Embracing entrepreneurship the Emirati way
A year ago, Badour Al Massabi and Hend Al Nuaimi would have been at a loss to describe what, exactly, an entrepreneur does.
Now they are not only preparing to open their own businesses, but they also hold events to educate other female students at Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.
"We are empowering women, the new leaders, to open their businesses," says Ms Al Massabi, 21, who is vice president of an entrepreneurship club at the university.
Ms Massabi and the club's president, Ms Al Nuaimi, set up the group after taking an entrepreneurship class last semester.
"When I started teaching entrepreneurship, most students didn't really know what [it] really meant," says Victor Huang, who teaches the course at Zayed University and is an assistant professor of entrepreneurship there.
"If you asked them to translate entrepreneurship into the Arabic language, there were a variety of different translations, which was quite fascinating.
Some people translated it into starting a new industry," he says. "Some people said it was creativity … which also means there are a variety of understandings of entrepreneurship."
In the past, the club's members have attended workshops and seminars run by groups such as Tamakkan, which provides business advice and moral support.
But the group's seven members now aim to launch a number of businesses and are seeking sponsors to back the ventures.
They entered their main product idea in a competition. The concept is a system that would enable students to use their ID cards as a payment method on campus. The system would also store a student's information, such as grade point average or health records.
While the product did not win the contest, its creators from the club are far from deterred from trying to take it to market. The members have already researched where they could get this kind of payment card produced and have discovered that Chinese manufacturers are the most cost-effective option.
The club intends to make the cards profitable not by charging students or others who use thembut by requiring shops to pay a small fee on any purchases that are made with the cards.
"For example, if Starbucks opened here [on campus], we would tell them 'if you want the students to use our card with you, you should give us 2 per cent [of the value of the transaction]'," says Ms Al Nuaimi. She says there are big benefits in storing a raft of information in one place, with eliminating the need to carry cash being just one advantage.
But saving sensitive data in one place raises issues about security, which was a concern shared by all universities surveyed by the club.
Ms Al Nuaimi insists that the information would be secure and says the system would have the ability to delete data if a card was lost.
"It would be a really great business," she says. "If we don't do it, someone else will."
The club has other ideas, including making and selling vintage-style T-shirts and setting up a so-called moving souq.
"Even if we fail the first time, we won't get sad, because the most important thing is the experience," says Ms Al Nuaimi.
The members also hope to help students at other universities in the Emirates.
"There are so many young students who have big potential, and no one is encouraging them. This is our role and to bring in speakers who can inspire them," says Ms Al Nuaimi.
Updated: October 31, 2011 04:00 AM