Procurement in the United Arab Emirates – Guy Allen reports

Regular readers will be aware that Guy Allen and I co-present the ‘Real World Sourcing’ series for BravoSolution. He’s just back from the first of four trips we’ll be making this year to the United Arab Emirates (two each) to deliver the sessions there, so I asked Guy to give us his views of procurement in the region, based on his  exposure to date.

The Real World Sourcing sessions proved very popular in the UK through 2012 and 2013, so a couple of years ago, Bravo’s joint venture company in the United Arab Emirates, Tejari, invited us to deliver the same series in the UAE, first in Dubai, and now in Abu Dhabi as well. The aim of series is to bring the benefit of the combined years of procurement experience that Peter and I have to these countries, which are probably by most people’s reckoning a few years behind procurement in the UK. I’d like to think we are successful in doing this, but the education is more than one way, as I shall explain.

The audiences we have attracted in Dubai and now Abu Dhabi tend to be about 40 strong. Take a moment to think about how that audience might be comprised. Before my first trip, I was expecting a very male, very ‘foreign’ group of people, but actually what we get is somewhat different. But before I explain that, lets talk about Dubai first.

For those who have not visited, Dubai is like a modern American city, without all the crime and the grime. It is not rich in oil resources, so instead is positioning itself as a major finance, trade and tourism centre, a Shanghai or Hong Kong for the new era if you like. It is well placed, both geographically and time zone wise, to do this, positioned between the Far East and Europe as a trade land bridge. It is disadvantaged in its connections to the US, but otherwise is well placed.

However, to make this real, it needs to attract modern business talent from the West. The indigenous Emiratis simply did not have the experience to develop an international business hub from scratch. And to secure that experience, and attract the right talent, the government needed to make Dubai an attractive place to be.

Consequently, despite being an Arab and Muslim country, the leaders in Dubai have done all that they can to make the city state as comfortable and welcoming for westerners as possible. Modern restaurants, recognised chains stores and availability of alcohol (in hotels only, though you don’t need to be a resident) all contribute to a comfortable, safe environment for expats from across the globe.

This is further enhanced by attracting Western stars and sporting events; in recent visits there have been gigs by Bon Jovi, air displays by the Red Arrows and the inaugural Cycling Tour of Dubai, featuring top sprinters such as Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel just the other week.

But Western expats are expensive, so the western business types are augmented by qualified professional staff from countries such as India and Pakistan. All these elements contribute to our audience at the sessions we run. As I mentioned above, I expected it to be very male and very Arab. However what we have seen is very different – more on that tomorrow.

(More in part 2 tomorrow – and you can still register for Guy’s session ‘Risk in Procurement’ next Wednesday 26th February in London. There are a couple of places left so if you want a good lunch, some excellent networking and hopefully an interesting briefing, you can book here).

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