City Focus: Abu Dhabi
Business Chief Middle East takes a closer look at the Capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi, a name meaning ‘father of the gazelle’, was once a simple island inhabited by wildlife until it was founded by a small tribe searching for water in 1761.
Fast forward to 1958 – after an extensive 30-year search – oil was discovered at Murban Bab Oil Field with crude oil production commencing in 1960. This discovery is said to be the spark that blossomed into the ultra-modern and luxuriously wealthy capital of the United Arab Emirates.
In 1971, after many subsequent oil field discoveries – such as Bu Hasa Field and Bida Al Qemzan – revenue grew. As a result, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan established the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
Today, ADNOC is responsible for most of the oil and gas production in Abu Dhabi, providing 90% of the government’s revenue through the 3mn barrels of oil produced each day (bopd) and the 277.5mn cubic metres (mcm) of gas produced per day. However, this could all change. In recent months, the president of Abu Dhabi established a three-year economic development plan known as Ghadan 21 Accelerator Programme. It aims to enhance the competitiveness of Abu Dhabi in four key areas: business and investment, society, knowledge and innovation and lifestyle. In support of the proramme, the President has also passed two new laws in relation to foreign direct investment (FDI) and private-public partnerships (PPPs), in the hope of increasing employment opportunities and attracting talent, as well as saturating the capital’s economy with varied industries to reduce the reliance on crude oil for revenue.
A direct response to these new laws is the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO). Designed to connect investors with relevant private and public sector shareholders, identify local strategic partners, provide business information, licensing help and business regulation assistance, as well as continued support throughout its development. ADIO is also in charge of producing and executing an FDI strategy, as well as encouraging growth with the help of the Ghadan Ventures fund, an AED535mn (US$145mn) investment pool to support startups and VC ecosystems.
ADIO has two business funds – New Managers Fund and Startup Matching Fund – established to stimulate the growth of venture capital ecosystems expanding the sources for early stage funding, and to invest in innovative seeds and early startups.
ADIO is keen to invest in innovative technology companies such as SenseTime, a valuable and world leading startup company for Artificial-Intelligence (AI) founded in 2014. The company develops AI tech that can positively contribute to economics, society and humanity.
ADIO and SenseTime signed a strategic partnership agreement back in July 2019 marking a key milestone for the Ghadan 21 Accelerator Programme. “SenseTime’s AI capabilities and developments will be of great value to businesses across the region. […] ADIO is working to create a comprehensive ecosystem of tech companies at different stages of development, across a variety of industries. It will also provide a thriving environment for tech talent to establish careers and grow,” said CEO of ADIO, Elham Al Qasim.Also present at the signing, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, His Excellency Saif Mohamed Al Hajeri, commented: “We are delighted to welcome SenseTime to Abu Dhabi. As part of the Ghadan 21 programme, we are helping some of the world’s best companies establish a presence in the Emirate to encourage innovation and create jobs of the future.”
The agreement will allow SenseTime to establish a Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Research and Development (R&D) headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Over the next five years the company is “expected to create hundreds of jobs, most of which will be highly skilled engineers.” SenseTime will also take the lead on a number of AI projects to drive growth and provide other companies with “technology to enable autonomous driving, augmented reality, medical image analysis, remote sensing and photo quality enhancement,” said, ADIO.
Abu Dhabi is continuing to work towards ensuring the “right quality and the right volume of talent comes in” to support the tech startups. Creating a community that puts “very large companies and startups side by side so they may both benefit in various ways, including fluidity of talent,” said Elham Al Qasim
ADIO has overseen the success stories of several businesses over the years, including: TALEX, Plaza Premium Lounge, Big Bus Tour, CNN International and TwoFour54.
A largely automated and flexible extrusion plant for precision engineered aluminium, TALEX was established in 2011 as part of the SENNAAT General Holding Corporation. SENNAAT supports TALEX by providing the necessary permits and certificates.
Established in 2014, the company offers global airport hospitality solutions in over 160 locations. Its vision is to become a household name and a world class premium airport service provider.
For more information on business topics in the Middle East and Africa, please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief MEA.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.