Expo 2020: Giving small firms a slice of big action

Source: Khaleej Times
Sandhya D’Mello, Journalist at Khaleej Times

The UAE has given a major boost to small and medium enterprises in food and beverage sector by unveiling ‘modified terms’ for SMEs to bid more competitively and generate Dh2 billion in sales from onsite food and beverages business at Expo. The proposed 30,000 square metres of front-of-house space for F&B on Expo site is expecting five million meals to keep Expo 2020 Dubai workforce to be fed during the six-month long event.

Expo 2020 Dubai estimates that 25 million visitors attending Expo from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021 will offer SMEs in the food and beverage sector an opportunity to exploit the huge business potential from the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

“This is a major opportunity for SMEs in the food and beverage sector to engage with Expo 2020 Dubai and find out how they can become part of our plans to showcase the many cuisines and cultures within the UAE to millions of visitors from around the world,” Manal Al Bayat, senior vice-president, business development and integration at Expo 2020 Dubai, said.

“Our commitment to SMEs is about connecting with them and building relationships that will help them grow and benefit from the opportunities available before, during and after Expo 2020 Dubai,” she said.

SMEs account for nearly 60 per cent of the UAE’s GDP and they represent approximately 95 per cent of the businesses in the country and account for 90 per cent of employment in the UAE. SMEs in Abu Dhabi account for 74 per cent of the total number of companies which are present in the Emirate; moreover, 37 per cent of these SMEs are either currently exporting or are capable of exporting.

The BusinessConnect series, hosted by Expo 2020, helped to bring businesses under one roof to practically get one-on-one counsel from Expo 2020 officials as to how they could seize the opportunity. The F&B session – latest edition of the BusinessConnect series – has been developed by Expo 2020 Dubai to connect with businesses and encourage conversation, exchange ideas, share expertise and deliver the best solutions. The series has brought 1,300 businesses covering a wide spectrum of industries to explore critical areas such as marketing and communications, ICT, architecture and design, real estate and youth.

By the end of December 2016, over 12,000 businesses from more than 120 countries had registered on the Expo 2020 portal, of these, nearly 8,000 were SMEs. The series aims to shift the traditional model of procurement to one based more on the value of collaboration, with each edition delivered in the format of an open dialogue and focused on a specific aspect of Expo 2020 Dubai.

The BusinessConnect session highlighted the wide range of food and beverage (F&B) opportunities available to SMEs, including ones within the Expo 2020 Dubai F&B supply chain. At peak, up to 85,000 meals are expected to be served per hour during Expo 2020 Dubai, across 30,000 square metres of front-of-house space for F&B.

In addition to this, an estimated five million meals will be needed to keep the Expo 2020 workforce fed during the six months of Expo. Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to supporting the SME sector across the region as part of its plans for a lasting economic legacy. Last year, it announced that 20 per cent of direct and indirect spend – representing more than Dh5 billion in contracts – will be awarded to SMEs. The BusinessConnect series witnessed queries from confectionery sector to supply chains, cuisines, startups among other vital aspects of SME trade.

“The Expo 2020 wants to explore and collaborate with the large entities, private players in order to brief them as to what is expected of them in order to work together for such global event. So we brought forth some of the strategies that could help the businesses to tap full potential,” Gillian Hamburger, senior vice-president, commercial, Expo2020, said.

She said the expo site is expected to be more than 200 hectares and on any given day around 170,000 people are going to be on the site present. The challenge is to provide the food to people on site and visitors too that appeals to all right from snacks, ice-creams and ethnic cousins among others.

“More than 160 outlets are expected to meet that huge demand and serve various rich culinary experience. We want to deliver fabulous guest experience to our visitors at this global event,” Hamburger said. The UAE’s population is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of three per cent between 2016 and 2021. The growth is likely to be primarily supported by an increase in the number of expatriates, who account for over 88 per cent of the total population. The diverse mix of people has fostered demand for ready-to-eat meals and international foods, in addition to consumption of basic food products, states Alpen Capital.

The UAE’s GDP per capita is projected to expand at a CAGR of 4.1 per cent between 2016 and 2021 to reach $46,516. A high-income level has supported the spending on high-value packaged food products. Sameena Ahmad, managing mirector, Alpen Capital, said the UAE is a prominent tourist destination, attracting leisure and business travellers. “The upcoming World Expo 2020 and development of several tourist attractions such as theme parks and international museums are likely to attract a diversified group of tourists, thus bolstering the demand for packaged foods and cooked meals in restaurants,” Ahmad said.

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