Dubai: How employee earning less than Dh3,000 becomes global entrepreneur, champions Women's Run

The DWR has been a major event in the sporting calendar of the UAE ever since its beginning in 2008


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Mon 23 Oct 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 30 Oct 2023, 11:36 AM

When Dr. Harmeek Singh first came to the UAE as a printing house employee, he was paid a salary of Dh2,750. Today, he’s the owner of eight companies spread all across the globe and organiser of the Dubai Women’s Run (DWR) that has impacted countless lives ever since it began in 2008.

“Dubai is what made me who I am,” he said, speaking to Khaleej Times. “I grew with the city. And what I love about Dubai is that it gave me equal opportunities. I was respected for the work I did and never questioned my background or my ethnicity or my religion. If you have what it takes to be successful, this city and its people will support you.”

Dr. Harmeek’s stint with entrepreneurship started when he set up his own event organizing company in 2004. Armed with a desire to empower women, he joined the Women's Run movement in 2016. “Even at that time, Dubai and the ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum were far ahead of their time and championing women empowerment very actively,” he said. “So, when I approached the Dubai Sports Council and other authorities, I got immense support almost instantly.”

Now in its tenth edition, the DWR has been a major event in the sporting calendar of the UAE ever since.

Changing lives

For 71-year-old Sandi Rich, this is going to be the 5th year she is participating in the DWR. “My first fitness trip to Jordan in 2006 brought home the bitter truth that I was woefully out of shape,” she said. “Realisation dawned that I was a ‘burden’ to the team, dragging them down. I felt awful, ashamed and realized how terrible it was to be dependent on others to help me only because I was irresponsible to my fitness, my health and my wellbeing. I vowed I would never be dependent because I was out of shape.”


Since then, she has been exercising religiously and is a regular at DWR. “I participate in the run because I enjoy the camaraderie, the community spirit, the fitness routines and the buildup to the event. It’s not about coming first; it’s about finishing the run and not giving up. It’s my sense of accomplishment.”

While the inaugural edition saw the participation of 200 women, this year over 5,000 women are expected to run. For Kifah Sbeitan who has participated in the event every year since it is began, the run is an important message. “like that the event promotes unity and participation over competition or winning, highlighting that the only way we can improve is by competing with ourselves,” she said.

For Dr. Harmeek, it is the stories of the participants that keeps him going. “This year, I met a Spanish lady who was obese and depressed when she participated in her first women’s run,” he said. “When she was able to finish the run, it was a huge ego booster for her. Today she has participated in three ironman competitions and is a marathon runner. These stories reinforce my belief that I am on the right path. Changing the old adage a little bit, I enjoy being the man behind several successful women.”


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