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Business Economy

Dubai is at the crossroads of global business: Kevin Parikh

Avasant CEO says Dubai is one of few places where all countries can still trade together

Kevin Parikh, CEO and Chairman, Avasant, calls UAE the home of innovation.
Image Credit: Virendra Saklani / Gulf News

Dubai is at the crossroads of business, one of the few places in the world where countries can still trade with each other, says Kevin Parikh, CEO and Chairman, Avasant.

The futurist and thought leader was speaking in an interview with Gulf News on the sidelines of Empowering Beyond (EB) - Middle East 2024, held on February 28 at Address Dubai Mall.

“There are very few places today in the world where all countries can still trade with each other, and this, not just the Middle East, but particularly Dubai, is very much that crossroads. And it's interesting because hasn't that been the role of this region for 2,000 years? This has always been the crossroads for [business] and it will continue to be, particularly as we continue to divide.

“We have what we call the Sino Russian powers which are creating their own economic realities, and we have Western powers which are creating their own economic realities. This is one place where we are all trading together."


Parikh called the UAE the home of innovation. “We breathe innovation. We adopt it, we accept it, and we integrate it into our lives. So in many ways this is the test bed for these new technologies. We try them out here. People are open to them.”

Enlightened disruption

Parikh spoke about the theme of the meeting, Enlightened Disruption.

“We are quickly entering a time in history where innovation is accelerating at such a rapid pace that what we can imagine, we will be able to achieve almost instantly. We see that with generative AI. We have ideas, we want to test them, we can test them, we can experiment, and we can achieve almost instantly. So, this is a really miraculous time. Enlightened disruption means disruption is moving at the pace of human thought.”

The Middle East is a place where innovation gets a chance to spread its wings and grow.

- Kevin Parikh, CEO and Chairman, Avasant

But this calls for action on the part of businesses who risk being left behind if they don’t act fast enough.


"I think for some, it's going to be challenging… getting to a point where labor can't keep up with the challenges. Historically, if you think about how an automobile replaced a horse or the advent of the cell phone, it took time for people to manage that disruption, to be able to train themselves to operate those new devices, and to be able to integrate them into their lives.

“Today, we're talking about innovation that's happening so fast that labor needs to instantly adjust and be able to absorb that new technology, that new innovation. So, that will be hard for some, no doubt."

“Extreme disruption destroys traditional business. And when you have extreme disruption, the advent of a new technology or, as in the case of COVID-19, a huge human impact resulting in the adoption of digital technology, rapid adoption. When you have those situations happening, if your business is unable to adapt to it, it's out of business. So, it's absolutely essential that businesses look forward, embrace technologies, and consider ways to bring those technologies into their business.”

Parikh heads management consulting firm Avasant that has operations in over 50 countries across the Americas, UK, EMEA and Asia.

He founded the firm with the underlying mission of empowering people, businesses, communities, and countries to reach beyond the status quo and realize their potential to acquire new levels of success.


AI regulation

On governmental regulation of artificial intelligence, Parikh said there would always be a requirement for management of new technology.

“One, artificial intelligence has the potential to unravel, unlock, and even copy our identities, and with that comes a need and requirement to protect individual identity.

“Secondly, artificial intelligence has the potential to be abused, as all or any technology can be. So, government regulation is likely. But the question will be not what we are regulating, but what we are not regulating and what we are able to utilize that technology to create. That's the exciting part."

Parikh believes the region, and the UAE in particular, has plenty of innovative potential.

“Throughout the Middle East, we're seeing a rapid adoption of technology. In many ways, innovation is at its birth place here. It might even be invented somewhere else, but it's being tested here, it's being evaluated here. The Middle East is a place where innovation gets a chance to spread its wings and grow.


Potential in the Middle East

“There’s a tremendous amount of potential in the Middle East. One of the challenges and opportunities of the Middle East is amidst global conflicts, this is still the place where business is happening. And this is one of the largest trading routes in the world.”

Avasant works across sectors in the UAE. One of its clients is in the insurance section. “One of their key challenges is that they have to modernise. They can only do so with a technology-enabled service offering. These types of service offerings will drive more revenue for them, help them engage more customers, and be more competitive.”

And what is Parikh’s advice to businesses around the world on the adoption of new-age technology?

“Don't invest in what you need now. Invest in what you will need in the next decade. And that requires some strategic planning. Technology is moving at a pace that is so fast that you will quickly find that any short-term investments you have will soon not be of any value. That means thinking about platforms differently. It means thinking about innovation as part of how you operate and grow your business and bringing that culture of innovation into your DNA.”