By Angy Essam
This year’s winners of the annual Gulf Capital SME Awards have been revealed. Leading the roster of winners is Asis Boats, which received the highly-coveted Gulf Capital Business of the Year Award, while its founder Roy Nouhra was named Entrepreneur of the Year. Asis Boats makes vessels for leisure, commercial and military customers. Since its establishment in 2006, it has grown to become one of the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of rigid inflatable boats, sold in 80 countries in North and South America, Europe and Africa, as well as Asia and the Middle East. “We congratulate all the winners of this year’s edition of the Gulf Capital SME Awards,” said Karim El-Solh, CEO, Gulf Capital, one of the leading alternative investment firms in the Middle East and headline sponsor of the annual Gulf Capital SME Awards. “Their success stories are an inspiration for many entrepreneurs and small businesses to follow. The winners are among the reasons why the UAE has achieved such a strong diversification and growth and why the SME [small and medium-sized enterprises] sector has become the main engine of growth for the UAE economy” said Karim El-Solh, CEO, Gulf Capital.
Others honoured at the glittering ceremony on 28 October include Early Years Educational Services, an educational training and consultancy firm, which received the MasterCard Small Business of the Year. The company was the first to bring UK qualifications to those working in the early years education sector, and was recognised for its work in successfully training professionals to deliver the best educational outcomes for young children. For turning the conventional healthcare model upside down, Eternity Medicine was recognised with the Business Innovation of the Year award on the strength of its pioneering practice in providing personalized health reports using advanced screening technologies and cutting-edge treatments. The Camel Soap Factory, winner of the Start-up Business of the Year award last year, is back on the honour roll, winning the Sustainable Business of the Year award for its work in educating customers on the benefits of environmentally-friendly soap manufacturing. The business showcased its innovative cold process soap-making method, as well as using local materials and camel milk to sustain its business over the long-term.
In support of the UAE government’s efforts to promote the growth of the SME sector, an Emirati Business of the Year award is given annually, to inspire other nationals to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey. This year’s winner is Bin Touq Fire and Safety, a company that has benefited tremendously from the UAE’s construction boom in recent years by providing fire protection and alarm systems. Souqalmal.com succeeded over other web-based businesses in winning this year’s Online Business of the Year award. The vision of the digital comparison site is to create a highly transparent marketplace to help consumers make the right choice by collating the latest details of more than 2,800 retail banking, telecoms, insurance and education products offered by various providers in the UAE and enabling them to be compared on one site.
It aims to provide a similar service in five other countries within the next three years, with Saudi Arabia already being tested for an official launch next year.
The RSA Customer Focus of the Year award was given to Smart Fitness, an SME that specializes in providing personal, group and athletic training, as well as bespoke solutions for corporate wellness. The team’s commitment to customer focus has enabled Smart Fitness to retain members over a long period of time, with top management taking a very hands-on approach to interacting with customers. From humble beginnings in 2007 with 30 children, British Orchard Nursery has become one of the leading providers of early years education in the UAE. It now has 14 locations across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. Its success has hinged largely on being able to recruit and retain the best talent to help deliver exceptional educational services to children. For clearly demonstrating how the company has created a positive working environment and developed its people, British Orchard Nursery received the DHL People & Culture of the Year Award.
And for successfully leading Adventure HQ to become the UAE’s ultimate outdoor adventure sports superstore, Sam Whittam received the Business Leader of the Year award. Under his watch, Adventure HQ has achieved solid growth in many critical areas. Footfall has increased by 21.5 per cent over the past year. The Start-up Business of the Year award was given to Beehive Group, the UAE’s first online peer to-peer finance platform, which started operations only last year. Beehive uses crowdfunding technology to reduce operating costs and streamline processes, eliminating the cost and complexity of conventional finance. Since its founding, Beehive has registered 1,000 investors and successfully funded more than AED10m ($2.7m) to more than 20 businesses. The winners of the 2015 Gulf Capital SME Awards were honoured at a ceremony at the Westin Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Dubai.