How Emirati companies can stay competitive in a challenging economic climate

Abdulla Al Gurg reveals how companies from the UAE can compete at a global level and strengthen the local economy in the process



In an economy characterised by the convergence of globalised commerce, widely available information and rapid technological progress, innovation and entrepreneurship will remain crucial factors in remaining competitive.

It is important for companies to push past conventional wisdom. Paying too much attention to traditional business metrics inhibits businesses from making breakthroughs.

Constant innovation is crucial for companies that want to succeed in this economic climate. Whether a start-up company or one that is several generations old, it is critical to continue to reach above and beyond what has been done before to stay relevant. For example, by studying the market, entrepreneurs can create a product or a service within a niche segment, and with added value.

Homegrown brands are created to cater to a need within a certain country, and here in the UAE there is a strong sense of empowerment for start-ups and SMEs.

Emirati companies can also help the UAE to achieve the objectives of Vision 2021, which encourage us to effectively face challenges to the strong fabric of our cohesive society, strive for economic competitiveness, retain our national identity, and overcome challenges to health, education, environment and wellbeing.

We need to face new challenges in order to remain competitive in the current economic climate, especially due to the drop in oil prices, which has affected the region as a whole on a macroeconomic level. Although there will be slower growth this year, the market is expected to recover towards 2018, as projects that are currently in the pipeline come to fruition.

Nevertheless, the UAE has demonstrated resilience to these fluctuations, due to the diversification in economy and the investments taken in the lead up to Expo 2020.

Easa Saleh Al Gurg (ESAG) Group, like every other business conglomerate, is extremely positive about the potential growth impetus that will arise from hosting Expo 2020. The event has already presented countless business opportunities, as various infrastructure projects related to the event begin to take shape. The increasing number of projects in the run up to Expo 2020 will benefit our various entities which are involved in traffic management solutions, industrial automation, power transmission, telecommunication solutions and safety related projects involving fire fighting equipment.

We also practice ‘lean thinking’ in every business discipline and process within the ESAG. The focus remains on creating more value in an environment where all employees are fully productive, motivated and customer focused. This empowers everyone, be it the leadership, management or staff. It helps us develop practical methods to cut costs and inventories, as well as release cash, which is critical in a fluid market space. Lean implementation enables ESAG to respond to changing customer demands with diversity, high quality, competitive costs and improved throughput.

The government is firmly focused on encouraging the non-oil sector, to maintain its critical role in the country’s economy. There has been considerable innovation and investment in the UAE’s industrial profile, with an increased focus on high technology and knowledge-based industries.

The implementation of value added tax (VAT) from January 1, 2018 will not only contribute to the growth of the economy and support the infrastructure expansion, but also provide additional revenue in the country’s effort to diversify its economy from oil dependency.

Businesses will have approximately 18 months once the legislation is enforced to ensure any requirements are met to fulfil their tax obligations. As VAT will be charged throughout the supply chain, businesses are ultimately responsible for invoicing and collecting VAT, and remitting it to the UAE government as required. It is clear that the private sector will need time to prepare for these tax rules.

There is no doubt that Emirati companies can compete on a global level and I believe that we can, together, build a continuous and sustainable economy in the years to come.

Abdulla Al Gurg is group general manager of Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group

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