Following a week-long insight trip to the emirate, the president of the King’s College London Business Club (KCLBC) tells Vision why Dubai is uniquely positioned to become a global corporate hub, akin to London’s Canary Wharf
As president of King’s College London Business Club (KCLBC), the largest management and entrepreneurial student society in the UK, I was asked to lead a student initiated trip to a global city to trace its business landscape, shadow parts of the economy, and build connections to support our members in their future careers. My successors previously focused on the innovation in the Valley area of the United States, Wall Street’s aggressiveness and even industrialisation in the land of the rising sun. To me, our club’s portfolio of destinations was missing out a very strategic location for both global commerce and innovation: Dubai.
I first visited Dubai on my way to Europe in 2003, as a result of the major inroads Emirates was making across Asia. What captured my interest was the architectural miracle Dubai had become in the span of a decade. Originally from Singapore, I see a lot of parallels between the development stories of both places.
As I began marketing this idea internally to colleagues, I faced some headwind and reluctant nods as I was questioned on the viability of the idea. Slowly however, I started getting in touch with people on the ground via LinkedIn and networking events in London, which helped unlock exciting opportunities across the city.
Everybody on our delegation found something in Dubai that excited their curiosity and challenged their beliefs
Through these connections, my team at KCLBC were introduced to the likes of DP World, JAFZA, Dubai Future Accelerators and Dubai Financial Services Authority, all of which opened their doors to host us during our trip. What interested me in these companies - although they all operate in entirely different fields - is the “impossible is nothing” attitude they all share in their fortitude to succeed. For example, DP World and JAFZA aim to contribute to 50 per cent of Dubai’s GDP in the next 25-years. With a new international airport in the pipeline, increased railway projects and greater port investment, the goal seems ambitious but viable in the near future. Learning about the Hyperloop which, supported by Dubai Future Accelerators, is testing technology that could see passengers travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in about twelve minutes, enamored us with how the city is driving new technology and ideas to improve daily lives.
Walking around the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) one gets a taste of how the city has created a finance friendly environment to attract both portfolio and direct investment. From regional headquarters of the likes of Citibank and Goldman Sachs to financial institutions and corporates wishing to have on-shore and off-shore exposure, the energy of the area could rival Canary Wharf in London. Later in the trip, I found out about the investment by similar free zones like Dubai Internet City and Media City which attracts industry leaders from around the world across each industry sector from leading media and marketing companies to the regional hubs of tech giants including Google and Facebook.
Leading a delegation of 25 students with varying interests and career ambitions to any part of the world can be difficult. Multiple interests, aspirations and goals can set a group astray. However, in the case of Dubai everybody on our delegation found something that excited their curiosity and challenged their beliefs. The resounding impression I’m thrilled my colleagues came away with is that Dubai is open for business and ideas, and as a young city it is doing more than its peers to attract young and great talent from all over the world.