if you have enrolled at a university in London or another big city, living expenses can increase significantly.

So, little wonder that Gen Z students are thinking twice before going to university, given the amount of debt that they will be saddled with once they have graduated. During the Nielsen survey, budding Gen Z entrepreneurs identified taking control of their futures, having a purposeful life, being a good environmentalist and wait for it… a debt-free start to adult life, as the key drivers to pursuing life as an entrepreneur.

Most universities and colleges are also looking ahead to graduates of the future and their role in the job market. In 2018, the Institute for the Future predicted that 85% of the jobs that students would take on in 2030 did not exist. That looks highly probable. We only need to think of technological advances such as AI and IoT and the talent that is now required to operate in those fields. Think about the jobs for digital nomads.

So, it is little wonder that a significant portion of the Gen Z demographic is having second thoughts about whether college or university is absolutely necessary for them to achieve their career goals. Therefore, an idea that is gathering increased momentum is periods of study, work and then further study that will prepare Gen Z for their future careers.

According to Forbes, a study by TD Ameritrade in 2018 surveyed 3,000 US teens and adults, with around one in five Gen Z admitting that they may not go to college. And in some ways, they would welcome an unorthodox direction through their education.

In addition, more than 30% of Gen Z said they had considered taking a gap year between high school and college. Moreover, 89% of Gen Z had considered alternatives to a four-year degree course, after high school. To fill the void, companies are now moving into the role of educator to train people for the specific jobs they will need to be doing and keeping their skills relevant.

Firms like Google, Adobe, Hubspot, Microsoft and others offer students inexpensive or free certifications that provide job skill training. Gen Z students are asking corporate recruiters whether companies will help them acquire new skills to do their job. With Generation Z in mind, AT&T, Apple, Adobe and others are making job and skill training a priority.

Whether a gap year or work experience, tertiary education is a viable option. And it cannot be a coincidence that in 2018, about 7.6 million students were 25 years old and over. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, that accounts for more than 30% of all college students in the US.

The time is right for Gen Z to lead the corporate world and become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and if any inspiration was required, they can take a leaf out of Mikaila Ulmer’s book.

After being stung twice by bees, she decided to do a bit of research and found out that the bees needed her help. She’d started selling her grandma’s flaxseed lemonade outside her house at the age of four, but added honey to the recipe. She was soon supplying to a local pizza parlour.

In 2015, the business took a leap when Ulmer started supplying Whole Foods with Me & The Bees Lemonade in an $11 million deal. Now in high school, Ulmer’s business has branched out into lip balms and she’s even served lemonade to former US president Barack Obama. Ulmer continues to invest 10% of her profits in bee conservation projects.

So, this is a classic lesson for all would-be Gen Z entrepreneurs from a 15-year-old – with no debt, complete control, purpose, and she is a good environmentalist!

I rest my case…

Generation Z

Generation Z, the art of conversation and networking

A message for Team Gen Z.

If like me, you were born anywhere between 1995 and 2015 chances are you have already been labeled – we are Generation Z, which is ironic because we all know how much we hate labels, it stifles our individual expression.

But anyway, who cares really, we know who we are, right?

Well that maybe so, but the older generations particularly Generation X, people over 40 years of age are likely to be our future bosses or seed investors. So, we not only need them to understand who we really are and what we stand for, we are going to have to reach out to them.

Now, being digital natives, open conversation doesn’t exactly come naturally to us. We were the first generation to grow up with technology and social media. To put that into perspective, the first iPhone was only released in 2007, imagine that iPhone 1!!!!

Facebook was founded in 2004 and LinkedIn was only formed in 2002! Instagram and Snapchat are both over a decade old, so they’re not exactly new kids on the block either.

The point I’m making here is that many of us are more comfortable socialising in a virtual space than a physical one. When we do socialize in-person, we more often than not, prefer to do that with other members of our generation. Now there’s nothing unusual about that, but what we need to do is to learn how to network effectively with older generations.

That’s of particular importance if you’re about to graduate or you are preparing to enter the workforce. So, I thought that I would offer you three tips that I hope will help you in the future – especially when we are actually allowed to network again without any restrictions!

  1. Take it one step at a time

Many people have a love hate relationship with networking. If you choose to dive in at the deep end, it can be very intimidating – walking into a room at a job fair or exhibition and engaging with complete strangers.

So, to prepare for this what you can do is to connect with a small group of people online before you go, that way at least you’ll have ‘broken the ice’ with a number of them and you can practice how you want to present yourself. You can also do this with one-on-one meetings of course, which is an ideal way to get quality time with career influencers.

If the thought of all that is still too much, try practicing with some of your friends, family or peers, it will help to build your confidence and iron out any awkward issues you might be facing.

  1. If at first you don’t succeed…

Don’t bombard people with messages and emails and keep your language plain, clear and concise. Give them time to respond to your first outreach and if you haven’t received a reply after a reasonable amount of time, a simple and polite follow up message or email is perfectly acceptable.

However, if that still draws a blank, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Older generations are quite often more receptive over the phone, particularly if they have heavy email traffic and don’t forget your mail might have gone into their junk folder.

Another unobtrusive way to draw attention to yourself is posting commentary or sharing other posts for your network to read. Again, don’t be overbearing, two posts per week is ample, but make sure they are engaging, if you really have nothing newsworthy to say, be quiet!

And of course, it goes without saying that we do not share our private life on our work platforms – keep them separate at all times.

  1. Focus on the types of people and organisations you want to connect with

Try and build an ideal profile of the people and organisations (products and services) you’d like to connect with. Make sure they share your values, whether they are ethical, sustainable, inclusive, respectful, community minded and socially responsible.

Ask yourself, are they passionate about what they do? Would you want to work for this person and or this company or organisation? Speak to somebody who used to work there and get an impartial reference from them.

Also don’t forget to speak their language, you’re approaching them, you need to engage so write or speak (and dress) in a professional manner, talk about real issues and factual anecdotes, don’t chatter and put your phone away!!!

Well, that’s about it, I’d like to wish you all every success and please do let me know how you get on. Sharing examples of your endeavours can really act as inspiration to others.

Good luck!