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Adeeb Al Balushi: a Young Innovator

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adeeb al balushi

One of the youngest inventors in the world, an Emirati schoolboy is being prepared for a future providing technological solutions to the problems of people around the world.

Adeeb Al Balushi is an eleven year old Emirati boy like any other, yet in some ways he is quite unlike most other children his age. Al Balushi is a young boy who from early childhood has been driven by a desire to help people. This started with his family when he realized that his father was limited by the performance of his prosthetic foot. In an attempt to lessen his father’s discomfort he designed a light-weight, waterproof version of the prosthetic. With this success under his belt he invented a cleaning robot for his mother having noticed that her work around the house could be made much easier. Never one to be content to rest on his laurels, his ambitions are much wider ranging: he went on to create such things as a fire proof helmet whose camera system allows the wearer to see better in a fire, a smart wheelchair and a seat belt system with a built in heart monitor which wirelessly sends what could be lifesaving information to the emergency services.

“I want to change the world. There are too many people in need of assistance and all I think of is how I can be of help,” says Adeeb Al Balushi.

World Technology Tour

Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai has been proactive in supporting the growth and development of young Emirati innovators in general, and Al Balushi in particular. In 2014, a world tour was organized to seven of the most technologically advanced countries in the world: the United States of America, France, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Belgium. The purpose of the tour was to prepare Al Balushi for a future within the field of scientific research and in so doing help raise the profile of Dubai in the field. Conferences, workshops and meetings with leading innovators within the field were carefully planned, all the time ensuring that Al Balushi’s schooling would not be significantly affected by the tour.

The young inventor was recently invited to visit the headquarters of Thuraya, one of the world leaders in satellite telecommunication technology where he was shown the way the company also works tirelessly to bring solutions to problems; Al Balushi was provided a background to Thuraya’s efforts to bring satellite technology closer to the mainstream. Such products included the Satsleeve, a device enabling an ordinary smartphone to be used as a satellite phone, as well as the company’s IP+, which is extending broadband capabilities to areas which would normally not be able to connect to a network.

Adeeb Al Balushi

Awards and recognition

His tireless thirst for invention has led to a great deal of recognition for Al Balushi. He has been awarded the Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award for Distinguished Academic Performance and has addressed thousands of delegates at the ITU conference in Korea. Adeeb Al Balushi is the youngest and most recognized inventor in the United Arab Emirates. He is also a member of the Arab Robotics Association, with over sixty certificates of achievement to his name; he is considered the youngest Arab inventor in this field. The year 2013 saw Al Balushi gain the UN Information Centre’s Award of Excellence, while the The Arab Youth Council for Integrated Development (Aycid) have awarded him honorary membership and named him the head of their committee for young inventors and innovators.

Persistence is key

Al Balushi is obviously a very gifted young man with the support and mentorship of a state behind him. It is also clear that he is driven in his mission to help people the world over. The passion and the associated hard work are factors, the necessity of which is not lost on him, which he takes in stride.

“There are lots of paths to take through life, but the one that will ruin everything is to decide that it’s too hard and you give up. Then all is lost and everything you have accomplished is gone. Sometimes it’s the simple changes that can lead to the biggest discoveries,” says Adeeb Al Balushi.

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John Lewis to open in Dubai as retail surges in the UAE

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UK-based department store John Lewis is set to launch in Dubai as the UAE becomes a top global market for retailers

Taking the middle class favorite across the globe, UK-based department store John Lewis has announced plans to open shop in the Middle East with the launch of a home department in Dubai. Scheduled to open in spring 2017, the shop-in-shop will take prime position in the new flagship Robinsons Department Store in the Dubai Festival City Mall, both owned by UAE-based conglomerate the Al-Futtaim Group. The 15,000 square feet shop will be John Lewis’s largest outlet oversees, and will stock a range of own-brand furniture, cookware, textiles, glassware, and bedroom, bathroom, living, and gifting assortments.

The agreement extends the current partnership between the Al-Futtaim Group’s Robinsons Department Store and John Lewis in Singapore. As part of the announcement, the duo also confirmed the opening of a 630 square feet John Lewis shop-in-shop in the Kuala Lumpur Robinsons store in Malaysia. Both new outlets will be designed by John Lewis’s in-house team.

Andy Street, John Lewis’s managing director, comments: “We’re delighted to be working with Robinsons again on two new ventures. The success of our existing international shop-in-shops has given us the confidence to open in the Middle East and increase both the scale of the space and product assortment. This is an exciting time for Al Futtaim’s Dubai Festival City Mall and we’re pleased that John Lewis will be a part of the next phase of its redevelopment.”

Building a stable home market

The announcement follows a failed Middle Eastern expansion attempt by John Lewis in 2011. Again working with the Al-Futtaim Group, plans had been drawn up to open several stores across the region, including in Dubai and Egypt. But at the time, much of the British high street was struggling, and so John Lewis pulled out, commenting that a focus on the home market was the first priority.

Now the employee-owned John Lewis operates 46 shops across the UK, of which 32 are department stores. And it is performing well relative to the market, posting particularly strong results for the important Black Friday, Christmas, and post-Christmas trading period with total sales of $1.38 billion (£951 million). Its viral “Man on the Moon” ad also triggered a 5.1% jump in online sales year-on-year. Although the company has warned that 2015 profits will be down, it has blamed this on higher pension charges, and on the whole, John Lewis is in good health.

John Lewis has also been busy building a portfolio of overseas stores, including 14 shop-in-shops across Singapore and the Philippines, seven in South Korea, and a further seven shop-in-shops set to launch in De Bijenkorf department stores across the Netherlands.

Booming retail market in the Middle East

But emerging markets are playing an increasingly important role. Reportedly about 70% of the world’s growth is likely to come from emerging markets in the coming years. With a rising population, a growing middle class, and rapid urbanization, the Middle East is a particularly attractive and largely untapped burgeoning market.

According to an Arcadis index ranking of 50 international markets, the UAE is the eighth most attractive market globally for retailers, with the UAE ranked first in the region thanks to strong infrastructure and ease of operation. Dubai is at the center of that market, with the second largest number of global brands after London, rising local purchasing power, a wealthy expatriate community, and a thriving tourism sector with plenty of foreign luxury consumers. Currently Dubai alone commands around 30% of the Middle East luxury market.

Modern retail concepts, including the Dubai Mall which claims around 50% of Dubai’s luxury purchases and hosted a record 54 million visitors during the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, also provide ideal conditions for growth. Developments capitalizing on the successful Expo 2020 bid and new mall openings are also expected to reinforce Dubai’s position at the center of a Middle Eastern retail in the coming years.

But with religion tied so closely to both society and business, the Middle Eastern market does also come with risks. Dano-Swedish brand Arla Foods (owner of Lurpak, Puck, and Arla) is a good example. In the early 2000s it was a major player in the Arab world, dominating the Middle Eastern markets for butter, cheese, and cream. But in 2005, and again in 2008, the publication of cartoons unflatteringly depicting Islam’s prophet in Danish newspapers led to boycotts of Danish goods, and sales plummeted. Arla Foods has never quite recovered.

Good chances of success

This partnership between John Lewis and Al Futtaim has a good chance of success. John Lewis has a strong reputation, voted the retailer with the best reputation in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in a survey by the Reputation Institute (2013 and 2014). This will make it attractive to the Middle Eastern market. And Al Futtaim has the expertise and knowledge of the local culture. As Paul Delaoutre, President of Al Futtaim Retail, comments: “Al Futtaim’s solid regional retail infrastructure, know-how and reputation seamlessly blend with John Lewis’s global appeal as a renowned retailer in a long-awaited exclusive partnership designed to offer discerning UAE consumers even more choice and options.”

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Kenzibox: Thinking Outside The Box

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KenziBox is a Dubai-based company that makes shoe-box sized treasure troves of children’s activities, delivered to parent’s doors to promote creative and constructive play. UAE-based co-founders Leyla Lahsini and Shirin Benamadi started the business after facing the problems parenthood poses in the digital age.

Both women have Masters Degrees in Business Administration and impressive careers in finance. Lahsini holds an MBA from London Business School as well as a Masters in Strategy and Marketing and has experience in hedge funds in London, while Benamadi holds an MBA from the University of Maryland and has worked in private wealth management at Morgan Stanley.

21st Century Parenting

In the digital age, pulling children away from televisions and iPads and towards activities that promote healthy brain development can be a challenge for parents- especially those who work full time.

For many, after school programs are expensive or unrealistic to take advantage of on a daily basis. “Kids finish school early and you feel this need to keep them busy in the afternoon,” said Lahsini. “We don’t want to put them in activity classes every single afternoon, but you want to keep them busy in a nice way in the house.”

Like many parents of the 21th Century, Lahsini turned to the internet for solutions, downloading craft projects from Pinterest to take up with her four-year-old son. But it was more difficult than it seemed- having to go to many stores to find the right materials, complicated instructions, and the chaos that young children inevitably introduce to situations that involve glitter glue and dexterous finesse.

Taking Play Seriously

Despite the frustrations, Lahsini was determined to continue because she saw the value of exposing her son to such products. Not only do they take up the afternoon in creative play, but craft projects have been shown to develop higher thinking skills, enhance multicultural understandings, build self-esteem as well as positive emotional responses to learning- all benefits every parent would want for their child.

Lashini turned to her friend, now-business partner Benamadi, who always seemed to make the arts and crafts projects look simple and easy. This simple request for help and the master’s degrees they both carried in business administration paved the way for KenziBox.


When Moms have MBAs

“Can we bring that simplicity to everyone?” thought Lahsini. Together they researched themes and developed activities around those ideas. In November 2014, their first themed box, Circus in Town, was launched.

Little more than a year later and KenziBox stays true to their successful original fashion. Every month a new theme debuts in shoe-box form, where children can open the box and find everything they need, from materials to illustrated instructions, on how to craft everything from make-your-own clown outfits to volcanoes that actually erupt.

KenziBox: a Dubai’s Business (Role) Model

By creating a product that re-invents itself every week, KenziBox continuously provides opportunities for growth for both children and parents, with creative projects designed by early-age education professionals. Boasting stellar customer service for the busiest of parents, KenziBoxes are conveniently sold online, delivered to the door with all the necessary materials. The simplicity in meeting 21st century parenting problems makes KenziBox a role model in the UAE’s emerging e-commerce market, and is a learning lesson in itself for other businesses that aspire to create a positive impact in their client’s lives.

Their superb business model has won them several recognitions in their first year alone- Dubai Women’s Business Council awarded them First Place as well as the People’s Choice award, and KenziBox was a finalist for SME’s Start Up of the Year.

Emma Fisher, a Dubai-based schoolteacher who was one of KenziBox’s intial clients, can attest to the benefits the projects offer, both as a mother and an education professional.

One month of KenziBox starts at AED 185, with lower rates for long term subscriptions. The company also offers party favor sets and KenziBox travel bags.

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UAE moves to quash talk of OPEC emergency meet as oil slumps

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ABU DHABI (Reuters) – The United Arab Emirates moved to quash talk of a potential emergency meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) after Nigeria’s oil minister said on Tuesday a “couple” of members had requested a gathering.

Benchmark Brent crude futures slipped towards $30 a barrel to a near 12-year low before rising slightly. They have shed almost three-quarters of their value since mid-2014.

Such market conditions supported an emergency meeting to review whether OPEC should change strategy, Nigerian Minister of State for Petroleum Resources Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu told reporters on the sidelines of an energy conference in Abu Dhabi.

However, UAE Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui later told the same conference the current OPEC strategy was working, adding that time was needed to allow this to happen — perhaps between one and 1-1/2 years.

“I’m not convinced OPEC alone can change or can solely unilaterally change this strategy just because we have seen a low in the market,” Mazroui said.

Mazroui added that while the first half of 2016 would be “tough” for the oil market, there would be a gradual recovery later in the year, aided by an expected drop in non-OPEC production.

Indeed, OPEC has no plan to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the drop in oil prices before its next scheduled gathering in June, two OPEC delegates said on Tuesday.

OPEC’s strategy of maintaining production levels, instead of reducing supply to allow prices to recover, has been aimed at defending market share at the expense of higher-cost producers such as those in the U.S. shale sector.

The supply glut is likely to be exacerbated in 2016 by the return of Iranian supply to the market, once Western sanctions have been lifted.

“I think all the members including Iran have the right to increase their production. I don’t think we are going to restrict anyone,” Mazroui said.

Such prospects have led oil analysts to downgrade their forecasts in recent days, with Standard Chartered saying prices could drop to $10 a barrel.

The likelihood of a meeting taking place will hinge on the attitude of OPEC heavyweight Saudi Arabia, which has been at the vanguard of resistance to a production cut.

“Saudi Arabia‎ has never held the position that it does not want to talk,” Kachikwu said. “In fact, it was very supportive of a meeting before June, at the time when we held the December meeting, if (there was a) consensus call for it.”


(By Rania El Gamal and Maha El Dahan. Writing by David French; Editing by Jason Neely and Dale Hudson)

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