Gulf Business Breakfast meet: Shining the spotlight on cloud, AI and proptech   
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Gulf Business Breakfast meet: Shining the spotlight on cloud, AI and proptech   

Gulf Business Breakfast meet: Shining the spotlight on cloud, AI and proptech   

Close to 100 industry professionals gathered for Gulf Business’ inaugural Business Breakfast meet, themed around the intersection of technology and business

Neesha Salian

Gulf Business successfully debuted its much-awaited Business Breakfast series, with the first event showcasing key trends in technology and its impact on business and industry.

Close to 100 industry professionals attended the gathering.

Held on June 12, at Grand Plaza Movenpick Media City, the meet featured insightful panel discussions, networking opportunities and a platform for industry leaders to share their thoughts on current and emerging developments in fields such as cloud and AI adoption, real estate, construction and proptech.

The morning kicked off with Gareth van Zyl, group editor at Gulf Business, and Manish Chopra, publisher at Gulf Business, extending a warm welcome to the attendees, panelists and sponsors.

In his opening address, van Zyl said: “Today, we find ourselves at the intersection of business, real estate, and technology, particularly here in Dubai and the UAE. The UAE leads the way with groundbreaking initiatives such as appointing the world’s first minister of artificial intelligence (AI). The UAE also recently ranked second globally in a GSMA report for 5G connectivity adoption, and our seamless e-governance systems, such as the biometric advancements at Dubai airport, set a high standard for technological integration. The UAE’s innovative spirit and rapid adoption of these technologies make it an ideal backdrop for today’s discussions.”

Talking about the launch of the Business Breakfast series, Chopra emphasised the role that Gulf Business plays in showcasing the latest developments in business and industry across the region. “We pride ourselves on publishing a high-quality monthly magazine and supplements. Our digital presence is also strong, bringing the latest news to a growing number of subscribers across the region. Additionally, Gulf Business enjoys an exclusive presence onboard Emirates’ business and first-class lounges and flights, and with nearly 30,000 copies distributed across the GCC, including Saudi Arabia, our reach continues to grow,” he said.

Both van Zyl and Chopra acknowledged Motivate Media Group’s remarkable 45-year journey, celebrating the group’s founder, managing partner and group editor Ian Fairservice, for his visionary leadership.

The event also marked Gulf Business’ 28th anniversary, highlighting its longstanding commitment to providing insightful journalism in the region.

In addition to the Gulf Business team, a keynote speech was delivered by Atif Rahman, founder and chairman of ORO24 Developments.

Talking about Dubai’s real estate success story, Rahman said: “I was reviewing data from 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 to prepare for this keynote, and the findings are remarkable. I averaged the values and volumes of transactions from those years and compared them to 2023 and 2024. It shows a rise of 875 per cent in value and 576 per cent in volume. This incredible growth speaks volumes about Dubai’s booming real estate market.”

Rahman added: “Dubai’s success story can be attributed to the country’s visionary leaders: the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE Ruler of Dubai. Sheikh Rashid laid the foundation for growth, while Sheikh Mohammed’s visionary leadership has propelled Dubai to new heights.”

“Dubai’s unique story is characterised by the government’s proactive role in driving progress. Unlike other parts of the world where the private sector leads, Dubai’s government is always ahead. Recent data shows that the UAE occupies just 0.016 per cent of the world’s landmass and 0.129 per cent of its population, yet it attracts global interest and investment.

“As we look to the future, the real estate and construction industries, which have lagged in technological adoption, must now harness AI, proptech and building information modelling to drive progress,” said Rahman.

Rahman’s keynote address was followed by the main highlights of the tech-themed event: the tech and proptech panel discussions.

Panel discussions

The tech panel discussion, moderated by van Zyl, delved into the transformative impact of technologies such as AI, 5G, cloud adoption and cybersecurity on businesses in the region.

Panelists included Mohamed Taha Benssiba, head of AI for Europe South, Middle East and Africa at Oracle; Vishal Kapil, CIO of GMG; John Casey, MD at (Virtuzone); Sunil Kumar Peer, director of Industry Sections at Huawei, and Mohit Pandey, head of Sales, META region at Seagate Technology.

The senior executives shared their perspectives on the evolving technological landscape.

The discussions explored various facets of technology adoption, integration and innovation across industries. From Oracle’s advancements in AI integration to Huawei’s role in driving 5G connectivity, each panelist provided unique insights into the challenges and opportunities presented by emerging technologies.

Addressing a question related to the adoption of AI, a key focus for companies in the region these days, Oracle’s Bensibba told the audience about the customers the tech giant caters to.

He shared that ‘shapers’ are the larger group who see the potential of AI, especially generative AI, but need it to be customised to their specific data and business needs. “They understand some training and adaptation are required. This is where Oracle excels in the region. We offer tools and services to help ‘shapers’ train and tweak existing AI models to fit their unique requirements.”

“Makers, on the other hand, include startups and large organisations with ambitions to become global leaders in AI development. The UAE is a leader in this space with open-source models like TII’s Falcon. Interestingly, Oracle takes a different approach with ‘makers’. We offer the same core AI platform technology we use to build our solutions. This empowers them to build their custom AI solutions on top of a powerful and proven foundation. In fact, three of the top five AI training companies in the world, with significant research and development budgets, leverage our platform. This approach allows us to cater to both established companies seeking to adopt AI solutions and ambitious players aiming to build their AI from the ground up,” said Bensibba.

Cloud and 5G connectivity were also important trends discussed during the chat. Responding to a question on the topic, Huawei’s Peer talked about how the company has created an intelligent platform for enterprises and governments to build industry-specific scenarios, saying the region now demands “everything” as a service, moving beyond just infrastructure or platform services.

“Customers now seek business transformation solutions. To address this, we focus on collaboration across five tech domains: compute, cloud, 5G connectivity, AI, and applications. Cloud serves as the platform for delivering these intelligent applications and solving business problems. Additionally, we offer various deployment models — public, private, hybrid, or on-premises clouds — to meet the region’s stringent data residency and localisation regulations. We also develop AI-based scenarios tailored to industries like retail, e-commerce, government, and oil and gas, providing both pre-trained models and the flexibility for organisations to train their data,” he shared.

“Our strategy includes partnering with local telcos to offer cloud services within smaller regions, such as Oman, ensuring compliance with local data regulations while leveraging a global cloud network. This approach ensures integration and fosters strong partnerships,” said Peer.

Sharing the evolving landscape of data and cloud, Seagate’s Pandey shed light on the company’s role as a storage solutions organisation, dominating the global market.

“In the context of this region, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the demand for cloud storage is incredibly high. To meet this demand, we have introduced a technology called Mosaic 3+. This innovation reflects a strategic shift, much like basketball legend Michael Jordan’s philosophy of changing the rules of the game rather than just playing it. By increasing hard drive capacity to 30 terabytes, and with plans to reach 100 terabytes, we are not merely keeping pace with competitors but setting new standards. This increased area density is crucial because all new technologies — whether AI, machine learning, or IoT — require robust data storage solutions.”

Pandey added: “By increasing storage capacity and improving efficiency, we reduce the total cost of ownership. This means businesses can store more data at a lower cost per terabyte, making large-scale data storage more accessible and cost-effective.”

Explaining the importance of how technology was building efficiency in different sectors, retail giant GMG’s Kapil explained: “Technology in many companies is seen as an enabling function, but it has evolved; it’s now a stabilising function. It’s technology that is driving organisations today.

However, he added that on observing how younger generations interact with technology, companies “should recognise the need to evolve our interfaces to meet future consumer expectations. This involves simplifying processes and enhancing user experiences”.

Kapil also shared how GMG is integrating its systems internally while collaborating with reliable vendors. “This includes undertaking significant transformations such as completing four SAP implementations in one year, building a comprehensive data lake across all business units, enabling transactions directly in-store without traditional invoicing and ensuring inventory visibility, among other initiatives.”

Taxready’s Casey brought a new perspective to the discussion, enlightening attendees on the significant impact of AI and automation on the accounting industry, especially in the context of VirtuZone’s innovations. He explained that while accountants are aware of the industry’s susceptibility to automation, recent advancements have shifted from automating tasks to offering AI-driven advice., for instance, has developed a tool called TaxGPT, initially seen as a potential marketing gimmick but proven to deliver highly accurate outputs. This technology, Case noted, has started to commoditise advice, marking a significant shift in service industries such as accounting, legal, and financial advice.

Casey highlighted that AI is indeed starting to replace jobs traditionally held by accountants but emphasised that bespoke and complex pieces of work will still require human expertise. Interestingly, clients often verify AI-generated advice with human accountants, indicating a transitional phase before full adoption.

The rise of the real estate sector

Following a lively Q&A session with the audience, the event transitioned to two more keynote addresses from Firas Al Msaddi, CEO and founder of fäm Properties; and Alex Zagrebelny, the founder and sole proprietor of R.Evolution Group.

Highlighting the robust growth trajectory of Dubai’s real estate sector with the attendees, Al Msaddi said: “In Q1 2024, we saw 65,000 transactions, double from Q1 last year and triple from Q1 2022. The value of these transactions is also double that of 2022, amounting to Dhs186bn in sales, with May alone recording Dhs45bn. Several factors are fuelling this market. For instance, people are increasingly aware that the value of money is diminishing, making real estate an attractive investment. For example, land that sold for Dhs400 per square foot a few years ago now sells for Dhs1,700 per square foot.

The city has cemented its status as a global hub, attracting people and businesses from around the world. Its customer-focused approach and superior client experience make it a prime investment location.”

He remarked: Dubai’s new era of regulations and data transparency has boosted foreign investment and confidence among real estate investors. Recent regulations on online ads have significantly impacted the market, reducing inflated supply listings and improving decision-making for buyers. We are working closely with the authorities to enhance these regulations further.

“The rental market is thriving, further motivating investment. People often ask when rental prices will drop. A drop would indicate an economic slowdown and reduced population, which is undesirable. A healthy rental market signifies a robust economy.”

Msaddi added: “The gap between off-plan and real estate market prices is also crucial. A larger gap signals higher risk, as the off-plan market is driven by investors, and insufficient end-user demand upon project handover can lead to market instability. Currently, the market is at an all-time high in demand and supply. Despite new developments, rental prices remain high due to realistic supply and demand dynamics.”

Sustainability as a key trend in construction

Alex Zagrebelny, the founder and sole proprietor of the UAE-based R.Evolution Group, who took the stage after Al Massadi, explained why sustainability was an important consideration in construction.

He shared a detailed presentation about the group’s award-winning sustainable projects across the UAE, Latvia, Germany and Spain. Zagrebelny underscored the value of using ancient knowledge from Yoga, Vaastu Shastra and energising crystals in his projects, including Eywa, the company’s boutique building in Dubai, which features 48 exclusive residences and two penthouse apartments.

Following Zagrebelny’s presentation, industry experts joined Rahman for the proptech panel discussion. Rahman, who was the moderator, invited comments from Fibha Ahmed, vice president of Property Sales, Bayut & dubizzle, and Louai Abou Khzam, co-founder of Prosper Real Estate as well as Al Msaddi and Zagrebelny (also panelists) on key topics, including the role of proptech in reshaping the built environment and their outlook on supply and demand in the emirate’s real estate sector.

During the discussion, Prosper’s Khzam said: “It’s important to believe in the government’s vision for the future. The consistency in their efforts to grow the market is evident. While it’s normal to experience ups and downs, what matters most is the steady progress we’re seeing. The current market shows that supply is being effectively managed. Developers are motivated and are raising the standards of living for end users. We’re witnessing increased competition in amenities and facilities within communities, which is beneficial for the market as it enhances the overall lifestyle and image of the city.”

Al Msaddi’s view was that Dubai is well-positioned to avoid the severe market cyclicality seen in the past. “Developers are focusing on delivering quality projects, understanding that they can sell anything they develop. However, construction and timely delivery remain crucial to maintaining market confidence,” he said.

Ahmed added: “Talking about the outlook, we believe the market is booming, and we have substantial data from both the supply and demand sides on our platform. Over the last 10 years, especially from the latter half of 2022, the demand for Dubai real estate has been phenomenal. Offerings have significantly increased. I remember during the Covid pandemic, everyone was uncertain about future prices, and some managed to secure great rental deals. Now, everything is aligning with the real value in the market, leading to price appreciation in both sales and rentals.

“There’s good news. Last year, I spoke about the double-digit growth in sale prices in Dubai’s prime areas, and the same trend was observed in rentals. However, compared to the last quarter, this quarter’s price increases are moderating and stabilising. As Firas mentioned, we don’t want prices to drop, but they need to stabilise to match market demand. We’ve seen a healthy balance and moderate price increases in prime areas.”

Ahmed added that demand is phenomenal for off-plan projects and new sub-communities in Dubai. “While traditional areas such as Business Bay, Downtown, Marina, and the Palm are always highlighted, I advise potential property owners and investors to consider new and upcoming areas like Dubai South, MBR City, Meydan, Jumeirah Village Circle and Dubai Investment Park. These areas offer great value for money if you’re willing to move slightly further out,” she said.

Sustainability was also a key focus during the panel discussion. Explaining its importance, Zagrebelny said: “For me, sustainability is a holistic system. It starts with the quality of the facade, choosing materials that prevent the building from overheating, the quality of the glass used and engineering systems. Managing all these systems effectively, even with the help of AI, plays a crucial role.

“Sustainability also means reconnecting with nature, which is often overlooked. In all our buildings, I aim to rewire and invite people to reconnect with nature. It’s not just about reducing energy consumption; it’s about fostering relationships within the building and in business. It’s a comprehensive, holistic approach where everything must be sustainable.”

These insights into the sector prompted several questions from attendees during the Q&A session following the panel.

Closing on a high note

Post the interactive session, the event concluded with closing remarks from van Zyl, expressing gratitude to all participants and sponsors for their contributions to the enriching discussions, including Oracle, ORO24 Developments, GMG,, Huawei, Seagate Technology, fäm Properties, R.Evolution Group, Bayut & dubizzle, and Prosper Real Estate.

He said: “This event was just the beginning. We have a series of panels and business breakfasts planned for the coming months, culminating in our Gulf Business Awards in September, where we will celebrate the best in business across various sectors, including real estate, hospitality, finance, and entrepreneurship. It promises to be our biggest awards event yet.”

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