12 March 2009

* Potential of MENA-based MNCs looms ahead

Gulf-based businesses are preparing for the new economic order by leveraging new growth opportunities presented by the current global financial crisis. Long-term growth measures include acquiring assets, recruiting fresh talent and training them and exploring non-traditional growth markets with a focus on “more volume, less value” deals.  This was the unanimous conclusion of a panel of GCC-based business leaders at the first-ever Wharton Global Alumni Forum being held Dubai.
The conference session ‘Is the Dawn of the New Era of MENA Multinationals Delayed?’ witnessed much straight-talk with one of the participants urging the Arab world to “step up to respect each other before respecting outsiders” that was greeted by the audience with loud applause.  Presenting the case, the moderator Professor Witold J. Henisz, Associate Professor of Management at The Wharton School, asked the participants what made their businesses succeed.
Mohamed Alshaya, Executive Chairman of Kuwait’s Alshaya Company, said the key to the success of his organisation was selecting the right talent and ensuring fair deals for all stakeholders.  Sami Bargoum, Managing Director at Jeddah-based Savola Group highlighted the need to tailor the brands for the region and focus on cultural proximity. Meanwhile, identifying how governments and the public sector work was the niche route to success developed by Tarek Sultan, Chairman and Managing Director of Kuwaiti logistics company Agility.
Rami Makhzoumi, President and Chief Executive Officer of Future Pipe Industries in the UAE, explained that the ethno-origin of companies are not a constraint, and asserted that the new generation of today’s business leaders are “MNCs in our own individual capacity.”
The panel highlighted that the attitude of governments to the private sector has shifted considerably even in conservative markets. Participants also urged for the need to create job opportunities for Arab youth – expected to dominate the regional demography by 2030.  Alshaya and Bargoum said that they are building on the current financial climate to invest in human resources and acquire new assets. “This is a good time to take a pause, look inward and look at how we can reduce costs. That is because businesses are concerned and must make contingency plans. But this is also the time to identify opportunities and act on them,” Alshaya added.
Professor Henisz concluded that the concept of MENA-based MNCs is a reality, and they need to build on their technological, marketing and financial capabilities, and support them with strong leadership skills.

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.