Abdul Kader Saadi
Abdul Kader Saadi
Managing Director - Glee Hospitality Solutions

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. 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 outlets in London. In 2008 he moved to the UAE, Dubai and set up Glee Hospitality Solutions by the end of 2009. Now in it is 10th year of operations, Glee Hospitality Solutions has successfully launched over 50 concepts, opened more than 60 outlets across the region. Glee Hospitality Solutions is currently working on regional and global projects.

Ahmed Kazim
Ahmed Kazim
Co-founder - Project Chaiwala

A millennial raised in a traditional Emirati neighbourhood, following his ancestors’ footsteps through determined hard work and commitment, Ahmed Kazim was capable of working his way up into a career through audit and financial advisory at Deloitte, a globally recognised firm. After finally realising his entrepreneurial streak, Kazim partnered with his colleague to provide the real chai (tea) experience and ‘add life to life’ through the birth of Project Chaiwala.

Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer
Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer
COO - Shurooq

Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer graduated from Dubai Men’s College with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Information Technology. In 2002 he started his career at The Emirates Telecommunication Corporation (Etisalat) in the Government & Corporate Segment and worked as senior sales support and senior sales executive for four years. In 2006, he joined the Al Qasba Development Authority as a business development manager and was promoted to director of business development in 2008, forming an integral part of the team that transformed Al Qasba into a popular leisure and tourism destination. Following his highly successful track record with Al Qasba, Al Qaseer played a key role in the establishment of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), where he held the position of director of property management in 2010, being in charge of property, operations, sales and leasing. Since then he has been promoted to become Shurooq’s Chief Operating Officer in 2011, being responsible for the operational execution of all of Shurooq’s projects and destinations.

Ahmed Ragab
Ahmed Ragab
Group CEO and Executive Board Member - BRG Holding

Ahmed Ragab is the group CEO and executive board member of Egypt-based BRG Holding. He is the CEO and board member of Barak Optics Group, as well as board member of Baraka Folio Company and Sigma Construction. Ragab is also a selected entrepreneur with Endeavor Egypt. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the American University in Cairo, Master’s in Business Administration from Maastricht School of Management in the Netherlands. He also completed the Scaling Ventures Programme from Harvard Business School in the US.

Akanksha Goel
Akanksha Goel
Founder & Managing Director - Socialize

Akanksha Goel is the Founder of Socialize (2010), an independent social media agency, recognised amongst the country’s top performing businesses and included in Dubai’s prestigious SME100 ranking (2015). Goel was nominated as Emirates Woman of The Year in 2013. She is also the Founder of FrontRow.ae, Middle East’s first curated network of social media influencers.

Amit Dhamani
Amit Dhamani
Managing Director - Dhamani Jewels Group

Amit Dhamani is the Managing Director of Dhamani Jewels Group. He started his career with setting up office for the Group in Bangkok in 1989. During these 30 years, the Dhamani Group has evolved from gem and diamond wholesale business to having notable fine jewellery brands as Dhamani 1969, Dhamani Jewels, DuSoul and Laviere with Dubai as headquarters. Dhamani is a Harvard Business School Alumni and is on the Board of Director at the Dubai Diamond Exchange (DDE) & The Dubai Gold and Jewellery Group and in the Board of Governors of GIA (Gemological Institute of America).

Amit Yadav
Amit Yadav
Head of Marketing - 2XL Furniture & Home Décor

Amit Yadav is the head of marketing for home-grown luxury home furnishings brand 2XL Furniture & Home Décor with nine exclusive showrooms across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah and Al Ain. He joined the company in 2016 and is responsible for strategic brand management and strong market positioning of 2XL Furniture & Home while leading the enterprise-wide integrated brand and media strategy. In addition, he overseas customer research and market analytics to create conceptual branding and marketing campaigns across the various distribution channels. With an outstanding all-round experience of nearly 12 years, and a diploma in Digital Marketing from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management – Calcutta, Yadav represents the successful leadership model at 2XL and has been playing an instrumental role in supporting the luxury brand’s vision and long-term growth and expansion. Yadav began his career at the Reliance Trends Ltd in 2007 and progressively worked his way up gaining valuable experience with diverse and leading companies such as BinHendi Enterprises, Pure Gold Jewellers and Lifestyle & BeautyBay – Landmark Group.

Armin Jamula
Armin Jamula
Co-founder & CEO - ItsHerWay.com

Armin Jamula is the co-founder & CEO (or SheEO) of ItsHerWay, a platform that supports and empowers passionate and creative business driven women in the region. the platform’s mission is to enable and accelerate financial independence of women who have a passion and want to make profits from it. ItsHerWay not only supports them through the community built together but also through actual commerce driven channels where they can sell their products, services and skill. It is a social enterprise formed by women for women to excel and become more independent and confident human beings. Jamula and her business partner Alita Rodrigues believe that the more women they can empower, the more they contribute towards breaking the gender barriers to create a better world one step at a time. Through ItsHerWay’s commerce channels – including ItsHerStore.com and ItsHerSkill.com –a sustained income is ensured to the #shepreneurs through sale and scale of the individual microbusinesses.

Ashish Shukla
Ashish Shukla
CEO - Cinépolis Gulf

Ashish Shukla is the CEO of Cinépolis Gulf. In his role, Shukla is responsible for adapting Cinépolis International best practices in cinemas under the banner ‘Cinépolis Gulf’, which commenced operations in Bahrain and Oman in 2019 and will soon launch in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. With his expertise and experience, Shukla brings on board an extensive first-hand experience in film exhibition, hospitality, retail and real estate. He is adept at technological integration with rich experience in selection, application of relevant and emerging technologies in pursuit of exceeding business goals. With hospitality roots and over two decades of experience, Shukla has successfully established multiple businesses from start-up phase to full-blown scalable businesses in his professional journey viz. Cinépolis India, Bharti Retail (Walmart India), PVR Cinemas. Shukla is always enthusiastic to think creative, providing unique concepts and innovations to the projects he is associated with.

Bahaneh Dehghani Green
Bahaneh Dehghani Green
Founder - Happy Bubble

A civil engineer by profession, Bahaneh Dehghani Green’s creative spirit led to the inception of Happy Bubble and a gradual career switch. What started off as a passion project on the side “ballooned” into a full-time role. Happy Bubble is famous for personalised bubble balloons and balloon installations in the UAE. From handpicking raw materials to supporting local artists, Green indulges herself in the research and creative process. Taking the plunge in a saturated industry, Green prides herself in bringing something unique to the table. She also hopes to set an example as a pioneering female entrepreneur in the UAE. Green has created branded balloon invitations for the renowned French jewellery Maison Van Cleef & Arpels, organised a massive balloon-drop for a fashion show by Level Kids in collaboration with UNICEF and decorated a 25-meter-long wall with approximately 9,000 colourful balloons for charity organisation, Al Jalila Foundation. Happy Bubble has also provided festive décor for du, L’Oreal, Charlotte Tilbury, L’Occitane, Cartier, Huda Beauty and several others.

Bernhard Heiden
Bernhard Heiden
Chief Strategy Officer & Creative Director - Schweitzer Group & Interstore

Bernhard Heiden has worked for 18 years as an architect and visual merchandising expert in various areas of responsibility for Manor, one of the largest department store chains in Switzerland. Meanwhile, he has been Creative Director of Interstore for over 19 years. He has a passion for working in different areas of fashion and food, for different markets and at different levels. This passion, combined with the constant question about how to turn them into a successful retail format, makes his work stand out. Moreover, as Chief Strategy Officer of the Schweitzer Group, he further develops the corporate strategy together with the company owner Bernhard Schweitzer.

Butheina Kazim
Butheina Kazim
Founder & Managing Director - Cinema Akil

Butheina Kazim is the Co-founder of Cinema Akil – the first arthouse cinema in Dubai and the Gulf region. She was a Fulbright scholar of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU and has worked as a project manager in television and radio stations in the UAE at media conglomerates Arab Media Group and Dubai Media Incorporated. Kazim has been involved in programming cinema pop-ups, including Abu Dhabi Film Festival at The Pavilion and a Focus on the UAE programme at the Short Film Week (Kurzfilmwoche) in Regensburg, Germany. She is the producer of short documentary ‘Letters to Palestine’; winner of the Special Jury Prize at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (2010). Kazim was on the jury for the iEmmys Asia & Africa Competition, the International Competition at the Regensburg Kurzfilmwoch (Short Film Week), Imagine Science Film Festival AD, A Shaded View on Fashion Films (ASVOFF) in Paris at the Centre Pompidou and is a member of the UAE Academy Award Committee.

Carole Moawad
Carole Moawad
Co-founder - M’OISHÎ

Born and raised in Lebanon, Carole Moawad has a degree in chemistry, and is the co-founder of M’OISHÎ, UAE’s first and only home-grown mochi ice-cream manufacturer. It was during her visit to Beirut that Moawad first came across mochi ice-creams at a Japanese restaurant, and instantly fell in love with everything about this unique dessert. She began to lay the foundations for her ‘dream project’ soon, working on launching M’OISHÎ, alongside her hectic 9-5 insurance job. From preparing and experimenting with a variety of flavours and recipes at her own home to carrying out photoshoots at her partner’s house and partnering with a start-up agency in Lebanon for all branding material, the initial few months of M’OISHÎ were incredibly difficult and challenging. In March 2017, Moawad opened her first M’OISHÎ store in City Walk, Dubai. Today, there are 13 M’OISHÎ cafés across the UAE and one franchise in Saudi Arabia, with the aim to soon expand the Japanese café concept to Europe, North Africa and the US.

Chang Sup Shin
Chang Sup Shin
CEO - 1004 Gourmet

Chang Sup Shin is the CEO of 1004 Gourmet, a Dubai-based Asian speciality food retail brand that also supplies to the likes of Carrefour; Nobu at Atlantis, The Palm; Burj Al Arab; Armani Hotel; and Zuma. Shin has reshaped 1004 Gourmet into a high-end concept store with an expansive product line, inclusive of an Asian supermarket, a premium butchery, a speciality coffee shop and a Korean cosmetics store Lamise Beauty. In 1987, Shin left his hometown in South Korea and journeyed across the world gathering the expertise and know-how to allow for his current success in Dubai. After obtaining his Business Management degree from Penn State University in the US, he navigated the financial crisis of 2008 in New York whilst working within the real estate industry. With both business acumen and hard graft, Shin launched 1004 Mart in Dubai in 2008, stocking and distributing Japanese products and fresh produce from one of the world’s largest seafood markets, Tsukiji, to over 250 restaurants across the UAE.

Charbel Lahoud
Charbel Lahoud
Head of Digital Scouting - Chalhoub Group

Charbel Lahoud is the Head of Digital Scouting for luxury retailer Chalhoub Group. Lahoud has worked for more than eight years in a global management consulting firm, across industries supporting companies – crafting and implementing their digital transformation plan. He joined Chalhoub Group four years ago and incubated the e-commerce activities for the group. Lahoud is currently in charge of building strategic partnerships in the digital ecosystem and leading the efforts towards building the ‘store of the future’.

Duncan Fraser-Smith
Duncan Fraser-Smith
Vice President of F&B - The First Group

Duncan Fraser-Smith has spent the past 26 years in the hospitality industry, spanning Australia, Asia and the Middle East. During the past 10 years, he has been in the Middle East in key corporate food and beverage roles within the hospitality industry. In 2013, he established “The Cutting Edge Agency” and opened several outlets in the region including Michelin starred chef Jason Atherton’s Marina Social as well as Michelin starred Chef Greg Malouf’s Cle in the DIFC as well as Intersect by Lexus, to name a few. As Vice President of The First Group’s Food and Beverage division, he created and executed six new outlets for the group during his first year, for its newly formed standalone division. Through Fraser-Smith’s expertise, The First Group was able to secure the right to conceptualise and operate the world’s first Masterchef-branded restaurant called MasterChef, the TV Experience, which opened in Dubai in late April 2019.

Ebraheem Al Samadi
Ebraheem Al Samadi
CEO Retail - Al Samadi Group

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 of 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. With brands, products and successful business models sourced from the US, Canada and Europe, the company portfolio is diverse and continues to expand. Al Samadi’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. By taking successful business models and proven products and applying local knowledge, Al Samadi now treats the UAE to the best the world has to offer.

Elena Weber
Elena Weber
Founder and Managing Director - ICONS Coffee Couture

Model turned entrepreneur, Elena Weber is the founder and managing director of ICONS Coffee Couture – a café that blends glamour with health & wellness. Launched in 2012, Weber signed the first franchisee for ICONS in 2013, which led to the opening of ICONS Coffee Couture outlet at Souk al Bahar in The Dubai Mall. Between 2014 and 2018 Weber undertook expansion of ICONS Coffee Couture, signing the master franchise of Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. In 2018, the first ICONS branch opened in Austria. Currently, Weber operates 11 owned ICONS Coffee Couture branches in the UAE, with 50+ signed and upcoming franchise branches internationally.

Elli Kasbi
Elli Kasbi
Founder & CEO - Elli Junior

Elli Kasbi is a mother of two and has been living in Dubai for the last five years. Established in 2017 by Elli Kasbi When Kasbi moved to the UAE, she I noticed a gap in the children’s market – high-quality and beautiful baby items with a Scandinavian design touch and focus on sustainability. A huge fan of the Swedish brand Elodie Details, Kasbi decided to bring it to the GCC, and that’s how Elli Junior started in 2017. Today, Elli Junior is the exclusive distributor for some of the best Swedish brands, including Elodie Details, JaBaDaBaDo and Kids Concept. Elli Junior sells through its e-shop, as well as through high-end brands such as Level Kids, Bumble Bee and House of Fraser in Abu Dhabi. Elli Junior offers functional and innovative baby products that live up to the motto of making ‘big differences for small people’. Without any prior knowledge of the industry and market in less than two years, Kasbi has ensured growth for Elli Junior by being profitable and present in 20 stores across the UAE.

Fabrice Le Boulenger
Fabrice Le Boulenger
CEO - Grandiose Supermarket

With over two decades of food retail experience in Europe, South America, Africa and the Middle East, Fabrice Le Boulenger currently holds the position of CEO of Grandiose Supermarket in the UAE. Le Boulenger started his career by opening his own French restaurant chains in Buenos Aires, Argentina, before moving to the Carrefour Group, where he spent the majority of his work experience, working in retail operations and development, in four different continents. After launching Carrefour operations across three countries in West Africa, he decided to join UAE-based Ghassan Aboud Group (GAG), to dedicate his energy in the development of new concept stores in the region. In his current position, Le Boulenger is leading the partnership between GAG and Intermarche, the third biggest food retailer in France, to expand a unique and modern style of supermarkets under the name of ‘Grandiose Partnaire Intermarche’ in the UAE. Le Boulenger is passionate about gastronomy and dreams of an environment that encompasses fair trade, eco-friendly initiatives and plastic-free for the new generation of customers.

Feras Almaddah
Feras Almaddah
Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer - Zmakan

Feras Almaddah has over 20 years of experience serving multinational brands. He has worked with several global agencies such as Publicis across various engagements in the MENA region. Some of the clients and brands he worked with include Unilever, Samsung Electronics, Procter & Gamble, Mercedes-Benz, MMW and Mitsubishi Motors. Almaddah is the founder of Headlines PR and Events that has carried out several campaigns and events in Europe and the Middle East for companies such as Sesame Street and the Saudi Arabian government’s 2030 initiative. He is also the co-founder & chief marketing officer for Saudi Arabia-based home-grown brand Zmakan.

Florencio Padilla
Florencio Padilla
Head of People Experience - Chalhoub Group

Florencio Padilla has been working as an HR professional in Asia and Middle East since 2007. He is the Head of People Experience division within Group HR at Chalhoub Group. He led the division’s setup in the beginning of 2018 and development of its three-year strategy, with a strong focus on redesigning experiences in different touch points in the employees’ life cycle. He specialises in learning and development, employee engagement, organisational effectiveness and employee experience. He uses people experience data to re-design and enhance the experience of the 12,000+ employees of Chalhoub Group across the Middle East. Prior to joining Chalhoub Group, Padilla led the setup of L&D departments of a premium airline in Kuwait and a regional airline in Dubai, where he achieved great success. He helps leaders and organisations develop their people capability and enhances people engagement at work using design thinking as a methodology and a wide range of practical interventions.

Furqan Athar
Furqan Athar
Managing Director - McArthur + Company

Over the past two decades, Furqan Athar has been instrumental in the management, as well as the financial and administrative strategic planning of some of the most successful shopping centres and mixed-use developments in the Middle East and Asia. Furqan began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG before taking on management positions with Dubai-based developers Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Centres and Al-Futtaim Group Real Estate. In 2006, Athar founded Retail Solutions, an investment management and advisory firm based in Dubai. He is also Managing Director of Spret Retail, a multinational retailing company with various locations across the Middle East. In 2011, Athar became a partner at McARTHUR + COMPANY. As director of strategic planning and finance, he leads the team on various assignments throughout the Middle East, North America and Asia. He has extensive experience in all aspects of the shopping centre industry, more specifically in investment management and value creation.

Geetanjali Kaul
Geetanjali Kaul
Co-founder - TurtleCard

A young mother with over a decade of marketing experience across a number of different industries, Geetanjali Kaul felt daunted by the task of raising a toddler and keeping him suitably engaged in various social, physical and developmental activities. This led to the launch of TurtleCard, a kid’s activity booking app. Kaul has since gone on to win first prize at the Pitch Rising finale hosted by Mompreneurs Worldwide in December 2018 and reached the top three at the competition hosted by Step Conference 2019 in February 2019. TurtleCard has been selected by Dubai Chamber of Commerce as one of the top three start-ups that will be showcased under their education pillar to schools and universities. The app continues to go from strength-to-strength working on their first round of investment in 2019. TurleCard was also in the top 50 start-ups at Smartpreneur 4.0, which was conducted by Dubai Startup Hub at Dubai Chamber of commerce, competing with over 350 start-ups.

George Kunnappally
George Kunnappally
Managing Director - Nando’s UAE

A seasoned hospitality industry professional, George Kunnappally has been into franchise operations, brand development and F&B management for over 20 years. He has launched and built brands like Subway, Charley’s Philly Steaks, Whittard of Chelsea, Bateaux Dubai, Second Cup Coffee, Joe’s Café, Johnny Rockets and a host of UAE bred concepts in the Middle East, Africa and CIS regions. Starting his career with the Taj Group of Hotels in India, Kunnappally has worked at the senior management level with large conglomerates headquartered in Dubai with a MENA footprint. His previous roles were with Al Madani Group, BinHendi Enterprises, Al Faris Restaurants LLC, ADNOC Distribution. Currently, Kunnappally is the Managing Director of Nando’s Restaurants, based in Dubai. Most recently, he was Executive Director – Private Equity at Regulus Capital Limited. A graduate in Hotel Management, Kunnappally also holds a Master’s degree in Tourism Management.

Girard Moussa
Girard Moussa
Director of CX - SAP

Girard Moussa is the Director of CX at SAP leading the CX transformation across Middle East South. Moussa joined from Microsoft where he was the Cybersecurity Director for MEA. He joined the Microsoft Enterprise Cybersecurity Group as the first person on the ground in 2016 to engage with the top customers to establish Microsoft as a trusted Cybersecurity Advisor. Previous to Microsoft, Moussa was the Regional Sales Director for Splunk across the Middle East. In 2010, Girard established the Enterprise business for Google in MENA and Turkey and headed the Enterprise unit at Google until 2014. Prior to that, he held senior sales roles at multinationals including Cisco Systems, Dimension Data and Schlumberger. Moussa has over 20 years of industry and technology experience across the Middle East and Australia.

Hathal Saad Alutaibi
Hathal Saad Alutaibi
CEO & Board Member - Alandalus Property Co.

Hathal Saad Alutaibi is the CEO and board member of Saudi Arabia-based, public listed company called Alandalus Property Company. He is also a board member of Hamat Real Estate Company and West Jeddah Hospital Co – the company that owns Dr. Suliman Alhabib Hospital in Jeddah. In his role, Alutaibi has led the company’s businesses and its super-regional malls transformation to a customer centric and shopper engaging destinations. Alutaibi holds a master’s degree in finance, post graduate diploma and bachelor degree in marketing.

Heba Al Farazi
Heba Al Farazi
Founder & CEO - Coveti

Emirati entrepreneur Heba Al Fazari is a visionary and founder of Coveti. A former diplomat, the first Emirati offshore engineer in 2002 and author of “Politics of fashion: The Global Sourcing Hacks Every Fashion Designers Need” she has worked and lived in more than 10 countries. Armed with a Georgetown Global MBA and Foreign Relation, Al Farazi is an advisor in global sourcing and non-market strategies. With strong knowledge in factories relocation for best market access, Al Farazi uses many innovative strategies to expand her business across different territories. With Coveti, she has set out on a journey to support the new wave of emerging brands that would otherwise remain undiscovered and unheard. Al Farazi is now on a mission to create a global revolutionary data driven platform to unite best emerging brands with the millions of people across the globe who are looking for their next unique treasure find.

Heer Lalwani
Heer Lalwani
Marketing Manager - Al Ghurair Retail

Utilising creativity, innovation and passion, Heer Lalwani has successfully carried out and executed various marketing campaigns in the region. In her current role with Al Ghurair Retail, she is responsible for managing a team of three and oversees all marketing operations for brands such as Springfield and The Face Shop – including devising and implementation of strategies. Lalwani’s versatility and knowledge in the field give her a unique edge to be able to devise catchy and innovative campaigns for brands.

Hesham Almekkawi
Hesham Almekkawi
CEO - YYT Food Corp

Hesham Almekkawi is currently the CEO of YYT Food Corp. based in Dubai and the operator of multi restaurant brands in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and KSA. He is an International Business Consultant and F&B industry expert with more than 25 years’ experience in managing global and international chains of restaurants in the US and the Middle East. He is the founder and president of AHRAMIZ FZ LLC, a leadership development and management consulting company based in Dubai. Prior to AHRAMIZ, Almekkawi was the Vice President of Hospitality for Majid Al Futtaim and COO for Kuwait Food Company (Americana) in the UAE. Prior to moving to Dubai in 2008, Almekkawi held several leadership positions with YUM! Brands and ADF Companies in New York and the Mid-Atlantic Region in the US for more than 15 years. Almekkawi holds a Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Alexandria University in Egypt and EMBA from the Zicklin School of Business in New York.

Ian Alexander Hunter
Ian Alexander Hunter
COO - BinSina & Holland & Barrett

Ian Alexander Hunter is a highly experienced international general manager with a first-class track record obtained across three continents. He uses deep customer insights and understanding to establish a differentiated brand position. Hunter’s extensive experience across many disciplines – marketing, commercial, supply chain as well as managing director – allows him to take a 360-degree viewpoint to any business problem and allows him to create a solution that is pragmatic allowing successful implementation. His brand building skills span from start-ups in the Far East, Thailand and Japan, where he brought the Boots brand to a new consumer to reinvigorate the iconic brand from the UK back to its pharmacy roots. He also instigated and pioneered the relaunch of British beauty brand No7 overseeing the full marketing mix through to the implementation across 1,300 stores. Hunter’s easy-going style allows others to feel relaxed with him, thereby creating a coaching and empowering environment. He has performed in diverse environments – from the challenging business environment of profit warnings and breakdown of JVs to social, political and leadership challenges of leading a business during military coup.

Ibrahim Abudyak
Ibrahim Abudyak
Co-founder - The Smash Room

Ibrahim Abudyak is a serial entrepreneur and a strategist. He excels at creating systems and processes, which guarantee businesses to thrive and operate at maximum profitability and customers’ satisfaction. He is the co-founder of Dubai’s ultimate de-stress destination, The Smash Room. Having quit the corporate world after over eight years of experience in sales, marketing, operations, CRM, customer service and business development and management, Abudyak still serves as a consultant for a number of businesses especially in the automotive industry and start-ups ecosystem. He has led his team of young entrepreneurs to top the Techstars’ 2017 Dubai Startup Weekend competition and continues to support young and aspiring entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams and fulfil their passion. He enjoys building projects, systems and companies from scratch and going through the thrill of a new venture whilst leading them to thrive and grow at the same time. Abudyak’s work has been featured in a number of local, regional and international media and entrepreneurial authorities.

Isobel Abulhoul
Isobel Abulhoul
Co-founder - Magrudy’s

Isobel Abulhoul was born and educated at Cambridge in the UK. She came to Dubai in 1968 and it has been home for her ever since. Abulhoul co-founded Magrudy’s, a bookshop chain, in 1975. In addition to Magrudy’s, she was a co-founder of Jerboa Books, a publishing company which produces children’s books in Arabic and English. Abulhoul has a keen and abiding interest in education and literacy. Following a chance conversation and the support of Emirates Airline, she founded and directed the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, from its inception until 2019. In 2013, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and also the Festival patron, issued a Decree forming the Emirates Literature Foundation, naming Abulhoul as one of the trustees on the Board. In addition, Abulhoul also holds the position of CEO of the Foundation. She is also a Trustee of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction Board, Secretary General of the Kalimat Foundation and Director of the Board for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library and a member of the Supreme Committee for the Year of Tolerance.

Jim Ragsdale
Jim Ragsdale
Deputy CEO – Beauty - Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group

Jim Ragsdale has been with Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group LLC for over five years and is currently Deputy CEO of the Beauty Division, responsible for the management and development of Mikyajy, The Body Shop, Neal’s Yard Remedies and Nayomi Beauty Salon. Ragsdale holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in East Asian Studies (Japan) from Yale University, along with an MBA from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration. He commenced his career with L’Oréal in New York and Paris. More recently, Ragsdale has held senior management positions at MH Alshaya Co. and Zohoor Alreef.

Katia Kachan
Katia Kachan
Managing Partner - All4Founders

Katia Kachan is a cross-border business development adviser for luxury and retail companies. Her professional mission is to contribute to international development of diverse industry players, from creative tech start-ups to global brands and retailers. Kachan acquired her business acumen while working in investment banking in London and Paris, after graduating from Sciences Po Paris with a Masters of Finance in 2010. Passionate about consumer goods and luxury industries, she has worked in the corporate advisory department of Nasdaq, where she helped to raise funds for large listed multinationals of consumer discretionary and luxury sectors. After receiving an MBA from INSEAD in 2016, Kachan moved to Dubai, where she has built a cross-border match-making platform for retail and fashion tech start-ups. Her objective is to put Dubai on a world map as an innovation hub for immersive and technology-powered customer experiences, by bringing the most innovative solutions via a number of global competitions and ensuring their successful integration in retail spaces.

Khadija Al Bastaki
Khadija Al Bastaki
Executive Director - Dubai Design District

Khadija Al Bastaki plays a key role in positioning Dubai Design District (d3) both regionally and globally through strategic development, cultural programming and partnerships. Al Bastaki continues to focus on building d3’s profile as the leading destination for design, art and culture. Her responsibilities include enabling a strong design community, attracting and nurturing home-grown design talents and elevating the UAE culture and design scene to a global level. She also manages the implementation of d3’s business vision and future growth plans. Al Bastaki brings to her role more than 14 years of executive experience. Prior to her current position, Al Bastaki was director of business development for Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and Dubai Production City. She holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Strategic Management from the Higher Colleges of Technology in Abu Dhabi and a Bachelor’s degree in Software Engineering Technology from the Higher Colleges of Technology in Dubai.

Kristine Lasam
Kristine Lasam
Head of Branding and Integrated Marketing - Accenture Interactive – Middle East and Turkey

Kristine Lasam is a go-getter and passionate digital and strategy executive with over 15 years’ experience in advising and operating businesses in MENA. She demonstrates experience in a full range of transformational digital business operations aimed at traction and growth. Lasam has looked after a formidable list of global household brands like PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, COTY USA, Bombardier as well as helped launched rising start-ups. With several successful case studies published in her belt, she is a sought-after voice in the digital, media and technology space and has regularly provided mentorship in the UAE circles like to In5, GITEX, SBWC and UAE Innovation Week, among others. In her capacity as Head of Branding and Integrated Marketing in the Middle East for Accenture Interactive, her mandate and passion are anchored on marrying the right and the left brain, delivering powerful strategies for brand and communications engagement, creating compelling content that converts, ideas that can scale and impact that flexes the needle.

Kunal Kapoor
Kunal Kapoor
Founder & CEO - 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.

Laurent Guitart
Laurent Guitart
CEO - Circle K UAE

Laurent Guitart has over 22 years of experience in retail with wide experience across verticals – including hypermarket, central purchase and leading international franchise of convenience stores. Currently, Guitart is the CEO of Convenience Arabia, Circle K master franchise in the UAE. Guitart grew the Circle K UAE business to 36 convenience stores, signed premium locations as Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Queen Elisabeth II Hotel and also partnered with Dubai Summer Sport Event in Dubai World Trade Center. The number of Circle K customers increased from 4.6 to 6 million per annum. Prior to join Circle K, Guitart was the general manager of retail subsidiary of DAS Holding based in Abu Dhabi. From 2006-11 Guitart was in charge of Hyperpanda non-food purchase & merchandising department in Dubai Festival City branch. Prior to 2006, he was head of non-food in Geant Casino in France for a period of eight years. Guitart holds a Bachelor of Commerce and retail with a Major in Negotiation from Rive Gauche University, France.

Leanne Sherlock
Leanne Sherlock
Co-founder - Safe Space

Leanne Sherlock is a passionate Brand and Marketing Consultant with over 10 years of experience. She can provide strategic and practical advice to boost a company’s marketing efforts. She has the ability to plan any marketing strategy and implement all activities needed to support the strategy. In addition, Sherlock is someone who is ready to make a difference – focusing her efforts in growing a social enterprise – Safe Space – that is devoted to improving mental wellbeing in society.

Leena Khalil
Leena Khalil
Co-founder - Mumzworld

Leena Khalil is the Co-founder of Mumzworld, responsible for the developmental strategy and growth of the business in the GCC. Khalil felt compelled to join Mona Ataya, the CEO of Mumzworld, in establishing a comprehensive bilingual online shopping and information portal dedicated to everything mother, baby and child that empowers mothers in the region. Khalil has previously worked for Liberata, a leading business process outsourcer. She started her career in investment banking at a San Francisco investment bank focused on the technology sector. She brings a wealth of experience to her role, combining strong analytical and financial skills with the ability to develop technology driven processes that increase access, reduce costs and improve quality. Khalil’s experience also extends to the listing of a number of Europe’s leading internet and technology firms during her time at Citigroup and Robertson Stephens International. She holds a BA in Electrical Engineering from Cambridge University.

Lucy Chow
Lucy Chow
Director - Women’s Angel Investor Network

Lucy Chow is focused on the innovation space, both in terms of supporting founders and as an investor. She is a Director of WAIN (Women’s Angel Investor Network) and is a LP with Mindshift Capital. Chow was appointed Senator (UAE) at the Grand Assembly, World Business Angel Forum (WBAF) and is a Board Member of the Global Start-up and Women Executive Committees. She is also an investor with NextWave Ventures and the Founder Institute, both based out of the US. During her 12 years in Dubai, Chow has garnered a strong reputation for originating business focused events that target captains of industry, as well as trendsetters in the UAE through her firm, The Elements Group. She is Chairman of the Steering Committee with The Capital Club (a prestigious private business and social club located in the Dubai International Financial Centre), Member of the Advisory Board, Canadian Business Council, and founded the Dubai Chapter of Room to Read. Previously, she sat on the UAE committee for Acumen, was Non-Executive Director for Educate Girls Globally and was a Co-Chapter Chair for Techfugees (UAE) and Ellevate.

Luz Villamil
Luz Villamil
Deputy Director - Cinema Akil

Luz Salem Villamil oversees partnerships and business development at Cinema Akil, and is the creator of Alternativo Latino, the UAE’s first Latin American Film Week. A self-identifying third culture kid, Villamil was born in Bogota to a Palestinian father and Colombian mother, raised in Fujairah and now lives and works in Dubai. She holds more than 11 years’ experience in media, production and film in the UAE and started her career developing the BBC Middle East Business Report in 2008, upon graduation from the American University of Sharjah. She currently sits on the jury of the 10th Zayed University Middle East Film Festival (ZUMEFF) 2019 and is a recurring guest on Dubai Eye 103.8 FM on the Reel Review talking all things Cinema Akil.

Maha Morley-Kirk
Maha Morley-Kirk
CEO - Pinky Goat

With her strong fashion & makeup background coupled to her entrepreneurial spirit, it was only really a matter of time until Maha Morley-Kirk founded Pinky Goat. Lebanese by birth, she has spent most of her adult life in fashion, firstly as the Head of Visual Merchandising for H&M across all of the Middle East. The she spent three years living in Poland prior to returning to Lebanon where she was the Head Franchisee for Inglot Cosmetics. Pinky Goat was launched in 2015 with her partner Elle Hardy and the brand hasn’t looked back; with its unique lash collections, Pinky Goat quickly established itself both regionally and internationally. Today, Pinky Goat is available in well over 1,500 retail locations with many more in the pipeline. When not busy running the Pinky Goat business or visiting her stores or factories, Morley-Kirk is a busy mother, focused on keeping fit and healthy.

Mahmoud Bartawi
Mahmoud Bartawi
Co-founder - Under500

UAE National Mahmoud Bartawi is a corporate banker and entrepreneur, specialising in the business development and management of Under500, a Dubai-based healthy café concept. Bartawi holds a Business Degree from the American University of Sharjah and a Masters in International Business from the University of Wollongong in Dubai. Observing a gap in the market for nutritious food concepts that are affordable and offer taste, 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 many 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 for Under500 is to develop it commercially and financially into the top three healthy food brands in the region.

Mahmoud Gao
Mahmoud Gao
Founder & CEO - Mr. Draper

Mahmoud Gao is the founder and CEO of Mr. Draper, a curated shopping service that leverages data and technology to provide a convenient and personalised shopping experience. Prior to launching Mr. Draper, Gao started his career in the US at one at Accenture, working in management and strategy consulting. Wanting a complete change of pace, he left the US for Dubai to start his career at one of the region’s leading luxury retailers, Chalhoub Group. It was at Chalhoub Group that Gao acquired a taste for fashion and luxury, which he would soon leverage to launch Mr. Draper. Born in Syria, Gao grew up in the US and holds two degrees from West Virginia University in finance and accounting. Mr. Draper is an Arabnet top 10 start up to watch, a portfolio of San-Francisco based VC 500 start-ups and winner of the Sheraa Series A programme.

Malik Shehab
Malik Shehab
Co-founder & CEO - Golden Scent

Malik Shehab is the Co-founder and CEO of the beauty and lifestyle e-commerce platform Golden Scent. A Saudi national, Shehab brings a track record of entrepreneurial successes and financial management to his role. He is a financial expert who has worked in Germany. He also has experience in project management and deal-making in regional markets. Shehab believes in the power of start-ups in contributing to national economies and addressing the needs of the market. Golden Scent, for instance, is specifically designed to bring a range of fragrances and beauty products to the GCC market. Shehab’s network of connections, long-term business relationships and ability to harness investment for innovative ideas make him ideally suited to his entrepreneurial role. He firmly believes that success comes from innovating rapidly, discipline and being brave enough to follow through with promising ideas. He holds a Science in Finance & Accounting degree from the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt.

Manish Das
Manish Das
Group Chief Officer – Franchise Retail - Jashanmal Group

Manish Das heads the Jashanmal Group’s Franchise Retail Business, with a portfolio including international brands like Bally, Paul & Shark, Brooks Brothers, Stuart Weitzman, Clarks, Calvin Klein Underwear, Max & Co, T M Lewin and Kipling, to name a few. His wide corporate role and responsibilities included setting up the shared services vertical comprising Finance, IT, HR, Logistics and Legal. He is also responsible for the Group’s Joint Ventures which include Burberry, Christian Dior, Faces (Kuwait) and Coty (Calvin Klein Perfumes) and often acts as an Alternate Director for the Chairman of Jashanmal Group on these joint ventures. He has also handled several legal matters to successful conclusion, including a very complex, significant and material International Arbitration (LCIA) matter for the Group. Prior to joining the Group, Das has held various leadership positions in Ernst and Young, Arthur Andersen and Price Waterhouse. He was the Dubai Government’s representative to the World Bank and IMF as the finance team leader of Dubai 2003 – the body set up by the Dubai Government to conduct the annual meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Dubai in 2003.

Manoj Ganapathy
Manoj Ganapathy
Division Manager – Visitors Management & Robotics Division - Jacky's Business Solutions

Manoj Ganapathy is the Divisional Manager at Jacky Business Solutions, and possesses over two decades of Gulf experience in various fields of electronics, office/industry automation, physical security, point of sale, auto identification and data capture solutions etc., in the UAE. He has an educational background in Electronics & Communication Engineering and post-graduation in Marketing Management. He has a fair amount of techno-commercial experience with a proven and verifiable track record in the market. Before joining Jacky’s Business Solutions, Ganapathy has served leading companies such as Almoe Digital Solutions, Pixel Digital Solutions and Emirates Photo Marketing. He has executed several prestigious projects in the retail, hospitality, entertainment, theme parks, airports, government and education sectors. He is currently responsible to handle various vertical market solutions comprising queue management solution, feedback management solution, robots, digital signage solution, in-store radio, currency counting solutions and smart vending solutions.

Mark Lack
Mark Lack
CEO - Urban Foods

Mark Lack is a seasoned retailer with over 35 years of experience in leading major international, multi-regional, multi-cultural and multi-format retail, wholesale and FMCG companies. He specialises in developing and executing efficient store operations, improving the customer experience and loyalty engagement through training, empowering and engaging colleagues at all levels.

Mark Tesseyman
Mark Tesseyman
CEO - LIWA Trading Enterprises

With over three decades of experience in the fashion retail industry, Mark Tesseyman has made his mark as an experienced successful retailer across the 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. The organisation’s key focus has been to target specific market sectors and evolve a retail strategy in line with shifting global trends. Tesseyman has driven the change management agenda placing customers first, improving performance and transforming the way the company operates. He 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, Tesseyman 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.

Marwan Eskandarani
Marwan Eskandarani
Group Business Development Director – GCC - Kamal Osman Jamjoom Group

Marwan Eskandarani has worked with the Kamal Osman Jamjoom (KOJ) Group since 1999, first starting in the sales team in Jeddah. He progressed within six months to a role in retail operations management within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This was followed by a move to Dubai where he supported the opening of operations across the remainder of the GCC states. In 2006, Eskandarani took over business development, where during the past 12 years he has acquired 500+ stores for the business in seven countries and over 50 cities. Today as a Business Development Director, he manages all corporate relationships with landlords and developers in the region, with a focus in growing the business via profitable and strong locations.

Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal
Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal
Executive Chairman - 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 HH 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 led 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.

Megha Kapoor
Megha Kapoor
Head of Performance Marketing - AYM Commerce

Megha Kapoor is head of performance marketing at AYM Commerce. She is a data and performance-driven marketing executive with over 12 years of success in developing highly successful, award-winning marketing programmes and advertising campaigns. Before joining AYM in May 2017, Kapoor built her career at some of the region’s biggest online lifestyle apps and transportation networks, The Entertainer & Careem, where she played an instrumental part in building and executing marketing strategies to reach customers throughout their journey on the platforms and outside ecosystems. At AYM Commerce, Kapoor’s major focus is leading marketing efforts for partner Danube Online. She, alongside AYM’s innovative marketing team, have been instrumental in establishing Danube Online’s position as the region’s leading e-commerce grocery platform. Kapoor has Bachelor of Commerce from Delhi Collage of Arts and Commerce and an MBA from the International Management Institute, New Delhi, India.

Milat Sayra Berirmen
Milat Sayra Berirmen
Digital Innovation Director - Reem Mall

In August 2018, Harvard-alumni Milat Sayra Berirmen was announced as Reem Mall Abu Dhabi’s Digital Innovation Director in line with the developer’s ambition to turn the $1.2 billion mega mall into the world’s first fully digitally enabled mall – unequivocally reinventing the shopping centre experience for both retailer and customer. Berirmen has previously worked for some of the world’s leading business conglomerates such as Godiva, Ulker, Unilever and Northstar Innovation. He will be responsible for developing business strategies, assessing and analysing relevant digital technology providers, developing comprehensive ecosystems pertinent to the application of digital technologies and supervising the overall execution of the strategy of Reem Mall.

Mohamed Attia
Mohamed Attia
General Manager – Business Development - Al-Othaim Leisure & Tourism Co

Mohamed Attia is an energetic professional who always converts challenges in any circumstances to a win- win solution. That’s why he is known for his own strategic plans to turn in a right direction of business with the aim to accomplish company goals.  He comes with rich experience of 18 years of in the leisure sector. Although he has earned a degree in Master of Business Administration from repute university, Attia is a self-starter and ever-keen to do a challenging job with his team. He is a cherished leader with solid leisure experience and his quest is constantly to achieve more to do as well apply best leisure practices which add value to business. Currently, he is with Al-Othaim Leisure & Tourism Co, a subsidiary of Al-Othaim Group in Saudi Arabia. He has been enjoying his work with a huge expansion of leisure business within the MENA region as well oversees a five-year robust expansion plan in Bahrain, Jordan, Oman and countries in Eastern and Western Africa and Central Asia.

Mohamed Galal
Mohamed Galal
CEO - Dar Al Osool

Mohamed Galal is the CEO of Dar Al Osool Real Estate Company. A real estate veteran, he was 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 been in the Egypt market for 10 years with success stories of 47 active shopping pavilions and centres, 7 regional retail and 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.

Mohammad Iqbal Alawi
Mohammad Iqbal Alawi
Chairman - SAHAT Property Management Co.

Mohammad Iqbal Alawi is the chairman at SAHAT Property Management Co. in Saudi Arabia. He has more than 25 years of experience in managing and operating properties, assets, facilities, mixed-use buildings and commercial centres with some of the most prestigious companies in Saudi Arabia and the GCC. An industry veteran, Alawi wears many hats; he is chairman & partner at Saudi Sand Souvenir Co and B&T Brands and Trade Services Middle East DMCC. Being well-versed in operations and marketing, Alawi has 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. Alawi has also been part of Al Amoudi, Majid Al Futtaim and SKAB. He is a member with the promotions and events committee at JCCI and a member with the National Saudi Tourism Board in Riyadh.

Mohammed Dhedhi
Mohammed Dhedhi
Principal - A.T. Kearney Consumer and Retail Middle East and Africa

Mohammed Dhedhi has over 15 years of experience in North America and the Middle East helping clients tackle their more critical agenda items. His work is focused on consumer and retail industries where he has advised on several cross-functional topics, including corporate and growth strategy, M&A, sales improvement and broader transformation programmes. His work has demonstrated impactful and measurable top and bottom-line results for his clients. Dhedhi has an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business and is a Computer Engineer from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Mouna Abbassy
Mouna Abbassy
Founder & CEO - IZIL Beauty

The creative force behind Izil Cosmetics, Mouna Abbassy 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 Beauty. But it was only in September 2012, when she started investigating the possibility of creating a business on her own. Seven years and a lot of hard work later, IZIL Beauty is now an accomplished brand.

Nadine Benchaffai
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 has covered a variety of roles from brand management to strategy development and innovation processes. Thereafter, Benchaffai embarked 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 over 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.

Naim Maadad
Naim Maadad
Chief Executive - Gates Hospitality

Naim Maadad come with over 38 years of experience in the hospitality world across Australia, Asia and the Middle East in various senior management roles. He has launched and operated some of the world’s best hotels, resorts, spas and lifestyle F&B concepts. During his stint with international hospitality groups, Maadad was instrumental in nurturing sound relationships with owners, securing the best-possible locations, negotiating and formalising contractual agreements and appointing teams to infuse and reflect the ethos of the brands. Being based in the Middle East over the past 20 years, Maadad has witnessed tremendous industry growth, gained a deep cultural understanding and has been endorsed by principals & organisations alike. In 2010, he established Gates Hospitality, a home-grown hospitality company representing F&B brands, including Ultra Brasserie, Reform Social & Grill Dubai, Folly by Nick & Scott and Publique, to name a few. Maadad’s philosophy and approach are simple – connecting like-minded investors, operators and brands to define concepts, successful portfolios and continue to shape the hospitality industry.

Patrick Dorais
Patrick Dorais
Director of Sales - Al Nassma Chocolate LLC

Patrick Dorais brings with him over 20 years of international sales and marketing experience, entirely consumer-related, both from a retail operator and supplier-side perspective. He has gained extensive knowledge of the food industry working for top-name blue-chips companies, predominantly in the confectionery industry. After obtaining his Bachelor of Arts (Economics) at York University’s Glendon College, in Toronto, Canada and completing training as Shopping Center Manager with Cadillac Fairview, Dorais started his long-standing international career gaining invaluable retail experience with Swiss conglomerate Manor AG / Maus Freres SA in 1991. Before joining Al Nassma Chocolate LLC as Director of Sales in 2012, he was with Cacaos Favarger in Geneva, Kraft Foods, Nestle International Travel Retail in Switzerland, Perfetti van Melle Middle East and Al Ghurair Foods. Dorais has developed a profound specialist knowledge of the European, Middle Eastern and Asian markets. In addition, he was elected in 2014 & 2016 into the Tax-Free World Association’s Management Committee representing the confectionery and fine foods category in promoting the interests of the $65-bn global duty free / travel retail industry.

Peggy Li
Peggy Li
Managing Partner - SPS: Affinity

Peggy Li is the Managing Partner at SPS: Affinity, a boutique consultancy that covers all spectrum of working within the hospitality & service industries. She has 18+ years executive-level management experience in Europe, Middle East and Far East. She is a solid Michelin star high-end food & beverage operator worked with world-renowned chef such as Joel Robuchon. With Li’s strong working persona, she has caved many successful business ventures prior of settling in Dubai three years ago. She is an active member at Dubai Business Council, UAE Chinese Business Women Council, with the level of network and association that elevate the work synergy among female entrepreneurs. Li is also a start-up mentor and adviser at WOMENA, In5 Tech Incubator & Accelerator and SHERAA. She has mentored entrepreneurs behind concepts such as Halakiwi in the UAE and Mathaqi in KSA.

Priya Patel-Chomel
Priya Patel-Chomel
Product Marketing Lead - Facebook Middle East

Priya Patel is the Product Lead for Facebook and Family of apps in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. She has 17 years’ experience in media and advertising including print (Financial Times), TV (BBC), agency and digital in the UK, Australia and Asia. Prior to joining Facebook, Patel spent five years at multinational company Google, where she was an instrumental part of YouTube’s commercial rollout across South East Asia. She relocated to the Middle East with Google in 2014 where she managed the Food and Beverage sector and led advertising strategy across MENA. It was in 2015 that Patel was appointed as Business Development Lead at Instagram where she works closely with brands and agencies to help them achieve their business objectives on the platform.  In her spare time, Patel takes inspiration from Instagram to pursue her interests in cooking, travel and scuba diving.

Rachel McArthur
Rachel McArthur
Founder & Managing Editor - Digital Ink Media

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 online portal Al Arabiya, UAE newspaper Gulf News and appears as a current affairs commentator on ‘The Agenda’ on Dubai Eye 103.8FM.

Rajiv Prasad
Rajiv Prasad
Chief Innovation Officer - Xpandretail

With specialised studies in Electronics and Telecommunications as well as Computer Systems Networking from India and the UK, Rajiv Prasad is not only a technology geek but also possesses an unusual affinity to languages by speaking around eight languages and reading and writing around 14 languages. Wherever he has worked, Prasad is recognised for his remarkable quick problem-solving skills, strong communication skills, motivational abilities and detail-oriented approach. Adept at research and development, project administration and incorporating innovative, creative and disruptive programmes to boost overall operational growth in the highly dynamic and competitive industry, Prasad is also known amongst his peers to be highly motivated to take up new challenges and deliver sustainable results in a highly unpredictable environment. He possesses more than 15 years of experience in managing high priority tasks within tight schedules with a remarkable success record in cost control and development of robust customer relationships to continuously maintain harmony within the firm.

Ramesh Cidambi
Ramesh Cidambi
COO - Dubai Duty Free

Ramesh Cidambi is the Chief Operating Officer of Dubai Duty Free (DDF) and is responsible for all aspects of the company’s operation and reporting to the Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Colm McLoughlin. His responsibilities include both the retail and leisure business of DDF. Prior to his current role, Cidambi has held a variety of senior positions in the company with responsibility for areas such as information technology, logistics, retail development in both of Dubai’s airports and the DDF Leisure business through the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel and Irish Village Bar and Restaurant (in two locations). He has been with DDF for over 30 years, and during which time it has grown to be one of the world’s largest airport retailers in a single location with sales of just under $2 billion in 2017. He also maintains his links with the domestic retail market through the Network International’s Merchants Advisory Board, VISA Advisory Council for CEMEA and within the Steering Committee of the Retail Business Group (under the Dubai Chamber of Commerce).

Raza Beig
Raza Beig
CEO - Splash

Raza Beig heads Splash and 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.

Rumana Nazim
Rumana Nazim
Founder & CEO - The Edit

Born and raised in Dubai, Indian-origin Rumana Nazim founded The Edit in a bid to offer the modern women of the region a one-stop shop that serves up curated options ranging from art, fashion and even specialty coffee. Nazim studied law in London (at SOAS and BPP College of Law) and worked as an in-house lawyer for an FMCG company until August 2018. Through her many travels and observations of the fast-paced and ever-changing retail landscape all over the world, Nazim found a gap in the Dubai market for a lifestyle space that would efficiently deliver an interactive yet relaxing environment. Creating a home away from home where customers can shop unique pieces, enjoy a cup of coffee and also visit an art gallery and workshop space all under one roof eventually became the end goal for Nazim as she temporarily closed the chapter on being a lawyer. Nazim’s interests and personal style are showcased through the statement finds at The Edit.

Sajan Alex
Sajan Alex
Vice President – GCC - Tablez

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 and more.

Sandeep Ganediwalla
Sandeep Ganediwalla
Managing Partner - Redseer Consulting, Middle East

Sandeep Ganediwalla is a digital strategist with a focus on emerging markets with 16+ years of experience in consulting and technology. He has expertise in multiple sectors including retail, e-commerce, technology, telecom and private equity across topics including corporate strategy, commercial strategy, functional strategy, business planning, due-diligence and funding. Most recently, he was the director of strategy and corporate development at MarkaVIP, an online shopping community in the MENA region. Prior to that, Ganediwalla was an engagement manager at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company). He has completed his Master’s in Business Administration from HEC Paris with an exchange with London Business School. He has a Bachelor’s degree in engineering from Mumbai University. He also finds time to mentor and advice start-ups primarily focused on the digital space.

Sarah Jones
Sarah Jones
Founder & CEO - Sprii.com

Sarah Jones was bitten by the bug at just 14, when she set up a profitable eBay business importing items from across the globe and selling in the UK, igniting a love for e-commerce and developing an acute business mind in the process. Four years later, a degree in economics at Edinburgh University beckoned, which not only heightened Jones’s financial acumen, but also her highly competitive nature. Her placement at Deloitte London in the retail M&A team led to an international secondment in the Middle East just a few years later. Which is 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. With fresh ideas and innovations, Jones has never lost the thirst for clinching a business deal first-hand and is a self-confessed workaholic. In 2016, Jones turned her attention to growing the brand portfolio to include ‘At Home’ and Pre/Post Pregnancy ‘Get Fit’ categories, thus paving the way for Mini Exchange to evolve and become Sprii.com – a destination providing Everything For Mums. A natural extension for the online portal, a brand refresh followed in early 2017 to establish this as the core proposition of the business, focusing on top categories and products required by the modern mothers.

Shahzad Bhatti
Shahzad Bhatti
Founder - The Co-Dubai & Share This Space

Shahzad Bhatti is the founder of The Co-Dubai and Share This Space. He has made it his mission to make it easier and more affordable to launch a business for entrepreneurs. Offering a unique concept of coworking, education and collaboration he launched the first coworking incubator certified by the Dubai SME and one of the first retail accelerator programmes for new and start-up retail concepts. Having worked with over 60 start-ups from technology, retail and food industries both in London and Dubai, Bhatti has a range of hands-on experience and is an inspiring and motivating character.

Shames Al Hashemi
Shames Al Hashemi
Director – Member of Board - Dual Investments

Shames Al Hashemi is the eldest son of the founder, and the current co-executive director of Al Hashemi Enterprises (MHE). A lawyer by profession, Al Hashemi has successfully overseen the company’s expansion into the retail industry and has held several leadership roles across the GCC, including the oversight of franchise operations in Saudi Arabia and Dubai for the past X years. His key achievements include bringing renowned niche European menswear brand Suitsupply and British maternity brand Seraphine to the GCC and conceptualising the launch of home-grown cafe Roux Dubai. He presently manages Al Hashemi Enterprises’ business development and global investment.

Shamin Amin
Shamin Amin
Head of Business Development - Landmark Leisure

Shamin Amin is the Head of Business Development at Landmark Leisure since 2012, having joined the business as a store manager in 2005 and eventually heading operations in the UAE. He was elevated to form the Business Development department. In the formative years after strengthening the base fundamentals of business along with Silvio Liedkte, CEO, Landmark Leisure and the leadership team, Amin has transformed the leisure division into one of the fastest growing businesses. Under his leadership and vision, the company offers a wide range of entertainment and play-centric options to its guests at its family entertainment venues including Fun City, Fun Ville, Fun Block, Fun Works, Tridom and the latest disruptive offering Jumble. From just very few stores in 2010, currently Landmark Leisure owns and operates more than 51 centres across the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and India across its four entertainment brands. Currently the majority of the focus is on expanding the leisure business in India. Amin has also been instrumental in transforming the complete ethos of the company, thereby not limiting his contribution to superlative business results only but with a deep-rooted emphasis on the wellness and welfare of his entire team who has worked hard along with him.

Shant Oknayan
Shant Oknayan
Group Director – Middle East & North Africa - Facebook

Shant Oknayan is currently the Group Commercial Director at Facebook in the Middle East and North Africa, where he leads efforts to enable businesses in the region to scale growth and engage with consumers on Facebook, Instagram and the family of apps. Oknayan’s current focus is in retail, FMCG, telecom, technology, media and real estate, and previously also covered Facebook’s focus on e-commerce and digital services clients. He has over 18 years of experience in leading strategy & business development, with subject-matter expertise in digital and investment strategies for governments and corporations, having most recently headed up Google’s market development for small & medium businesses in the Middle East and North Africa. Oknayan’s understanding of the start-up space saw him co-found GlamBox, the first and leading beauty e-commerce company in the MENA region. Oknayan was also Google’s Head of Strategy & Operations in the Middle East and North Africa, and prior to that spent eight years as a management consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton and Strategy&.

Shivjeet Kullar
Shivjeet Kullar
CEO - NFX Digital

Shivjeet Kullar is known as the brand guru in India. He has spent over 25 years in advertising. He began his career with agencies like Lintas and Contract. At the age of 29, he became a creative director and went on to win over 100 national and international awards, including One Show, New York Festival, Creativity International and JWT – All World Gold. Till recently he was a mentor to the ad agency that he founded – K-Factor which itself has won awards at Delhi Ad Club, Bombay Ad Club and Creativity New York. In 2011 the world-renowned Campaign magazine did a survey and ranked him as one of the 10 most high-profile creative people in India, and the only creative person in Delhi to be named on the list. Kullar has now moved to the internet domain and launched a website called adytude.com. One of the world’s largest research sites, Adytude conducts over 900,000 reviews yearly.

Stevi Lowmass
Stevi Lowmass
Founder & Owner - The Camel Soap Factory

The idea of creating a Dubai-based soap factory came to Stevi Lowmass after a visit to an Australian soap manufacturer in 2008. As a long-time resident of the UAE, and a host to many friends and family visiting her, Lowmass was all too aware of the shortage of beautiful local souvenirs that reflected the rich traditions of the region. The creation of a company to address this gap in the market became an obsession. By 2011, Lowmass had established a home industry supplying school fairs and markets with soaps made in her garden shed. It soon became apparent that an industrial license would be required and so The Camel Soap Factory was born. What started as a home industry is now recognised as a premium gifting brand in the UAE and is world’s largest manufacturer of camel milk-based skincare.

Tahir Shah
Tahir Shah
Founder - Moti Roti

Tahir Shah is the Founder of Moti Roti, a Pakistani ‘soul kitchen’ with a local cult following in Dubai for their roti-style burritos. After 12 years of working for Nokia he decided to drop out of corporate life and set out on a mission to make Pakistani food modern, healthy and accessible to outsiders. Starting out at local markets, he helped pioneer the food truck movement in Dubai with Moti Roti. Unfortunately, Moti Roti had to close in 2017, but has recently found new life by running as a delivery-only concept through dark kitchens in Dubai. After Moti Roti had closed, Shah joined with Careem who had invested into food delivery and now leads their expansion of Careem NOW in Riyadh, KSA. Moti Roti has been nominated in the past for several industry awards.

Tania Lodi
Tania Lodi
Founder - Tania’s Teahouse

Tania Lodi is the founder of Tania’s Teahouse. Dubbed as Dubai’s most Instagrammable café, she has become a key player in the region’s foodie scene. It was when Lodi completed a Bachelor of Honors in Psychology at the University of Toronto that her love for the café culture began. Suffering from a chronic pain condition during this time, she looked to tea for its wondrous health benefits. Learning that many people were also dealing with similar health problems alongside personal and social issues, she wanted to create a space for them, incorporating tea in a fun and healthy way. Thus, Tania’s Teahouse opened in April 2018, a space which introduces tea in a fun and healthy way. The café from the inside to out, captured the region’s attention even before it opened. Since opening, some of the world’s biggest brands – Nike to NARs and Fujifilm to Ounass – have hosted events at Tania’s Teahouse.

Timothy Earnest
Timothy Earnest
Group Director/CEO - Al-Futtaim Malls

In his current role, Timothy Earnest manages a range of assets including super-regional iconic destinations in Qatar, the UAE and North Africa under the Festival City Malls brand, totalling 70 million visitors, 1,300 retailers and two additional assets under development in Dubai and Morocco. Earnest’s passion and expertise is building and executing an organisation as a preferred business partner, generating sustainable growth and long-term value creation while delivering exceptional stakeholder experiences that produce safe, exciting and enriching shopping environments. He is a seasoned executive with a solid 30-year career within the Simon Property Group in the US where his last role was executive vice president – property management, responsible for the regional malls portfolio, where he managed day-to-day operations for over 200 malls, 5,000 employees, $3.2-billion in EBITDA, $1.3-billion in expenses, $100-million in OPEX and $350-million in development. Earnest brings a thorough understanding of retail dynamics and shopping mall management in addition to relevant best practice capabilities.

Tom Urquhart
Tom Urquhart
Presenter - Dubai One

Tom Urquhart is a very popular media professional in Dubai, who hosts The Agenda show on Dubai Eye 103.8 and several television shows.

Vijay Talreja
Vijay Talreja
Co-founder and Director - Adapty

Vijay Talreja is the co-founder and director of Adapty, one of the leading digital commerce companies with offices in the US, the UAE and India. Talreja heads the UAE operations at Adapty. The team at Adapty designs and implements digital solutions that drive customer engagement and business growth by implementing industry leading e-commerce and content management solutions. Prior to joining Adapty, as a founding member of Accenture India, Talreja had the opportunity to setup and grow world-class offshore development centre – a team that grew from 12 when he joined to 120,000 in the 12 years that he spent at Accenture. He is also a charter member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneur) and active member of leading angel investing platforms. Talreja is an advisor and investor to a bunch of start-ups in the e-commerce, fintech, HR and IoT space.

Xavier Anglada
Xavier Anglada

Xavier Anglada has 22+ years of combined strategy consulting and operational experience in the digital, fintech, high-tech, media and telecommunications industries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East, leading large teams of professionals and effectively steering P&L in operations. He has extensive experience as an advisor to top executives of leading groups across multiple domains including corporate and commercial strategy, business and operational transformation, analytics and organisational development. Prior to joining Accenture, Anglada was CEO International Operations in Cash Credit, an innovative fintech player in the lending space, leading the company expansion from Eastern Europe to the Middle East, Far East and Africa. Before Cash Credit, he spent nearly a decade in Delta Partners Group helping setup, grow and consolidate the business globally and had managerial roles in Ono (today, Vodafone in Spain), also in Cluster Consulting (today, Oliver Wyman) and Hewlett-Packard. Anglada is an MBA from ESADE in Barcelona and MSc in Electrical Engineering and BSc in Telecommunications from La Salle Engineering in Barcelona.

Zaid Alqufaidi
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 & gas industry professional, Alqufaidi comes to his role with extensive experience across the energy value chain, that includes marketing, aviation, terminal operations and supply sectors. Alqufaidi has held numerous managerial positions and has played an instrumental role in the development of EPPCO’s retail network. He has also immensely contributed to bridging the gap between the ENOC and EPPCO brand during the formation of the Group’s identity as ENOC. Prior to his current post, Alqufaidi held the position of Managing Director of ENOC Marketing. He was also CEO for EPPCO Group of Companies in 2010. Zaid was previously appointed as Manager Terminals, Distribution and Aviation Operations in 2000. Alqufaidi first started his career in EPPCO in 1989 as an engineer with the Operations Department. He was then promoted to Operations and Supply Coordinator in 1992. He is an engineering graduate from the University of Central Florida, USA.

Zubin Doshi
Zubin Doshi
Founder - Scoopi Café

As an accomplished entrepreneur with a major in Business administration from University of Wollongong in Dubai, Zubin Doshi, the home-grown scoop master aspires to make Dubai an ice-cream haven for dessert lovers in the region. Turning his dream into reality Doshi launched the first Scoopi Café in Dubai, Jumeirah Beach Road in December 2014 and since then he has been constantly improvising the menu by introducing delectable flavours for customers to enjoy. Doshi is also the creator of the world’s most expensive ice-cream, the black diamond priced at a whopping AED3,000. Substantiating his position as a successful entrepreneur and a scoop master, Doshi recently opened doors to Scoopi’s rebranded flagship store, also located on Jumeirah Beach Road in Dubai. The year 2019 will also see the opening of another Scoopi Café branch in Ras Al Khaimah as well as spread its reach to major cities in India in the near future.