Blog: Siegrid Althuizen, Skyne founder, about unexpected business opportunities in Dubai
A blog by Siegrid Althuizen, Founder of Skyne - an international strategic branding and design agency. With offices in Rotterdam, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
Dubai, 28th of April 2021.
In 2019 I had received an invitation from the consulate in Dubai to attend a reception of the acclaimed Dubai air show. Famously, these air shows are focused on the “show” side of the event, but in Dubai it’s all about the business.
That year, over 1,288 exhibitors from 65 countries attended, bringing in a crowd of 85,000 visitors. Eventually deals were signed that would amount to $85B (!). Amongst these 65 attending countries, The Netherlands was also represented with its own Holland Pavilion.
This is where my first interaction with His Highness Sheikh Salem bin Sultan Al Qasimi occurred. After the official opening, Hans Sandee Consul General in Dubai and the event’s host, addressed me asking if he could introduce me to Sheikh Salem.
Sheikh Salem, among others, is the Chairman of Ras Al Khaimah Department of Civil Aviation and International Airport (divided into seven Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah is one of the Emirates in the United Arab Emirates).
After the introductions, we started talking and I enthusiastically told the Sheikh about my company and how we grow brands. Surprisingly, the conversation then took a pleasant turn when Sheikh Salem beamed at me, suggesting that I can help him.
As it happens, Sheikh Salem has a passion, and that passion is bees. At this point, I am amazed because rearing bees in this arid, desert-like environment with its extreme temperatures seems very challenging to me. I had also never heard of locally produced honey in the region.
He continues to tell me that honey production in the country has seen tremendous growth in recent years and that more than 1,800 tons of honey are exported every year. I am beyond amazed of such a niche yet prolific practice in the UAE that I had never encountered before. I learn further from him that there are two types of honey bees in the UAE, wild and domesticated. For domesticated bees, the UAE imports about 95 percent of the queens needed to make honey - representing 500,000 packaged bee colonies each year - from Egypt, Oman and Yemen.
At this point, a slow but eager crowd of gentleman have gathered around us, keenly waiting to talk to the Sheikh about planes, but they no longer have a chance as we continue to talk about his passion for bees animatedly.
Sheikh Salem carries on, talking about his commitment to the sustainability of the honey bee and the impact on the environment, food security and economic growth. Together, with a group of pioneers, he leads sustainability initiatives with their core mission 'Saving the Bees'. For him, it stems from a strong belief that we have a duty to the bees and if we don't act now, our very existence could be endangered.
He is committed to developing a resilient queen, by crossing bees, one that can endure the harsh desert climate and achieve pollination rates critical to the country's food security. He has also planted thousands of local Sidr trees in a nature reserve, saving more than a billion bees in the process. Able to survive in harsh conditions, these trees have become a symbol of persistence and determination for the country.
Today, we are partners and friends, working hard to bring Sheikh Salem’s vision to life. Currently at the precipice of unveiling a world-class, leading organisation that masters innovative and responsible beekeeping. A brand that strives to reconnect people with the beautiful roots of nature through honeybees.
Doing business in the Middle East is attractive. New markets are opening,
governments are stimulating growth, innovation and diversification. The population is young, visionary and curious. There is a constant demand for expertise and Dutch companies have played an important role in the progress of this region. Being seen as reliable, innovative and knowledgeable.
For successful business in the Middle East, the smallest details make the biggest
difference. Just within a single country, differences can be discovered in social norms, traditions and values. Therefore, it all starts with good insights into the local market, connections with the right people and authorities.
Though my work in the Middle East has spanned years, the Dutch common sense is still predominant. I may no longer live there, but I will always be a native of Brabant. Both in Dubai and in the Netherlands, coffee is available for people who want to exchange ideas or want to know more about this region. The only difference may be the dutch cookie exchanged with a date on the dish next to it.
Wij zijn er zodat jij voorbereid en sterk in je schoenen internationaal kan ondernemen
Er is ontzettend veel kennis over internationaal zakendoen, en wij zijn er om jou te koppelen aan de organisaties en mensen die die kennis met je delen, zodat jouw bedrijf tot bloei komt, ook internationaal.
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