It's back to a re-discovery phase for Dubai's businesses. But this time, they have the best tools of technology to make it work for them. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

‘Dubai Businesses Restart Today...’

It was a headline from May, 27, 2020. Indeed - it has started.

This reminded me of Amitabh Bachchan’s forceful quote in his popular TV show “Kaun Banega Krorepati”. He would say “Your time starts now...”.

Yes, our time starts now. Over the last three months, we have been put on the trail to function with responsibility - rather, with more responsibility. Now the rope has been let loose. Let us not lose our sense of comfort by acting irresponsibly now.

“UAE divers share thrill of swimming with five meter whale sharks...”. This was reported today. This is character of UAE businessmen. We know how to swim with sharks. We know how to face down storms.

Ride through the dunes

Dubai has, and will always remain, a paradise for every businessman and resident in all conditions. Dubai is surrounded by dunes. Ups and downs are part of its inbuilt character. Inevitable transitory fluctuations in business conditions is no reason to shake confidence in this city-state, which has been so fondly nurtured over decades.

Social media is an excellent technological innovation to bring functional efficiency - it should be used for positive purposes. We need to change. When we cause the change... we lead.

I remember in 1987 when Dubai’s textile market was in a serious state of affairs and a senior banker with substantial exposure was anxious about what this situation could mean for the economy. He put a question to me: “When do you think this situation will be remedied”.

I replied, “Perhaps in eight or nine months...”.

“Within that time will things be back to normal?,” he responded.

“No, things will not become normal. We shall get used to them...”, was my reply then.

Likewise, we have to get used to the present situation and bring change in our thought processes and ways of functioning.

Sure, it’s not going to be easy

Turnaround is the word talked about... but suspiciously so. Dubai will turnaround sooner than people think. But a turnaround of individual businesses is a different story. Dubai was developed on the basis of competitiveness. Our neighbours like Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and others depend on supplies from Dubai inspite of the fact that they could get these directly.

But low profit margins and a ready inventory without quantity restrictions made Dubai a first choice for buyers.

That competitiveness has been lost by Dubai traders. From a reputation of being the “most competitive” place, it has acquired reputation of “most expensive”. We developed ourselves as a tourism destination but lost our place as a business hub and being competitive.

This is where Dubai businesses have to start working on lean margins, adapt new technologies and achieve a future turnaround. Our greed to make fat profits with obsolete systems keeps us away from new low-cost technologies. Why did we have to wait for a coronavirus to come into our lives before we introduced Zoom?

Was a lockdown necessary to introduce Zoom? So much costs could be cut in travel and hotel expenses by holding meetings through zoom. Similarly online education will cut real estate costs for schools and colleges.

The mantra is that the sooner you become competitive, restart Working on lean margins, accept new technologies, the earlier you achieve a turnaround. Business is nothing but CSR (corporate social responsibility).

We cannot make business a purely profit churning machine.

- Dr. Ram Buxani is Chairman of ITL Cosmos Group.