Ahmad AR Bin Dawood, CEO, DanubeCo. Ltd. & BinDawood Stores
Ahmad AR Bin Dawood oversees the strategic direction of the Saudi-based retail company, the BinDawood Group’s Danube and BinDawood stores. Bin Dawood currently sits on the board of directors of the Red Sea Malls, implementing and enhancing the corporate governance of the group. He joined the group at the start of his career and has held a number of positions in the group until he was appointed to the board of directors and CEO of DanubeCo. Ltd in 2014. In 2018 he was appointed CEO of both DanubeCo. Ltd and BinDawood supermarkets. Bin Dawood has led Danube through a period of dramatic revitalisation and growth, continually sustaining double-digit growth for the company. He has transformed Danube Company Ltd. from 9 branches to 40 branches by May 2018, with ambitious expansion plans to open more stores across the Kingdom and regional markets in the coming years. He is the driving force behind the e-commerce platform for the Danube Online and the Danube App.
Ashish Panjabi, COO, Jacky’s Group of Companies
Ashish Panjabi is the Chief Operating Officer 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. Under his leadership, Jacky’s Business Solutions has partnered with the leaders in the 3D printing landscape. The company is also a distributor of large format printers and industrial UV printing products; banking and queuing management solutions; as well as robotic and digital fabrication products. Panjabi also runs Jacky’s Retail LLC, which operates Samsung Brand Shops across the UAE. He is also a partner in Cutting Edge Solutions LLC, a company focused on supplying high-quality finishing products for the printing, manufacturing and fabrication industries. Prior to managing Jacky’s Business Solutions and Jacky’s Retail, Panjabi has also managed various businesses within the Group from a multi-brand electronics retail chain, a mail order business, distribution businesses, a photographic solutions provider to an e-commerce business.
Dana Al Sharif, Founder, Urban RetrEAT
Dana Al Sharif is the founder of Urban RetrEAT, Abu Dhabi’s new food incubator. Hailing from Amman in Jordan, Al Sharif moved to the UAE in 2008 to follow her foodie passion and pursue a career in F&B. She received a degree in agri-business from the University of Jordan in 2008 which was a platform for her career in marketing in the F&B industry. In 2013, she began the famous Calle Tacos food truck in Dubai, which has been nominated for the BBC Good Food Award two years in a row. Al Sharif is a true foodie at heart and is passionate about promoting home-grown food talent which drove her to start Urban RetrEAT. The mission behind Urban RetrEAT is to promote local food businesses and give them a platform to launch their career in the competitive UAE food market.
Darami Coulter, Global Marketing and Communication Manager, Sumo International Inc./Sumo Sushi & Bento
People Matter – that’s Darami Coulter’s simple mantra on how she approaches every situation. How does what we are about to do or what we are about to say affect the people around us? She is always willing to jump in and help in any area that she is requested and has the brand message at the forefront of her mind. Coulter came to know Sumo first in 2009 as her favourite client when she owned her own marketing agency. When the opportunity arose in 2014 for her to sell the agency and join the Sumo family full time, she jumped. She has been with Sumo as Global Marketing and Communications Manager ever since, growing internal and external communications and spreading the Sumo happy across the globe. She is a wife of over 25 years and mom to 3 sons, an avid exercise enthusiast and brings energy to any room she enters.
David Quaife, Head of Omnichannel, Home Centre
David Quaife is Head of Omnichannel at Home Centre where he leads the company’s digital strategy, including e-commerce, digital marketing and in-store digital. Quaife has 16 years of retail experience across both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce for businesses such as Dixons Carphone, Amazon and Mothercare. He uses his experience to converge both online and in store to ensure a seamless, frictionless customer journey. Quaife has been in the Middle East for six years and has previously worked in the UK and Russia.
Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen, CEO, Novo Cinemas
Since taking on the role of CEO of Novo Cinemas in 2013, Debbie Stanford-Kristiansen has worked hard with her executive team to bring Novo Cinemas to new heights, from a standard cinema experience to an innovative entertainment hub through strategic partnerships, technological advancements, new experience offerings and alternative content opportunities for consumers. Under Kristiansen’s guidance, further expansion throughout the GCC will see Novo Cinemas enter the newly opened Saudi Arabia cinema market. As an accomplished leader with more than 25 years of experience in the entertainment, events and hospitality industries, Kristiansen is a CEO with an extensive understanding of public, government and private organisations with a recognised track record of driving growth and successful business development.
Emma Banks, Managing Director, Jumeirah Restaurant Group
Visionary leader, disruptive innovator, inspirational motivator, passionate environmentalist and equal rights champion, Emma Banks is the Managing Director of JRG Dubai – the global standalone restaurant group of Dubai Retail. In managing the Group’s brand portfolio of more than 20 award-winning food & beverage venues and international franchises, Banks spearheads the company’s long-term commercial strategy and leads multi-departmental performance in everything from day-to-day operations and streamlining service standards, to driving new concept development, delivery and execution. In addition to breathing new life into celebrated Dubai institutions including Pierchic, Pai Thai and Al Nafoorah, Banks has proven equally adept at launching new-to-market brands and reinvigorating the Group’s legacy properties. Banks is married to Jon with a teenage daughter Lily; she cares deeply about animal welfare and shares her home with three rescue cats and a rescue dog Bella. In her downtime she can normally be found with her family at the beach or mall by day, and in one of her restaurants by night.
Faisal Yabroudi, Head of Operations & Co-Founder, PINZA
Faisal Yabroudi was educated in the UK, graduating with a BA in International Business from the Regents Business School in London. In 2008, he began a career in real estate, working in district investment and development before eventually joining the family business Dubai Contracting Company LLC (DCC). A leading regional contractor and developer, DCC has a varied portfolio with significant projects throughout the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Yabroudi served as Assistant Area Manager, establishing and overseeing the Saudi branch of operations. He is currently the Head of Operations and Co-Founder of Pinza! A growing entrepreneurial spirit and passion for authentic food led Yabroudi to venture into the F&B industry, where he teamed up with Tamer Elkhayat and Talal Kaddah to create Key Crew Group Ltd where he is a Managing Partner. Yabroudi’s vision, management style and values continue to drive the company to overachieve.
Faraz Khan, Founder & CEO, souKare
Faraz Khan is the founder & CEO of souKare, a healthcare tech start-up in Dubai. souKare’s primary goal is to leverage technology to provide fast, convenient and hassle-free healthcare offerings to its customers. Before founding souKare, Khan worked for over 13 years at top tier management consulting and investment banking firms in the US, the UK, Middle East and Asia, focusing on healthcare, telecom and energy verticals. He served numerous private equity clients on due diligence and operation turnaround engagements and has deep functional expertise in start-up launch, strategy, corporate finance, transformations, operations and marketing. Khan holds BA (Hons), MA in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge and an MBA from INSEAD.
Frank-Matthias Kuntermann, Deputy CEO, ABC s.a.l
Frank-Matthias Kuntermann was appointed Deputy CEO of ABC Group in November 2016. An accomplished business leader, Kuntermann 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. Prior to joining ABC, Kuntermann held the role of General Manager for Hermès Middle East from 2007 till 2013. Based out of Dubai, he established and executed the Maison’s roll-out strategy and directed all activities across the region. He joined Hermès in 2000 as Sales Director for Europe and over the course of seven years, developed the business across Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. 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.
Gaurav Sabharwal, CEO & Co-founder, Wok Boyz
Gaurav Sabharwal is the CEO and co-founder of the home-grown Dubai hotspot for Asian street food, WOK BOYZ. Born and bought up in Dubai, and after a successful 15-year corporate stint in some of the world’s largest companies, Sabharwal has embraced his two passions – food and entrepreneurship. Whether it was during his student days at York University in Canada or his subsequent travel across the globe for work and for pleasure, Sabharwal has always been fascinated by how food and flavours bring us together and create amazing memories. Previously as the head of business development for MEA and Turkey for research firm IDC, Sabharwal honed his understanding of the business and consumer dynamics of the region and what makes the region so unique and truly multi-cultural. It also allowed him to spot the gaps in Dubai’s vibrant food scene and what was missing.
Ian Ohan, Founder & CEO, Freedom Pizza
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.
Kanchan Kulkarni, Founder, KARA
Kanchan Kulkarni, a fashion designer, mother of two and philanthropist, is the woman behind Kara. Born in Mumbai but bred in Dubai, Kulkarni’s first time designing a capsule collection of shirts was in 2013, and in a short span of time the brand has already been featured in high-profile shows in the GCC, India, London, Milan and the US. Kulkarni takes a hand-on approach to her line and is involved all the way though, from designing to manufacturing. She sketches out her designs and buys the fabric and the accessories locally. Her team then create samples from these gathered resources and when the design is approved, it is added to the Kara boutique. Kulkarni has been awarded the Society Icons and the Savvy Woman’s award applauding her great innovations and contribution to the fashion world, as well as her personal achievements, including the Kara Foundation, a not-for-profit fund that uses Kulkarni’s own income to support health and education programmes for underprivileged children in India.
Kunal Kapoor, CEO at The Luxury Closet
Initially sales manager at Louis Vuitton in Mall of the Emirates, Kunal Kapoor noticed how the brand never went on sale, as coveted as it was by many. This brought him to think of ways to democratise luxury and sell items at a lower price, which lead to him founding his own company. The Luxury Closet is a marketplace for new and pre-loved luxury items for top designer brands like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier and Rolex. The company that started in his own apartment, now has close to 80 employees, across the UAE, KSA and India. The company raised over $18 million from leading regional investors like MEVP, Wamda Capital and Precinct. The site now features the largest luxury catalogue in the region with 22,000+ unique styles and customers from over 40 countries each year.
Majed M Al Tahan, Co-founder & CEO, Danube Online and Founder & CEO, AYM
Majed M Al Tahan is an award-winning entrepreneur and young e-commerce leader in Saudi Arabia with a great passion to impact the apps market. A first-mover in the Kingdom to tackle the e-commerce grocery space, from an early age, he was eager to build his own businesses and take the entrepreneurial plunge. After graduating university with an architecture degree, he started working as a real estate developer working with some of the biggest names in the industry. During this period of six years, he continued developing ideas for his next business move. Al Tahan recognised that e-commerce was the missing element in the Saudi commerce landscape at the time and he grabbed the opportunity to begin his journey to build the first-ever online service for grocery shopping in the Kingdom with the BinDawood Group. In 2016, he co-founded Danube Online and founded AYM Commerce as the platform to power the technology needed to revolutionise the region’s e-commerce space. Today, at the helm of Danube Online and AYM Commerce, he’s focused on developing the technology behind the e-commerce app and spearheading the transformation of grocery shopping space.
Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq)
Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal is the executive chairman of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), and is one of the key business leaders in Sharjah. His career with Shurooq began as CEO of the authority in 2009 until mid-2018, after which he became the executive chairman under an Emiri decree by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah. Al Sarkal has led the authority by realising the vision of HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, and established Shurooq as the driving force behind the transformation of Sharjah as a key investment, tourism and business destination in the region. Al Sarkal has and continues to lead major developments and projects by Shurooq, covering tourism, environment, healthcare, logistics, light manufacturing, education and real estate, which has contributed to its on-going success story.
Matthieu Guinard, CEO, GlamBox Middle East
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.
Mehdi Oudghiri, Co-founder & Co-CEO, eyewa
Mehdi Oudghiri is the ocfounder and co-CEO at eyewa, one of the largest e-commerce platforms for eyewear catering to the MENA market. Prior to founding eyewa, Oudghiri led the business operations and growth for Foodpanda, a global mobile food delivery marketplace operating in 12 countries. He co-led the MENA region with Anass Boumediene, co-founder of eyewa, for more than three years until the acquisition by Delivery Hero. After spending nearly a decade as a strategy consultant with Bain & Company, Oudghiri is an expert in various business sectors including retail, consumer goods and telecommunications. In addition to his expertise in strategy consultancy, Oudghiri worked as a product manager for Valeo in China, the French leading auto-parts manufacturer. He holds an MBA from Stanford University, Bachelor in Business from ESSEC Business School in Paris and a Bachelor in Management from Tongji University in Shanghai.
Mohammad Alawi, Chairman of the Board, Saudi Sand Souvenir Co.
Mohammad Alawi is an industry veteran who wears many hats. He was Chairman of Shopping Malls Committee, Jeddah Chamber KSA, as is currently the 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.
Mohammed Parham Al Awadhi, Co-founder, Wild Peeta
Mohammed Parham Al Awadhi is an award-winning Emirati filmmaker, entrepreneur and adventurer. His career spans over two decades and includes building growth strategies for some of the world’s leading global brands. Al Awadhi is the co-founder of Wild Peeta and the recipient of “The 40 Most Influential Emiratis Under 40” title on the occasion of the UAE’s 40th National Day celebration. A creative, lateral thinker with experience across diverse industries, Al Awadhi thrives in situations where he drives business transformation and change management.
Mona Ataya, Founder & CEO, Mumzworld
Mona Ataya is founder and CEO of Mumzworld.com, a leading gold standard e-commerce vertical for baby and child shopping in the Middle East that has been going from strength-to-strength. The year 2018 is pivotal for Mumzworld. Ataya’s vision is not just to create an e-commerce shopping destination for mothers – it is larger than that – it is to create a brand that is an indispensable online extension of a mother’s life through an e-commerce gold standard that challenges the traditional ways e-commerce has been managed regionally. Ataya has proven to be one of the Middle East’s most prominent of women entrepreneurs. Prior to setting up Mumzworld.com, Ataya co-founded Bayt.com, arguably the most successful online search engine for jobs in the Middle East. She boasts a track record of impressive and diverse international experience of being associated with global brands such as P&G in Cincinnati, where she handled brand management for P&G’s and Johnson & Johnson.
Mouna Abassy, Founder & Managing Director, Izil Beauty
The creative force behind Izil Cosmetics, Mouna Abassy is an authentic Berber as her father descends from one of the oldest Berber families in the Atlas region. She ﬁrst got deepened in Argan Oil during her assignment with the Moroccan antenna of OXFAM Quebec when she was in charge of ﬁnding funds to support Argan local co-operatives develop and modernise. Despite enjoying a successful career at one of the world’s largest beauty corporations, Abbassy stayed true to her Moroccan-Berber heritage. The traditional hammam, Argan oil and rhassoul clay were just some of the natural staples of her beauty routine that inspired her to establish an all-natural skincare brand- IZIL. But it was only in September 2012 – when her child was one-year old – that she started investigating the possibility of creating a business on her own. One year and a lot of hard work later, IZIL was an accomplished brand ready to be launched.
Nadine Benchaffai, Co-founder & Managing Partner, Taqado Mexican Kitchen
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.
Omar Al Jundi, Founder & CEO, Badia Farms
Omar Al Jundi is the Founder and CEO of Badia Farms, a pioneering and revolutionising agricultural initiative to provide a sustainable solution for the region’s future. A Saudi national and qualified industrial engineer, Al Jundi began his career in the financial and engineering industries in Saudi Arabia, before following his entrepreneurial passion. This led to a successful business in hospitality, and recognition in the 2007 book ‘Leaders of Saudi Arabia’. Strongly committed to the region, its development and sustainable future, he became focused on agricultural innovations. Studying a variety of methods and techniques around the world, he moved to the UAE to establish Badia Farms. As founder and CEO of Badia Farms, Al Jundi drives the business vision, with ambitious plans to lead the region’s agriculture industry. He holds a BSc in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Miami. He is a certified industrial consultant from the Saudi Council of Engineers license number 3536 and a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) UAE Chapter.
Paul Kenny, Managing Director, AYM Commerce
Paul Kenny is a renowned technology entrepreneur in the Middle East. Kenny is one of the most important figures in the start-up space in the MENA region and is an active investor, mentor and advisor to numerous companies and organisations, including governmental and non-profits, around the world. Kenny founded Dubai based online coupon website, Cobone at the age of 25, which was later sold in a multi-million-euro deal, to the US-based investment firm Tiger Global Management. Before the age of 30, he was a founding partner of four companies including Emerge Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on high-impact early stage and Series A investments in emerging markets. Kenny is currently managing director of AYM Commerce, a company specialising in breakthrough digital technologies and online business in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and across the globe, including one of the largest e-commerce grocery platforms in the Middle East, the BinDawood group’s, Danube Online.
Raki Phillips, Co-founder & CEO, SugarMoo
Raki Phillips is a hospitality veteran, who over the last 15 years has worked for some of the world’s 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, Al Basta Sandwiches, District Lounge in DIFC & District47 Dubai’s highest rooftop at Warwick Hotel Sheikh Zayed Road. Phillips co-founded SugarMoo Desserts in 2014 and currently is CEO of the home-grown start-up, which caters to sweet cravings across the UAE and is Dubai’s first online dessert delivery business. It also manages and operates several dessert labs & lounges across town including Dar Wasl Jumeirah, Mercato Mall, Dubai Parks & Resorts and VOX Cinemas, Mall of the Emirates.
Ramzi Nakad, Co-founder, BRAG
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.
Raza Beig, CEO – Splash & ICONIC & Landmark international, and Director – Landmark Group
Raza Beig heads Splash and ICONIC & LMI, the fashion concepts of the retail conglomerate Landmark Group. He is also a Director of Landmark Group. Back in 1993, when Splash was at a nascent stage, Beig was involved in almost every aspect of the business from buying to visual merchandising, budgeting and retail operations. Over two decades with the organisation, Beig’s strong dedication and passion guided Splash to become a category leader and a core brand within the Landmark Group’s portfolio. Splash currently operates over 220 stores and 55 brand stores (offering brands such as Lee Cooper, Bossini, Kappa and more) across 14 countries. Along with Splash, Beig heads ICONIC, a 7-year-old business of Landmark Group – the brainchild of Chairperson Micky Jagtiani. With 27 stores in 3 countries Beig with his strong business acumen plans to take the brand way ahead in the coming future.
Saad Umerani, Co-Founder & CEO, Protein Bakeshop
Saad Umerani is the co-founder and CEO of Protein Bakeshop, a Dubai-based healthy snacks company founded in 2014. Protein Bakeshop develops healthy, guilt-free snacks that don’t compromise on taste. Umerani is also passionate about start-ups and technology. He is the founding partner at Enabling Future, a Dubai-based venture capital firm that makes seed and early stage investments in companies in the US and MENA. Some of their notable investments include Cowlar, Thrive Market, Aspiration, AlemHealth, Aspiration and Protein Bakeshop. He is a former technology and social entrepreneur, he founded two fintech software programmes which add efficiency to banks’ lending and KYC processes in the Middle East. The software is currently used by 40 banks in the region and is owned by his family business, ValuStrat. Umerani has previously worked in investment banking, management consulting and technology sectors in the Middle East. He received his bachelor’s in engineering from McMaster University in Canada.
Sajan Alex, Vice President, Tablez Food Company
Sajan Alex is the vice president of Tablez Food Company, the F&B retailing division of Abu-Dhabi based retail conglomerate Lulu Group. A seasoned F&B professional, Alex has over 15 years’ experience with some of the leading players in India and GCC. The Tablez Food Company that started out by opening two home-grown concepts, Bloomsbury’s Café and Peppermill has now enhanced its portfolio with a mix of home-grown and franchised concepts like Galito’s, Famous Dave’s, Pancake House, Sugar Factory, Genghis Grill and more.
Sarah Jones, Founder & CEO, Sprii
Bitten by the entrepreneurial bug at just 14, Sarah Jones set up a profitable eBay business importing items from across the globe and selling in the UK. Four years later, a degree in Economics at Edinburgh University heightened her financial acumen. Her placement at Deloitte London in the retail M&A team led to an international secondment in the Middle East a few years later. That’s where the Mini Exchange story began. Spotting a gap in the market on arrival, Jones secured funding for Mini Exchange in a matter of months, growing from an exchange platform for parents to a hugely successful e-commerce venture in just two years. In 2016, Jones turned her attention to growing the brand portfolio to include “At Home,” “Pre/Post Pregnancy” and “Get Fit” categories, thus paving the way for Mini Exchange to evolve and become a destination providing ‘Everything For Mums’. A natural extension for the online portal, a brand refresh followed in early 2017, leading to the creation of Sprii.com, the shopping hub loved and trusted by mums in the Middle East.
Shafeena Yusuffali, CEO, Tablez Food Company
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 and an Oxford EMBA graduate, 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 and most recently American brasserie and celebrity brand Sugar Factory and Mongolian Genghis Grill. 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.
Sian Rowlands, Owner & Chief Storyteller, RETOLD
An award-winning F&B and hospitality designer by profession, Sian Rowlands has successfully created and developed several large-scale design projects. Rowlands originally conceived the idea for My Ex Wardrobe when studying for her LEED Green Associate qualification. As the qualification focused on sustainable living, she embarked on a journey to lead a lower-impact lifestyle. Based on this experience, she identified a gap in the local market for a sustainable concept. My Ex Wardrobe rapidly skyrocketed and Rowlands was recognised with two business awards within the first six months. After several years of pursuing My Ex Wardrobe on the side, an inspiring meeting on a trek to Everest's base camp lead her to enter and win an impressive business competition. This meeting also introduced Rowlands to her new business partner. Launching the brand's first permanent boutique also inspired a rebrand. Rowlands continues telling the story of pre-loved fashion under a different name. This is the core philosophy behind RETOLD.
Stephen Holbrook, Member of Executive Board – Divisional Director, Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group LLC
Stephen Holbrook directs the Clothing Division for the Kamal Osman Jamjoom (KOJ) Group, comprising of 4 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 our world.
Tarek Ahmed, Venture Growth Manager, Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center – Sheraa
Tarek Ahmed Fouad is venture growth manager at the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center – Sheraa, spearheading Sheraa’s accelerator programme to contribute to Sharjah’s vision in becoming the entrepreneurial hub of the Middle East. He brings in over 8 years of experience in leading business entities and an extensive background in strategic marketing and lean business models. Fouad founded Lean International in 2012, which was sold off to a private equity firm, and cofounded Wakil Technologies, a blockchain government services portal, earlier this year. He has also worked with the likes of TechWadi in Silicon Valley as UAE’s country manager. The young business entrepreneur has published numerous research papers in both engineering and marketing fields and was a motivational speaker in various events held by the Dubai government and TEDx. Fouad holds a Master’s degree in control engineering and an MBA from the prestigious London Business School. He is also a certified personal trainer, life-coach, NLP practitioner and hypnotherapist.
Walid Hajj, Executive Chairman, Cravia
Walid Hajj is the executive chairman of Cravia, a Dubai-based restaurant company with presence across the UAE, in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Hajj is responsible for providing strategic direction for the company’s portfolio that includes over 60 restaurants and a team of over 2,000 people. His overarching role encompasses business planning, organisational excellence and the long-term development objectives for six brands under the Cravia umbrella – Cinnabon, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Zaatar w Zeit, The Steak Bar, Carvel Ice Cream and the company’s most recent franchise acquisition, Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Proir to establishing Cravia, Hajj was brand manager at Procter & Gamble for two years and vice president of operations for his family business, United Group, in Saudi Arabia. He holds a BS degree in industrial management from the University of Petroleum and Minerals and an MBA from Harvard University.
Zaid Alqufaidi, Managing Director, ENOC Retail
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.