UAE to remain top performer in Gulf economy, official says

Technology to play a transformative role in new offerings

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Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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Published: Sun 24 Dec 2023, 9:30 PM

Last updated: Sun 7 Jan 2024, 5:12 PM

Despite the global economic challenges faced by many markets in 2023, the economic outlook in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the UAE remains robust, a senior official has said.

“Forecasts for the UAE, in particular, suggest that it will emerge as the top-performing economy in the GCC in 2024, experiencing an overall GDP growth of 4.0 per cent,” Arindam De, Deputy CEO and Managing Director, Protiviti Member Firm for the Middle East region, told Khaleej Times in an interview.

Excerpts:

What are the anticipated key trends shaping the UAE and GCC business landscape in 2024?

Projections for 2024 indicate a notable upturn in economic growth for the GCC countries, driven in part by a resurgence in global oil prices after a prolonged period of uncertainty.

Forecasts for the UAE, in particular, suggest that it will emerge as the top-performing economy in the GCC in 2024, experiencing an overall GDP growth of 4.0 per cent. Notably, sectors such as Travel and Tourism, hospitality, sports, and entertainment have experienced unparalleled growth, surpassing initial projections in terms of spending. The public sector’s ongoing digital transformation will stay in the spotlight, with a focus on enhancing liveability, citizen experience, and attracting high-demand talent as pivotal factors. The Digital Transformation market is poised to exhibit significant growth, with an anticipated Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) exceeding 25% from 2024 to 2030. Following the conclusion of COP28 in Dubai, there is a pronounced commitment to sustainability and a circular economy, with an increased emphasis on these aspects. Furthermore, a surge in infrastructure initiatives, including smart cities and giga projects, is anticipated. The entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region is poised for flourishing growth, with startups expected to play a crucial role in driving innovation and contributing to overall economic expansion. Overall, 2024 holds promise for the GCC and the UAE, with a positive economic trajectory across various sectors.

Are industry sectors expected to be particularly promising or challenging in the upcoming year in the UAE and GCC?

In 2024, notable growth is expected in the travel and hospitality, infrastructure, and logistics, as well as sports and entertainment sectors, building upon the momentum generated in 2023. The fields of renewable energy, FinTech, e-commerce, healthcare, and education are poised to attract substantial investments, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia taking the lead. The manufacturing sector in the Middle East is set for expansion in 2024, with significant investments from countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt aimed at bolstering their manufacturing capabilities to diversify their economies. Nevertheless, traditional industries may encounter persistent challenges, necessitating a strategic pivot towards diversification and innovation to align with evolving market dynamics. Sectors characterized by intense competition and reliance on low-cost labor may confront digital disruption due to automation and evolving labour laws.

How can consulting firms tailor their services to meet clients’ needs in these sectors?

Consulting firms need to tailor their services to cater to industry-specific needs, incorporating expertise in digital transformation, emphasizing global insights, offering solutions for risk management, and assisting clients in navigating regulatory changes. It is crucial for these firms to maintain flexibility and adopt a proactive approach to meet the unique requirements of clients within evolving sectors.

To remain relevant and capitalize on opportunities, three key factors come into play :-

• A comprehensive understanding of local industry dynamics, including the regulatory landscape, trends, risks, and opportunities, coupled with the ability to integrate global expertise and insights from leaders and peers in other markets.

• The capability to provide multi-disciplinary skills in a cohesive manner, supported by technology and data-enabled integrated solutions, to address the complex challenges faced by clients in their current business landscape.

• A strategic focus on investing in talent acquisition and development, fostering a culture of innovation, maintaining agility and adaptability, and building a complementary ecosystem of partnerships that can be leveraged on demand.

Can you provide insights into Protiviti’s strategic initiatives or planned expansions in the UAE for 2024?

Protiviti is committed to continuous reinvention to stay relevant and places a high priority on trust in today’s fast-paced world. In the UAE and GCC region, significant initiatives include the provision of free Young Graduate Programmes, offering training in areas such as Data, Digital, Cyber, and Risk. In terms of integrated offerings, the company is undergoing internal restructuring to shift towards a more industry and buyer-centric approach, departing from the traditional silos commonly adopted by consulting companies. Internally, Protiviti is reorganizing to concentrate on industries and buyers, delivering tailored expertise to clients facing intricate challenges. The company is also expanding its presence in multiple locations in KSA and emphasizing its distinctiveness in the UAE. Protiviti plans to continue its investments in Technology, Digital, and Innovation, with a particular focus on Cybersecurity, Data and AI, Cloud, and Innovation solutions.

What are the significant risks and challenges consulting firms might face in 2024?

The consulting landscape is undergoing a profound shift, moving beyond the traditional advantage of ‘information asymmetry’ to a setting marked by the ‘democratization of information.’ The ubiquity of advice challenges the exclusivity of expertise, a challenge heightened by the success of advanced language models like ChatGPT. Striking a careful balance between professional judgment and data-driven advice becomes crucial in this environment. The transient nature of advice, coupled with its swift obsolescence, necessitates a thorough exploration to offer enduring recommendations. The people-centric nature of consulting, coupled with a talent scarcity, poses a significant challenge, especially with the entry of Gen Z and Gen Y into the workforce, each with distinct expectations. Furthermore, there is a noticeable shift in the importance placed on access to value and specialized skills over brand recognition.

Arindam De, Deputy CEO and Managing Director, Protiviti Member Firm for the Middle East region
Arindam De, Deputy CEO and Managing Director, Protiviti Member Firm for the Middle East region

Are there any key partnerships or alliances that Protiviti considers particularly significant for its growth in 2024?

Our multi-layered partnership and ecosystem strategy is designed to address diverse business challenges for clients effectively. The approach encompasses software and OEM partnerships, fostering alliances with leading technology providers in areas such as cloud, enterprise applications, data governance, analytics, and more. These collaborations enable the delivery of comprehensive solutions, including software licenses, implementation, support, and operation services.

Generative AI is on the rise, and more companies are coming up with their ways to utilize it. How is Protiviti utilizing generative AI in its service offerings?

Protiviti is actively championing the integration of Generative AI within enterprises, supporting them in seizing the opportunities presented by this transformative technology while simultaneously equipping them to navigate emerging risks. Serving as advocates for opportunity realization, Protiviti aids organizations in formulating a Generative AI strategy, pinpointing relevant use cases, and establishing the essential partner ecosystem and technological infrastructure for comprehensive enterprise-wide applications. The company also assists in the operationalization and refinement of Generative AI and Large Language Model (LLM) implementations. Internally, Protiviti leverages Generative AI opportunities through the development of LLM-based platforms to enhance knowledge management, encouraging Gen AI utilization as a co-pilot for delivery teams with specific guidelines to improve quality and turnaround times, and constructing multi-modal Gen AI platforms to assist in proposal development processes.

How can consulting firms integrate ESG considerations into their service offerings?

There are three primary avenues through which consulting firms can contribute to responsible business practices: by assisting clients, promoting thought leadership, and leading by example. In supporting clients, consulting firms play a crucial role in ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives. As advocates for responsible business practices, consulting firms encourage ESG integration among clients, produce thought leadership content to raise awareness and influence industry practices, and engage in collaborations and initiatives with other firms, NGOs, and government agencies. Leading by example, consulting firms embed ESG principles into their core values and strategy, implement sustainable practices to reduce environmental impact, promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, support employee well-being, and actively engage with local communities through partnerships and community development initiatives.


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