Singaporean bitten by the Dubai bug

DUBAI — Vickram Naidu, 43, was merely visiting his sister-in-law when he arrived in Dubai 14 years ago. But the Dubai bug bit him and he promptly decided to make this bustling and vibrant city his base.

By Reshmi Nair

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Published: Sat 5 May 2007, 8:53 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 4:20 AM

'I had heard a lot about Dubai being the 'City of Gold'. I remember being pleasantly surprised to see the cosmopolitan nature of the city and discovered how easy it was to live here. I was, therefore, excited when I received the opportunity to work here,' Naidu recalls.

Together with his Malaysian wife and one-year-old child, Naidu moved from his hometown Singapore to Dubai, and took up the job of financial controller in Saatchi and Saatchi, currently one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world, with 153 offices in 83 countries.

Ironically, his sister-in-law no longer lives in Dubai.

After serving the company in various capacities, he is now the Co-CEO for the Middle Eastern region. His company was recently honoured with the first Agency of the Year trophy at the Dubai Lynx 2007, a creative advertising competition for the Middle East and North Africa.

'In the early days, we'd frequently pack our things and drive to faraway places like Fujairah and Al Ain over the weekends and long holidays. In fact, we would really look forward to the weekends because my wife was also working back then, and we'd spend a lot of time indoors,' he recalls, adding, 'we really relished the chance to get out, weather permitting, of course.'

'Traffic conditions these days have made it difficult to travel as frequently. So we spend more time in Dubai. Fortunately, there are a lot more activities available in Dubai — from country clubs to parks and restaurants. This has given us an opportunity to catch up with friends and interact a lot more with other members in the community.'

'We go back to Singapore once a year, and my kids love it because they can reconnect with their cousins, aunts and uncles. I think it's sometimes hard for them to live abroad without their relatives around because family is truly part of a rounded upbringing. I suppose it ultimately comes down to striking a balance and making sure you preserve your family ties no matter how far away you are, something many expatriates go through,' he says.

Nevertheless, he doesn't feel worried about attracting more of his countrymen to Dubai.

'People from completely unheard of countries are now coming to live in Dubai. Its appeal has definitely skyrocketed. As for Singaporeans, I've seen many coming here not just for jobs, but also for secondments and experience. People are beginning to realise the value of this region,' he says.

Naidu asserts that the changes in Dubai have been positive. 'People work very hard here but business is an essential part of progress, we can't avoid it. Dubai has definitely caught up with the rest of the world and we can even see the effects of this in the advertising industry, which has progressed steadily over the years,' he says.

According to him, one of the most visible changes in the advertising world is the growth in in-store displays. Previously, most consumers would walk into stores with an idea of what they wanted to buy. The consumer these days looks for signs and posters promoting new deals and bargains, guiding their purchasing decisions, he adds.

'In a way, the modern consumer really needs to be told what he or she wants. You also need to really capture their attention through visuals, which is sometimes difficult considering how much is out there competing for their attention as well,' he points out. 'Advertising has also transgressed into alternative media, such as mobile phones and interactive technology, an avenue many firms in Dubai are exploring.'

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