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Navigating the New Normal

Filed on June 18, 2020 | Last updated on June 18, 2020 at 01.48 am
Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber

As economies around the world begin to reopen, businesses are finding themselves in a different competitive landscape shaped by changing consumer needs

The world has reached a turning point in its fight to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. In recent weeks, several countries have begun to lift restrictions on businesses, while governments have responded with stimulus measures and incentives as they aim to get economies back on track.

Here in Dubai, we are beginning to see what our new normal looks like as shopping malls and private sector businesses start operating at 100 per cent capacity under new directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and the Ruler of Dubai.

Airports have reopened with plans to restart outbound and transit flights later this month. All of these developments are positive signs showing the light at the end of the tunnel. However, many companies are fast realising the important role of technology in ensuring business continuity in a post-Covid world. Dubai's economy has fared better than others have in this regard, as it makes considerable headway in its mission to become a global smart city with sophisticated digital infrastructure.

While the coronavirus pandemic has presented unprecedented business challenges, it has also given many organisations the push they needed to fast track plans to boost efficiency and productivity. Throughout this transitional period, public and private sector players have come together and stepped up to provide support where needed.

Dubai Chamber, for example, launched several initiatives to assist companies during these uncertain times. These efforts include a dedicated section on its website offering a wealth of relevant information and resources to help businesses deal with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, awareness campaigns such as #BeSafeWorkSmart - offering guidance on remote working practices and a comprehensive guide to the UAE's National Disinfection Programme.

The non-profit public organisation made an initial pledge of Dh10 million to the Community Solidarity Fund Against Covid-19 and implemented a series of initiatives to encourage the private sector to play their part in mitigating the social, economic and health impact of the virus.

Close communication has been key to Dubai Chamber's support efforts as the organisation has remained engaged with the business community virtually. In March and April, the Chamber organised 18 digital seminars attended by more than 800 business leaders. These virtual events offered guidance on everything from preventative safety measures and best practices, to legal implications, employee safety and the business benefits of selling online.

The Chamber participated in 38 video meetings with business groups, business councils and associations, representing a wide variety of economic sectors, countries and professions, while discussions held focused on how to enhance cooperation and mechanisms to address the current challenges related to the spread of Covid-19.

Hamad Buamim, President and CEO of Dubai Chamber, said such initiatives complement Dubai Chamber's efforts to ensure a favourable business environment in Dubai and protecting the interests of its members. He stressed the crucial role of smart services in ensuring business continuity in uncertain times, adding that the Chamber's digital transformation in recent years has put it ahead of the curve.

"Many years ago, we embarked on a mission to shift our core services to smart channels, guided by the vision of our wise leadership. These efforts have certainly paid off as the Chamber was able to provide our members and customers access to convenient digital solutions and meet their changing needs, despite the restrictions that were imposed," Buamim said.

Over 152,000 electronic transactions were processed by Dubai Chamber between March and May of this year at a rate of 50,000 transactions per month. A 7.5 per cent rise in e-transactions was recorded in May, compared to the previous month, signaling an increased awareness in the private sector on the importance of e-services and smart transformation in driving business activity.

Dubai Chamber currently provides 50 e-services to the business community through its website and smart applications. The services include certificates of origin, membership, attestation, ATA Carnets, legal inquires, smart mediation, credit rating and CSR Label, among many others. Earlier this year, the Chamber launched a new electronic attestation service and the authentication of signatures on documents, which raised the percentage of smart transformations of core services to 98 per cent.

Looking ahead, the UAE government is already developing plans to prepare its economy for the post-Covid era. Forthcoming efforts are likely to include new business incentives and the widespread adoption of 5G as momentum behind e-commerce and digital solutions continues to grow amid increased consumer demand.

In light of this strategy, Dubai Chamber has stepped up efforts to help its members build an online presence and access new business opportunities beyond borders. The Chamber recently joined forces with Amazon to co-organise a series of webinars offering companies practical tips and best practices for building and managing a successful e-commerce business.

"The next economic boom in Dubai will not be driven by one market in particular, but a digital transformation wave across various sectors," said Buamim. "Businesses can use this time to prepare for this new reality by doing their part to advance the digital economy and continue to work closely with the public sector. I am confident that we will emerge from this pandemic stronger, more agile and ready to write the next chapter in Dubai's success story.

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