His Excellency Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori

Former Minister of Economy of the UAE

The UAE has witnessed tremendous transformation in recent years. Our leadership’s overarching strategy for diversifying our national economic base has facilitated balanced growth through the development of a wide variety of economic sectors and verticals. This has laid the foundation of an economy that ensures a wider role for knowledge, innovation, advanced technology and scientific research, enabling our transition from an oil-rich to an idea-rich nation. Born in the UAE is a testament to this evolution.

This book encapsulates the thriving spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that form the lifeblood of our economy today. Over the past four decades the UAE has emerged as a leading hub for entrepreneurs and businesses, and continues to attract global investors and companies. This achievement has been made possible thanks to multiple factors, ranging from stability and security, to the advanced infrastructure and business-friendly environment that our nation offers.

However, the most important factor, in my opinion, the one that defines this ecosystem and is ingrained within our nation’s DNA, is the energy, creativity, courage and commitment of our people. It is this community of innovators, and their extraordinary vision, perseverance and risk-taking appetite that Born in the UAE celebrates.

The diverse collection of home-grown brands that this book features has paved the way for the UAE to consolidate its position in the region’s, as well as the world’s, economy and society. These products and services, events and experiences and non-profit institutions are pushing the boundaries of innovation, fuelling economic growth and driving job creation. Many of them also promote sustainable and socially responsible practices that offer innovative and scalable solutions to the environmental and socioeconomic challenges we are grappling with across the world today.

Brands are cultural symbols of our nation. The iconic brands featured in this book are deeply woven into our national and social fabrics, and serve as a powerful tool to communicate our cultural identity to the rest of the world. I am confident that the success stories these brands represent will serve as an inspiration for the next generation of innovators to accomplish more, and scale even greater heights.

With our continued efforts at a national level to build an enabling environment for enterprises to flourish, I believe we will witness the emergence of many more globally competitive businesses and home-grown brands in the years to come. Until then, this book serves as a reminder and ready reckoner of our nation’s rich legacy and the wealth of opportunities that it offers.

Let us continue to celebrate the spirit of the UAE, and the ideas born here!


This book profiles a cross-section of the talent, leadership, creativity and strength of a number of UAE entities. The selection includes not only established non-profit institutions, but also organisations that provide key products and services. It also covers many of the wonderful events and experiences coming out of the UAE, which have already made their mark on the global stage.

The first category in this book is Non-Profit Institutions. The American University of Sharjah, for example, has established itself as a beacon of knowledge in the Middle East, while the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund is making commendable efforts in preserving the UAE’s vital wildlife. This book recognises organisations that, even if not instantly familiar abroad, have shown tremendous global potential through their daily activities.

The second category, Events and Experiences, highlights some of the truly great experiences to be found in the UAE. The likes of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Dubai Rugby Sevens have become must-visit events for millions around the world, while others, such as the Abu Dhabi Festival and Sharjah Biennial, have created niche markets that are making waves across all continents.

The final category is Products and Services, which is, unsurprisingly, the largest. Here, you will find many true global stars, such as Emaar and Emirates, both of which are as recognisable on the streets of Dubai as they are on the streets of New York. Others, such as Gulftainer, are equally admired for their local presence and their wide range of international projects, while new entrants such as Kava & Chai – a coffee chain reminiscent of 16th-century coffee house – have differentiated themselves through their social missions.

So how were the featured brands chosen?

Selecting the 50 organisations to grace the first-ever edition of Born in the UAE has been no easy task. Senior editors from ITP Media Group initially put together a list of over 200 entities that have had a significant impact on both the local and global stages.

The list includes not only numerous publicly listed firms,but also private companies and several lesser-known outfits that have done much to cement this country’s reputation as a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. In choosing the final 50, the editors looked at a few specific criteria, such as a brand’s ability to acquire a consumer mindshare. A great example of this would be Emirates Airline, whose customers instinctively boast that they are “flying Emirates” rather than “flying”.

The editors also looked at a brand’s ability to resonate on an emotional level with its customers. A perfect example of this would be the nation’s property sector – there is no shortage of development companies that have evolved from the UAE. Some, like Emaar, featured in this book, have won a tremendous amount of loyalty, pride and admiration from their customers, because they feel part of the company’s story as opposed to simply being consumers.

The selected brands also answer the question of “why?” rather than “what?” As readers will realise, many of the profiled brands, such as ADNOC, have undertaken remarkable Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives and have given back to the communities they serve. This demonstrates that they are more than profit-driven entities, but are also part of a wider social ecosystem that looks after its stakeholders.

Of course, the businesses chosen serve a greater social purpose. It is one thing to start an airline, bank or oil company, but is there a wider purpose? Does the brand act as a catalyst for job creation and innovation across sectors?

The 50 brands featured in this first edition of Born in the UAE are by no means the only ones to meet these criteria. Having deliberately chosen names from a spread of the UAE’s emirates, the editors acknowledge that there are many more success stories that deserve to be showcased. Nonetheless, it is hoped that this book will act as a guide, a snapshot and a cross-section of the great achievements currently underway in the UAE.