Follow The Leader: H.E. Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO)
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"ADIO is an extension of Abu Dhabi. Our success is tied to the Emirate’s success.” This statement by ADIO Director General H.E. Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi should serve as a good indication of how the Emirati professional is going about leading the government hub that’s all about enabling investment opportunities in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi. As an entity that aims to help companies set up for long-term success in Abu Dhabi, ADIO aims to connect investors with relevant stakeholders in the Emirate’s innovation ecosystem, bringing together the right partnerships to help them grow and expand in the UAE, while also setting up for regional growth opportunities. Dr. Bin Hendi is clearly bullish about the potential that Abu Dhabi represents for businesses today, and he’s making sure he and his team at ADIO are able to showcase this to the world at large.
“I have seen firsthand the growth and development in Abu Dhabi over the past decades, in comparison to countries around the world,” Dr. Bin Hendi says. “I fully believe that, thanks to the leadership’s long-term vision and foresight, Abu Dhabi is one of the best places globally to live, work, and do business. We have built and continue to build a competitive, business-friendly environment for investors. We are investing to attract the world’s most innovative international companies, and to support the best homegrown ideas. We have shaped an innovation-driven, knowledge-based economy ready to welcome the world. As the Director General of ADIO, I have the privilege to tell this story to a global audience, and show what Abu Dhabi can offer.”
And Abu Dhabi certainly has a lot to offer- just take a look at the AED2 billion Innovation Program that ADIO has spearheaded, which offers companies globally competitive rebates and grants, in addition to other non-financial incentives, to support their investment journeys in Abu Dhabi. With a focus on high-growth industries like financial services, information and communications technology (ICT), health services and biopharma, tourism, agtech, and others, the initiative has seen quite a lot of interest from startups around the world already- for instance, Dr. Bin Hendi reveals that ADIO has already supported seven global agtech innovators to establish R&D and production facilities in Abu Dhabi.
“We have also partnered with ICT leaders, including Anghami and Bespin Global, to establish their headquarters in Abu Dhabi,” he adds. “ADIO also works with world-class startup enablers to provide founders and entrepreneurs with tools and resources to successfully scale their businesses. We have partnerships with Microsoft and Plug and Play to bring in their expertise to run accelerator programs and engagement initiatives in Abu Dhabi. The goal is to accelerate opportunities for local startups by providing them greater access to financing, networks, and mentorship.”
As someone whose career trajectory has included stints at Emirates NBD Bank Group, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Mubadala, Dubai Holding, and other such institutions, Dr. Bin Hendi is of the opinion that the MENA region has emerged as a great place to do business, with each country pursuing their own specific goals in innovation, investment, tourism, trade, and infrastructure. But while this brings forth a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs to tap into, Dr. Bin Hendi notes that they cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to capitalize on them as well. “There are significant opportunities here, but entrepreneurs must recognize that each market is substantially different, and choose an ecosystem that aligns with their long-term ambitions,” he says. “In Abu Dhabi, we are continually creating an environment that puts entrepreneurs on solid footing from the get-go. We have established infrastructure, enabling laws around business and investment, and strong support for innovation.”
Indeed, the rise of entrepreneurship in Abu Dhabi has led to him and his team at ADIO having to roll up their sleeves to better support this groundswell of ideas and innovation. “To ensure we provide entrepreneurs with relevant support, we prioritize agility and speed when working with them,” he says. “We are constantly engaging with startups to understand what they need. We work quickly and can pivot when needed. Innovation is not the preserve of entrepreneurs and startups. It is important in entities of all sizes to ensure agility in responding to emerging challenges.”
It should be pretty apparent by now that Dr. Bin Hendi has quite a lot of work on his plate on a day-to-day basis, but he makes it clear that he’s got support to do all of that as well. “To me, the individuals that make up the ADIO team are the key drivers of the entity’s overall success,” Dr. Bin Hendi explains. “They are the ones spreading Abu Dhabi’s message of innovation to the world, and working relentlessly to support entrepreneurs and businesses. As Director General, I have the privilege of setting the direction and empowering the ADIO team to fulfil our collective mission. No one day is the same, with every day bringing fresh opportunities and challenges. Much of my time is spent engaging with investors, government entities, other members of the Abu Dhabi innovation ecosystem, and the ADIO team. There is a strong spirit of collaboration, and a desire for progress."
"Increasingly, more is being done virtually, through online meetings and webinars. This has allowed us to move more quickly, increase our reach, and do more to support companies.” At the end of the day, Dr. Bin Hendi says that the important thing for him and his team at ADIO to remember is the underlying objective that defines all of their work. “At ADIO, we have a clear message: Abu Dhabi is open for business and ready to support your ambitions,” he concludes. “Everything we do leads back to this."
THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: TARIQ BIN HENDI’S TIPS FOR ENTREPRENEURS
1. THINK LIKE YOUR CUSTOMER “Put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and think from their perspective. It should never be about what you want to say or what you can offer, but about how your customer benefits.”
2. BE PASSIONATE “Do work that you care about. It’s not enough to have a great idea– you need the passion that will provide the motivation and ambition to get you through the ups and downs that any entrepreneur will inevitably face.”
3. BUILD A WINNING TEAM “Hire a team that shares your vision. Having the right people is more central to an entrepreneur’s success than the product or service.”
4. KEEP LEARNING “Learn from mistakes, be inspired by challenges, and stay on your toes. With the pace of change, entrepreneurs must constantly educate themselves to stay ahead.”
5. ASK FOR HELP “There are many resources to help entrepreneurs get off the ground– seek them out, and use them. Abu Dhabi’s innovation ecosystem provides founders support in the form of funding, networks, access to markets, and more. ADIO can be the first port of call to unlock the opportunities that the Emirate offers.”