Global Leaders Spotlight Tech-led Innovations as the Future of Development

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The Seventh ABLF Talks Virtual Conclave of 2021 saw participation by the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Bahrain, the Executive Chairman of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), CEOs of Talabat, twofour54 Abu Dhabi, Landmark Group, Managing Director – MENA, Facebook and more.

Once again, the monthly conclave, held by the Asian Business Leadership Forum (ABLF) in partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy and under the presence and patronage of H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Cabinet Member and Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, brought together an impressive lineup of global speakers who addressed the impact of the pandemic on their industries and ways in which technology had proved to be an enabler in the face of disruption.

The recovery of the Bahrain economy was the focus of the session by H.E. Zayed R. Alzayani, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Bahrain who highlighted the measures taken by the government to build economic resilience. H.E. Alzayani, who headed his family business for 25 years before his role in the government had a word of advice for companies impacted by the downturn: Keep it lean and mean. “People who run lean organisations will retain their customers.” He also spoke about Bahrain’s continuous diversification efforts and the way the country adapted to tourism trends, “We are ready to receive tourists but we have to be agile as the dynamics are changing every day.”  

The need to adapt to new realities was also highlighted by H.E. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Executive Chairman, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) at his session. The man behind the transformation of Sharjah listed out the projects close to his heart like The Heart of Sharjah and The House of Wisdom while elaborating on how the Emirate embraced talent, encouraged entrepreneurship and ensured sustainability at the core of their ventures. “When we look at projects, we don’t just look at the return on investment but also at its impact on society,” H.E. Al Sarkal said. 

The fact that good leaders turn adversity into opportunities while factoring in the obstacles in the path of growth was evident in the sessions of Tomaso Rodriguez, CEO, Talabat,  Ramez Shehadi, MD – MENA, Facebook and Michael Garin, CEO of twofour54 Abu Dhabi, all of whom spoke about the role of technology in mitigating the impact of the crisis. Rodriguez’s lively session was a lesson for entrepreneurs on how to leverage technology to adapt to an unprecedented crisis. From ensuring the safety of delivery partners to upgrading the app to meet the humongous demand of customers, Talabat changed the way the online delivery industry functioned. “Innovation and technology are at the core of everything we do,” remarked Rodriguez. 


Shehadi, on the other hand, spoke passionately about the way the social networking giant stepped up to the challenge of uniting communities, providing information and support to local businesses through initiatives like the much-talked-about #LoveLocal campaign and Facebook Shops. And despite increasing competition in the form of new avenues of social media, Shehadi said that Facebook was undaunted. “We welcome competition wholeheartedly, it keeps us on the edge of our seats and helps us drive quality,” he said. 

Garin elaborated on the route that Abu Dhabi took to become the entertainment and filmmaking hub of the UAE. The key was to use technology to improve film production quality and give exposure to the vast pool of talent available in the region. “While people seek global content, they also want local authenticity,” he summarised.

Resilient leadership was the essence of Renuka Jagtiani, Chairwoman and CEO of Landmark Group’s session. The iconic business leader who has been heading the Group for the last 25 years, spoke candidly about the challenges that the current situation presented for leaders. “Leaders don’t have a particular style anymore, you need to adapt to the realities around you,” Jagtiani said.

Actor Kabir Bedi, best known for his roles in the 70s Italian series Sandokan, the James Bond film Octopussy and several other projects in Bollywood, Hollywood and Europe, drew applause for his candid revelations during his session. Bedi presented his best selling memoir Stories I Must Tell and in riveting conversation, spoke at length about the superstardom he experienced in the West back in the day. “Anybody who survives 25 years in the industry deserves an Oscar for survival,” he quipped. 

The next Virtual Conclave of the ABLF Talks is set to be held on August 10.