The UAE has placed great importance on enhancing the growth of family businesses, as they are a major contributor to supporting the competitiveness and sustainability of the national economy, Abdulla bin Touq Al Marri, Minister of Economy, said on Thursday.
The Minister was speaking at a ceremony to honour the first batch of ‘Thabat’ family business programme in Dubai. The ceremony was held in the presence of bin Touq; Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chambers and Chairman of the Family Business Council – Gulf; Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Director General of Dubai’s Community Development Authority; Abdullah Mohamed Al Mazrouei, Chairman of the Federation of UAE Chambers and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Rashed Abdul Karim Al Balooshi, Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED); Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Nuaimi, Second Vice Chairman of the Ajman Chamber (ACCI); and Abdulaziz Al Nuaimi, Assistant Undersecretary for the Commercial Affairs Regulatory Sector at the Ministry of Economy.
The ceremony was also attended by Fayez Saeed Saif Al Eter, Member of the Board of Directors of the Fujairah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Ahmad Hasan Mohammad Al Yamahi, Treasurer of the Board of Directors of the Fujairah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Sultan Jemei Al Hindaassi, Director General of Fujairah Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Badr Al Olama, Acting Director General of Abu Dhabi Investment Office; Abdullah Ahmed Al Hamrani, Director General of the Ajman Department of Economic Development; Hani Rashid Al Hamli, Secretary General of Dubai Competitiveness Office; and Mohammed Ahmed Amin Al Awadi, Director General of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI); alongside representatives from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium Enterprises Development.
In his speech, Bin Touq said: “The Ministry of Economy (MoEc) has been keen to build an integrated and advanced system for family businesses in the country in accordance with global best practices. The Ministry worked in collaboration with its partners at the local and global levels to provide all enablers to ensure the continuity of family businesses across successive generations. Our joint efforts also enabled them to keep pace with future business trends. The first comprehensive legislation for the governance of family businesses was issued, with an aim to create a suitable legislative environment for their growth in the country. On top of that, the ‘Thabat’ programme was launched to enhance the UAE’s regional leadership in hosting and developing a competitive environment for family businesses in new economy sectors.”
“The ‘Thabat’ programme is a key incentive to enhance the capabilities of the UAE’s family businesses, enabling them to transition to new economic sectors. It supports their expansion into foreign markets, especially since the top two projects created by the participating companies are based on healthcare technology and modern digital solutions. These fields are among those pillars that support the UAE’s new economic model based on flexibility and innovation. We look forward to enhancing cooperation with our partners to encourage more family businesses to join this programme and benefit from its advantages and transformative potential. The second batch - ‘Thabat2.0’ - targets family businesses operating in many sectors of the new economy,” added
During the ceremony, bin Touq felicitated the top two projects from the programme’s inaugural batch, namely, ‘Apterra’ developed by the Al Serkal family and ‘Nutralis,’ digital platform project by the Al Yusuf family.
Al Nuaimi underlined the Ministry’s new vision for 2023-2026, which includes expanding the scope of ‘Thabat’ for upcoming batches over the next three years. As part of these changes, financing opportunities will be offered to family businesses that complete the programme to support their business growth. Two batches will be accommodated annually, with 7 to 10 companies per batch. In addition, participation will also be open for family businesses from overseas to develop projects and products in order to enter the UAE market by 2025, establishing the UAE as the region’s family business hub.
In her keynote adress, Henrike Luszick, Founder and CEO of Bridgemaker, emphasised the pivotal role of corporate venture building in reigniting the entrepreneurial DNA of family businesses by equipping them with the necessary talent, agile startup culture, innovation-driven mindset, and a proven methodology.
“Through our partnership with the UAE’s Ministry of Economy, we will provide a hands-on approach to venture building, blending legacy preservation with future-forward thinking. This initiative aims to empower the next generation of family businesses, ensuring sustainability and growth in an ever-evolving market landscape,” she added.
During the ceremony, Al Serkal Group presented its project ‘Apterra,’ which is a comprehensive technological solution for managing assets and property maintenance needs. By using this solution, property managers can quickly and easily address tenant complaints and track the implementation of periodic and non-periodic maintenance requests, which contributes to improving resource utilisation, reducing costs, and enhancing the sustainability of properties.
Eisa Alserkal, Head of Real Estate Division, said: “The programme is a game changer - I learned a new way to approach business ideas. It has also enabled us to create ‘apterra’ - which will lead us to digital business models as a family business.”
Sheikha Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal Jewellery, said: “Working in the programme has taught me to be more in touch with our customers and enabled me to apply the innovation methodology to my own business as well.”
Al Yousef Group also presented its ‘Nutralis’ project, a multi-faceted digital platform that brings together producers of nutritional supplements that do not require prescriptions with health experts to enhance knowledge exchange and product effectiveness within a highly transparent environment. The platform aims to provide a safe and effective environment for consumers of these products and improve their quality of life.
Yousuf Al Yousuf, Chief Operating Officer at Al Yousef Group, said: “It was a pleasure working within the Thabat programme and to use venture building daily. You have to invest the time, but your return is a mindset change in tackling new business opportunities.”
Maitha Al Yousuf, Head of HR & Marketing, said: “The collaborative model of Thabat and the experience with Bridgemaker have enabled us to re-imagine our path forward as a family business, exploring new industries and business models.”
Furthermore, the ceremony featured a panel session on the methodology of building a successful family project, ensuring its sustainability, and raising awareness about the importance of investing in family businesses in new and future economic sectors.
Substantial participation from UAE’s family-owned businesses
The event saw robust participation from family-owned businesses in the UAE, including, but not limited to, Abdullah Al Ghurair Group of Companies, Essa Al Ghurair Investment, Al Shafar Investment Group, Bin Hindi Enterprises Group, Al Fardan Group, Ali & Sons Group, Annex Investments, J&F Holdings, Alfahim Group of Companies, Al Masaood Oil & Gas, Damac Properties, Bin Omeir Group of Companies, Hindawi Excellence Group, Al Hussan Holding, Al Siddiqi Holding, Emirates Flags and Flag Poles Trading, White Rock Minerals, Almana Hospitals, Tharawat Family Business Forum, CEO Clubs Network, Jashanmal Group, Mazrouei International, and Saif Belhasa Holding.
Through its ‘Thabat’ programme launched in August 2022, MoEc strives to preserve the economic and business legacy of the UAE’s family businesses, ensure their continuity across successive generations, encourage them to venture into new economic activities, and transform 200 family projects into fast-growing companies over the next decade.
Family businesses represent 90 per cent of the total number of private companies in the country and contribute 40 per cent to the UAE’s GDP.
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