A game-changer in digital disruption; this entrepreneur seeks to push Dubai's ambitious D33 vision forward

Indian expat Praveen Kumar, founder and CEO of HOD Digital and NWC Group, is trying to emulate His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s D33 vision that seeks to double Dubai’s economy over the next decade


Joydeep Sengupta

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Published: Thu 9 Feb 2023, 8:08 PM

Last updated: Thu 9 Feb 2023, 8:09 PM

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice- President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has a clear vision about his beloved young nation: “In the road to excellence, there is no finishing line.”

These are prophetic words that encapsulate the future of Dubai and the UAE, which has been charting several roads towards excellence with equipoise. The government comes up with big, new ideas to enrich its vision for innovation and growth every year.

On January 4, Sheikh Mohammed launched the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 with a target of Dh32 trillion over the next 10 years. It’s an ambitious goal of doubling the size of Dubai’s economy over the next decade and consolidating its position among the top three global cities. He said, “2033 will mark 200 years since the foundation of Dubai and its emergence as the most important global business centre.”

Dubai will rank as one of the top four global financial centres with an increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) to over Dh650 billion over the next decade and an annual Dh100 billion contributions from digital transformation. The new Dubai Economic Agenda includes 100 transformative projects.

D33 aims to double the emirate’s foreign trade to Dh25.6 trillion and add 400 cities as key trading partners over the next decade.

A vision becomes insignificant if not implemented. Dubai’s vision comes with a timeline — as a time-bound target that is measurable and achievable. But more importantly, in order to realise the vision, a country needs to deploy human talents with the right skill sets.

As the world embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and is bullish about the Web 3.0, economic growth will come through innovation, or digital disruption. But in order to achieve these, the country needs growth innovators, growth hackers and digital disruptors.

Praveen Kumar, who belongs to South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, is one such growth innovator, or a digital disruptor, who created nine online marketplaces for clients from diverse industries. “Every business will undergo digital transformation in one way or the other in the next few years. No business will be able to survive without digital transformation at its core in the future,” he says. Kumar founded House of Digital (HOD) in Dubai a few years ago to disrupt businesses and transform them from the brick-and-mortar model to digital marketplaces.

“Those who have started to change their business model to hybrid — both physical and digital, or phygital — will dominate the future and we’re creating a future for our clients to help them grow fast,” he says.

The digital transformation was a $594 (Dh2,181.82) billion business last year that is poised to exceed $1.54 (Dh5.66) trillion by 2027, according to Markets and Reports, an online knowledge repository.

According to a report by the International Data Corporation (IDC), investment in digital transformation across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) region is projected to surpass $74 (Dh271.81) billion by 2026, helping organisations achieve long-term stability and growth.

Jyoti Lalchandani, IDC's group vice president and regional managing director for the META region, says, "The implementation of further digitalisation in critical areas and a more rapid shift to a 'digital business' approach will be key to separating the thrivers from the survivors.

"No matter what the economy throws at us over the coming 12 months, organisations must not lose sight of their digital aspirations. The focus should be on enabling clear and measurable outcomes, and digital spending needs to transition from building to scaling. Indeed, IDC predicts that by 2027, at least 30 per cent of the C-suite's focus will be on scaling innovation and operating a truly digital business. Automation will sit at the heart of this process, helping to reduce the cost of information technology (IT) operations, address labour shortages, and increase the velocity of innovation." Kumar advises companies to go online and grow to greater heights.

The founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HOD Digital and NWC Group, Kumar has delivered nine digital marketplaces and e-commerce channels for his clients, including www.veppy.com, www.thetamilmart.com.

He has over 14 years of expertise driving an organisational impact in digital strategy and achieving growth through digital transformation, marketing transformation, and e-Commerce strategy. He has architected the digital strategy of several companies in the UAE, USA and Europe to optimising growth, he leverages a holistic approach toward digital branding, digital transformation and digital marketing.

Globally, IDC expects spending on digital technology by organisations to grow at eight times the economy in 2023, establishing a foundation for organisations to drive operational excellence, competitive differentiation, and long-term growth.

His professional excellence is grounded in a strong academic background. He has a master's degree in brand management from the London School of Business and a master's degree in computer software engineering. As an industry leader, he has a comprehensive grasp of the constantly evolving market demands. He uses it to cultivate strong partnerships with several homegrown and overseas companies, enhance the lives of his employees, and change the trajectory of the industry.

His strong sense of perception stems from his analytical skills. He owes his success to his excellence as a chess player. He believes in adding value in order to create value. He strives to add value to the lives of his stakeholders and his team in equal measure, as a key to becoming a game-changer in the industry.

The Middle East and Africa business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce market is expected to grow by 22.38 per cent annually to reach $104.1 (Dh8,506.06) billion in 2022. Kumar says, e-commerce is one of the most efficient ways for wholesalers and retailers to acquire more customers. “In order to survive, all wholesalers and retailers will have to enter the race to woo the customers, which will help them to remain in business,” he says. “Those who’re investing in e-commerce are having early-mover advantages.”

“With 99 per cent Internet penetration, the UAE is well-positioned to spearhead the growth of e-commerce across all industries, as customers are shifting faster towards the digital space. It is the best time to shift to the e-commerce space and benefit from both online and offline experience.”

A Mckinsey report shows that over the past six months, the degree of digital penetration among Middle Eastern consumers places the region in line with leading European and North American countries. “In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, consumers use digital channels to interact with an average of approximately 4.5 industries. Overall digital adoption — the average of users in each industry who have interacted with it through digital or remote channels — stands at 78 per cent, the report says.

Kumar, who is an inveterate risk-taker, lives by the ethos of walking the tightrope of business by seeing it as an art form. As he often says, “Digital strategy is a game of jigsaw puzzle, solutions are always hidden in small details.”

Kumar strongly believes that HOD as a company will become a global pioneer in digital strategy and consulting. He intends to grow the company by expanding the workforce. The future of HOD in the next decade will house over 500+ talents who will play an important role in dynamically shifting the course of the businesses globally.


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