On Thursday 6th February, young family business members from across the MENA region gathered in Dubai to attend Tharawat Family Business Forum’s 3rd annual Arabian NextGen conference. With this year’s theme focusing on ‘From Idea to Market’ the next generation of family business leaders were shown how to turn a business idea into market success, and understand the entrepreneurial journey by learning from case studies and research.
Family-owned businesses make up over 80% of the private sector in the Middle East and North Africa and their sustainability is crucial for the regional economies. In its pledge to support the next generation of leaders, the Tharawat Family Business Forum launched the Arabian NextGen Program in 2011. As part of its activities, Arabian NextGen gathers young family business leaders for educational events and networking opportunities to exchange ideas, and create thought leadership for the region.
One of the challenges facing young members of family businesses is the question how they can effectively realise their entrepreneurial dreams inside or outside the family business. This third Arabian NextGen conference gave the around forty attendees the opportunity to better understand the journey of turning a business idea into a product, avoid the pitfalls of entrepreneurship and learn from the stories of their peers. In her welcoming words, the Forum’s General Manager Ms. Farida El Agamy highlighted the importance of establishing positive dialogues within the family business community to facilitate innovation and create space for the entrepreneurial endeavours of tomorrow’s leaders.
Opening the conference, Mr. Essa Al Ghurair, Chairman of Al Ghurair Foods, Vice Chairman of Al Ghurair Investments, UAE and the Chairman of the Tharawat Family Business Forum, advised the attendees to “not rush anything” when developing their business ideas. Sharing his personal experience, he emphasised that it is easier to “test the do’s and don’ts” of entrepreneurship, when starting small and preparing for growth when the concept has been proven.
Exploring with the attendees, why they had recently rejected a new idea or why their idea had been refused by others, Dr. Hischam El Agamy, the Forum’s Founder and Executive Director led a lively debate, which quickly identified a “resistance to change”, a “lack of experience” and “lack of resources” as the most common reasons why entrepreneurial ideas had been rejected.
The conference’s keynote speaker, Dr. Franco Vigliotti, Dean of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) Middle East campus, shared his expertise on achieving sustainable growth through technological innovation. He placed particular emphasis on the relationship between research and entrepreneurship. Showing the importance of creating an atmosphere that allows people to develop new ideas, he took the audience on a journey through the development of several leading companies, from their start-up phases, through their struggles and successes. Learning from these experiences, Dr. Vigliotti concluded that one of the most important ingredients of success is perseverance and trust: “Once you have bought into an idea, you have to trust your judgement”.
Focusing on the importance of learning from your peers, the next session saw four young entrepreneurs taking the stage, who all set up their own businesses, innovated inside the family business, or founded an enterprise with their family members:
Ms. Samar Sayegh, Managing Director of DMTV and a 3rd Generation family business member, Mr Humaid Mansoor, the 2nd Generation Managing Director of Medicure Centre and up and coming artist, and Ms. Zaina and Ms. Rania Kanaan, the two sisters, who founded Ananasa, an online marketplace for artists in the Middle East all shared their visions for their businesses and how they overcame the obstacles in their ways.
Closing the morning session, Mr. Hisham Dabbagh, Founder & CEO of Rama AlBaraka Trading Group highlighted the importance of small sized businesses for the regional economy and with the example of regional handcraft explained the impact and strength of those important actors in our economies. With his initiative “Fenyadi” he showed the attendees how through an innovative approach, old crafts can be given a place in modern life.
The event ended with a visit to Opsys LLC, one of the UAE’s most successful technology start-ups, to see first hand how to turn an innovative idea into a success story. Founder of the enterprise, Mr. Khalifa Al Qama reminded the attendees that developing a business idea and realising it will always be difficult and that they will undoubtedly face challenges but that they should always remember why they entered the business – and that ultimately this will help them overcome any difficulties.
On the occasion of the event, the Tharawat Family Business Forum also announced its next upcoming conference on “Successful Family Business Boards” on March 13th in Dubai.
- 80% of the MENA region’s businesses are family-owned or family-run.
- In KSA & Morocco the percentage reaches 95%, Yemen at 90%, Lebanon 85%, UAE 80% and Egypt 70%.
- Tharawat Family Business Forum was founded in Dubai in 2006 as a network for Arabian family businesses leaders to exchange knowledge and provide education on the issues surrounding family business in the region.
- Previous Next Generation events have focused on how the Next Generation can make an impact on the family business.
- The Forum’s next conference is on Successful Family Business Boards on 13th March 2014 in Dubai.
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