The Year That Was: Omar Kassim, Founder and CEO, Nomod

"The initial reaction to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns initially felt like a death knell for what was meant to be a banner year. Instead, both people and businesses rallied and iterated at great speed to adjust to the short-term 'new normal.'"

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Omar Kassim is perhaps best known for being the founder of erstwhile e-commerce marketplace JadoPado (which was acquired by its counterpart in the domain, Noon, in 2017), and he is currently at work on his newest venture, Nomod, whose website proudly proclaims that it is “building better business banking.” Now, this may well be a personal take, but if one were to put together a list of the voices of note in the MENA startup ecosystem, the UAE-based Kassim’s musings on life, business, and everything in between (all of which can often be found on his Twitter, @okassim) certainly warrant him a presence on that compilation. And as such, his outlook on 2020 is worth checking out, if only to look at what are the things that caught his attention this year.

NOMOD
Omar Kassim, founder and CEO, NOMOD

For starters, on the business side of things, Kassim has been impressed by how quickly the world adopted a digital way of life in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. “We embraced digital in everything, whether it be e-commerce, money, learning, and all sorts of new things and future-altering behaviors,” he notes. “Humanity also experimented with remote working (and learning) at mass scale this year.

As someone who’s been working remotely for a while, this was incredible to both see and experience. Many of us forget that a human being’s default state (and the continued default state for many world leaders, e.g. the President of the United States, or the Queen in the United Kingdom), is to work where we live, and live where we work (e.g. farmers, shepherds, war correspondents, climate scientists), therefore making it refreshing to return to this state, with one of our greatest modern inventions, the internet, providing the means by which knowledge workers were able to explore a genuine alternative to our 9-to-5 commuting culture.”

Related: The Year That Was: Alaa Fadan, Co-Founder and CEO, Telfaz11

In the same manner as how the coronavirus pandemic made flexible working a much more familiar concept for the world at large, closer to home, the crisis has also managed to bring about changes that many in the UAE have long hoped for. “We finally let VoIP out of the bag in the UAE, and I don’t think we can or will ever go back,” Kassim notes. “The magnitude of this was eventually lost in the madness of the rest of the year, but this will continue to have an impact for years to come.” Indeed, it’s thanks to changes like these that 2020 brought in that this year will be looked at a kinder light by history in the future- after all, as Kassim points out, the way the world reacted to the happenings of this year remains something to be in awe about. “I was blown away by humanity’s collective resilience,” he says. “The initial reaction to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns initially felt like a death knell for what was meant to be a banner year. Instead, both people and businesses rallied and iterated at great speed to adjust to the short-term ‘new normal.’”

And that, if nothing else, is something to be grateful for in 2020- and yes, it bodes well for 2021 too.

Time for introspection: Omar Kassim reflects on 2020

1/ Resilience is underrated “Being able to stick it out and survive when the plan has not only changed, but no longer exists, is worth learning and holding onto.”

2/ True character is forged in the furnace of hardship “At every setback, you have the opportunity to show who you really are. Do you turn vindictive, and use the opportunity to inflict as much pain as possible? Or, do you dig deep and act with fairness, compassion, and generosity?”

3/ Focus on only the things that matter “Life is shorter than we’d like to imagine, therefore focus relentlessly on that which you’ve decided is worth pursuing.”

Related: The Year That Was: Charlie Weaving, Managing Partner, LIVIT Hospitality Management

Aby Sam Thomas

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Entrepreneur Staff

Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.

Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.