Suresh Kumar (right), Chairman, IBPC in dialogue with Navdeep Singh Suri, Ambassador of India to the UAE at a function hosted by IBPC in February this year to commemorate the centenary year of the Jallianwalla Bagh incident. The event also hosted a discussion on Khooni Vaisakhi, a book based on the incident and originally penned by the Ambassador’s grandfather, Nanak Singh in Punjabi and translated into English by Navdeep Singh Suri Image Credit: Supplied

The Indian Business and Professional Council Dubai (IBPC) had an interesting birth, inorganic in a manner of speaking. Let me elaborate.

In 2001, I was flying to Munich on a business trip and seated next to me was the Chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce, (who subsequently became a Federal Minister). We struck up a conversation, during which he mentioned that the Dubai Chamber had recently been mandated to license all business councils in Dubai, and that henceforth, each nationality would be permitted only one formal business council.

Remarking that the Indian community had three such groups, he felt that this resulted in a triplication of efforts and events, which significantly diluted the strength and focus of the large Indian business and professional community in Dubai.

The (then) Head of Dubai Police, also present, nodded in agreement and we parted ways, acknowledging that the situation needed to be remedied.

At the time, I was the head of one of the three Indian organisations, the India Business Council and upon my return, spoke to the Heads of the other two, as well as the Indian Consul General. Everyone agreed that it was a good idea, in principle, but felt that their organisation should be the chosen one!

Comprehensive deliberations with leaders of the Indian business community and the Director General of the Dubai Chamber ensued to achieve consensus. While there was agreement at the Chamber, a subsequent reluctance to act quickly led to an aimless drift.

Reaching a consensus

A few months later, the Chairman of the Chamber reached out to me and agreed that soft persuasion would not suffice and that the Chamber would have to set timelines, to achieve a merger within a short period of time. He personally gave a two-week ultimatum for a combined Constitution and a Steering Committee.

This was how IBPC began to take shape.

Mr Mirza Al Sayegh offered to be Patron and gave us the benefit of his considerable experience and knowledge. We soon formed a Committee drawn from the three entities and formulated one Constitution under which the newly formed IBPC would operate.

IBPC hosts a delegation from india led by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur (fifth from left) at the Rising Himachal, UAE Roadshow event held in Dubai this year Image Credit: Supplied

The rest, as they say, is history. IBPC Dubai was formally born as a Council in 2003, operating effectively and growing strongly for over 14 years.

However, in late 2017, there were some serious road bumps in terms of governance and cohesion of the Board. As the old saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. The Board dissolved itself and the Chamber agreed to an interim Board arrangement to stabilise and ensure a revival of IBPC as an operating entity.

The Chamber approved the constitution of an independent Governance Board to oversee IBPC’s functioning and a revised Constitution that would be responsible in ensuring good governance and best practices. This Board comprised leading UAE businessmen and professionals of considerable stature.

Key elements

Communication and clarity of purpose are key elements of IBPC Dubai’s new strategy. In broad based business associations, it is important to ensure that all business sectors in the economy are well represented and able to conduct activities that foster growth and create opportunities for mutual value enhancement. With this objective, several Focus Groups, representing the strategic business sectors predominant in the Dubai Strategic Plan 2021, were set up under the new Constitution. Each of these has considerable autonomy and authority for conducting activities.

Focus on forums

With these Focus Groups, IBPC now has a distributed leadership and organisational structure, which replaces the previous policy of a centralised authority that assumed responsibility for every aspect of the Council’s activities.

Within a few months, this change has spawned a great deal of entrepreneurial and organisational zeal and strength. Frequent events and diverse, relevant topics being discussed across sectors have already started to contribute to IBPC’s dynamism and growth.

Apart from business-sector-specific focus, special fora have been formed to reflect and achieve several ancillary objectives such as encouraging gender diversity with IBPC for She, the Community and Social Responsibility (CSR) Forum, the Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) Forum and the NRI Tax Affairs Forum.

Each forum is led by a Mentor/Convenor. Their seniority and standing in the business and professional world is expected to catalyse our efforts in achieving our broader social and economic objectives.

This vibrant structure involving industry leaders in furthering their own industry sectors’ development, fosters both entrepreneurship and a greater sense of community and belonging, in keeping with the values of the UAE.

It has created a great deal of enthusiasm across the organisation, in terms of participation and appreciation.

Best practices benchmark

IBPC Dubai is currently reviewing its own internal procedures and policies to apply for the Quality Appreciation Award and in that journey to stay benchmarked against best practices.

The organisation aspires to remain not just the largest, but also the most efficient and well-regarded business council of this nature in Dubai.

Every seventh person in the world is an Indian. And more significantly, around the world, Indians have excelled across realms of technology, management, business acumen, professional skills and statesmanship roles.

It is therefore inevitable that, based in this vibrant and future-centric city, IBPC Dubai reinvents itself in keeping with the spirit and dynamism of Dubai.