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Covid or recession cannot replace personal touch in networking, says BNI chief of UAE

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Kumar Shyam

Dubai – A visit to the annual expo and members day of the Business Network International has revealed that the face to face meetings will still remain the preferred option for many.

While the world moved its business online wherever possible in the Covid-19 aftermath, the recessionary pressures that followed also meant people resorted to more networking.

“Not just this Covid, but four times in the past two decades that I have been associated with BNI, I have seen that membership figures have got the actual momentum only during times of recession,” said Bijay Shah, the national director of BNI for Qatar and UAE.

According to BNI, it is the world’s largest business networking and referral organisation. Shah put the member strength in the UAE to 800 members, who pay an annual subscription amount and then meet in person at a designated venue with a stipulated cover amount to cover for the costs of the venue and refreshments.

The annual day also provided businesses with an opportunity to explore mutual synergies through networking sessions while some also put up stalls to advertise their wares.

K Kalimuthu, Consul (Economic, Trade & Commerce) at the Consulate General of India also graced the event to mark 17 years of BNI in the UAE, which has mushroomed into 20 chapters and few about to start.

BNI-expo-day

Bijay Shah, left, and K Kalimuthu chat on the sidelines of the BNI Expo Day at JW Marriott Marquis, Dubai. Courtesy BNI

Members also came together to share industry knowledge and trends while there was a panel discussion on the importance of integration of the metaverse in businesses.

While the businessmen and professionals have gone back to operating onsite, the era of Zoom and Teams meetings online ensured that networking can happen virtually too.

Ask Mr Shah and members from the BNI at the expo at JW Marriott Marquis hotel, Dubai, the unanimous verdict is that personal meetings have their own strengths.

In a recent PwC Consumer Intelligence Series survey, 75 percent of 15,000 consumer respondents confirmed the observation that when it comes to business, the human touch is still extremely important.

“In a world where automation and digitalisation are the way to generate new businesses, human relationships have been challenged since a long time and to greater degree post-pandemic. BNI significantly contributes that to business growth through the power of building interpersonal relationships.”

“We are growing in the UAE with close to 800 members and last year alone the members closed businesses worth over 336 Million AED,” Shah said. “Not just in the UAE, BNI has a proven growth track record globally and is a business model able to grow in any economic environment. BNI is now franchising across the Middle East (email information@bni.ae to know more).”

Shirish Jain, a member, gave a real-life example to explain this. “What happens in online meetings is that the personal touch is lacking. Even in BNI, sometimes the important connections are made around the coffee table. For instance, four-five members are casually chatting and during a talk on metaverse, some shares an anecdote citing a friend whom I would love to do business with. So many times it has happened that we mention our friends and family who the network could benefit from and vice versa. So I would say in-person meetings are still better than online.”

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The Expo and Members Day was loaded with a range of learning events, such as panel discussions with keynote speakers and members sharing their success stories. The event ended with a spectacular awards ceremony honoring and recognizing the members’ achievements.

“Networking is an important element of every business. BNI aspires to be a guiding light for companies and individuals seeking to connect and thrive,” Mr Shah added.

About BNI
It is a 37-year-old business and professional networking organization that allows only one person from each trade or profession to join a chapter. BNI has over 289K members worldwide, in over 75 different countries, from over 300 different types of professions. In each chapter, there is a long list of categories for businessmen and profession. Once a member signs up and fills up that category, the chapter blocks out others in the same providing monopoly to protect the member’s interests.

Journalist for 25 years with leading publications in India and UAE such as The National, Mumbai Mirror, DNA, Indian Express and former Sports Editor of eIndia.com. Now managing editor of Headline.ae, part of MEMc (https://www.memc.co)

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Kandura Rally and Hot Wheels™ Legends Tour unite for a spectacular automotive showcase in Dubai

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Prepare for the thrill of Dubai’s coolest motor show Kandura Rally, now in its third consecutive year, as it powers up with an unprecedented collaboration with Mattel’s Hot Wheels Legends Tour, making its debut in the Middle East. The Hot Wheels Legends Tour offers car customizers the opportunity to have their custom car creations immortalized as a 1:64 scale Hot Wheels die-cast and celebrated by fans around the world. Featuring an astounding display of 200+ cars including supercars, modified drift, classic and 4x4s, this event is poised to become the haven for motoring enthusiasts and lovers from across the Middle East. The Hot Wheels Legends Tour celebrates the automotive fans in their drive to be legendary! Participants from across the GCC have the opportunity to register their interest across the various categories by filling out the registration form online.

Scheduled for April 13, 2024, at Dubai Autodrome in Motor City’s heart, this free-to-attend extravaganza promises an unforgettable experience with an adrenaline-charged blend of roaring engines, breathtaking displays, and a vibrant atmosphere that will captivate every auto enthusiast’s heart.

Organized by Orbit Events, this celebration captures the essence of UAE’s vibrant motor heritage, that pays homage to the Kandura, a symbol of style, pride, and identity for car enthusiasts in the Emirates for celebrating the camaraderie of UAE’s thriving car community and their profound affection for automobiles, this event seamlessly merges tradition with the love for cars, promising an unforgettable fusion of culture and automotive enthusiasm.

The Kandura Rally 3rd edition promises to be the most exciting Motorshow of the region with the collaboration with Mattel, marking the debut of the legendary Hot Wheels Legends Tour in the Middle East. The globally acclaimed Hot Wheels Legends Tour seeks a vehicle that embodies the Hot Wheels Challenger Spirit through creativity, authenticity and garage spirit, to recreate as a die-cast toy and will feature the ten finalists at the motor show. Five distinguished judges will undertake the task of selecting the entry that best exemplifies automotive innovation and craftsmanship.

This milestone introduces fresh opportunities for UAE fans to actively engage in the Kandura Rally and the Hot Wheels Legends Tour hosted in the country. Enthusiasts and attendees can also participate by voting for their favourite car for the judging panel to consider. The ultimate victor at the global grand finale, will see their car recreated as a Hot Wheels die-cast model.

“The UAE consistently presents an engaged motoring community brimming with incredible talent, each one capable of achieving legendary status at the Hot Wheels Legends Tour. The diversity, creativity, and passion in the UAE will ensure that the competition is highly creative and fiercely contested,” statesApostolis Karampatzakis, Vice President & Country Manager PEM at Mattel.

The event is free for visitors and attendees can relish a delightful evening, offering a perfect opportunity for everyone to savor delicious delights from variety of food trucks, engage in games, and immerse themselves in the lively ambiance, surrounded by awe-inspiring automotive magnificence.

Speaking about the event, Pragna Vaya, MD of Orbit Events, expressed, “We are delighted to curate an automotive event in Dubai yet again, uniting the community in a vibrant atmosphere. It is a celebration that embodies the quintessence of the UAE— celebrating the car culture, passion for motoring, and a lifestyle that reflects the essence of this beautiful nation.”

Link to Register

Registrations are open for individuals looking to secure your spot at the upcoming motor show and competition http://tinyurl.com/KanduraRally2024Registration

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MI Emirates’ batting brilliance overpowers Dubai Capitals by 45 runs to emerge as DP World ILT20’s new champions

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MI Emirates’s run riot crafted by their skipper Nicholas Pooran and Andre Fletcher’s half centuries, which produced the highest total this season, blew away Dubai Capitals by 45 runs to emerge as the new champions of the DP World ILT20 Season 2.

In front of a packed Dubai International Stadium, Pooran scored a breezy unbeaten captain’s knock of 57 runs off 27 balls studded with six sixes and two boundaries. He was backed by Fletcher’s 53 off 37 balls, featuring four sixes and three boundaries. Openers Muhammad Waseem and his partner Kusal Perera contributed aggressively, with Waseem scoring 43 off 24 balls, including three boundaries and three sixes, and Perera adding 38 off 26 balls, with six boundaries, leading to a 77-run opening partnership and helping MI Emirates set a record score of 208 for 3 in 20 overs.

In reply, Capitals could muster only 163 for 7 in 20 overs with Trent Boult and Vijayakanth Viyaskanth bagging two wicket each. MI Emirates received the winners’ prize of a whopping $700,000 (USD) while the runners-up received $300,000 (USD).

Chasing the mammoth total, Capitals had it tough from the start with Emirates’ Akeal Hosein, who has been regularly striking in the first over, trapping Leus du Plooy leg before, resulting in a duck. Tom Abell, when on 7, was dropped by Dwayne Bravo at mid-off by Trent Boult, but was later caught by Pollard off Rohid Khan for 14. Banton and his skipper Sam Billing pushed the score to 63 when Banton got foxed by leg spinner Vijayakanth Viyaskanth to be stumped by Pooran for 35.

Sikandar Raza, who has played many match-winning knocks for Capitals, scored just 10 runs before hitting Viyaskanth to Waseem at deep mid-wicket. Capitals, faced with the challenge of scoring 100 runs in 41 balls, saw Waqar Salamkheil remove Billings stumped by Pooran for a fighting 40. Trent Boult then struck twice to remove Rovman Powell caught by Waseem at deep midwicket and clean bowl Jason Holder for 24 to ensure his team’s victory.

Earlier, Capitals won the toss and elected to bowl. MI Emirates’ opener Waseem started with a six over long-on off Scott Kuggeleijn, while his partner Kusal Perera played some flowing drives. The pair reached their half-century partnership in 3.3 overs, with Waseem hitting two boundaries and a six off Kuggeleijn in that over. By the end of the powerplay, MI Emirates had posted 72 runs. Waseem fell to Zahir Khan when he was seven short of his half-century, lifting Zahir Khan to Rovman Powell at mid-off.

Andre Fletcher maintained the run flow with Perera and steered the total to the 100-run mark in 10.5 overs. At the score of 102, Leus du Plooy pulled off a diving catch at deep mid-wicket to dismiss Perera, who attempted a slog sweep off Sikandar Raza, for 38.

Spinners Raza and Zahir Khan tried to strangle the run flow, but skipper Nicholas Pooran and Fletcher hit sixes off them. They put on a 50-run partnership in 28 balls and took the score past the 150-run mark in 15.5 overs. Another spectacular diving catch by Du Plooy at backward square leg to Fletcher’s top-edged pull ended the 56-run partnership.

Kieron Pollard joined Pooran, who smashed Jason Holder for 19 runs in the 18th over with two towering sixes and a boundary. With the score reading 177 for 3 and two more overs to go, the crowd got ready to cheer for the 200-run mark. Emirates achieved it off the fifth ball of the last over through a six from Pooran. This six also helped him reach his half-century in 26 balls. In the last five overs, Emirates hit 74 runs.

James Vince of Gulf Giants with 356 runs from 12 innings emerged the highest run-getter to win the Green Belt, while Waqar Salamkheil with 17 wickets was the highest wicket-taker and bagged the White Belt on better economy rate pipping Fazalhaq Farooqi, who too had 17 wickets. Muhammad Waseem won the Blue Belt for the best UAE player for the second year is succession. Sikandar Raza bagged the Red Belt for the Most Value Player. All of them pocketed USD 15,000 each. DP World Biggest six was awarded to Andre Fletcher while DP World Most 6s of the season was won by Nicholas Pooran. The Cycle Hub Catch of the season went to Sam Billings for his one-handed effort at the slip to dismiss Will Smeed in Match No2.

MI Emirates’ skipper Nicholas Pooran, after receiving the Player of the Match, hailed his openers for setting the stage for the victory. “Truly special to be the man of the match in the final. We spoke about having the right energy and attitude. I couldn’t have asked for a better start, they (openers) did the hard work, we just finished it off. It’s about understanding the situation and batting accordingly.”

Losing captain Sam Billings was sporting in his defeat and said: “Always regret when you lose. As captain, I’m go to bed thinking where it went wrong. But they were brilliant, Nicholas Pooran in that mood is very difficult to play against. Maybe they scored 20-25 runs too many. One of the best things about playing cricket in different places is experiencing different cultures. The UAE players have all been impressive. Really happy to see them improve.”

Sikandar Raza who won the most valuable player award said: “Quite a proud and humbling moment for me. It has been a journey, it is the reward for a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and pain. I just want to say thank you to all those who have prayed for me in these last two years, especially during my illness. I like to be in the position where the skipper can bank on me to bowl four overs every time. Thirteen wickets in the tournament feels like the hard work is coming through; we can only get better.”

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Africa Finance Corporation and SkyPower Global to start work for DR Congo’s energy needs

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Renewable energy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is set to get a significant boost as Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) and SkyPower Global have come decided to come together for the first phase of the latter’s Green Giant project in the country.

This 200MW Phase 1 is a crucial step in realising the landmark 1,000MW Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) signed between SkyPower and the DRC’s state-owned utility, Société Nationale d’Electricité (SNEL).

The partnership creates a formidable force in the pursuit of sustainable energy solutions for the continent in the fight against climate change. The venture will leverage SkyPower’s unparallelled global experience in developing large-scale solar projects and AFC’s proven track record of successfully de-risking and distributing capital for well-structured power and other infrastructure projects across Africa.

Coming in the wake of COP28, this agreement underscores both organisations’ dedication to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly emphasising the critical role of partnerships in accelerating renewable energy adoption and addressing the escalating climate crisis.

The DRC Green Giant project, heralded by the signing of the initial PPA with SNEL, marked a historic commitment from the DRC government to enhance electrification rates through renewable energy partnerships. President Félix Tshisekedi’s strategic vision targets a significant boost to the nation’s clean energy output, contributing to a projected US$2.3 billion stimulus to the DRC’s GDP and the creation of approximately 30,000 job years.

The Joint Development Agreement is set to catalyse the construction of the first 200MW phase of the project, with all necessary approvals secured and land allocation completed, ensuring a swift transition to development stage and the commencement of construction by 2025.

“Partnering with SkyPower, an institution known for their decades of global expertise in large-scale solar projects, is well aligned with our mission to advance energy access on the continent through renewable energy,” said Amadou Wadda, Senior Director of Project Development and Technical Solutions at AFC, the continent’s leading infrastructure solutions provider.

“Through this collaboration, we aim to contribute significantly to rapid industrialisation, local job creation, sustainable economic growth and a pragmatic transition to net zero in DRC and Africa as a whole.

Kerry Adler, President & Chief Executive Officer of SkyPower, highlighted AFC’s leadership role and its commitment to fast-tracking the deployment of essential energy projects as crucial to leveraging solar energy to spur economic development, create job opportunities, and tackle climate change effectively. “Partnering with AFC exemplifies a concerted effort toward realizing the ambitious goals set by forward-looking countries such as the DRC, aiming for a brighter, more sustainable future for everyone,” Adler noted. “This agreement underlines AFC’s pivotal contribution to promoting renewable energy solutions and both AFC and SkyPower’s unwavering commitment and dedication to ensuring a greener, more resilient world.”

SkyPower Global stands at the forefront of utility-scale solar energy project development and project ownership around the world, boasting over 20 years of operational history. The company is supported by a highly experienced team, collectively holding more than 1600 years of expertise in power, empowerment, and significant infrastructure initiatives. SkyPower has diligently developed an extensive pipeline of projects exceeding 10GW, which are at diverse stages of development, construction, and operation. This broad pipeline demonstrates SkyPower’s strong commitment to and expertise in the renewable energy sector, with projects set for implementation in strategic locations like the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia in the near future.

SkyPower has developed over 30 utility-scale solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) currently in operation across the globe and contracts, amounting to more than USD $60 billion in long-term renewable energy sales to leading utilities and government partners worldwide. Adding to its robust profile, SkyPower is majority-owned by CIM Group, a community-focused real estate and infrastructure owner, operator, lender, and developer. Since its inception in 1994, CIM Group has been committed to creating value in its projects and making a positive impact on the lives of people in communities across the Americas. Through its efforts, CIM Group has delivered more than $60 billion in essential real estate and infrastructure projects, furthering SkyPower’s mission to transform the energy landscape and enhance community well-being through sustainable development.

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