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IMD Business Forum in Dubai highlights business challenges and opportunities in the Gulf region

The event focused on digitalization and economic diversification
September 2016

The annual IMD Business Forum in Dubai examined the challenges and opportunities businesses in the Gulf countries are facing in the wake of rapid digital transformation and economic diversification, brought on by the fall in oil prices and global economic uncertainty.

According to Dominique Turpin, President of IMD, “For the foreseeable future, the world will not be a stable or predictable place like it used to be. Even commodities such as oil, which now costs a fraction of the price it commanded a few years ago, cannot be relied on. VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) is the new normal and will stay that way. And businesses in Gulf countries will have to adapt to that, whether this means upgrading to a more digitalized way of doing business, diversifying to take advantage of new opportunities or entering new markets. This also means that executives need to ask themselves one key question: how can I lead in a world like this?”

He advised business leaders in Gulf countries to anticipatechanges in the competitive environment and to be aware of new market dynamics around competition. If a business is serious about differentiating itself from the competition, then it must innovate on all dimensions all the time, not just product innovation: think also about new processes and a new business model. He also emphasized the importance of embracing diversity, not just diversity of genders and nationalities, but also diversity of experiences, generations, and opinions.

His Excellency Dr. Raja Bin Monahi Al-Marzoqi Al-Baqmi, President, Gulf Monetary Council and former IMF Advisor, spoke about the changing economic landscape in the region and how the drop in oil prices necessitates a change in outlook. He called for more innovation and diversification for businesses to succeed.

Drawing on the success story of regional dairy company Almarai, Georges P. Schorderet, CEO, Almarai Group, highlighted the importance of remaining agile in the midst of growing competition and changing economic scenarios.

Dr. Abdulrahman Aljadhai, CEO, ELM group, focused on how digitalization is helping Gulf countries transition into knowledge-based societies and provide best-in-class services to citizens. Huge penetration rates for mobile and tablet devices in the region coupled with a technologically savvy younger generation will drive innovation and digitalization in the region, he said.

IMD Professor Tawfik Jelassi discussed the disruption of traditional business models with the coming of age of digitalization. He talked about how business leaders can face the challenges of this new world order by building teams with fresh perspective, encouraging collaboration among team members as well as fostering innovation and creativity.

Dr. Hischam El Agamy closed the Forum on a positive note, “Every year at our annual forum, we examine key trends driving business transformation in the region and this year we focused on economic diversification and digitalization. The main takeaway from the forum is that in spite of all the changes facing business leaders in this region, it is possible to achieve new heights of success and excellence by being agile and by enhancing performance and competitiveness.Businesses need to constantly evolve and adapt to their external environments in order to be sustainable.”