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Gulf business insights from 2022 and what to expect in 2023

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In the context of the Ukraine war, the energy crisis, rising inflation and supply chain issues, the past year was certainly one of challenges and lessons for companies. Here, a selection of AGBI columnists and Gulf entrepreneurs reveal their business insights from 2022 and what they are looking forward to in the year ahead.

Chris Doyle

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding

The last year for me has shown how successful people exhibit traits of adaptability and flexibility.

The top enterprises have shown this ability, in reacting to new conditions, and allowing hybrid, flexible working. The world has to change and to do that we will need to change all our practices.

I also learned that in today’s world we can expect just about anything. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that, by October, in the UK we would be on the third British prime minister and fourth chancellor of the exchequer, I would wonder what drugs you were taking. Let alone seeing Elon Musk take over Twitter and completely upend its whole operations.

Perhaps we could do with a little less crazy in 2023 and a return to the more boring day-to-day stuff?

Marwan Hachem, co-founder and group CEO of digital bank Yap

We learned a lot during our second year live in the UAE, the first country in which we launched.

A key takeaway was how we learned more about our customer’s needs and provided data-driven solutions. Being a fintech, we must be able to adapt quickly to best deliver on user experience.

While the industry moves fast, I have learned that patience is very important. This year has been more fast-paced than ever before for many industries, but profitable decisions come with careful preparation. 

This year has been both exciting and tumultuous for the financial industry. It’s been a tough period for fintechs, but I see this as an opportunity for companies to shine through in a saturated market.

The looming recession will also impact businesses, but our region will feel this at a slower pace. The delay in impact for our region means that we have more time to prepare by diversifying and focusing on cost optimisation and revenues. 

This year we have prepared for Yap’s expansion into Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Ghana. Our unique proposition is to provide accessible digital banking to underbanked populations in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. 

Female, Person, Human

Dawn Metcalfe, business coach, author and presenter 

Things can always get worse – I know I’m supposed to be upbeat in this kind of article but I keep reflecting on how, because 2020 was so bad, we all assumed that things could only get better. But that’s just not true.

In some ways I don’t feel like I’ve moved on from it at all, and it’s actually March 593rd 2020. This is despite the fact that I didn’t lose anyone, was lucky enough to have great clients who supported me, and actually gained fabulous new ones.

In contrast, many people have faced even greater challenges in the years since then and I am in awe of their resilience. 

Good people make (almost) everything better – if you have family, friends, colleagues, clients who support you and treat you well, then it’s easier to keep going.

I’ve travelled a lot this year and stayed with friends who work in different industries. Listening to stories about the way they are treated by their employers or clients has been a real eye-opener and really made me appreciate the people I work with. 

And looking after yourself is key. Whether that means “going goblin” or scoffing kale smoothies whilst in a half-lotus, we all need to start by looking after ourselves.

We can’t help our colleagues or our clients if we aren’t giving ourselves what we need first so start by looking out for yourself and then worry about others.

Remember the advice of every airline safety announcement to put on your own mask before helping others and do what it takes to stay safe and sane. Happy New Year! 

Blazer, Jacket, Coat

Nayef Bou Chaaya, vice-president for Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Aveva

2022 taught us the three Rs: renewal, recalibration and resilience.

Businesses are focused on maximising the digital value added during the pandemic, but also want to embed environmental goals across their operations. 

Despite the year’s operating challenges – from supply chain and inflation worries to the impact of geopolitical instability – we’re inspired by the strength of our customers’ commitments to sustainability.

At the same time, customers are recalibrating their operations around cloud and software-as-a-service quicker than ever. They are evolving their landscapes to strengthen their value chains while prioritising the flexibility to respond to real-time market challenges. We’ve learnt first-hand how customers are implementing a data-centric mindset. 

Companies now use data to break down silos, deepen collaboration and drive transparency to deliver actionable insights.

We have seen greater demand for software subscriptions that connect people to data insights, so teams can unlock smarter ways of working together while driving agile decision-making across their organisations. 

Tying in with renewal and recalibration is the continued need for resilience. With an unparalleled set of disruptions ahead of us, we will need to tap every ounce of resilience going forward.

This holds true for each of us personally – and for our teams, companies and industries.

As the pandemic taught us, yesterday’s certainties can be upended overnight – how we react to the change defines who we are and sets us up for future success.

Alex Malouf, executive director of corporate communications and public relations at Ceer

One thing is certain: While global economic growth may be borderline, the economies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are growing at a rapid pace.

The last 12 months proved this, with major announcement after major announcement. I expect more project launches in 2023, more ambitious growth targets, and a greater push to diversify the region’s overall development.

With 2022’s Cop27 having taken place in Egypt, and Cop28 scheduled for the UAE in 2023, we should keep our eyes focused on issues related to sustainability, particularly environmental issues.

Sustainability has become an issue that the entire region focused on throughout 2022, and I believe we will see much more in the areas of renewables, green mobility, and, hopefully, consumer-focused sustainability programmes.

Finally, it’s heartening to see the quality of talent in much of the Gulf, especially in the creative industries and entrepreneurship.

I’ve been back in Riyadh since the beginning of 2022, and I’ve been bowled over by the passion and drive that I’ve seen from the youth here.

I hope that 2023 is the year when the region’s youth flex their capabilities and show the region and the world what they’re able to achieve.

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