Sammar Farooqi is associate partner for retail and consumer industries with IBM Middle East. Steeped in retail and customer experience technology Farooqi was vice president – IT for Al Tayer Group in the UAE and prior, held transformation leadership roles across the globe with KPMG, Deloitte, Philips and SAP. A technology strategist, transformation catalyst and innovation leader he brings expertise in driving at scale the transformative capabilities required to meet current and future challenges including enterprise architecture, cyber-security, people, process, governance and technologies.
Ameesha Shah-Prabhu shoulders the responsibility of nurturing all the initiatives of the Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN) as its CEO. Her understanding of the retail environment, as well as her empathy with the front-end associates, is the result of her personal journey from the shop floor associate to being the head of buying. At TRRAIN, she is a role model and mentor to the enthusiastic, young team. Prabhu started her career in retail over 23 years ago. Her hands-on experience at various department and specialty stores, lifestyle and value formats have given her an in-depth understanding of the buying & merchandising function, along with end-to-end category management. She has the ability to create cross-functional initiatives, key partnerships and actionable strategies necessary for successful goal achievement. She has lead a large team of category managers and has worked in various departments starting from apparels, accessories, books, music, stationery and general merchandise. She has worked with leading organizations such as Tesco Hindustan Wholesaling Ltd, Aditya Birla Retail, Crossword Bookstores, Swatch Group and Shoppers Stop Ltd.
Khalid S Al Jasser
Khalid Al Jasser joined Arabian Centres as CEO in May 2016. As the CEO, his mandate is to further expand Arabian Centres’ operations and help transform the modern retail landscape in KSA. Under his leadership, the leading retail real estate company aims to double its retail offering by 2018. With an excess of 10 malls in the pipeline, Arabian Centres is set to become one the region’s top developers in this category. Currently it operates 19 malls spread across 10 cities in the kingdom. Prior to the appointment, Al Jasser was the CEO of Bank Albilad, and is credited with the growing the bank’s operations and its emergence as a leading Shariah-based financial solutions provider in the kingdom. He previously served as the executive vice president of Riyadh Bank where he spent 12 years in various leadership roles within the bank. Additionally, he also served on the Boards of Bank Albilad, Saudi Travelers Cheque Company, and Qassim Cement Company.
Amin elMaghraby is the CEO for Magrabi Retail, a Cairo-based, premium ophthalmic eyewear and sunglass retail chain, with over 200 stores, located in the most prestigious malls and shopping districts, throughout Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Turkey. Having pursued his studies at Brown University and the London Business School, elMaghraby returned to Egypt, in 2000, to join the family business. Today he is credited for having advanced the expansion of Magrabi Optical to the largest premium eyewear retail group in the emerging markets. elMaghraby is a board member of Magrabi Hospitals & Centers, Magrabi Foundation, Saudi Institute of Health Service and the Ebsar Charity Association. Like his father, Dr Akef El-Maghraby, philanthropist and visionary leader, he is passionate about contributing to society and places great importance on his philanthropic involvement. He believes that every human being, irrespective of income, gender, religion or ethnic affiliation deserves the right to high quality, affordable eye care. This belief is demonstrated through the family’s commitment to the Magrabi Foundation, a leading, private foundation in the area of eye care dedicated to a working towards a society where needless blindness ceases to exist.
As the leasing director of Hamat Property Company, Mazen Qandeel manages the portfolio of properties under the company management from leasing perspective across Saudi Arabia. The portfolio consists of 23 projects of different scale in 10 cities with a total gross leasable area of 1,100,000 sqm generating a total income of SAR1 billion. Prior to becoming the leasing director, Qandeel was the leasing manager at Hamat, actively involved in lease negotiations at the property level. He was also involved in developing strong tenant network and relationship in the market, maintaining high level of occupancy (85% on average) at the portfolio level, while maximising income with the best tenant mix Prior to joining Hamat, Qandeel worked with Jones Lang LaSalle as senior analyst – capital markets closely involved in transaction and portfolio assessment in the KSA market. Qandeel has a bachelor degree in Marketing from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.
Backed with 25 years’ of extensive retail and shopping mall management experience, Bhupinder Singh brings a new functional edge to real estate mixed use, retail, entertainment and hospitality. Having spent the last 18 years in the UAE and Oman, Singh has served in some of the biggest retail names in the region, namely Majid Al Futtaim Investments, Emaar Malls Group, Meraas Holding and presently working with The Developers Holding, in the capacity of general manager and chief financial officer at Dalma Mall, in Abu Dhabi. His diverse career has given him a deep knowledge of local, regional and international landscape, and his history of success contributed in uplifting businesses, demonstrating operational impact and writing successful journeys in the world of retail shopping and mall management. Some of Singh’s career highlights include business operations, strategic planning, trade and brand mix, rental budget and leasing strategies, feasibility analysis and cost control as well as tender and contract management of various mixed use development projects, shopping malls and hospitality.
Karim Talhouk leads Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) division in the Gulf region. His responsibilities expand to cover MBS channels, sales, marketing and operations. With over 20 years’ of experience in enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management his focus is to drive customer digital transformation through Microsoft’s latest innovation within the MBS space. Within his current role, Talhouk is looking after the strategic development and overall commercial plans for Microsoft Dynamics that includes Microsoft Dynamics AX, CRM, NAV and GP across industries and market segments. He leads a team that is responsible for designing and landing the strategic channel strategies and partner ecosystem for Microsoft Gulf including Cloud technologies such as CRM Online and AX7. Previously, Talhouk worked at Oracle, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, where he engaged in international sales and management. He managed the international commercial development of overseas direct and indirect sales as well as consultancy and implementation involved a broad spectrum of industries such as manufacturing, retail, building and construction, wholesales and distribution.
Vic Bageria, a compelling business driver, whose entrepreneurial instincts & clarity of vision has taken Sàvant Data System & partner companies to new heights of rapid & continuous growth. This seed, this passion, for retail was planted at an early age while working side by side with his father to operate & maintain the retail chain of stores. Bageria, first founded his business – a People Counting platform, at the early stages of his career. Since then, the growth of Sàvant has been unmeasurable. To establish a solid ROI platform for retailers, Bageria meshed his practical business knowledge with cutting-edge technology. Today, over 39 countries – ranging from government & banks, shopping centres, airports & retail businesses – have experienced strong growth by implementing Bageria’s people counting solution. Prior to establishing his first venture, Bageria worked as an IT consultant, managing several government projects & start-ups. Soon after, he established roles focusing more on business development, resulting in delivering an average of 90% annual growth year-on-year. As an influential investor & advisor, Bageria stands behind programme that lay out a strong path for growth for future generations of entrepreneurs, including his own non-profit initiative.
Omar Bseiso is a result oriented senior executive with over 24 years’ of professional experience gained through working for blue chip companies such as Nestle, BAT, MEMRB, Inchcape, BMW and Samsung. His career started in consumer research progressing into sales and marketing and finally general management. During his 20 years of general management experience, he has attained valuable knowledge and skills relating to brand and trade marketing, human resources, organisational development, corporate, legal and financial affairs, manufacturing and supply chain. Bseiso has gained demonstrable experience in the setup and reconstruction of different business models in the MENA region. Key accomplishments were in the construction of sustainable partnerships between multinationals and local companies to facilitate market entry or improved business operations. The strong understating of the region’s operating environment has provided him with the capabilities to initiate, develop and manage different types of partnerships including those with governmental authorities and state-owned monopolies. He has acquired hands-on experience in the highly profitable markets of the Middle East such as Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco and Lebanon.
As Zebra’s EMEA CTO, James Morley-Smith helps Zebra and its customers understand the impact that technology has on their business and how technology can and should be leveraged to gain strategic advantage for the future. Morley-Smith has worked at Zebra Technologies for 17 years through (various acquisitions) Symbol, Motorola and now Zebra. He started his career with the company as a software developer producing custom solutions for the EMEA market and then went on to create the first-ever industrial browser, PocketBrowser including defining the extensions to HTML (EMML - http://bit.ly/1LJsYxj) that would be used in all industrial browsers in the enterprise space. As EMEA CTO Morley-Smith acts as the technology lead in the region representing how industries operate and the needs of the region’s users within the technology office to ensure that products and innovations from Zebra are designed and built with a global voice in mind. He also heads up the global User Experience Design team as part of the Innovation & Design group.
Sidiqa Sohail, owner, Spontiphoria
Sidiqa Sohail is the owner of Spontiphoria, a Dubai-based independent concept store that is a bakery, cafe, boutique and event space. Sohail has a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the American University of Sharjah and a Master’s degree in Conflict Prevention, Sustainable Peace and Security from Durham University in the UK. Spontiphoria is Sohail’s first full-time job right out of college and is her first experience and foray into business after starting it as a home business in 2011.
A seasoned professional with over two decades of experience across the hospitality, services and retail sectors, Shankar Balan has held various senior and leadership positions with some of the best-known brands in these business segments including Taj Group of Hotels, Oberoi Hotels, ColorPlus, Indian Terrain, Hidesign, Madura Fashion & Lifestyle – Aditya Birla Group and Levi Strauss India. The key stake-holder/driver in QwikCilver’s journey of customer adoption and evangelism in the pre-paid, stored-value space, Balan is also the architect of Qwikcilver’s business services expansion outside of India, into the UAE/GCC region and other international arenas.
With two decades of experience in strategic marketing, product launch initiatives, media campaign management and public relations, TP Pratap has successfully led teams across different segments – setting up channels of distribution, retail and product development. His diverse experience and involvement spans across leading brands across India and the Middle East across Timex Watches, Wipro Lighting and the Polyurethanes and Paints business of ICI and Kuwait Danish Dairies in the GCC Markets. Pratap is a key stake-holder/driver of QwikCilver journey to market in the pre-paid, stored-value space.
Rebecca Chebli has more than eight years of experience in the banking and financial services industry and is currently mandated to grow AMCL across all business lines with particular focus on key sectors like healthcare, education, food and beverage, logistics, real estate and women’s wealth management. Utilising her unique investment management and networking skills, Chebli looks to develop multi asset portfolios that align investor requirements with prevailing economic opportunities. Prior to joining Al Masah Capital, Chebli worked at Jefferies, a US investment banking firm as business development manager and prior to that worked at Union Bancaire Privée, private banking. She holds a double Master’s degree in Management & Marketing of services from Université Saint-Joseph, Lebanon and Université François-Rabelais de Tours, France.
Shamail Siddiqi is a principal in AT Kearney’s consumer industries and retail practice in the Middle East, based in Dubai. He has 16 years’ of strategy consulting and consumer industry experience across the Middle East, Africa and North America. He has led numerous engagements for leading companies in FMCG, food & beverage and retail across MENA. His experience covers a broad range of topics, including corporate, growth, market entry and turnaround strategies; acquisition and joint venture structuring; new venture development; and, governance and operating model design. Siddiqi holds an MBA from Ivey Business School, Canada.
Paul Kenny is one of the leading technology founders in the Middle East. Having founded his first venture at the age of 25 Kenny went on to start four companies before the age of 30. At the age of 28 he exited his first venture and is now a partner at Emerge Ventures, which is investing into early stage growth companies in the Middle East. Kenny has been selected as the 10th most influential person under the age of 30 in the Middle East; one of the 25 most important people in technology in the region; in the top 10 entrepreneurs in the Middle East; and one of the 30 under-30 shaping Ireland’s future. In September and October 2012 Kenny won the Middle East Entrepreneur of the Year by Gulf Business and the Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year highlighting the explosive growth achieved so early in his career.
Natasha Rockstrom’s creative mind and entrepreneurial spirit is always looking to innovate how organisations can interact and engage with an individual’s everyday behaviours to co-create the world around us and maximise the ripple effect of positive transformation. Along with past work experience in Canada, the US and the Middle East, Rockstrom holds an EMBA in Finance from the Stockholm School of Economics, and a Bachelor of Economics from McGill University. With 15 years’ of experience across multi–cultural environments encompassing social enterprise, financial services, business consultancy, real estate development and owning her own business, she brings a wealth of experience to the creative table. With a passion for technology, transformation and human values, Rockstrom is also an active member with philanthropic and non-profit enterprises such as Magic Bus, Wisdom Together and Servicespace. A creative, focused and inspiring individual who always has a smile, Rockstrom is inspired by people who are making a difference one small act at a time.
Hailing from Saudi Arabia Deem AlBassam started her food journey in 2008 with the launch of ‘Switch’ restaurant. AlBassam spotted gaps in the market and took a leap following her passion, creating dishes that were both delicious and visually appealing. She was determined to create a local-born Arab-centric food experience that would put the region on the world’s food map. Following the success of ‘Switch’, in 2013 AlBassam joined forces with her friend Amal Al Marri to launch SALT, a pop-up dining experience that gained attention from all over the world. With aspirations to open multiple restaurants, the duo are now looking forward to expand their culinary expertise already launching their new restaurant concept ‘Parkers’ in The Dubai Mall. Holding a degree in marketing from the American University of Dubai, AlBassam is continually reinventing happening market trends to bring forth a space brimming with passion and energy, to create an idealistic social situation for good talks and good food.
Amal Al Marri
Creative designer and event planner Amal Al Marri found her food passion upon graduating from Zayed University in 2013. Holding a degree in interior design did not stop Al Marri from starting a food revolution that focused on an effortless yet premium-dining experience. Utilising open space in the UAE Al Marri alongside her friend and food entrepreneur Deem AlBassam started a food movement that left an everlasting impression on all those who experienced it. With her creative background and AlBassam’s passion for experience in F&B, SALT was born, becoming the UAE’s first known food truck and today is a lifestyle that hopes to change the way people view food. SALT developed a unique culinary style: rustic foods made using pure and easy ingredients bursting with vivid flavors. Moving around the country SALT found huge success with its #findsalt campaign on social media channels. Soon after its launch SALT became one of the top dining destinations in the region and holds permanent locations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ajman in the UAE.
Luca Cappuccitti is a highly experienced player within the retail and property development industry and a member of several leading industry affiliations. He has been recently named the co-chair for the ICSC European Conference 2016. Cappuccitti heads up the Design International (DI) global business development division and since 2013 has been expanding its operational reach worldwide. He has spent the last 18 years supporting at strategic level international property owners and working on numerous high-profile projects. With his wide experience in retail, results-driven approach and colourful character, Cappuccitti brings a new level of creativity to DI’s global business development ambitions across Europe, the Middle East, the Americas, Africa, China and India. Being very close in the past years to the Abu Dhabi-based LuLu Group International, Cappuccitti is currently working on several relevant new shopping malls within the GCC, Africa and India. He is a graduate of La Sapienza University of Rome, with a PhD in International Geoeconomics and Geopolitics and a Master’s in Luxury Management.
Zaid Alqufaidi is the managing director of ENOC Retail. In his current role, Alqufaidi is responsible for the strategic development of ENOC’s retail business. An ENOC veteran and a seasoned oil and gas industry professional, Alqufaidi comes to his role with extensive experience across the energy value chain, including marketing, aviation, terminal operations and supply sectors. Alqufaidi held numerous managerial positions and has played an instrumental role in the development of EPPCO’s retail network. He has also immensely contributed to bridging the gap between the ENOC and EPPCO brand during the formation of the group’s identity as ENOC. Prior to his current post, Alqufaidi held the position of managing director of ENOC marketing. He was also CEO for EPPCO Group of Companies in 2010. He was previously appointed as manager terminals, distribution and aviation operations in 2000. Alqufaidi first started his career in EPPCO in 1989 as an engineer with the operations department, after which he was promoted to operations and supply coordinator in 1992. He is an engineering graduate from the University of Central Florida, USA.
Idriss Al Rifai
Idriss Al Rifai is an entrepreneur passionate about disrupting the Middle East retail market with technologies and customer-centric services that enable the growth of e-commerce in the region. Al Rifai has developed and optimised a last mile delivery solution specifically for the e-commerce needs and requirements in the Middle East. In 2013, he founded Fetchr, formerly MENA360, which has evolved to become a full end-to-end logistics solution, backed by technology, for e-commerce companies, regional players, social media sellers as well as SMBs in the MENA. Fetchr is the first company in MENA to raise $11M in Series A funding, led by a Silicon Valley VC, New Enterprise Associates. Previously Al Rifai worked for MarkaVIP where he headed the operations and built an in-house logistics department for the company to expedite deliveries. Prior to that, he worked as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group. He holds degrees from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris (Sciences Po) and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is a Rath and Fulbright scholar and Endeavor entrepreneur.
Laurent Guitart is the general manager of Circle K, a US-based franchise of convenience store with a network of 32 stores all over the UAE. Guitart comes with more than 16 years of experiences in the retail industry with 10 years only in the UAE. Prior to Circle K he has been part of some multinational companies, such as Group Casino, Hyperpanda and also Das Holding. Guitart has experienced all retail business size and segments, from big box to convenience business size, from non-food to food industry. Circle K’s mission is to bring new convenience unit concept to the dynamic retail environment in the Middle East, and to operate its network by maintaining extraordinary services to customers, partners and shareholders, creating a working environment that reflects the brand’s high standards and uncompromising commitment to excellence.
Brad Merchant is the director of retail asset management at Aldar Properties PJSC where he leads the property management, leasing and retail delivery teams responsible for more than seven million sqft of retail and mixed-use space across Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Kazakhstan. The portfolio includes the highly successful super-regional Yas Mall; the mixed-use World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi; Al Jimi Mall, currently under expansion in Al Ain; the sizable one million sqft community retail portfolio; and the exciting Abu Dhabi Plaza, mixed-use project scheduled to open in June 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan. Merchant has more than 25 years shopping centre experience, having previously worked with two of Canada’s leading property developers and more recently with a major developer based in Dubai. He is a graduate of the University of British Columbia and has attained both his Certified Shopping Centre Manager (CSM) and Senior Certified Shopping Centre Manager (SCSM) designations from the International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC).
Cyrille Fabre is a partner in Bain & Company’s Dubai. He leads Bain’s social & public sector practice for EMEA as well as the retail and consumer Products practices in the Middle East. He is also a core member of the firm’s family businesses practice. Fabre has more than 15 years of management consulting experience and delivers strategies that work for leading businesses. He primarily advises family businesses and retailers on their portfolio strategy and organisation. He has also developed specific expertise in the Middle East food sector from producer to retailer. In addition, he works with economic development agencies to address topics such as industrialisation in the GCC region. Prior to joining Bain, Fabre worked for IBM Middle East and Capgemini. He is also a former member of the executive committee for the French Business Council in Dubai. He holds an MBA from INSEAD/Wharton Business School, a Master’s in industrial relations from London School of Economics and a Diploma in management studies with honours from University of Cambridge.
Dr Eyad Alkassar, co-founder, Middle East Internet Group
Eyad Alkassar grew up in Germany, where he earned a Ph.D. Summa Cum Laude in Computer Science from Saarland University. Before joining Rocket Internet as managing director for the Middle East, Alkassar worked as senior researcher in Computer Science. During his studies he was a fellow of the German National Academic Foundation. Alkassar was a co-founder of Namshi.com and in the fall of 2013, he became a founder of the Middle East Internet Group.
Shahriar Khodjasteh is the co-founder & CEO of Dubai Desert Extreme LLC (DDE) and comes with over 20 years of experience in sales & marketing and hails from a family of entrepreneurs. He started his career as a sales & marketing manager in his family-owned flooring company, becoming the group marketing director of Al Aqili Furnishings Group from 1999 and simultaneously served on the board of directors. In 2001 DDE was born through a tiny 20 sqm retail store started with his brother, Shahin Khodjasteh, where imported skateboards and related apparel, footwear and accessories were sold. He was quick to identify opportunities in regional distribution of sports lifestyle apparel and equipment, winning exclusive rights from some of the biggest brands in the world and driving revenue year-on-year. DDE is now the exclusive distributor of over 50 exciting international brands in the GCC and MENA region and a retailer with 11 stores and counting, with unique home-grown concepts such as Ride Bike Shop, Rage, Liv and Captiv8.
Alexandre Teodoresco is a cultural entrepreneur who has been very active shaping the Dubai event scene with a series of home-grown, grassroots projects such as Street Nights and TruckersDXB. As the founder of Street Nights he has helped bring street art as a genre into the mainstream in Dubai. Street Nights, winner of the best arts and culture event of the Middle East is now in its fourth year and thousands of Dubai residents have enjoyed this energetic mix of street art, hip hop and street food. Seeing that there was no platform for home-grown food trucks, last year Teodoresco launched the first Food Truck community in the UAE, called TruckersDXB. After massive success, this community is expanding all over the country and leading the food truck revolution, always home-grown of course. Teodoresco’s objective is to push Dubai residents to live something different and authentic, not imported but made in Dubai. His slogan is #getoutofthemall
Ramesh Cidambi, COO, Dubai Duty Free
Ramesh Cidambi is the COO of Dubai Duty Free (DDF) and is responsible for all aspects of the company's operation, reporting to the executive vice chairman and CEO. Prior to taking over this role in June 2016, Cidambi looked after the IT and logistics functions at DDF as senior vice president. He also led the team that oversaw the development of DDF’s retail offer at both of Dubai’s airports. His recent projects include the opening of DDF’s retail offer in Concourse D in February 2016 after having previously worked on the opening of Concourses A, B and Terminal 3. Cidambi has also led the design and construction of the head office and automated distribution centre that supports DDF’s $2 billion retail business. He has also helped complete the construction of the DDF-owned Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, which together with the Irish Village and Century Village, is part of the DDF’s leisure business. He started the IT function in 1987, and had led the implementation of custom applications, Oracle e-business suite, Oracle Retail applications, Oracle Commerce (for the click-and-collect service), work-force management as well as new technologies at the point of sale. Cidambi holds an MBA degree from Utah State University and a B.S. degree from Loyola College (Chennai, India).
Shant Oknayan is the head of e-commerce, retail, online services & media at Facebook MENA and Pakistan, where he leads efforts to enable businesses in the region to scale growth and engage with consumers on Facebook. Shant has over 15 years of experience in leading strategy & business development, with subject-matter expertise in digital and investment strategies for governments and corporations, having most recently headed up Google’s market development for small & medium businesses in MENA. Shant’s understanding of the e-commerce space saw him co-found GlamBox, the first and leading beauty e-commerce company in the MENA region. He was also Google’s head of strategy & operations in MENA, and prior to that spent eight years as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and Strategy, leading business technology and digital strategy projects for governments, large organisations and investment firms both in the Middle East and Europe. Shant holds an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a Masters with honors in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Imperial College London.
Saba Tahir joined the Dubai Duty Free (DDF) in 1983 as merchandiser. She later worked as assistant buyer, buyer and as senior buyer. She was appointed as manager purchasing & research (acting) in 2008 and promoted to manager purchasing, vendor support and research in 2010. Tahir has 32 years of buying experience at DDF and is responsible for developing product assortments following consumer and market trends as well as managing sales and overall margins across all categories. She was named vice president – purchasing in July 2011.
Mohammad Iqbal BH Alawi
Mohammad Iqbal BH Alawi is board member & CEO, Red Sea Markets Co Ltd., owner and developer of Jeddah-based Red Sea Mall. He comes with over 25 years of experience in tuning towards success, various developments and existing retail properties in Saudi Arabia. With well-versed skills and persistent follow-up in operations and marketing, Alawi created two retail epics of their time, Hera Community Mall at Madinah Road and the iconic super-regional Red Sea Mall at King Abdul Aziz Road in Jeddah. He also carries in his career portfolio eight other shopping malls that were developed during his tenure at Savola. Al Amoudi, Majid Al Futtaim and SKAB are some other prominent names linked to his career path. Alawi is a Saudi public figure on the retail scene. He chairs the Shopping Malls Committee at JCCI. He is also a member with the promotions and events Committee at JCCI and the National Saudi Tourism Board in Riyadh. He is an active panellist, juror and speaker at many events and conferences in the region and beyond.
Mark Pilkington is the CEO of Kamal Osman Jamjoom (KOJ) Group, a Middle East based retailer with around 800 stores, in seven countries and growing at a rapid pace. Pilkington joined the KOJ Group in 2008 as brand director of Nayomi, and became CEO of the group in March 2013. He comes with a very strong background in fashion having been the director general of Georges Rech, a French fashion house, in the 1990s before becoming managing director of Gossard, a leading European lingerie brand. In 2000, Pilkington founded Splendour.com, UK’s first online luxury lingerie company, with the financial backing of Marks and Spencer. Splendour was acquired by a UK publically listed company in 2006. Pilkington is an Oxford University graduate and has an MBA from INSEAD Business School in France.
Gundeep Singh is the president and founder of The Change Initiative, a Dubai-based eco-friendly retail concept set up in 2010, which offers a wide range of environmental friendly fashion brands, wall paints to organic groceries and much more. Prior to setting up The Change Initiative, Singh worked at HSBC and was an HSBC Talent Pool member from 2003-06. He set up Khalid Abdulla Al Ghurair Enterprises in 2006 and was appointed managing director of the group. He also worked with the Al Ghurair Group from 1999 till 2002. Singh is a serial entrepreneur who set up his first enterprise way back in 1997 in India called The Learning Curve, which set the trend in psychometric measurement in India. He is an acclaimed author too who has written several career oriented books. Singh holds a Graduate degree from the University of Madras, India and Master’s degree from Cornell University and ESSEC.
Nisreen Boustani joined the Al Zarooni Group in 2013 and holds the position of PR & corporate communications manager for Mercato and Town Centre Jumeirah. Boustani started her professional career in the fashion and retail industry working for Al Tayer Group in Dubai, working on prestigious brands such as Dolce & Gabbana. She went on to work for a brand new shopping mall in Dubai in 2008, where she spent five years handling the tourism marketing and public relations activities. Today, Boustani is the face of Mercato and Town Centre Jumeirah and is responsible for all PR, corporate communications and the tourist marketing programmes at the malls. With a Bachelor’s degree in foreign languages (English & Arabic) from Aleppo University in Syria, a travel & tourism diploma and a marketing & sales diploma, Boustani is passionate about travel and communications.
Krish Shroff is a third generation member of the Regal Group, which operates a variety of businesses in the UAE and Middle East, including textiles retail & wholesale, industrial & personal technology solutions, optics retail and real estate & investments. Shroff joined the business in September 2014 to head up the retail arm of a franchised sportswear brand, and built it up before selling it (along with the wholesale division) in August 2016. Within the group, he is currently focused on an e-commerce business that supplies branded products to major e-commerce platforms in the region, digital marketing for the textile company to increase brand awareness and market share and developing the internal architecture for the group as a whole to improve productivity, efficiency, communication and co-ordination. Aside from the group, Shroff is also co-working on a fitness website and other media projects. He enjoys connecting with a variety of people across industries in Dubai, especially in the start-up and technology sectors.
Karen Staley is senior vice president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) EMEA. Staley is an experience attractions professional working for over 10 years in Europe and now expanding IAAPA’s reach into the Middle East and Africa. As an association professional, she has represented the attractions industry at the European Union political level and supported various national associations with representation and activities to promote safety and the continuous successful growth of the attractions industry in Europe and worldwide. Founded in 1918, IAAPA is the largest international trade association for permanently located amusement facilities and attractions and the industry’s suppliers, and is dedicated to the preservation and prosperity of the attractions industry. The association’s global headquarters is in Alexandria, Virginia, the US, and it maintains regional offices in Brussels, Mexico City, Hong Kong and Orlando, Florida.
Sanjay Manchanda is the CEO of Nakheel PJSC, one of the world-leading developers and a key player in realising the vision of Dubai for the 21st century. Manchanda joined Nakheel as a consultant to advise the company through its $16 billion debt restructuring programme, which was successfully completed in August 2011. He assumed the role of CEO in 2012. He has been recognised for his leadership skills and has been ranked as Top Executives Forbes listing for the Middle East and has also featured in the Indian Super 100. Prior to joining Nakheel, Manchanda spent 25 years working in the Middle East as a partner at leading global accounting advisory firm – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Born in Vienna and educated in India, Manchanda is a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India.
Ronaldo Mouchawar is the co-founder and CEO of Souq.com, the largest online retail and marketplace platform in the Arab world. Since co-founding Souq.com in 2005, Mouchawar has overseen aggressive expansion of the company to become the first choice in online shopping for millions of customers in the MENA region. Mouchawar has more than 15 years of experience in technology and business management. He started his career as a technical and systems consultant with EDS in the US, and before starting Souq.com, he spearheaded a consulting company that managed numerous web and e-commerce projects in the Arab world. He holds a Master's degree in Digital Communications and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. In March 2015, Mouchawar received an award from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, in recognition of Souq.com’s digital influence in the UAE.
Phil Broad is vice president of food and beverage at Alghanim Industries, where one of the brands he is responsible for is Wendy’s Middle East. He has overseen the refurbishment and opening of Wendy’s restaurants and is excited to be planning the roll out of the Wendy’s brand across the region. Prior to Alghanim Industries, he joined the Intercontinental Hotels Group in AMEA as VP of food and beverage, and oversaw F&B in 236+ hotels in 40 countries with more than 900 restaurants and bars. He has worked across six of the company’s hotel brands, including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Indigo. Broad was also managing director of Jumeirah Restaurants LLC where he was tasked to set up and license innovative and successful casual restaurant concepts both locally and internationally. He has also managed a range of global brands including Starbucks Coffee, T.G.I Friday’s, Tesco and Pizza Hut UK. Broad has also owned and operated his own restaurant company in the UK between 2000 and 2006.
A seasoned entrepreneur in the fast casual F&B sector, Ian Ohan is the founder and CEO of Freedom Pizza – a cool, independent and authentic F&B company established in the UAE, combining the world’s most popular food with a culture that cares. He is the former area owner and developer of NKD Pizza in the UAE. Prior to his foray into the entrepreneurial world, Ohan enjoyed a successful career in the real estate industry in the Middle East and North America, having sold his real estate investment and advisory company in late 2006 and holding senior positions at global real estate services firms Jones Lang LaSalle, Al Futtaim Investments, Arthur Andersen and KPMG.
Over the past 20 years, Furqan Athar has been instrumental in the financial and administrative strategic planning and management of some of the most successful shopping centres and mixed-use developments in the Middle East and Asia. In 2011, he became a partner at McARTHUR + COMPANY. As director of strategic planning and finance, he leads the team on various assignments throughout the Middle East, North America and Asia. He began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG before taking on management positions with Dubai-based developers Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Centres and Al-Futtaim Group Real Estate. An expert in business process and IT set-up, he has participated in the deployment of major ERP solutions such as JDE 1 World, Navision and SAP in major multinationals. In 2004 he launched Spret Trading, a multinational retailing company with over 250 employees within various locations across the Middle East. He also founded Retail Solutions, an investment management and advisory firm based in Dubai.
Rohin Thampi is the regional director for Zomato in the Middle East. He has successfully handled and grown the business for Zomato in Bengaluru, India and in his current role he oversees all operations for Zomato at a regional level, across the Middle East and South Africa. Prior to joining Zomato, Thampi has worked in multiple sectors such as FMCG and real estate. Having graduated with a B.Tech degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2007, Thampi went on to pursue a PGDM from IIM Ahmedabad in 2009.
Muna Al Gurg
An active member of Dubai’s business and non-profit community, Muna Al Gurg’s primary responsibility is towards her family business – the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group – a diversified international conglomerate formed by her father in Dubai in 1960. She is currently director of retail for the family business, responsible for strategy and operational development for the group’s international and local retail brands that include United Colours of Benetton, Siemens, Unilever and IDdesign. Al Gurg is also chairwoman of Young Arab Leaders UAE; founding board member of Hub Dubai, a non-profit collaborative playground for social, environmental and economic development; and an active mentor at the Dubai Start-up sessions. She is also on Endeavor Global‘s Middle East board. A personal interest in social initiatives sees Al Gurg serve on the board of several non-profit organisations, including the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Charity Foundation, Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and ambassador of the UAE’s Pink Caravan’s breast cancer awareness initiative.
Rahul Agarwal is the CEO of Organic Harvest, India’s first natural organic brand launched in 2013. In three years Agarwal has successfully taken Organic Harvest to new heights, with reach in over 5,000 outlets, 11 exclusive brand outlets across India and has launched more than 100 SKUs of organic beauty products. He recently launched the brand in the UAE. Agarwal chose entrepreneurship over a dynamic career with Ernst and Young, where he worked for five years. In 2007 he launched Innovadia LLC, his first venture, an education medium working as a legislature financed program under the US Federal Government, with more than 20, 000 US students. Agarwal is an avid proponent of innovation and considers it a benchmark for any industry.
Strong willed with a perfect vision for hospitality, Shafeena Yusuffali is the founder and CEO of the Tablez Food Company, the F&B arm of the retail conglomerate Lulu Group International. Her strong acumen for business is the driving force behind what the company has achieved since its inception. With a major in finance from Richmond, the American International University in London, Yusuffali felt that her ultimate aim was to revitalise the food scene of Abu Dhabi with concepts such as Bloomsbury’s, Peppermill, Galito’s, Famous Dave’s, London Dairy Parlors and most recently American brasserie and celebrity brand Sugar Factory. Yusuffali strongly believes the time has come for Abu Dhabi to create its own thriving food scene, similar to those that can be found in cities such as New York, Paris and London.
Mona Ataya has proven to be one of the Middle East’s most prominent of women entrepreneurs. The co-founder of Bayt.com, arguably the most successful online search engine for jobs in the Middle East, is now, after becoming a mother of three boys, working to disrupt the well-ingrained retail space in the Middle East with the goal of assisting mothers with their maternity, infant and childcare product needs. Ataya’s latest venture is Mumzworld.com, a leading gold standard e-commerce vertical for baby and child shopping in the Middle East region that has been going from strength-to-strength. Prior to Mumzworld.com, Ataya has had a track record of impressive and diverse international experience building global brands. She started her career at Procter & Gamble, USA, at age 20 after graduating with a dual honors degree in marketing and finance. She later moved back to the Middle East working with Johnson and Johnson MENA followed by Johnson and Johnson Europe managing a broad portfolio of leading global brands.
Stephen Holbrook is a member of the Kamal Osman Jamjoom (KOJ) group executive board & divisional director – apparel division representing brands including Nayomi, Nayomi Abaya, Soiree and Mihyar. He joined the group in January of 2013 and has over 20 years of apparel industry experience managing brands such as Playtex, Wonderbra, Gossard and Shock Absorber as well as developing long-term strategic partnerships with Marks & Spencer and Victoria’s Secret. Prior to joining KOJ Group, Holbrook was responsible for the Courtaulds women’s wear division and was a non-executive director of a leading London PR firm. He holds an MSc degree from the Cranfield Institute of Technology.
Ashish Panjabi is the COO for UAE’s Jacky’s Group of Companies and is currently running Jacky’s Business Solutions, the group’s end-to-end solutions provider for major companies and organisations in the region seeking efficient and effective visitor management, banking and graphics solutions. It is also through Panjabi’s long standing partnership with Samsung Gulf that he started and now runs Jacky’s Retail LLC, which operates Samsung brand shops across the UAE. Starting with the first brand shop in December 2013, Jacky’s already operates some of the top-grossing Samsung brand shops in the world, such as that in Mall of the Emirates and City Centre Deira. Jacky’s also operates its own Samsung brand shops in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Panjabi also managed the group’s distribution, mail order and project sales businesses. He is also responsible for managing IT-infrastructure at Jacky’s and integrating the group’s different business units in the UAE onto a unified system.
Ulugbek Yuldashev is the founder and managing director of Awok.com. He founded the company in April 2013 which has now grown into one of the leading online shopping platforms in the UAE. The business has humbly expanded from three employees to over 300 and counting. This is due to his passion for the e-commerce industry and his ability to take risk on the success of the region’s e-commerce bloom. Yuldashev has always had a flair for business; starting his first business in 2004 at the tender age of 19. With a proven track record, he registered a company called ALIFCA JLT, which later became ALIFCA DMCC, and is the parent company for Awok.com. Coming from a retail background, he has always been motivated by making customers happy; he thrives on engagement with his customers and hearing their feedback. He’s an avid reader and soaks up information as a hobby, and is fluent in English, Russian and Uzbek.
Nisha Varman Shetty
Nisha Varman Shetty is the founder and managing director of The Urban Yogi, a Dubai-based luxury and sustainable home décor provider retailing eclectic, colourful, comfortable and unique fabrics, furniture, art and tableware. Prior to starting The Urban Yogi in 2012, Shetty was involved in sales and business development roles for more than a decade in sectors such as banking, outdoor media, aviation/aerospace, broadcast and digital and was associated with major brands and media agencies across Southeast Asia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa regions.
Tapan Vaidya is general manager, restaurant division, for Bahrain-based retail conglomerate Jawad Business Group. Having greatly enjoyed his experience working in restaurants during his student years, Vaidya continued his career in the same industry, joining The Taj Mahal and Taj Intercontinental Hotel in Mumbai, India. He relocated to the GCC in 1989 to continue with Intercontinental, joining the branded restaurants segment in 1991 as deputy country head with Pizza Hut, till 1994. He was promoted to country head for Taco Bell at the time, again moving up within the organisation to launch Fuddruckers in the Oman market. In 1999 he was seconded by the franchisor of Fuddruckers to various Middle Eastern markets. In May, 2001 he was offered a position to head the restaurant business for Jawad Business Group – that he currently holds – handling several brands including include Papa John’s Pizza, Chili’s, Jamie’s Italian, Thai Express, Outback Steakhouse, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Burger King, Dairy Queen and Hakisushi to name a few.
Rajiv Suri is CEO at Majid Al Futtaim Fashion, the retailing arm of Majid Al Futtaim, the leading shopping mall, retail and leisure pioneer across the MENA region. Suri joined Majid Al Futtaim Fashion in April 2014 at a time of significant growth and expansion, with the launches of Halston Heritage and Hollister, into the region. Since his start with Majid Al Futtaim Fashion, Suri has spearheaded the signing of franchise agreements with iconic brands AllSaints, lululemon athletica and Peacocks. Under his leadership Majid Al Futtaim Fashion has signed a landmark joint venture with Monsoon & Accessorize. To the already existing apparel portfolio Suri added the French furniture brand Maisons du Monde, a strategically new move for the fashion retailer. Prior to Majid Al Futtaim Fashion, Suri was CEO retail at Jashanmal from 2007, and franchise director and then managing director of Mexx, between 2003 and 2007, having worked for the company since 1998. Suri started his retail career in Kuwait with Alshaya in the late 1980’s.
Hesham Almekkawi is an accomplished executive, entrepreneur and college professor. He has dedicated his career to adding value to companies through their greatest assets – its people. It’s a task, or rather a mission, he has carried out with profound success for over 23 years, contributing to the success of various US and Middle Eastern organisations in the service industry. Currently, he is the group managing director of hospitality for Marka Group PJSC. Among his most notable accomplishments are directing the operations of two of the largest restaurant franchises in the US and the UAE; with a combined revenue and personnel of over $500 million and 8,000-plus employees, respectively. Almekkawi holds a bachelor degree in Engineering with an EMBA in Service Strategy and Operations Management from Zicklin School of Business in New York. In 2003 he was appointed by Baruch College as an adjunct professor to teach service strategy and operations management to senior undergraduate students. In 2012, he became a certified International Life Coach and NLP Practitioner. He is also a certified John Maxwell speaker.
Andrew Williamson comes with 22 years of experience with 11 years in the UAE. He is currently director, head MENA retail at JLL. He is responsible for revenue generation, leasing and property development advisory work at JLL MENA. He has been involved in numerous retail development advisory assignments in the UAE, KSA, Qatar, Egypt and Oman. Some of the key projects handled by Williamson include Al Faisaliyah Mall and The Landmark in Riyadh, Emaar Jeddah Gate in Jeddah, Aramco, SDHOP in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; Palm Mall in Muscat, Oman; and The Crescent Project in Baku, Azerbaijan, among several others. Williamson has a degree in Economics from the University of Western Ontario. He is also a certified financial planner.
Tanya Ganwani hails from a family of entrepreneurs and decided to carry on the tradition and contribute to the legacy of her family business by beginning her career with the Lals Group in 2012. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Business Management with a minor in marketing from Regents College London. Soon after graduation, Ganwani moved back to Dubai and took on her role as the director of marketing of the Lals Group, a retail group in Dubai that operates brands such as Homes R Us, Lamcy Plaza, Arabian Center, Carters and Daiso, to name a few, as she believes that business has been in her blood since the day she was born. With four years of experience in the retail industry, Ganwani has taken a step forward and has launched an active wear brand for women, Burn, conceptualised and designed solely by her.
Beirut is the kind of city that wakes you up to the smell of coffee roasting or brewing from every nook and cranny. Growing up to these sights and sounds planted the love of coffee in Ola Sinno’s heart and soul from a young age. The urge to get into the F&B business happened when Sinno quit the corporate world. She was spending a lot more time in coffee shops and restaurants to freelance and meet clients and craved for a place to call her own blossomed into a full-fledged dream. This started the whole ‘I should open up a coffee shop that I could spend the rest of my life in’ idea. Spill the Bean was thus born as an independent specialty coffee shop built on the marriage between single origin coffees from different areas of the world and reinvented coffee shop food to create a healthy but decadent affair aimed at serving and delighting the community around.
As CEO of Marka PJSC, Nick Peel is responsible for leading the development and growth of the first public joint stock company listed on the Dubai Financial Market focused on the UAE’s rapidly growing retail sector. Drawing on a wealth of experience gained from senior management positions in major corporations and world-renowned brands, Peel provides strategic direction for Marka by identifying key opportunities to expand its position in the marketplace. Under his expert guidance, Marka is strengthening its influence across the region as a premier retail operator targeting the mid-to-high-range segments in sports retail, fashion and hospitality. His overarching role sees him pursuing a growth strategy for Marka based on acquisitions, franchise agreements and unique retail concepts that includes partnering with leading global brands in the leisure and hospitality sectors. Prior to Marka, Peel has held important positions at McArthur Glen, Arsenal FC, Land Securities, Rangers Football Club and Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC.
Behind the brand AIISHA is Lebanese fashion designer Aiisha Ramadan, who started the company in the UAE in 2007. Even before graduating from the American University in Dubai majoring in Fashion Design, Ramadan won a number of prestigious awards, a trend that continues. Ramadan’s character dictates her love for complexity and consequently, her designs have adopted the characteristics of their maker. The brand AIISHA truly values the design process and defies fast fashion trends of today in favour for creating classic and long lasting pieces. Through meticulously detailed embroidery and intricate hand-made beading, AIISHA has flourished with an identity rooted in couture at desirable designer prices making the brand an accessible luxury. As an influencer, Ramadan places emphasis on individuality, freedom of expression, self-acceptance and celebration expressed through the designs she creates for AIISHA as well as her CSR initiatives that she sincerely supports.
Ishwar Chugani is the CEO and managing director of Giordano Middle East (FZE) and is also an executive director and board member of Giordano International, Hong Kong. As CEO & MD of Giordano Middle East, he heads the group’s business in the Middle East, India, Africa, Central Asia and Europe. Chugani began his career in 1979 when he set up Sindbad’s Wonderland, Middle East’s first Indoor family entertainment centre at Al Ghurair Centre, Dubai. In 1993, he successfully entered into a JV with Giordano International and has successfully expanded the business from its original base in the UAE to numerous markets around the region. Apart from his responsibilities at Giordano, Chugani is also a founding member of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centres. His contribution to the retail industry in the region spans 37 distinguished years. Chugani studied business management at De La Salle University in the Philippines, where he graduated with honours.
Raza Beig heads Splash and ICONIC, the fashion concepts of the Landmark Group. Since the inception of Splash in 1993, Beig has been actively involved with the overall business development and retail buying for the brand. In 1998, he helped set up Lifestyle, the department chain in India. His bullish approach facilitated the initial days of the Group’s entry into a new market and before he knew it, he was made a board member, in charge of the fashion division for India. Sometime in early 2000, he was appointed managing director of Splash and was invited to be part of the board of directors of Landmark Group. Eventually, in 2006 he was appointed the CEO of Splash. Along with Splash, Beig heads ICONIC, a six-year old business of Landmark Group. With 34 stores in four countries Beig with his strong business acumen plans to take the brand way ahead in the coming future. He is at the forefront of the business, spearheading the brand across the Middle East, Levant countries and the sub-continent, with aggressive expansion plans in the near future.
At the age of 14 Sarah Jones set up a profitable eBay business importing items from China and America and selling in the UK, igniting a love for e-commerce and a dream to be CEO of eBay. A degree in Economics at Edinburgh University and a highly competitive nature led her to compete in sport internationally, leading Jones to the world of buying and selling companies in the M&A retail team at Deloitte in London before an international secondment brought her out to the Middle East. After two years in Deloitte’s Dubai office Jones left the finance world, recognising the huge potential of the e-commerce market and started Mini Exchange. She raised a seed funding round of $1.1 million last July and has been the recipient of many awards and was selected for Google’s prestigious BlackBox accelerator programme in Silicon Valley in 2015.
Nisreen Shocair is the president of Virgin Megastore for the Middle East. Shocair has been instrumental in building the Virgin brand across the region by incorporating local and international consumption trends into one shopping experience. Prior to joining Virgin Megastore, she held positions at Sony Music, Bertelsmann AG and Hearst Entertainment. She has extensive experience within the music, publishing, licensing, digital and retail sectors. Shocair holds Masters’ degree in Business Administration from both London Business School and Columbia University and has a global perspective having lived and worked in New York, London, the Middle East and Africa. She is on the advisory board of several digital and environmental start-ups and is recipient of several globally prestigious awards and regularly speaks at different industry forums.
Margherita Cecchini is the divisional director for beauty brands for Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group since March 2015. She has twenty years’ experience in the European beauty industry. For the past ten years she has been global marketing director of KIKO MILANO, an international cosmetics brand, which is a leader in the European beauty market. She led the development of KIKO MILANO into a highly successful international retailer with over 700 stores across Europe and USA. As divisional director for beauty, Cecchini’s responsibilities include Mikyajy, The Body Shop in western KSA, Nayomi Beauty Salon and Neal’s Yard Remedies with nearly 450 stores. She holds a Master’s degree in Economics and Marketing.
For over 20 years, Joy Ajlouny has been an e-commerce industry professional whose business and fashion influence has spanned the globe. Ajlouny is the co-founder of Fetchr, a Silicon-Valley backed technology company based in Dubai aimed at solving emerging market shipping logistics. Fetchr is the first start-up in the Middle East to be funded by a top venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Prior to Fetchr, Ajlouny founded Bonfaire, an internet-based VC-backed discovery platform for luxury footwear and accessories. Bonfaire was acquired in 2013 by fashion e-commerce giant Mode Operandi, owned by LVMH and Condé Nast. While only 2.7% of venture capital funds have been raised by women, Ajlouny has successfully raised funds for two companies from some of the most prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firms. She has also been a strategic advisor to fashion start-ups, venture capital firms and major fashion publications.
Raki Phillips is a hospitality veteran for 15 years working for some of the world’s most global brands including Universal Studios Orlando, Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Fairmont Hotels & Resorts. His experience spans in launching more than 12 hotels globally and numerous F&B concepts such as Hard Rock Live Orlando, Noire the Middle East’s first Dinner in the Dark concept, SoBe at Monte Carlo Beach Club Abu Dhabi, District Lounge in DIFC & District47 Dubai’s highest rooftop at Warwick Hotel Sheikh Zayed Road. He along with his partner Jawad Yehia both realised they had a sweet tooth and a passion for the dessert industry and wanted to create something so unique and out-of-the-box that would want the clients craving more! This led to them to set up SugarMoo, the first online delivery dessert concept in the region. They wanted to be trendsetters in the industry and come up with a completely new dessert concept that consists of unique hybrid desserts.
Andres Gonzalez is currently general manager of fast casual for Foodmark. With 20 years’ experience in the F&B industry both in the GCC and the UK, he has worked for companies operating in the casual and fast casual market segments like La Tasca, Kout Food Group and Just Falafel.
Zaina Kanaan is a creative and self-motivated go-getter with 8 years of marketing, digital and startup experience. After graduating from McGill University with a double major in Marketing and Finance, Zaina moved to Dubai and co-founded her first startup, Ananasa, an online platform that commercialized handmade products from the MENA region. A couple of years later she co-founded Charicycles.com, an enlightened business that up-cycles vintage bicycles in a quest to conserve the environment and give back to children in refugee camps. In her free time Zaina spends time traveling and volunteering with less privileged communities using art as a medium to express, heal and communicate their stories to the public eye.
Matthew King, is the co-founder of Baembu, a self-funded start-up & the first 100% sustainable apparel in the region as recognised by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry. He juggles his full-time day job in between, working as the division manager for one of the largest print companies in the region, armed with almost two decades of experience in the print industry. With the passion and drive for creating something sustainable, King along with his partner Aimee Changco decided to set-up Baembu that specialises in sustainable apparel, made of bamboo fiber and organic cotton, which carries international accreditations. Two years in the industry, the ecologically conscious brand has established a firm foot in the growing entrepreneurial community in the Middle East with one retail touchpoint, e-commerce shop and several pop-up markets aligned to its ethical core.
Tahir Shah is the founding partner at Moti Roti, the region’s first Pakistani soul kitchen pop-up and food truck.Born in Doncaster to Pakistani parents, he grew up in a household rooted in a rich food culture where roti or flatbread was shared at the table every night. Graduating from Hertfordshire University he spent over 10 years working for Nokia in IT, moving to Dubai midway through his career. Here, lamenting the lack of quality quick food options for office workers – and being inspired by a fast-food trend from the US known as fast casual – he decided to change the face of Pakistani food. He believed it should be fresh, cool, accessible and represent the true style of Pakistani mums’ food. In 2012, he left Nokia the bullet and started Moti Roti. Within three years he has got his pop-up shops in three locations, and was nominated Restaurateur of the Year 2014 and is one of the first home-grown concepts to start a food truck in the UAE.
Thameem Rizvon is group IT director of KOJ Group LLC, a Middle East based retailer with around 800 stores, in seven countries and growing at a rapid pace. He has been credited with building a proactive IT strategy, which enables KOJ Group to achieve consistent growth every year. Rizvon’s career spans more than two decades and over the years he has empowered businesses to use technology as a tool for growth in retail, trading, consulting and education. He advises top IT consulting firms in their Middle East strategy and is a passionate IT enthusiast. He is also the founder and chairman of the Middle East Oracle User Group and executive committee member of CIOMajlis – a forum for IT Executives in Middle East. He is a frequent speaker and has spoken in USA, Europe and across the Middle East. He has coined and firmly believes that “Technology is an Enabler to business.”
As director of retail industry solutions at Zebra Technologies (formerly Motorola Solutions), Mark Thomson works closely with retailers and hospitality providers to provide input on how to face the challenge of a new retail landscape, where customers are often more connected and informed than shop floor staff. With over 25 years customer focused experience, Thomson has developed in-depth knowledge of the EMEA retail market place and regularly speaks at industry events. He has worked closely with retailers on the pain points of modern retail and explains how technology solutions can be an integral part of their business strategy to help them solve their real business challenges. Prior to joining Motorola Solutions (now part of Zebra Technologies), Mark was head of EMEA market development at Zebra Technologies, responsible for helping to growing Zebra’s EMEA business by focusing activity on core growth verticals. He specifically focused on retail. He has also held senior roles in financial services and hospitality businesses.
Kunal Kapoor is a serial entrepreneur with a background in luxury and fashion. He built a successful sportswear brand in India and then received an MBA from INSEAD, France. Kapoor subsequently moved to Dubai working for Louis Vuitton. In 2011, Kunal founded The Luxury Closet, one of the largest marketplaces for luxury items in the Middle East. Most items on The Luxury Closet are pre-owned and sold at a discounted price, maintaining brand and item integrity and the assurance of authenticity. This successful and unique venture sees luxury products from Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Rolex, Cartier, Louboutin and 100 other top brands sold for up to 70% off the original price. The Luxury Closet has raised over $3 million from top tier venture capital funds that include Middle East Venture partners, Dubai Silicon Oasis Capital, Two Four 54 and Mena Venture Investments.
Anita Baker is the business director of Lush Middle East and has been based in the UAE for the past four years. Her role involves handling brand strategy, commercial decisions and senior team development for the region, along with managing relationships with all MENA licensee partners. She oversees the general business and is responsible for the market’s sales and profit growth, in addition to maintaining Lush brand principles and harmonising them with the local culture. Baker joined Lush in 2007 as group accountant, using her finance and accountancy knowledge in a retail capacity. She was quickly promoted into the international business development team. Due to her financial acumen she played a key role in the selection of new business partners, country openings and potential commercial opportunities. Baker’s strong combination of financial expertise, Lush brand knowledge and retail awareness led to a new opportunity to expand and develop the MENA region.
Abdul Kader Saadi
Abdul Kader Saadi is MD and owner of Glee Hospitality Solutions, a hospitality consultancy based in Dubai. Saadi has been in the hospitality profession since last 22 years. After graduating from Roches Hotel Management School in Switzerland Saadi started his career in Paris with Sogeres Company and spent six years there. In 2001, he moved to the UK and joined MARC Restaurants Group as a project manager. Within three years of his association with the company, he opened three restaurants of which two were granted Michelin-star recognition. From 2005-07 Saadi invested and focused on turning around a restaurant chain with three outlets in London. In 2008 he moved to the UAE and started Glee Hospitality Solutions by 2009-end. In its seventh year of operations, the company has successfully launched over 21 concepts, opened over 35 outlets across the region and manages a team of nearly 350 employees.