Dubai: It's all very well having an idea for a business. But more often than not, they don't get to bloom for want of a fertile ground, i.e., the lack of a support infrastructure.
But that, certainly, will not be the case for Zahra Al Dahmani and Fatima Al Marzooqi, or for Amna Humaid Al Fard, and the other UAE nationals who made the choice list for the Manchester Innovation Award for Emiratis 2010.
In all, ten business plans have made the shortlist for the Award, which was open to all Emiratis over 20 years.
But benefits will not be the sole prerogative of the winner — business incubation services will be provided to all participants, and all of them become eligible for project financing from Mohammad Bin Rashid Establishment. Depending on the economic viability of the business proposal, they are in line to receive funds from Dh100,000 to a maximum of Dh3 million.
Moreover, a seed capital programme, which targets start-ups and early stage ventures, will also be on offer to the finalists. It grants the chosen entrepreneur the required funds to develop and research the new idea for a period and convert it into a feasible and marketable business project.
As for the winner, he or she benefits from an all-expenses study tour to the Manchester Business School in the UK, a cash award and a trophy, as well as on-going support in the development of the winning business innovation.
"There may well be a social, cultural dimension influencing attitudes towards risk taking in the UAE; but I believe we are seeing the emergence of an entrepreneurial appetite and associated skills with the younger generation of Emiratis [and] not just established business people," said Professor Michael Luger, dean of the Manchester Business School.
"The employment demands in the Arab world are rising and we know that innovation and SMEs will play a major role in the creation of careers for young Arabs.
"This means some young Arabs recognise the need and opportunity and are ready to make a start in taking more control over their own working lives and careers. It starts with education and training and the UAE is making progress on this area."
For this year's award, a new criterion was attached to judge the finalists — the potential to create employment opportunities for Emiratis — in addition to the creativity and viability of the business idea.
"This is now an essential component of the awards and recognises the practical need for innovation to help stimulate economic growth and jobs for Emiratis," Luger added.
The business plans put forward by the finalists give the lie to the belief that the services industry is the preferred choice for young Emiratis looking to launch careers on their own.
Yes, some of the proposals do cater to the service industry, but there's also interest in health care and in media.
Moreover, the winner of the first Manchester Innovation Award last year was interested in setting up a plant for the treatment of waste oil. It would then be recycled to produce irrigation water and bio-fuels.
"The 2010 Award certainly attracted business ideas focusing on the service sector — leisure, tourism and hospitality, advertising, and business incubation were all included among the top ten ideas selected as finalists," said Luger.
"There is a higher proportion of younger Emirati women amongst the 2010 finalists and this may well be a factor in the emphasis on services.
"In fact, the innovations in this area were especially interesting in that we have young women designing businesses around the needs of Emirati women, their own peers, reinforcing the position and role of women in society. The focus on creating social benefits through business innovations was very evident this year.
"The key for us is not to try to steer ideas in any given direction but stimulate high quality ideas — in any and all areas that are relevant to Emiratis, including service innovations — and then to recognise and help support them to fruition."
"Service businesses are generally simpler and less expensive to set up, but it also means there is greater competition in this area and is more difficult to create a point of difference, whilst scaling up service businesses can also be a challenge. Manufacturing and hi-tech industries are still in their infancy in the UAE. But this is changing quickly and driven by the desire to diversify the country's economy, this will accelerate. The aspiration of the UAE to become a knowledge economy is another strong influence."
"We have seen no evidence to suggest that service industries impede talent development and innovation in other sectors. Scientific, technical and technological innovations sit alongside consumer services innovations very comfortably."
The finalists for the Manchester Innovation Award for Emiratis 2010 are:
- Zahra Al Dahmani and Fatima Al Marzooqi. Their business proposal is to have a service providing baggage check-in counters in major malls and hotels for long-distance passengers flying out of Dubai.
- Fatima Al Nuaimi, Munira Al Suwaidi and Majila Al Musalli have envisioned Arti.fe as an exclusive cafe for women to interact.
- Amna Humaid Al Fard's proposal is for Arty Crafty Café, again exclusively for women. It will be a gathering place for workshops and practising different arts and crafts in an informal environment.
- Abdul Rahman Al Suwaidi of Media Republic, an advertising, media and events company.
- Marwan Al Kendi, whose pet project is Discover UAE. Tourists will be escorted by Emirati guides while visiting the many destinations of significance.
- Rashid Mohammad Al Shamsi's intention is to create advertisements on escalators, principally at the Metro. This would attract both SMEs and large corporations to advertise their brands within the metro stations for monthly rental charges.
- Mohammad Sharief Faraidooni and Tariq Esmail Mohammad have put forward a plan to launch a football themed café, Café Goal.
- Amerah Ahmad plans to launch Options as a supportive environment for children suffering from obesity.
- Sara Mohammad Al Junaibi's concept is for Aras Jewellery which would design bespoke ornaments.
- Aisha Saeed Al Hamiz and Mariam Omran Al Hallami are behind ZeeYou, conceived as a university based entrepreneurship incubator.
The Manchester Business School launched its Middle East International Executive Centre in Dubai in 2006 and now has over 800 MBA students in the region. They are all professionals following part-time EMBA programmes.
This was followed by the introduction of a DBA programme, a research degree. Next year, the plan is to launch a range of ‘Executive Education' short courses designed for the region.
The School is also undertaking a survey to assess demand for executive education in the GCC, done in partnership with Tecom. The new programmes are to complement the MBA programmes on offer here and could end up attracting more corporate interest.