“An easy life does not make men, nor does it build nations. Challenges make men, and it is these men who build nations.” Such words, stated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, could not more succinctly encapsulate the ambitious spirit of Dubai. As a city, in the Sheikh’s words that was “founded on trade, not oil,” Dubai has joined the ranks of other premium global destinations like Singapore in becoming highly competitive and deeply globalised – boasting high living standards within a relatively short time span. Such was certainly witnessed by myself and my fellow MBA classmates who embarked on the Cass UAE Study Tour in February 2019. The impressive Emirati Capitalism was plain for all of us to witness and appreciate over the duration of this tour. Whether it was admiring the scope and the grandeur of the Burj Khalifa, or enjoying the sumptuous buffets at various hotels – it was clear that this city had burgeoned into an economic behemoth in the Middle East. This growth came to be through its citizens leveraging the myriad of strengths and expertise of a large and ever-growing expatriate population. The boom of highly-skilled expatriate communities is predicated on a state-driven investment strategy that is focused on trade and export in sectors such as logistics, healthcare and financial services ultimately enabled by ambitious leaders.

Oliver and his MBA colleagues in Dubai

True to the Cass MBA’s motto of “Leading the Adventure,” the tour was nothing short of an amazing experience for all those involved. Over the span of five intense days, the tour treated my colleagues and me to countless interesting highlights – namely site visits to organisations which facilitate and sustain the success of the “Emirati Model” such as Expo 2020, Nakheel and Emirates Aviation College.

MBA students visit the Emirates Aviation College

Expo 2020 was one of the key facets of Dubai’s competitive growth that the cohort witnessed in the context of the tour. The theme of the Expo was “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” and focused on three distinct factors: opportunity, mobility and sustainability. This in turn will enable multilateral collaboration between Dubai and the world. This collaboration spans a gamut of areas of expertise, from logistics to communications to 5G networks. The building plans of the Expo were breath-taking – both in the layout and in the proposed architecture of various structures. The building plans symbolized an homage to the heritage of the UAE and Dubai as well as an image of a bright future for Dubai.

MBA students visit Expo 2020

The next facet of the tour that struck me as interesting was the site visit to Nakheel, which is single-handedly responsible for extending the coastline of Dubai from 70 km to more than 300 km. Nakheel is the state-owned development company which famously constructed the Palm Jumeirah. My colleagues and I witnessed how the company is making headway with other large-scale real estate projects such as Deira Islands, the Palm Jebel Ali and the famous “The World” island development. More impressive still was the emphasis Nakheel placed on its developments being sustainable and eco-friendly – especially in the way the foundation of the Palm Jumeirah was turned into an artificial coral reef.

The final part of the tour that stood out was how it showcased the significant role tourism plays in Dubai’s economic development. This was especially evident during the visit to Emirates Aviation College – Crew Training. Emirates places great emphasis on developing a cabin crew that is dynamic, multilingual and always prepared to go above and beyond to offer excellent in-flight customer service. Through rigorous training, the cabin crew plays a pivotal role at Emirates in attracting, retaining and subsequently growing its network of customers.  The lengths through which the airline made customer loyalty a cornerstone of its brand image gave me a clearer understanding of how Dubai will continually be made into a viable destination for tourism. Through this attention to detail, Dubai is able to consistently transcend cultural boundaries in order to optimally cater to a customer’s need.

Students take on the desert with a safari tour

Besides the company visits, the cultural activities further enriched the experience of the tour. Specifically, the UAE Tour culminated in a desert safari which entailed the conquest of desert dunes in 4X4 SUVs, along with an evening of shisha and belly dancing. Although Dubai has grown exponentially, the city’s and its people’s deep connection to the desert and traditional Arabian values cannot be understated. The enriching and exhilarating nature of the tour could not have been made possible without the support of the students and the staff members of Cass in Dubai.

 

Oliver Yogananthan, Full-time MBA (2019)
Contributions from Lynal Low, Full-time MBA (2019)
Zafar Hassan, Full-time MBA (2019)