After finishing his studies in design and interior design in Kaiserslautern, Karl Schwitzke went abroad to acquire international experience. He was gaining expertise by working in Antlanta, USA, at Associated Space Design and as a designer at Hentrich, Petschnigg und Partner. The years Schwitzke spent at Esprit, where he had a decisive influence on the image appearance of the fashion and lifestyle brand as departmental head, proved to be the defining period in terms of his views on marketing and retail. In 1989, Schwitzke founded the design company Schwitzke & Partner GmbH. In 1991 his brother Klaus joined as his partner – a success story which they have since strategically built, renewed and expanded with the clear goal of developing successful retail concepts for international brands. Today the Schwitzke Group comprises 200 employees servicing five global offices in Düsseldorf, Berlin, Krakow, Paris and since 12 years in Dubai, where Schwitzke is known for successful creative work for Virgin, Marina Home and Majid Al Futtaim.
Enjy Kiwan is of Egyptian origin, but born and bred in the UAE. She has a BA in banking and finance from the American University in Dubai. She has worked in the banking Industry for almost ten years as an investment analyst, financial editor, panel moderator and event organiser. She worked in esteemed companies such as NBAD, Thomson Reuters and Menacorp. In 2013 she opened her own home décor boutique and has now taken her business online through social media. Kiwan’s passion for public speaking overshadowed her financial background where she spent most of her time moderating panels, presenting analysis, introducing products and teaching students. She is now a certified presenter from Reporters Academy and has hosted a range of events including fitness, fashion, engineering, film and a lot more.
Asli Okar is the marketing director for Middle East at Philips Lighting, the world leader in lighting, connected lighting and lighting for the Internet of Things. She is responsible for marketing strategies and activities for B2B and B2C lighting business covering 13 countries in Middle East. Okar has more than 18 years of experience both for upstream and downstream marketing in technology and innovation. She holds a bachelor degree in Electrical Engineering from Istanbul Technical University and master’s degree in business administration from Yeditepe University.
Bhavik Jhaveri is a serial entrepreneur and an emerging market observer. Over a decade long experience in successfully building and leading ventures across payments, consumer internet, technology and omnichannel retailing, both in Indian and global market. In his previous roles, he has been part of founding teams at EBS, Fashionandyou and Craftsvilla. Jhaveri has also been part of a New York-based venture Truefacet.com, and continues to be an active shareholder. In his last role as the founder & CEO at Ambab, he has created India's largest product engineering & co-innovation centre, and has been instrumental in incubating close to 100 products in the last five years. He continues to chair the board at Ambab. In his current role as the founder & CEO at Pretr, he spearheads product, business, strategy and growth. He strongly believes that people don't buy online because it's convenient, but because the alternate is inconvenient. Bhavik is committed to revolutionise the way consumers shop online and at malls.
Abdul Kader Saadi
Having graduated from Les Roches Hotel Management School in Switzerland, Abdul Kader Saadi joined the Sogeres company, part of a leading catering group. He spent over six years with the company in Paris. He started on the operational side of the business then moved on to head office to cover the commercial, internal auditing, purchasing departments and finally achieving the position of manager of international developments. Moving back to the UK in 2001 Saadi joined the MARC restaurant group as project manager. After four successful years, three restaurants were opened of which two were granted the Michelin Star recognition. From 2005-07 Saadi invested and focused on turning around a restaurant chain with three outlet in London. In 2008 he moved to the UAE and set up Glee Hospitality Solutions in Dubai towards end of 2009. Now in it is eighth year of operations, Glee Hospitality Solutions successfully launched over 50 concepts, opened over 60 outlets across the region and by end of 2017 will be managing a team of nearly 500 employees.
Chinmoy K Ghosh, based out of UAE, heads the Global Performance and Rewards department for the UAE Exchange. Ghose is responsible for global compensation and benefits, performance management, recognition programmes and HR analytics for more than 5000 employees spread across 28 countries. He has been with UAE Exchange for the last six years and prior to that has worked with organisations such as Apeejay Surendra Group and Quaker Chemical Ltd in India, during which time he handled many different areas of HR such as performance management, compensation and benefits, recruitment, policies and processes, employee engagement and organisational development. Ghose received his MBA in Personnel Management and Human Resource Development from Balaji Society, India and Masters in Labour Law and Labour Welfare from Pune University, India; before which he had completed his Master degree in Finance at Calcutta University, India.
Bahraini national Tariq Sanad is CFO for Fetchr. Having lived in the UAE for over 14 years, Sanad has worked on a multitude of businesses across the MENA region. He has worked with Procter & Gamble managing billion dollar brands like Gillette and Pantene and has been heavily involved in the FMCG and retail sectors. Sanad was also heavily involved in building Careem, one of the region’s most successful start-ups and now continues to build at Fetchr. As CFO he leads the finance, business intelligence and human resources teams. He works on managing the overall performance of the company to help it achieve its long-term objectives.
Hani S Al-Sulaimani
Hani S Al-Sulaimani has more than 16 years of marketing & communication experience in the Saudi Arabia market, currently holding the position of marketing director for Hamat Property Co. Prior to Hamat, Al-Sulaimani has led various mega campaigns for several banking products and services, and was part of the team that led the biggest marketing efforts for SABB HSBC in Saudi Arabia achieving outstanding results. He also led the marketing department at the Saudi Investment Bank, where he drafted transforming marketing strategies and influenced the marketing department structure. Al-Sulaimani started his career with GE before moving to banking industry and now real estate.
Mukul Bafana is a co-founder & CEO of Arvind Internet. Prior to joining Arvind Internet, Bafana was co-founder & managing director at Jabong.com. Prior to Jabong, Bafana has worked in a strategy role at Google, private equity at Bain Capital and as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. across various geographies and industries. Bafana received an MBA from Harvard Business School. He also received a BBA with high distinction in finance and computer information systems from the University of Michigan Business School.
Morten Kirch is regional manager for SSI SCHAEFER is in charge of the automation department and covers the GCC and African areas. With more than 15 years’ experience in the field, Kirch come with sound knowledge in efficient planning, designing and organising warehouses.
Francesco Magri, country manager and director of The Woolmark Company, Australian Wool Innovation, Italy and Iberia, has been associated with the organisation since last five years and has been the driving force behind the Italy office as well as managing The Wool Lab which is an innovative seasonal sourcing guide for wool. Prior to this he has been in the industry for over 15 years as the global brand manager and licensing director for Sergio Tacchini S.P.A, head of brand – Miss sixty, brand manager for Diesel, handled marketing and trend research for Levi Strauss and Co. He possesses a degree in Bachelor of Business Management from University Luigi Bocconi.
Ishwar Chugani is the CEO and managing director of Giordano Middle East and a member of the management committee of Giordano International, Hong Kong. He is also a founding member/advisor of the Middle East Council of Shopping Centers. Chugani began his career in 1979 when he set up Sindbad’s Wonderland, Middle East’s first indoor family entertainment centre at the Al Ghurair Centre, Dubai. Chugani received the 2014 Retail Professional of the Year Award from the Middle East and North Africa Shopping Centre and Retailer Awards organised by the Middle East Council of Shopping Centers and the International Council of Shopping Centers and has consistently been recognized as one of the Top 20 Indian CEOs in the Arab World by Forbes magazine in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In June 2017, he was appointed as the FICCI – Philippines (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce Inc.) first Foreign Ambassador of Goodwill.
Phil McArthur has dedicated his professional career to the development and expansion of shopping centres globally. Over the past 36 years, he has developed an international reputation for strategically positioning projects, ensuring efficient execution and delivering consistently strong financial returns in the shopping centre industry across the Middle East, North America, North Africa and Asia. In the Middle East, McArthur has held senior directorial and managerial roles on projects as Dubai Festival City, City Centre Deira, Mall of the Emirates, City Centre Muscat and CityStars in Cairo. Prior to founding McARTHUR + COMPANY, he held senior executive positions at renowned real estate companies such as Ivanhoe Cambridge, Al Futtaim Group, CityStars, MAF Shopping Centres and Brookfield Properties. He has a long association with the New York-based International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) as a past trustee, as well as a faculty member of the ICSC’s John T Riordan School for Professional Development.
A seasoned corporate banker turned entrepreneur, Fahimuddin currently serves as CEO of Cityland Group since 2014, also sitting on the board of the company. He initially started as the group CFO and subsequently advanced to the CEO level, given his excellent management skills, business knowledge and exponential business growth achieved under his leadership in the span of two years. Fahimuddin’s major accomplishments during his banking career include, but not limited to, financing of various real estate and retail projects including Bawadi Mall development in Al Ain, Al Barari Outlet Mall Al Ain and Al Etihad Towers in Al Raha Beach Abu Dhabi with a combined project value in excess of AED1.2 billion. Fahimuddin is a highly regarded expert in the field of finance and management owing to his various assignments in banking and his current job as the CEO of Cityland Group. He is all geared up to bring landmark destinations to Dubai under his leadership.
Raza Beig, director, Landmark Group & CEO – Splash, ICONIC & Landmark International
Raza Beig is the CEO of fast fashion brands Splash & ICONIC. Splash is among the Middle East’s most popular fast-fashion brand that originated in 1993 as a single brand store in Sharjah and is now present across 14 countries with over 250 stores. ICONIC, a one-stop trendy destination was launched in 2010 and has presence in 5 countries with 50 stores. On the Landmark Group front, Beig has led the fashion portfolio and was an instrumental in building the Lifestyle brand in India. While Beig’s business acumen has made Splash a brand to reckon with, his creative capabilities are endearing as well. Over the past 24 years, Splash has had many firsts in the region in terms of product launches, campaigns, concepts and creating brand properties. Under his mentoring and guidance, Splash has won many industry accolades including “Great Places to Work” twice in the UAE and once in KSA for the years 2016 & 2017. While Beig has focused on the Middle East for growth and expansion, he has recently changed his personal focus to India and shortly thereafter will move to South East Asia.
James Whelton is managing director at AYM, where he leads the charter to build the infrastructure and technology elements for AYM’s partners across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Prior to AYM, Whelton joined Cobone as CTO in 2013 working closely with the management team to lead Cobone successfully through an acquisition in December of 2014. At 18 Whelton co-founded CoderDojo, a not-for-profit volunteer organisation, setting up youth computer clubs across Ireland and the world. Today it is present in over 50 countries with more than 500 clubs, teaching over 30,000 children weekly. As a digital age thought leader, Whelton has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Huffington Post, Wired, TechCrunch and The San Francisco Chronicle. He is a master orator on entrepreneurship and technical subjects and a regular guest speaker at colleges, universities and embassies. He is also involved in advising and addressing government bodies nationally and internationally on subjects such as youth entrepreneurship and technology education.
Rachel McArthur is a Dubai-based journalist and editor, with over a decade of experience in digital, print and broadcast media. She is the founder and managing editor of Digital Ink Media, a provider that curates exclusive content – including editorial copy, photography and video – for some of the region’s best-known media outlets and brands. Having edited/been published in titles such as ‘T Emirates: The New York Times Magazine’, Thomson Reuters and Wamda, McArthur covers a range of topics – lifestyle to B2B – with a keen interest in Islamic Economy industries, science and medicine, Middle Eastern entrepreneurship, motoring and entertainment. In addition to her role at Digital Ink, McArthur is a contributor to Al Arabiya, Gulf News and appears as a current affairs commentator on ‘The Agenda’ on Dubai Eye 103.8FM.
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 of 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), Thomson 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.
Tanvi Malik, co-founder, Elevaete
Tanvi Malik is a transdisciplinary designer working on apparel, interiors and experiences, using design thinking to apply herself across industries for positive social impact. Through the dual-degree programme at the New School in New York City, she received a BFA of Integrated Design/Apparel Design from Parsons and a BA of Literary Studies/Non-Fiction Writing from Eugene Lang College. She has worked in architecture firms, sportswear brands, nightlife events and startups designing products, spaces and experiences. As fitness has had a big influence on her development and with a background in sports apparel/retail, in 2016 she co-founded Elevaete, a made-in-UAE activewear brand for women with a focus on social impact through positive community engagement. Her personal conviction is to encourage education and creation across disciplines and so she also co-founded the Dubai chapter of LWD. Currently, she works on Elevaete, interior/exterior design in New York and Dubai, and creates identities and brand experiences for startups.
Vikram Krishna is the executive vice president, head of group marketing & customer experience at Emirates NBD, with the mandate to position Emirates NBD as a leading banking brand, and enhance its customer experience capabilities. Krishna has successfully developed Emirates NBD into the No.1 banking brand in the UAE, with a brand value of USD 3.41 billion, in addition to making it one of the top 100 financial brands globally. Krishna oversees the three areas of marketing, customer experience and customer lifecycle management at the Emirates NBD Group level, continuously devising and implementing innovative strategies across all channels, to ensure a customer-centric approach and further grow the bank’s dominant market position. Krishna has also significantly raised Emirates NBD’s presence in the social media space through the successful launch and management of the bank’s social media platforms. Prior to his current role, Krishna has also held senior posts in HSBC and CitiFinancial in India.
A thirst for finding meaning in everything he does has led Alex Andarakis to a career which has never run short of momentum, energy and reinvention. Andarakis has consistently demonstrated the unique ability to combine strong, insight driven strategic development with an inspiring, creative product to create an implementation-enabled organisation with the triple objective of ‘inspiring, propelling and partnering’ with corporations, brands and individuals. A true believer in identifying and developing talent has also seen Andarakis play the role of mentor to many of the region's CEOs across both the UAE and Saudi Arabia. During his three decade long experience he has set up Andarakis Advisory Services and has been engaged with McKinsey & Company as global senior external advisor. In addition, he has been in senior roles in companies including Omniyat Properties, Emaar Properties, Aujan Industries and Unilever Africa, Middle East, Turkey & Russia. An appreciation of art, culture, travel and music lies at the heart of his creativity.
Go-getter entrepreneur Kristine Lasam has spearheaded the quick rise of Pink Entropy as one of the leading digital agencies in the Middle East in the last four years. With several successful published case studies on her belt and a sought after voice in the digital, media and technology space in the region, Lasam is looked upon as one of MENA’s top female entrepreneurs and was recently ushered into the Hall of Femme by Khaleej Times’ WKND feature about women breaking the glass ceiling. Lasam and her team looks after a roster of clients from up and coming tech start-ups like AirWayBill and ServiceMarket.com to a formidable A-list of brands like Procter and Gamble, COTY USA, BRP and unicorns like Line Messenger. Always at the forefront of technology, Lasam is now in the ITO and Blockchain space.
Tarek Moussawer leads the strategic development and evolution of the Virgin Megastore brand throughout the MENA region including the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Oman, Bahrain and Jordan. Since joining the Virgin Megastore team in 2007, Moussawer has helped strengthen the brand name and image across the region, contributing to its successful expansion across 33 stores in 6 countries. Through his innovative approach, Virgin Megastore saw the development of its award-winning omnichannel experience, including the launch of the brand’s acclaimed e-commerce website, industry-leading ticketing service and engaging loyalty programme. Moussawer was actively involved in the strategic addition and rollout of new store concepts and product categories, which transformed the brand into the region’s leading entertainment lifestyle retail destination. Prior to his role at Virgin Megastore, Moussawer worked in finance, managing electronic channels at Byblos Bank in Beirut, Lebanon. He graduated with an MBA from the American University of Beirut with a focus on Finance, Marketing and Business Ethics.
Awarded as top 25 most influential e-commerce professionals of India by CMO Asia, Asia Retail Congress, Vijay Talreja works with global retailers in helping them establish and scale their e-commerce business. He comes with close to two decades of technology, global delivery and business operations experience having worked with startups, IT MNCs and Fortune500 clients. He is the co-founder and director of Adapty Inc, a digital commerce product and services company that implements omnichannel products and solutions to drive customer engagement and growth for global retail brands. Charter member of TiE Mumbai and active member of angel investing platforms, Talreja is passionate about mentoring startups in the e-commerce, Fintech and HR space.
TP Pratap is the chief marketing officer at QwikCilver Solutions. With two decades of experience in strategic marketing, product launch initiatives, media campaign management and public relations, 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 in India and the Middle East – including Timex Watches, Wipro Lighting and the Polyurethanes and Paints business of ICI and Kuwait Danish Dairies in the GCC markets. Pratap is a key stakeholder and driver of QwikCilver's journey to market in the pre-paid, stored-value space.
Shankar Balan is president of QwikCilver Solutions. A seasoned professional with over two decades of experience across the hospitality, services and retail sectors, 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 stakeholder and 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.
Saeed Mohammad Mesam Alfalasi
Saeed Mohammad Mesam Alfalasi has an accomplished track record of over 15 years in retail, information technology and food and beverage sectors. As executive director, retail and strategic alliances, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) – an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) – Alfalasi is overseeing the implementation of Dubai’s Retail Calendar that was launched in December 2016, featuring the full programme of anchor retail activities promoted city-wide. He is also responsible for sponsorship development, specifically bringing on board new sponsors and managing relationships with existing strategic partners and sponsors, as well as liaising and coordinating with key corporate partners for all events and festivals organised by DFRE. Starting his career as a data network engineer at Dubai Internet City, Alfalasi has held senior management positions in the private sector, especially on the retail front, in companies like BinHendi Enterprises. He holds a Master of Science, Information Technology (Executive) from Bond University Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, and has graduated from the University of Colorado, USA with a Bachelor of Engineering in Computer Science and Engineering.
Entrepreneur from the age of 18, Andreas L Borgmann has experience in multiple fields ranging from F&B, real estate and construction to design, IT and auto garage. A sports, health and fitness enthusiast, Borgmann followed his passion to start a health food concept called Kcal Healthy Fast Food along with his business partner Mark Carroll. Borgmann’s creative drive, dynamic passion and ‘think big’ approach meshed perfectly with Carroll’s branding and marketing passion. Ambitious and passionate, Borgmann and Carroll identified a gap in the local F&B market for healthy, nutritious food. After 12 months of solid research, hard work and dedication Kcal was born in 2010. Since then, Kcal has enjoyed phenomenal success in the UAE, now forging ahead with plans to expand via franchising beyond the Middle East. In Dubai alone, there are 12 Kcal branches in addition to other divisions including Kcal Extra, Kcal GO and the newly launched Fuel Up by Kcal.
Mohammad Alawi is an industry veteran who wears many hats; he is currently the chairman of shopping malls committee, Jeddah Chamber KSA, as well as chairman & partner at Saudi Sand Souvenir Co and B&T Brands and Trade Services Middle East DMCC. Alawi comes with over 25 years of experience in creating successful developments and renovating existing retail properties in Saudi Arabia. With well-versed skills and persistent follow-up in operations and marketing, Alawi created two epic retail shopping centres in Saudi Arabia – Hera Community Mall and Red Sea Mall in Jeddah. He also carries in his career a portfolio of eight other shopping malls which were developed during his tenure with Savola. During his illustrious career, Alawi has been part of Al Amoudi, Majid Al Futtaim and SKAB. He is also a member with the promotions and events committee at JCCI and a member with the National Saudi Tourism Board in Riyadh.
As the driving force behind some of the most high profile properties in the Middle East and internationally, Lennard Otto possesses a wealth of experience in managing and operating large-scale entertainment-based facilities. In his current role, as CEO of IMG Worlds of Adventure, Otto has worked closely with the owners and leadership of the Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari Group to successfully launch the world’s largest indoor theme park in Dubai. Otto is spearheading the park’s future development, with plans to expand the existing attraction to further attract a global audience. Widely recognised for his vision and leadership abilities, Otto has over a decade of experience in managing large international hospitality and leisure destinations. Prior to joining IMG Worlds of Adventure, Otto was responsible for the pre-and-post opening phases of some of the most iconic entertainment properties across South Africa and the Middle East, including Wild Wadi, Atlantis the Palm, Wahooo! Waterpark, John Buck International and Wadi Adventure.
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 19 years in the UAE and Oman, Singh has served in some of the biggest retail names in the region, such as Majid Al Futtaim Investments, Emaar Malls Group, Meraas Holding and presently works with The Developers Holding as general manager and CFO for Abu Dhabi-based Dalma Mall. Singh has deep knowledge of local, regional and international landscape, contributing in uplifting businesses, demonstrating operational impact and writing successful journeys in retail 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. Singh holds a CA degree in Finance, with concentration on business management and financial analysis.
A Bachelor of Arts graduate Sonia Parekh’s change journey began while volunteering with a non-profit called Make A Difference, Bangalore shaping her into a youth leader. Upon returning to Dubai, she set out to become an events professional and landed a job at Informa Middle East. Alongside her full-time job, she continued creating positive social change in the world. She is the co-founder of The Goodwill Tribe, which exists to inspire kindness and human connection. It began as an experiment in generosity. Within four years the movement spread organically to 15 cities across the world and events were being organised focusing on the small acts of kindness and happiness, fostering human empathy. One such initiative being the Karma Kitchen, centred on human trust and runs as a gift economy. Parekh believes that every kind act has a ripple effect in the world. She also dedicates time to various service-hearted projects like GYEM and the Sameness Project to name a few.
Rajiv Prasad has been instrumental in building the company internationally with deployments in hundreds of businesses worldwide. As chief innovation catalyst/officer (CIO) at Xpandretail powered by Sávant Data System LLC, he is responsible for evaluating new and innovative technology, overseeing special customer projects and programmes and managing the company’s technological services department. He has also demonstrated a record of success in enhancing internal efficiency and increasing ownership of organisational goals and objectives, while generating processes to enhance corporate profitability that affect organisation-growth with sustainable results. Prasad comes with a professional career background which reflects management, training, support and organisational development skills in highly competitive and diligently regulated telecom, IT, BPO sector and vast networking systems. He possesses extended expertise in operations management, training management, business development, project administration, revenue enhancement and cost control.
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 stream. An ENOC veteran and a seasoned oil and gas industry professional, Alqufaidi comes to his role with extensive experience across the energy value chain. Alqufaidi held numerous managerial positions and has played an instrumental role in the development of EPPCO’s retail network. He has contributed immensely to bridge the gap between ENOC and EPPCO brands during the formation of the Group’s identity as ENOC. Prior to his current role, 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 in the operations department, being promoted to operations and supply coordinator in 1992. He is an engineering graduate from the University of Central Florida, USA.
Shaikha Ahmad Al Bishri
As director of the Business Excellence Department in Dubai Economy, Shaikha Ahmad Al Bishri is in charge of various programmes and initiatives, including the Dubai Quality Award, Dubai Human Development Award, Dubai Service Excellence Scheme and the Global Islamic Business Award, all of which are aimed to promote quality, excellence and best practices in doing business. Passionate about organisational improvement programmes, particularly those focused on employee satisfaction and overall customer happiness, Al Bishri has successfully steered a number of leadership initiatives and forums through the years. Under her stewardship, the Business Excellence Department has continued to organise the Best Practices & Benchmarking Forum, Visions 2 Reality forum and has also remained a strong partner to the International Business Excellence Award, ASQ Professional Award and the Gulf Customer Experience and Digital Award. Al Bishri received her Bachelor’s in Business Management with honours from the Higher Colleges of Technology and Master’s in Management of Entrepreneurial Leadership from the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University.
Babak Golkar of the Golkar brothers – that also include Farhan and Haman – are the co-founders of Emperor London, a label established in 2010. All three of them take keen interest in art, architecture and accessible luxury, which helped them develop an alternative path to high street retail. Fashion brand Emperor with a multi-disciplinary heritage is based on the principle that its customers are provided with a luxury product made with detail and care, but at an accessible price point. The collections are defined by the Golkar brothers’ signature design aesthetics and attention to detail, with a strong emphasis on luxury and an eclectic use of materials. Babak studied his craft at the London College of Fashion after which he worked for ITTIERRE s.P.a (Just Cavalli, C.N.C, Gianfranco Ferre, Ferre, GF FERRE) heading the visual and creative team for the GCC and Middle East region.
Arva Saleem Ahmed
With an itch for food discovery inherited from her Indian family in Dubai, which intensified during her college years in Philadelphia, USA and then blew wildly out of control when she took on a management consulting position in New York – Arva Ahmed is convinced that explosively delicious cities are written in her destiny. When she’s not ferreting out a hole-in-the-wall dive in a backstreet of the city or filling tummies on an Old Dubai food trail with visitors, she’s probably chewing over the next interview for the upcoming Frying Pan Adventures' food podcast, penning her food column in a local magazine or churning out some ice cream. Ahmed has an undergraduate degree in Finance and an MBA from the Wharton School in the US.
Matthieu Guinard is the CEO of GlamBox Middle East, an innovative and disruptive, home-grown player in the regional beauty industry. Guinard has over 15 years of international experience in general management, e-commerce and marketing for several industries such as luxury, beauty, travel, consumer goods and media.
A serial entrepreneur and seasoned marketer, Ramzi Nakad co-founded BRAG – a leading event agency in Dubai – in 2009. As BRAG’s managing partner, Nakad helped secure partnerships with government and private entities, including Dubai Tourism & Emaar, while also directing some of Dubai’s most talked about community events like Market OTB, Beach Canteen, Sole Dxb and Meet d3. A strong supporter of regional talent, Nakad co-founded Fashion Forward (FFWD) in 2013, offering a unified developmental platform for the region. Recognising the importance of actively making tangible contributions towards economic growth, in 2016, Nakad helped establish an empowerment programme under FFWD, named EPIC. The programme aims to extend business development support to emerging talent from the Middle East through a series of initiatives, including the establishment of a FFWD Showroom in Paris. A regular commentator for thought leadership, Nakad has been selected to be a guest speaker at Start-up Grind powered by Google.
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Anjari
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Anjari is a Kuwaiti entrepreneur who succeeded in launching home-grown brands. After graduation his first job was at the Exports Department of the Ministry of Justice followed by the Environment Public Authority. Launching a home-grown fashion brand for the first time in Kuwait was a wild idea back then. Al-Anjari commissioned a professional artist to design a brand reflecting his ideas and plans. Once this was ready, he promptly had the trademark registered. Three-to-four months later Deer&Dear was a registered trademark in the US, the UK and Europe. Today Deer&Dear is present at The Avenues Mall, Kuwait and four other locations, in addition to Al-Khobar and Al-Hamra Mall in KSA. The plan is to expand Deer&Dear worldwide. In order to diversify his investments, Al-Anjari also ventured into the restaurants sector. His journey has strengthened his belief that business enterprises have every chance to succeed with the right elements and a strong foundation.
Frank-Matthias Kuntermann was appointed CEO of ABC Group in August 2017. An accomplished business leader, Kuntermann has been deputy CEO since November 2016 after having joined ABC in 2013 as COO. With his in-depth knowledge of the retail industry, he drove ABC’s strategic vision and development and has brought new practices to the company primarily centred on enhancing customer experience. He has also been instrumental in expanding the group’s brand portfolio. During his tenure, the recent renovation of the ABC Achrafieh Department Store was completed, ultimately bringing new standards to the retail industry in Lebanon. Prior to joining ABC, Kuntermann was with Hermès Middle East. He began his career at Deloitte & Touche in France before moving to the perfume and cosmetics industry where he managed the sales and export of brands Marina de Bourbon and Mauboussin. Kuntermann has been a trade advisor to the French government since 2005, and is a board member of Retail Inc. in Lebanon.
Yasser Shamsi started his professional career with a degree in Business Administration and Economics. Being a third-generation family member to work in the textile industry, he started the shirt-making Dalydress factory in 1979. His ability to develop and expand the business led to the emergence of Shamsi for Trading & Agencies, the company’s fashion retail division. In 1996 Dalydress started with a menswear line, later the womenswear line was introduced and the brand quickly developed into one of Egypt’s leading brands, managing to sustain international competition and continue to grow into one of Egypt’s largest fashion retail networks. With his hunger and understanding of the industry, Shamsi’s next aim was to expand internationally and that was achieved last year, opening the company’s first two shops in Morocco, with the plan to run the model regionally in the next few years.
Christine Souffrant Ntim
Christine Souffrant Ntim is an award-winning Haitian-American entrepreneur and start-up ecosystem expert for emerging markets. Ntim started her career as the founder of Vendedy, a social network connecting people to street markets with the aim of digitising a $10-trillion black economy and centralising the world’s 200,000 street markets. Today she is the director of Startup Grind Dubai powered by Google for entrepreneurs and a partner at the GlobalStartupEcosystem.com, which hosts the largest digital online accelerator programme in the world, graduating over 1000+ companies across 190+ countries a year. She speaks on digital entrepreneurship, start-up hacking, exponential tech AI and personal branding at over 20+ global conferences a year, which includes former appearances at the US State Department Tours, United Nations, TEDx, SXSW, Startup Grind Global, SeedStars World, European Union Forum and more.
Denis Ravizza started his professional career with a degree in art direction & graphic design. In 1989, he was rated by world-renowned American head hunter Rita-Sue Siegel among the top 1% graphic designers in the US. His design and art direction works for numerous record labels in France, England and the US, led him to become consultant for various fashion brands including Jean-Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint-Laurent, Versace and Kansai Yamamoto, among others. In 1988 Ravizza was appointed as the ‘key keeper’ of the graphic identity of Esprit’s collections. In 2004, Ravizza landed in Dubai in view of sharing his lifetime passion and expertise in art direction, fashion and design with aspiring fashion designers by founding ESMOD Dubai The French Fashion Institute with Tamara Hostal. Ravizza and Hostal have also co-founded the Pôlette Concept Store at City Walk in Dubai to operate as a retail space for emerging designers and ESMOD Dubai graduates for designing, manufacturing, retailing, branding and marketing their collections.
Ebraheem Al Samadi
An entrepreneur from the age of 14, Ebraheem Al Samadi launched his very first business out of his mother’s Florida apartment selling thrift shop clothing and items on eBay, a stint which eventually earned him one of eBay’s coveted ‘1000 Power Sellers’ awards. He joined the family business in 2010 as CEO retail, headed up by his father Husni Al Samadi. The Al Samadi family later expanded their business interests into the Middle East, with Dubai as their operational hub. Today Al Samadi energetically pursues new opportunities wherever they arise. Al Samadi Group comprises two business divisions; retail and hospitality. With brands, products and successful business models sourced from the USA, Canada and Europe, the company portfolio is diverse and continuing to expand. Ebraheem’s driving force has long been the desire to fully support his family, as well as striving to ensure he creates an environment which first and foremost promotes happiness amongst employees and colleagues.
Kyrgyz entrepreneur Ulugbek Yuldashev is the founder and CEO of AWOK.com, one of the leading online retail platforms in the UAE. He founded the online store in 2013, which commenced operations by selling electronics and gadgets. The company has grown rapidly since its inception, offering over 50,000 products across 30-plus categories and employs close to 500 people. Yuldashev has had a flair for business since an early age and started his first company in 2004, when he was just 19 years old. In 2006, he moved to Dubai and in 2008 established the wholesale company Gulf Alabel Technologies LLC. Success in this venture led him to set up another wholesale company called Alifco LLC followed by entering the e-commerce industry in the region with ALIFCA DMCC as the parent company of AWOK.com. Yuldashev is a business graduate and considers his father to be his mentor who instilled in him discipline and ethics in business at a young age.
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. Over three years in the industry, the ecologically conscious brand has established a firm foot in the growing entrepreneurial community in the Middle East.
Adel Belcaid is a principal with AT Kearney's CMT practice, based in Dubai. Belcaid has over 18 years of strategy and operational experience acquired through various engagements in the Middle East, Europe and the US. He advises corporations, regulators and government agencies in telecommunications and media, and more recently in digital transformation, both market-facing (distribution, e-commerce) and structural (operating model, supply chain). Belcaid has led numerous engagements in the areas of strategic planning, sales & marketing, go-to market, new product development, supply chain strategy and organisational development. He is a prolific author/speaker and is regularly featured in leading regional/international publications and audio-visual channels. He holds a MBA from MIT Sloan, USA and M.Eng in Computer Engineering from ENSEIRB, France. He is a Fulbright Scholar and holds a patent in telecommunications.
Nasif Kayed, founder and CEO, The Arab Culturalist, is a cultural expert on Arab-Emirati culture. He has been an entrepreneur and consultant for 33 years, having developed 40 businesses during that period. He also spent eight years as managing director of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding. Kayed’s most recent venture, The Arab Culturalist, is a consultancy firm focused on building cross-cultural communication and inter-cultural competencies among businesses and educational institutions throughout the Middle East and beyond. He was part of the UAE delegation at the 2015 & 2016 Dubai Week in China, and a participant in the Dubai Plan 2021 strategy session.
Recognised at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Awards for Young Business Leaders as the Best Arab Start-up Business in the female category, among other local and regional recognitions, Nada Alawi grew up loving fashion and appreciating art. In 2011 she founded Annada, a luxury lifestyle brand that transforms art into fashion accessories and apparel, with her sister Noor Alawi in partnership with Middle Eastern artists. Today Annada products are sold widely across the GCC. In 2016 Alawi received the female entrepreneurship seal from Her Majesty Princess Sabeeka for her work in Annada. Besides being an entrepreneur, Alawi – who began her career in the oil & gas industry in Houston, Texas – is currently a board member at the Bahrain Economic Development Board and prior to that she led a number of key roles, most notably as a board member at Bahrain Bourse in addition to being the president of leading global NGO Rotary Club Bahrain.
With over 11 years of experience in real estate asset management and operations, Saoud Khoory has managed a diverse portfolio including retail, hospitality, residential and leisure. At Yas Mall, Khoory first held the position of deputy manager for four years and then became general manager in 2016. During this time, Khoory has led all areas of operations and marketing of the regional shopping, dining and entertainment destination. His focus at Yas Mall has been to maximise the mall’s overall performance by supporting business development, strengthening retail leasing portfolio while implementing an innovative retail strategy. He has also held board positions on Aldar hotels & hospitalities and Al Raha International. Prior to this, Khoory has worked in companies such as Zakum Development Company, Noor Islamic Bank and Aldar Properties PJSC. During his time at Aldar Properties PJSC, Khoory’s key achievements include orchestrating the merger between Aldar and Sorouh Real Estate and the management agreement between Aldar and Yas Viceroy Hotel. He holds a Bachelor degree from Boston University.
Nadine Benchaffai started her career in the world of FMCG marketing initially at Kraft Foods in the Middle East followed by Nestle Purina in Europe and Yoplait UK Innovation. She covered a variety of roles from brand management to strategy development and innovation processes. She left to embark on her MBA at London Business School and decided to take the entrepreneurship route. She joined fellow LBS alum Brandon Stephens in launching Tortilla in the UK in 2006 where she remained on the board until her move to Dubai, although she remains an investor at Tortilla. In Dubai she co-founded and launched Taqado Mexican Kitchen in 2012, which now has 14 stores with aggressive expansion plans in place. In 2015 Benchaffai went on to launch a new concept called Park House Cafe targeting the underserved beach and park locations. She is also an investor in a number of other start-ups.
Khurshid Vakil is the co-founder of Marina Home Interiors retail chain – a Dubai-based avant-garde lifestyle & home décor company that operates large format stores across most Middle East markets, North Africa and India. Born in India and having lived and worked in Switzerland, Spain and Dubai, Vakil understands cross cultural influences very well that can be vividly seen coexisting in his company’s corporate culture and design harmony of product mix. Vakil remains at the forefront of Marina Home’s acquisition, expansion and brand building strategy and its vision to take the brand forward globally through company-owned operations as well as continued franchise rollout plan. He ensures Marina Home’s philosophy is clearly visible in its environment thus bringing in continued year-on-year growth and global accolades for the organisation. A member of several international business forums, Vakil is regularly seen as a speaker at international business events and conventions.
Following a career in finance of nearly a decade in New York and Paris, where he specialised in hedge funds and in risk management, Mohamed Haouache is now the CEO and co-founder of Storefront – one the leading global marketplaces for short-term commercial space rental. He is currently focusing on developing the company’s strategy and overseeing Storefront’s continued expansion into new markets. Haouache holds a J.D in Law, and a Masters in Finance.
Juan de Lascurain
Juan de Lascurain is an entrepeneur-designer from Mexico. He has founded a brand called Dream Big. He started his career as a tennis player, then went on to compete as a triathlete for more than five years around the world, including the 1999 Hawaii Ironman. In 2000 he started coaching tennis in Beverly Hills and four years later he was offered free air-time at a local non-profit television network. Without prior experience he started interviewing celebrities and athletes to present their inspiring stories to inspire others. In 2008 while sitting at a friend’s place Lascurain grabbed a napkin and a black marker and started doodling. A lady noticed and told him to start painting. He decided to try and after a few months finished his first painting. Realising his talent, he decided to paint commercial designs and commercialise everything through the Dream Big brand. Most people thought he was crazy and that artists don’t make money, but through his faith, determination and talent he has been able to create over 10,000 designs.
Mansour Salameh has been working as Facebook’s client solutions manager for retail & e-commerce clients in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan since 2012. During this time, Salameh has been at the forefront of helping top retail, online and e-commerce companies including SOUQ.com, Namshi, Dubizzle, Careem, AWOK.com, Alshaya, Al Tayer and Landmark Group, among others, achieve their marketing objectives and scale their business through Facebook. Prior to that, Salameh spent nine years working in traditional media and creative advertising, managing blue-chip brands across various industries.
A cultural entrepreneur, Alexandre Teodoresco, is the man behind some of the ground-breaking and award winning concepts in Dubai – such as Street Nights, Food Truck Jam, Truckers DXB and Street Food Market DXB – fostering local talents through a series of food truck and destination events. Teodoresco encourages the community to support home-grown concepts, while living and loving an authentic lifestyle. He envisions to lead the food truck revolution and intends to continuously innovate ideas for Dubai residents, expatriates and tourists to explore.
With almost three decades of experience behind her, Luma Bourisly brings a rich, diverse background to her role as founder and vision creator of KOOOT.com – an online shopping and lifestyle destination for modern Middle Eastern women. She is also the founding member and general secretary of Kuwait Business Council for Dubai and Northern Emirates. Bourisly’s career began in 1990 as the head of media department in Kuwait Information Centre in Cairo, where she was responsible for assuring adequate coverage of the Gulf War across international media channels. She then moved to the research industry working with Australia-based Reark Research in 1992. She also worked with First Gulf Bank in Ajman and the ENOC Group. In 2005, she was a member of the launch team of Emirates National Development Programme at the Executive Office. In 2006, Bourisly joined du – where she was one of the founding team members – where she held several leadership positions during her 10-year tenure.
With over three decades of experience in the fashion retail industry, Mark Tesseyman has made his mark as an experienced successful retailer across GCC, North Africa, Russia in addition to Europe and the UK. Tesseyman was appointed CEO of LIWA Trading Enterprises in 2015 to restructure and grow the organisation. A key focus has been to target specific market sectors and evolve a retail strategy in line with shifting global trends. He has driven the change management agenda placing the customer first, improving performance and transforming the way the company operates. Tesseyman has extensive international experience, developing and implementing best practice retail management systems and working for industry-leading international companies, including Next Retail, Matalan Ltd, The Peacock Group and Alshaya. Prior to his current role, he held key senior positions at both large corporate PLC companies as well as family-owned organisations. He is also familiar with private equity-backed businesses.
UAE national Mahmoud Bartawi is the co-founder of Under500, a Dubai-based healthy café concept. Observing a gap in the market for nutritious food concepts that are affordable and tasty, Bartawi set out to develop a business around his belief of healthy living and eating. Since the inception of Under500 in 2016, the company has now expanded to three restaurants across popular areas of Dubai, with plans for future expansion. Bartawi believes in contributing to the UAE’s 2021 Vision, through his business that will help to facilitate change, and is keen to see obesity rates lowered, life expectancy increased and the happiness factor go up. His vision is to develop Under500 commercially and financially to rank among the top three healthy food brands in the region. Bartawi holds a Business Degree from the American University of Sharjah and a Masters in International Business from the University of Wollongong in Dubai.
Stevi Lowmass is the founder and owner of The Camel Soap Factory – an award winning natural soap manufacturer in Dubai. She worked in the IT and electronic payments industries for many years, but after the birth of her daughter in 2005 became increasingly obsessed with the idea of creating a business built on her passions. A trip to Australia in 2008 when she visited an amazing olive oil soap factory cemented the idea in her head of creating a company selling natural soap made with local camel milk. She studied soap making with Melinda Coss in London – the author of ‘The Handmade Soap book’ – and started a small business. Rapid growth entailed obtaining an industrial licence and establishing a factory in the UAE. The company is now based in Al Quoz, Dubai and ships across the GCC and worldwide.
Stephen Graham Holbrook
Stephen Graham Holbrook directs the clothing division for the Kamal Osman Jamjoom (KOJ) Group, comprising four brands with a cumulative annual turnover running into the billions of Dirhams. He joined KOJ in 2013, with over 20 years’ of apparel industry experience, directly managing or partnering with global brand names such as Playtex, Wonderbra, Marks & Spencer and Victoria’s Secret. Prior to moving to the region Holbrook spent time working in Europe, the US and Asia, as well as holding non-executive positions with a number of SME businesses. He holds an MSc from the Cranfield Institute of Technology as well as a number of professional qualifications from the London Business School. Holbrook loves the cultural diversity and opportunity travel affords and is fascinated by the ever-changing social fabric of the world.
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 and started Moti Roti.
A later in life entrepreneur, Ian Ohan has lived, worked and created in the Gulf region for the past 18 years. Today Ohan is the CEO and founder of Freedom Pizza – a UAE-based, all-natural carry-out and delivery pizza chain with over 250 employees, an airline packaged product division – developed initially for Emirates Airlines and soon for VOX Cinemas – and six locations in the UAE. Freedom Pizza is part of KRSH Investments, an F&B investment platform, also owned by Ohan, which is in the process of developing additional home-grown food concepts in the healthier fast and fast casual food sectors. In 2006, Ohan joined two partners and established a real estate and hospitality investment advisory firm RSP Group, which was sold to Jones Lang LaSalle in 2009. In the past, Ohan has held senior positions in KPMG, Arthur Andersen’s Real Estate and Hospitality Group and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Mohamed Galal is the president & CEO of TSM CRENOVATIONS Egypt, a leading real estate retail mall management consultancy firm with focus on retail shopping malls development, and mixed-use residential management. TSM CRENOVATIONS has celebrated 10 years in the Egyptian market this year with success stories of 47 active shopping pavilions & centres, and 7 regional retail & hypermarket launches in Cairo & in the principal secondary cities of Egypt. Over two decades Galal has contributed to the launch of major players in the Egypt market with his debut as Majid Al Futtaim Misr country head, followed by DANDY Transworld Egypt, DORRA CAPITAL Group and SODIC Egypt. TSM CRENOVATIONS is a people’s organisation currently capitalising its widespread expansion with the support of its 327 Egyptian staff members, tracing a new trend in small & middle shopping malls developments with non-institutional developers & investors – Allegria and Katameya Plaza, Autoville the Strip and The Showrooms now Desigopolis.