Industry leaders from Amazon, DHL, DIFC Innovation Hub, e& life, Marriott, Mastercard and Ozan discussed leadership’s role in business growth, digital transformation, and creating a sustainable future

Dubai, UAE; 26 February 2024: Mastercard and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Innovation Hub, the largest financial innovation ecosystem in the region with more than 700 innovation and tech firms, jointly hosted a leadership forum that delved into the key factors required for businesses to drive sustainable growth.

Centered around the theme of Innovating a Sustainable Tomorrow’, industry experts unpacked how leaders use innovation, technology and collaboration to tackle environmental, social and economic challenges.

The panel discussions featured Amadou Diallo, CEO, DHL Middle East & Africa; Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development, EEMEA, Mastercard; Khalifa Al Shamsi, CEO e& Life; Mohammed Alblooshi, CEO, DIFC Innovation Hub; Ömer Suner, CEO, Ozan; Ronaldo Mouchawar, Vice President, Amazon Middle East and Africa; and Sandeep Walia, COO, Mariott International, Middle East; and other moderators included Omoke Adebanjo, Senior Vice President, Merchants and Commerce, EEMEA, Mastercard and Birce Arslan, Director, Business Development, EEMEA, Mastercard.

The event commenced with a fireside chat moderated by Amnah Ajmal with Ronaldo Mouchawar on ‘Fostering a culture of innovation to drive business growth’ where he narrated his journey as the founder of to its acquisition by Amazon and beyond. He emphasized how leaders need to encourage employees to experiment even if it leads to failure. Innovation, he believes, is driven by people’s abilities to embrace risks.

In a panel on ‘Can traditional companies reinvent themselves?’, Khalifa Al Shamsi explained how e& as a telco considered they could utilize customer insights and existing capabilities to introduce different type of services. That led to identifying fintech as a key driver of growth and choosing Mastercard as a partner to help thecompany diversify and grow in the UAE and beyond.

Mohammed Alblooshi said reinvention is only possible when an organization is agile, adaptive, and able to identify future growth factors. DIFC identified the growing start-up scene as an opportunity when it was still small, looked at the entire value chain, made sure it offered something different, and then recalibrated its focus from corporates to start-ups, adapting to market changes. Ömer Suner, who uses APIs to enable other organizations, made a point of highlighting the role of people in innovation, especially in terms of finding talented leaders and empowering them.

In the last session on ‘Facilitating a sustainable tomorrow, Amadou Diallo said the key is more about ownership, a commitment to become a positive contributor, and working as a team for purpose. Although localization can be challenging, scale is essential to get more people onboard to expand impact. DHL has deployed solar energy in many warehouses, collaborated with startups that recycle or degrade waste, and its GoHelp program has thousands of volunteers that contribute to different programs and communities.

Sandeep Walia said an authentic approach and genuine action is very important to keep making moves in the right direction. Marriott has made a concerted effort to reduce waste and energy consumption, and its newly opened St Regis Red Sea Resort for example, is 100% run by solar power. Walia says scaling is where the real opportunity lies, and that hotel asset owners are eager to embrace sustainable credentials, citing research that 70% of travelers in the Middle East are ready to pay more for a hotel that prioritized sustainability.

Clasing the panel, Amnah Ajmal added that six in ten consumers in retail are ready to pay more for things that are more sustainable. She said that acceleration in wider sustainability depends on growing ‘belief beyond the workplace’. Mastercard has united efforts to address climate change through the Priceless Planet Coalition, which aims to restore 100 million trees by 2025.   

The Mastercard and DIFC Innovation Hub partnership will see similar initiatives over the year that address opportunities and challenges within the business world.