Innovation key for sustainable growth.
The UAE is giving increased focus on becoming a knowledge-based economy that promotes entrepreneurship and innovation for achieving sustainable development. The visionary leadership of the UAE is committed to embracing innovative ideas, crafting and implementing projects which have helped the UAE to be one of the most competitive nations in the world. In fact, the UAE is the only Arab country defined as an "innovation-driven economy" in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2012-13.
Examples of the UAE government's efforts in this direction are commendable. Khaleej Times on September 26, 2013 reported that National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company were given the Shaikh Khalifa Excellence Award for demonstrating best organisational standards in the sectors of financial and oil and gas, respectively. Such awards result in promoting the culture of quality, creativity and excellence in the country and boost entrepreneurship spirit and business competitiveness.
The UAE is also ranked first in the Middle East and fourth in the world for ease of doing business, according to the 2012 report issued by the International Institute for Management Development. The country is ranked first regionally and 30th internationally in the index of the United Nations Development Programme's Human Development World Report.
"The UAE's drive to create a knowledge-based economy has been initiated in tandem with its efforts to establish vital and pivotal projects," says Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister.
He said the UAE seeks to build a society that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation as these help build attractive business environments and enable the nation to create a knowledge-based economy, fair competition and a climate that supports research. He argued that promoting entrepreneurship and establishing small and medium enterprises are imperative to create jobs. For this, human capital and especially the youth have a key role to play.
The UAE exemplifies an ideal environment for creativity and innovation to develop people of vision and imagination who can pursue their dreams. It is a land of tremendous opportunities for dream merchants who can create new startups and help small businesses to expand and grow. The start-ups of today will become the big companies of tomorrow.
In his speech at the third Annual Global Entrepreneurial Summit at the Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai last December, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, rightly said: "The UAE is a centre for creativity and innovation on the regional and global levels and provides the ideal environment, where the youth can develop their talents and exploit their energy and use it to serve the goals and objectives of their respective countries."
Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai provide an ideal environment for creating the next generation of dreamers, creators and builders who can transform their ideas into businesses that could change the shape of these emirates and the country.
We know roughly around 100 million new jobs are needed in the Mena region. This is a big challenge and it needs a concerted approach that focuses on strengthening innovation in youth and women, need to have a quality workforce capable of undertaking the business activities, launching of programmes that foster entrepreneurship and access to funds for small and medium businesses. These are critical issues that need urgent attention.
The focus of UAE organisations must be on the future when the UAE hosts Expo 2020. Growth plans must be synchronised perfectly into the organisation of this event when the country showcases its development to the rest of this world.
Apple, which has more than 400 million credit cards on file on its iTunes Store, is exploring an expansion of the mobile-payments system; this is yet another example of innovative practices. Apple's rise to being the world's most valuable company -- whose net worth crossed to more than $700 billion -- may largely be attributed to innovative products and visionary leadership.
Revenues of Starbucks, the world's largest coffee shop chain, in the three months ending December 2013 rose 12 per cent to $4.24 billion due to the success of their holiday beverage offerings, shows innovative ways of securing more business.
In the UAE, the example of Dubai Duty Free, or DDF, is worth mentioning. DDF secures the top spot globally and keeps its eye on new trends and innovation and is preparing to make 3,000 products available on line. It has received wide recognition all over the globe; DDF won 16 awards last year from various bodies, and 78 million items of merchandise were sold in 2013. This means 26 million transactions on the registers at an average of 71,000 transactions per day. DDF employs 6,055 employees from 50 countries and they speak 60 languages, a highly-diverse workforce, and it is managing and doing business in innovative ways.
Steve Jobs once said: "A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them." Sometimes, your innovative idea is really the thing your customers need. But if you don't make them aware of this, then you won't succeed in the business. Customer is the king who could make business a success. Test your innovative idea in the market before launching any product. You would know what customers really want, at what value and at what right time. If we are always designing our products and services based on what your competitors are doing instead of what customers want, our innovative ideas may fail and we may not be able to achieve our strategic goals and targets. Therefore, think strategically and promote entrepreneurship and innovation for achieving sustainable competitive advantages over your competitors.
The writer is a full professor and the associate dean of the School of Business at American University Ras Al Khaimah. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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