By Khalid AlAmeri (@KhalidAlAmeri)
In my books, 2011 has been the year of the entrepreneur particularly for the UAE. Think about it, the Khalifa Fund has gone nation wide, increased its budget allocation and developed a mentorship program with one of the worlds most prestigious universities, The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Management. Additionally, entrepreneurship is high on the government’s economic diversification agenda with the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development’s ‘Akoun Entrepreneurship Awareness’ program out in full swing; spreading the entrepreneurial message to universities and youth throughout the UAE.
Through this article I thought of raising a few different issues on the topic that is a little closer to home. First, let me ask two questions, where did the entrepreneurial spirit amongst the people of UAE go and why did it seem to take more of a back seat role in driving the economy?
As a country & a people, we pride and model ourselves after our leadership, right? So let us take the ultimate examples of the Late Sheikh Zayed & Sheikh Rashid. These two beloved leaders were the ultimate entrepreneurs by the very definition of the word.
Together they united the country, developed various industries and created some of the largest soveirgn wealth funds in the world. These great men had a vision and carried a country forward to realize it.
Their ambitions for the UAE like all things carried inherent risks but at the same time reaped great rewards that we are all grateful to have today. Now if that is not entrepreneurial, then I do not know what is.
I can understand that leadership initiatives, oil revenues and government support have played an enormous role in increasing the standard of living. However, the UAE is literally screaming for new and exciting businesses from across the Emirates.
People of the UAE quote our leaders, present their history and honor their achievements. But what better way to honor their memory than to follow in their footsteps and entrepreneurially bringing the type of social and economic value that our country and its leaders can be proud of. Here are a few ways I think we can go about it.
First and foremost, Celebration! We need to start truly celebrating the entrepreneurs that made this country what it is today. I had the honor of attending H.E Mohammed Al Fahim’s inspiring TEDx talk in Al Ain this year and he is literally to the UAE what Richard Branson is to the UK.
He is a man who started out with a little shop during Abu Dhabi’s early days to running one of the UAE’s largest conglomerates. The people of the UAE and its youth need to hear these success stories consistently, and be reminded that some of the most successful people in the world today are the ones that led their own charge and created their own successful paths.
Moving on to entrepreneurship from an employment standpoint. Some of the comments I hear all too regularly from friends and colleagues in the corporate job market are “They do not train me”, “ The work they give me is boring”, “I am thinking of changing my job”. Furthermore, with a recent survey that came out which stated almost 85% of Middle East executives are looking for a new job – I am not surprised. But hold on, 85%! That is almost everyone right?
Well to all you 85% I have a solution; start your business and be your own boss. Be in charge of your own workload, training and development. Sounds too good to be true? Well I can tell you this, in the UAE it is not, in more ways than one.
All the right pieces of the puzzle are there for you to go out, develop your venture & lead your own charge. The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development has a fresh two billion dirhams. Local & International investment corporations are increasingly looking into venture capital financing, and last but certainly not least business incubators are becoming a critical part of the community thanks to initiatives like “The Shelter” and “The Hub”.
So you have the leaderships’ encouragement, start up financing and entrepreneurial community support. The opportunity is yours for the taking.
Finally, it is important to note that all the important incentives for entrepreneurs are specifically being developed for a ‘Competitive Market System’, which in turn is also the symbol of a sound economy.
With large conglomerates and family businesses prevalent in the market, an entrepreneur needs to believe he has a fighting chance. Which is why the UAE is giving SMEs a share in multi-million-dirham government business as they realize it is critical to increasing confidence amongst the aspiring entrepreneurs of our country. This I believe is the key to kick starting the entrepreneurial movement in the UAE.
At the Stanford Graduate School of Business Information session I attended last month, the Dean of Admissions told us a story about a Saudi MBA student, Fawaz Al Rajhi, who had a beautiful quote on entrepreneurship and discovery: ‘Instead of being afraid of failure, I am now more afraid of all the amazing opportunities I will miss out on’.
The UAE today is offering you every opportunity to realize your dreams, do not let them pass you by.
Sail eMagazine’s 18th Issue – September 2011
Here We Start – Art of Living 101 – Community Talk – Food for Thought
Just Another Undergrad – Society of Tomorrow – The First Years Last Forever
The Mind’s Eye – To the Point – Too Blunt for Words – Words, Observations, and Ramblings