Indian IT companies can leverage the UAE as a hub to tap into nearby regional markets of West Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa.

Moreover, India can emerge as the high-end manufacturing base for the world; while the UAE will leverage itself as a R&D centre with the economies working in tandem and benefitting one another, says Omar Sultan Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, Government of UAE, in interaction with businessline on the sidelines of GITEX Global.

Edited excerpts:


How has the India-UAE partnership shaped up, especially on the tech front? Do Indian companies benefit from the push that UAE is providing to the IT ecosystem?

The Indian government has been a great partner for the UAE on multiple fronts and one of which has been IT. In the IT sector, there are multiple opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs and they can leverage the UAE’s standing as a global hub to tap markets in Africa, West Asia, the Middle East, or the Eastern European nations.

India has also signed the CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) with the UAE and it will also set the tone for the future of collaboration between the two. 


Economists are anticipating a global slowdown. Does it not hurt your ambitions to push Dubai as a tech hub?

We have seen slow down in economies before and I think, it is good to be prepared. If you see the region, especially around the Middle East or India or around Africa, yes, the fears of a global slowdown are real. But, this also gives us an opportunity for growth, or our boom is starting. This is actually to be seen as our time.

So (the point is) should we just follow what everyone says and sit back and wait for times to change or do we go out and accelerate (our growth)? In fact, we are bullish that in the current situation, people will move from one social class to another here in the region. And we are going to see an increase in per capita consumption here in the Middle East, India, and Africa.

We will also see more people getting digital literacy. So we should bet on the region(s), invest and create more cohesive strategies that allow us to be resilient to whatever turmoil happens around us globally. We have seen this strategy work in the energy sector and elsewhere.


Would you look to push manufacturing like cell phone making and so on? 

Absolutely. We are going about in a way that gives us further opportunities to integrate economies. What India can do is they can be the global factory of high-end product making. There is no doubt on this. India can dominate because of the sheer quality of talent that it possesses.

And UAE, can bring about a lot of diversity in its push towards R&D centres and setting them up here. For example, Telegram competes with Facebook and is currently dominating the chat world, without much advertising. And their entire team is based out of Dubai, and they can compete because of the access we provide them.


So do you foresee a shift in power towards India and the Middle East?

It depends on how you see things. I think power is already distributed. A lot of the back end of Silicon Valley is created in India. That is where the power actually is. And, I don’t think, the future is going to be about absolutes. It is going to be hundreds of innovations and talent, and how you leverage such pools.


There is apparently some talent crunch that the AI segment has been witnessing globally. Are you doing anything on that front? 

Today, it is very hard to find a country that can beat the diversity of the UAE. I think the talent crunch comes only when you are focussing on one particular talent group or segment. Across the global pool of talent, you will see that there is an increasing interest in AI across the workforce.

And many of them would want to come to the UAE. So we do not see a talent crunch. Rather we see an increase. In fact, the AI talent pool has doubled here. We do understand that there is cannibalisation of talent elsewhere. But attrition rates are low here. In fact, we think, companies are going to come to the UAE and flock here as they would want to retain their talent pool.


Do you have a message for the Indian companies who would want to come here?

Our relationship with India goes back thousands of years, even before some of the places of the UAE were given names. It has not changed over the years and will not change in the coming years too. If you see, there is a perfect synergy between India and UAE.

India has the scale and the majority in terms of market and also growth potential. UAE has agility in government and a diversity of people. So if work together, it will lead to better outcomes for the Indian community, the developers, coders and others.

(The writer is in Dubai on invitation from Dubai World Trade Centre).