Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

Reaping The Rewards: Plan B Founder And Chairman Harmeek Singh Lessons on resilience from this visionary UAE-based entrepreneur who continues to be at the top of his game.

By Tamara Pupic

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Plan B Founder And Chairman Harmeek Singh. Source: Plan B

As much as Harmeek Singh appreciates that his UAE-based event and activation agency Plan B has returned to the growth levels it enjoyed prior to the COVID-19 crisis, he is not as fond of his team reverting to a few pre-pandemic behaviors. "I believe that a balanced approach to work is crucial, and the thing that irritates me the most is that we are once again falling into a 24/7 busy mindset," Singh says. "But I'm working on a model where we can put ourselves first, and only then our business."

Singh is known for having a personality strong enough to sustain 180-degree changes in life and work- he's gone from the failure of his family business in India to landing his first job in Dubai in 2003 that earned him just AED2,000 per month, and then, a year later, launching Plan B Advertising that grew into a group of eight companies and 475 employees- until a moment in 2020 when the events industry his company majorly operated in was hit and almost completely swept away by the COVID-19 pandemic. "After closing 2019 on a high with significant campaigns all around the region, we were entering the busiest time, especially due to the kind of scalability provided by our infrastructure of more than 400 workers," Singh recalls. "We ended up with cancellations starting already in the first week of March 2020."

Again, Singh is no stranger to supporting socially weaker groups, and that was evident through the many initiatives that Plan B engaged in over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, despite the business itself being badly struck by the pandemic. "Looking at closures, and looking at how much labor, or the lowest end, couldn't be supported, I realized that it was our responsibility to ensure that everyone was safe and secure in their native nations, and that was my top priority," he says. "By August and September 2022, we were successfully collaborating with the consulates of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and we managed to send the majority of them back home, as it was difficult for people to continue living abroad and stay far from their families."

On the business front, Singh recalls that the majority of issues were arising from bounced checks and the stopping of several transactions. "There was a lot of chaos," he recalls. "I personally began to sit down with people, negotiate, and align, and I realized that we could stand together rather than against one another."

Before long, Singh created a platform for events professionals to come together. "Prior to my calls to business owners and other relevant individuals in the industry, our sector was thought to be competitive, but it soon became clear that everyone wanted to speak with one another," he says. It was then that, with the backing of the global non-profit community of creative event professionals International Live Events Association, as well as more than 300 companies that supported his nomination, Singh became the President of a crisis committee to represent the events industry before the UAE government. "We looked at internal procedures that needed to be established so that we could assist one another, and handle the types of inquiries that would likely be requested from the government," Singh notes.

In the ensuing period, Singh recalls the events industry "starting to join hands and working smarter," which included switching to hybrid modes of work, making touchless systems a part of their strategies, and pushing for interactive, immersive, and digital experiences to take a bigger part of the business. Singh now says that the period between 2020- 2022 brought with it a number of invaluable lessons for him and his sector, with them being centered around the importance of structuring businesses effectively, as well as learning to coexist in an industry. "There definitely is room for a shared goal," Singh says. "My main lessons are that we need to be adaptable, and that protecting my teams in the same way I protect my business will breed loyalty, and that we must always be mindful of the human aspect of our work."

Plan B Founder And Chairman Harmeek Singh Source: Plan B

Singh was quick to act on these insights, and that is why he now believes that Plan B -and he himself- have emerged from the COVID-19 crisis with zero regrets. "The new version of us is more refined and wiser for a lot of things that came to light during that period, when we got certified as 'warriors for the industry,'" Singh says. "Today, we are standing tall not only in the UAE, but also in Qatar, where we have expanded with a few new offices, which has had a significant impact on our business, as the FIFA World Cup in Qatar was one of the major projects we oversaw in 2022. Regionally, we also participated in two significant campaigns in Saudi Arabia. After assessing our pace of progress, I estimate that we are currently 20% below the growth trajectory we should have anticipated for the years 2019 and 2020, if everything had been normal." Looking ahead to the future, Singh is proud of the many initiatives and projects that lie in Plan B's pipeline for the UAE, Qatar, and KSA. "Plan B's innovations center on the idea that human intellect can coexist with artificial intelligence," he says. "Our campaigns are based on creative and sustainable models, and that is also a base that we want to create for the growth of the whole industry."

Related: Follow The Leader: Harmeek Singh, Founder And CEO, Plan b

The current year, Singh says, feels like a sanctuary from the turbulence of the last few, and Singh believes that 2023 will be "a year in which straight lines are drawn with potential for crossovers." He adds, "Plan B will thus take a collective approach to brands and businesses we work with, in order for them to complement one another, and for us to continue growing into the market leader that we are supposed to be."

As someone who has personally experienced Dubai's penchant for rags-to-riches stories, Singh declares that he has been looking up to UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum as a role model for the past two decades. "It's because I have witnessed Dubai's growth," Singh explains. "That is what I relate to in my own life- that even if you are the underdog, or an unknown entity, you can still have a significant impact on international platforms." Being a mentor to a selected few himself, Singh believes in the long-term benefits of mentorship. "I value knowledge exchange as a vital component of my ambitions, and I believe that having a mentor allows you to realize that problems need to be viewed from everyone's perspective, and that a forward-thinking attitude makes you more proactive."

On a personal note, Singh says that he is neither free from his ambitions, nor would he ever wish to be. "I still have a ton of work to accomplish, in addition to having a lot to learn, and a lot to impart to others," he says. "I want to see that there is a growth pattern for everyone in the industry, as much as I am extremely idealistic about seeing Plan B going from a homegrown brand to a worldwide one." But what's the road ahead going to look like? "Our ecosystem of events professionals in the UAE and the region is now more collaborative, and if I can continue to contribute to that, that's how I'll likely move forward," Singh replies.

'TREP TALK Harmeek Singh's tips for entrepreneurs

1. BE FLEXIBLE "Planning shouldn't be done in a format that you can't change later, so flexibility is crucial for every leader or entrepreneur. We must be adaptable to the various possibilities in which things may manifest."

2. ALWAYS BE ON TOP OF YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES "In addition, always be encouraging and supportive of your team, because ultimately, being an entrepreneur or a leader is about taking one step at a time, and, collectively, it might be a huge jump that elevates you to a new level."

3. BE INNOVATIVE "Keep an eye out always for what can be a better version of your current work. Make an effort to improve. Remember that not everything that has worked for others will work for you too, so you should always assess what has already been done, what could be a better version, and how that benefits your objectives and your business."

Related: Boss Lady: Tyra Banks Is Going All In On Her Entrepreneurial Persona With Her Ice-Cream Venture, Smize & Dream

Tamara Pupic

Entrepreneur Staff

Managing Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Tamara Pupic is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Middle East.

Business News

TikTok Reportedly Laid Off a 'Large Percentage' of Employees as the App's Fate in the U.S. Remains Unclear

Laid-off TikTok employees were notified Wednesday night through Thursday morning.


How to Break Free From the Cycle of Overthinking and Master Your Mind

Discover the true cost of negative thought loops — and practical strategies for nipping rumination in the bud.

Side Hustle

These Brothers Had 'No Income' When They Started a 'Low-Risk, High-Reward' Side Hustle to Chase a Big Dream — Now They've Surpassed $50 Million in Revenue

Sam Lewkowict, co-founder and CEO of men's grooming brand Black Wolf Nation, knows what it takes to harness the power of side gig for success.

Growing a Business

Don't Play Catch-up With Your Competition — Use These 3 Essential Technologies to Power Up Your Small Business

Here are three technologies for you to embrace in your business for faster growth and higher success.


9 Ways Memes Can Rev Up Your Business Marketing

Memes are here to stay. Brands are growing engagement with well-timed meme-marketing strategies.