How family businesses in the UAE can stay relevant and adapt to the changing economy Featured

19 April 2022, Dubai, UAE:

  • In a new exclusive article with Arabian Business, our GCEO discusses how the UAE’s old family businesses should be taking the lead in embracing the promises of technology to navigate unprecedented changes
  • Announcement follows recent ‘Friends of Spain’ prestigious award in recognition of forging relationships between Spain and the UAE presented on behalf of the President of Spain to Al Ghurair.

The last few years have seen remarkable changes in the UAE and across MENA – headlined by a global economic transition.

This transformation ushers in new challenges and opportunities; businesses are under renewed pressure to keep up with the times.

Consumer trends and buying behaviours have altered, as have employee preferences, and the fact that workforces are comprised of multiple generations.

Pressure on global supply chains continues to have untold impact on businesses, forcing them to reshape existing models. Recent political developments are also influencing the conversation.

Earlier this year, the Central Bank of the UAE projected the country’s GDP to grow at 4.2 percent in 2022, with non-oil real GDP increasing by 3.9 percent.

Similar growth trajectories are anticipated across the region, supported by a trend of rapid modernisation, where governments have identified ambitious plans to diversify income sources, attract investment, create jobs, and enhance the living standards of people.

The public and private sectors need to adopt a more agile mindset. Governments are not being left to solely deal with social issues, as stakeholders demand corporates to invest in a more equitable and sustainable future.

This raises an important question for companies who play an instrumental role in local economies – one that particularly puts long-standing businesses in the spotlight: how can they stay relevant?

Embrace the promises of technology

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed many vulnerabilities in the global economy – but it has also highlighted a crucial digital imperative among businesses.

An earlier study by the MIT Sloan School of Management revealed business leaders’ lack of urgency in technological adoption, but since then, many companies have pursued initiatives to ensure their business models remain viable.

A McKinsey survey showed many companies were ready to recognise technology’s strategic role as a critical business component, not just another approach to cut costs.

We at Al Ghurair, one of the oldest family businesses in the UAE, have embarked on a transformation journey that places innovation at the centre of our aspirations. The visionary leadership of the country also reflects this optimistic view on technology – with many recent policy initiatives directed towards supporting innovation.

The visionary leadership of the UAE reflects this optimistic view on technology – with many recent policy initiatives directed towards supporting innovation

Digital adoption is also demand-driven, as consumers have evolved through time. These changes will require significant flexibility from companies – whether it’s launching innovative digital-first products or incorporating modern tech applications such as AI.

For some companies it’s not that easy, especially those that balance heritage with what the future holds.

Many reports have shown the immense contribution of old family businesses in the UAE’s GDP and workforce, making them crucial vehicles of progress and development.

We should be taking the lead in embracing the promises of technology, fostering an economic ecosystem that is prepared to face unprecedented changes.

Strengthen social responsibility

These fast-moving changes come with a raft of social and environmental implications, which is why there is a strong global push for corporations to adopt ESG frameworks. Transformation strategies must have sustainability at the core – to ensure hitting a broad range of socially desirable ends.

As a UAE business with varying stakes in different sectors, we understand the extent of our impact, and the gravity of our responsibility to align with the government – a sustainable economy supported by a thriving community of socially responsible innovators.

The impetus to embrace sustainability exists, and research has shown the importance of data analytics around ESG variables to ensure stronger implementation. Big corporations play a massive role in the effective integration of ESG principles – especially in crucial industries such as construction, oil and gas, and retail.

Big corporations play a massive role in the effective integration of ESG principles.

The pandemic has also prompted discussions around the future of employment. As some of the biggest employers in the region, family businesses, such as Al Ghurair with over 28,000 employees, are under strict scrutiny to ensure fair and just labour policies.

Business leaders must not forget that all innovation efforts boil down to one thing – people, whether it be the customers they serve or the employees they hire.

It seems the relevance of multinational corporations has also been measured against their ability to remain conscious of different external issues, especially during times of social and political unrest.

This aggravates the need for companies to fully embrace modernisation, which entails keeping an awakened social consciousness, even sometimes on issues that don’t necessarily have a direct influence on their businesses.

Enduring corporations with a long-standing legacy must set a good example in raising non-financial impact.

We have built a roadmap that stays true to our promise of enhancing life in the communities we operate in.

Our businesses form an important part of social and economic infrastructure, and we are committed, as all diversified family businesses should be, in ensuring our success has impact beyond profit.

With the UAE’s announcement of its plans for the next 50 years, companies are implored to make their next biggest moves with a futuristic approach – one that balances profitability with the intention to make the world a better place for future generations.

Read the article in Arabian Business here: