The IEMBA study trip, which took place at the beginning of April 2017, brought the 13 participants of the IEMBA cohort 2016 to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Dubai.
It is the second time that Saudi Arabia and Dubai have been part of the IEMBA Study Trip program – once again, a life-changing experience and real eye-opener for everyone. The group was headed by Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, Head of the Center for Middle East and Africa Business at the ZHAW School of Management and Law. The aim of this study trip was to gain a first-hand insight into the economic, social, and cultural environment of these two similar but widely different Gulf States, and to develop a deeper understanding and awareness of the culture and common business practices of the region.
The visit in KSA started with a voluntary program through the National Museum of Riyadh for a first experience of Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage. The tour was spearheaded by the students’ so-called “encyclopedia of the MEA region”, better known as our highly regarded colleague Khaldoun Dia-Eddine.
Great networking opportunities
In order to give participants hands-on experience and insight into this growing, diversified, and promising region from a corporate perspective of current business issues, the program included a wide range of company visits, meetings, and presentations. The group enjoyed the privilege of being invited to Saudi Arabia’s most aspiring companies while they had the opportunity to talk to respective senior management, meet influential business people and government officials, share their ideas, and broaden their network. The program in Riyadh included visits to Alinma Bank (a young and innovative islamic bank with tremendous growth), Alfanar (an electric industrial manufacturer), Almarai (the largest dairy production site in the Middle East), Saudi Research and Publishing Company (which owns 27 titles) , and Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City; it also comprised an invitation to the Swiss Ambassadors’ residence for a dinner reception, which offered further networking opportunities.
After four days in Riyadh, the group headed to Dubai, where they not only gained interesting insights into new businesses, but also experienced an introduction to the local culture and the Islamic religion. Field trips in Dubai included visits to companies such as Armada Distribution, Al Mal Capital Bank, Sandwich Express (a Swiss start-up), Hilti, Swiss ILC, and M-HQ Law Firm, as well as the organization Swiss Business Council. Another impressive experience in Dubai was the safari in the red dunes and the visit of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which rounded off this unforgettable week. The study trip ended with the participants sharing their views and learnings, identifying the similarities and differences of the countries visited and exchanging their insights with Khaldoun Dia-Eddine.
Beside all these interesting and valuable insights into Saudi Arabia’s business world and culture, the group experienced one important factor throughout the whole study strip: authentic Arabic hospitality, generosity, impeccable guest service, and the importance of relationships, history and culture. It was impressive to see how people share and live these values thoroughly day by day.
Contact: Khaldoun Dia-Eddine, International Management Institute