Murshed Mohammad Ahmad, co-founder of Emirati bridal planners Yebab.com. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: The Middle East must create 50 million new jobs in the next decade to maintain current unemployment numbers, said Dubai Women's College (DWC) entrepreneurship centre manager Nao Valentino on occasion of the entrepreneurial Planning and Innovation Competition (EPIC) last week.

The competition is a collaborative initiative between the Higher Colleges of Technology's Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) and the Wharton Business School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Conference winners

Winners were announced at the third annual Global Entrepreneurship Conference at Dubai Men's College last week.

Valentino said entrepreneurs play a significant role in curbing unemployment and poverty in society.

These sentiments are right on time as student entrepreneurs across the country gear up to compete for a top prize of $20,000 (Dh73,000) at the finals of the EPIC this week. Eight student and alumni finalists from across the nation pitched their business models to a panel of judges who scrutinised their business plans' viability in the real world. "This competition is an opportunity for them [students] to plug into the development of the UAE and contribute to its gross domestic product," said Valentino.

"These businesses could potentially employ other nationals and expatriates.

"They could really curb the unemployment situation in the Middle East."

Mentor to four of the finalist teams in EPIC, Valentino said: "Entrepreneurs solve problems and it's not necessarily for profit."

An example of this are DWC's "Miracle Makers".

Health science students Dalal Abdullah, Khawla Mohammad Al Hunaini and Salima Abdul Kareem Al Harbi formulated a product called the D-Kit.

It is an all-in-one kit that monitors blood sugar levels, blood pressure and body mass index.

At an estimated production cost of Dh200, the D-kit also dispenses nutritional advice through updatable software, to help individuals maintain a healthy lifestyle.

"Diabetes is a problem in the UAE, 70 per cent of the population has diabetes," said Dalal. "Our concern is not profit but to spread awareness about the dangers of diabetes and its complications."

Brother and sister Murshed and Mareyah Mohammad Ahmad are both HCT alumni.

They are the brains behind an online wedding directory called Yebab.com, catering to Emirati brides.

"Typically Emirati brides face an issue of finding the most suitable suppliers," said Ahmad.

"They also mismanage their budgets and leave everything to the last minute," he added.

"We've created a solution where they can find what's available to them in the market," he said.

Launched in October 2008 with a capital of Dh3,000, the siblings have managed to generate Dh300,000.

"Typically Emirati brides face an issue of finding the most suitable suppliers. They also mismanage their budgets and leave everything to the last minute... we've created a solution where they can find what's available to them in the market."

Murshed Mohammad Ahmad, Higher Colleges of Technology graduate and entreprenuer

  • First place: The Miracle Makers team took home a total of $25,000 (Dh92,000) for winning first place and best undergraduate business plan for the D-kit, at the CERT-Wharton entrepreneurial planning and innovation competition (EPIC) on Tuesday.
  • Second place: The Yebab.com team from Dubai Men's College came in second place and won $10,000 (Dh36,500) for their existing online wedding directory, Yebab.com, which caters to Emirati brides.
  • Third place: The Qahwa Café for Ladies team from Fujairah Women's College came in third, winning $5,000 (Dh18,250) for their idea of a coffee shop dedicated solely to women.
  • Also announced at GEC was the launch of the website Arabic Knowledge@Wharton — an Arabic version of the English, Knowledge@Wharton, which is an online resource connecting worldwide business professionals to students and local business communities.