Complex Made Simple

5th Annual Middle East SME Forum inaugurates Dusit Thani

5th Annual Middle East SME Forum commenced at Dusit Thani, gathering over 200 entrepreneurs, financial experts, banking professionals and governmental officials to grasp new opportunities and learn from best practices in the region towards entrepreneurial development goal.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi is the Lead Strategic Partner for this forum, which will involve over 30 speakers participating in knowledge-sharing sessions, intriguing panel discussions and networking opportunities with industry peers to interact, learn and collect business intelligence and strategic insight thus boosting the SME industry.

The conference was opened to a welcome speech from the conference chairperson – Ajay Singh Bhati, Managing Partner & CEO – The Lighthouse, followed by special address from honored keynote speakers:
-H.E. Mohamed Helal Al Muhairi, Director General – Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry
-H.E. Sheikha Dr Hind Al Qassimi, Chairwoman – BPW Middle East Company & BPW Emirates Club

Addressing the first presentation at the event on “Developing a Proposition for Connected SMEs across West East Corridor” was Nilanjan Ray, Managing Director – Commercial Banking (Gulf) – National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD).

Keeping the day’s theme – East Meets West, speakers and industry experts presented and elaborated on learning from best practice and insights on SME development and financing in other parts of the World.

John Kirkbright, Director of Efma Business Banking Advisory Council & CEO at K-Strat International focused on latest trends and developments in worldwide SME banking, while Peter Linzenbold, Executive Director – Small Business Banking – Raiffeisen Bank International elaborated on strengthening the customer focus by simplifying the business model.

Impact of mobile and digital on SME banking development is one crucial segment in respect with the advancement of banking operations. Halil Ozcan, Head – Mobile and Digital Channel Development at Türk Ekonomi Bankas? (BNP Paribas JV) addressed the audience with the same.

John Mark Williams, Head of the Breakthrough Programme (SME) – Santander Corporate Banking, in his presentation shared knowledge on partnering for SME performance, where he focused on a synergised work relation between government bodies, private sector companies, Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to support the same.

The first panel discussion of the forum saw moderator Kirkbright and panelists Ray, Linzenbold, Williams and Ozcan discuss on “Strengthening the SME Ecosystem”.

Rohit Garg, Head of Business Banking for UAE, Qatar & Egypt at Mashreq ( Associate Sponsor at this forum ), answered all queries relating to “How banks can help the start up SMEs?”

Post lunch attendees witnessed some intriguing sessions from SME oriented bodies. Bader AlJenaibi, Head of Foreign Trade and Export Support Section – Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (ADDED) enlightened the audience how exports can assist growth for SMEs. Supporting High Growth SMEs, was the main focus of the session conducted by Alexandar Williams, Director of Strategy and Policy – Dubai SME.

Ahsan Ali, Director – Credit & Operations – Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, concentrated on his point for improving SMEs’ access to finance. Karsten Zang, General Manager (U.A.E) & Director – Gulf, Afghanistan & Pakistan at Lufthansa Group ( Official Airline Partner of this forum ), informed the participants about their contribution for enhancing the SME growth in the region, by announcing Partner Plus Benefit programs.

Dr. Dalia Abu Samra-Rohte, Deputy CEO – German Emirati Joint Council for Industry & Commerce, in her presentation informed about the success factors of the German SMEs and the so called ‘Mittelstand’. Joe Hepworth, CEO – British Centres for Business, shared his insights on SME opportunity in UAE, while business options in terms of Franchising Opportunities was elaborated by Samir Salloum, President – French Business Group.

Concluding the day with a brainstorming panel discussion titled “Ways to Make Your Business More Attractive to Investors”. was moderated by the conference chairperson – Ajay Singh Bhati. Mohan Jashanmal, Board Member and Regional Head – Jashanmal Group; Christopher Baines, Managing Director: Merchant Banking – National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD); Habib Al-Assaad, Founding Co-Director of Impact Hub Dubai; Ambareen Musa, Founder and CEO at; Rahul Bhavsar, CEO at Gulf Infotech LLC along with Samir Salloum and Rohit Garg joined the same as panelists.

Tomorrow, second day of this forum will witness Entrepreneur Panel Discussion – How to achieve growth & profitability in a highly competitive landscape and many other interesting sessions from Arab Entrepreneur House, Sharakah, Eastern Biotech & Life Sciences,, Arabia Weddings, &, CEO Clubs Network Worldwide,, NStyle, World Association for Small and Medium Enterprises (WASME), eTree, and many more.