Vishal Sharma, SVP, Ecolab

Vishal Sharma, senior vice president of Ecolab’s Middle East and Africa region, sat down with us to talk about the challenges they have faced and initiatives they are using to grow their business in the Middle East.

Vishal Sharma, senior vice president of Ecolab’s Middle East and Africa region, sat down with us to talk about the challenges they have faced and initiatives they are using to grow their business in the Middle East and Africa.

Ecolab is the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services. Around the world businesses in food service, food processing, hospitality, healthcare, industrial, and oil and gas markets choose Ecolab products and services to help keep their environment clean and safe, operate efficiently and achieve sustainability goals.

How was your company’s 2016 performance?

Ecolab is a global Fortune 500 company. We have a broad geographic footprint spanning more than 170 countries and 1 million customer locations, where we deliver comprehensive solutions and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies. The depth and breadth of our business makes for a strong and balanced portfolio. Despite energy and foreign exchange market headwinds last year, we delivered $13B in sales and have continued our strong stock performance over the years.

In the Middle East and Africa region, we delivered both top-line and bottom-line growth. Our region has experienced geopolitical volatility and faced continued low oil prices, but that didn’t stop us from serving our customers with excellence, introducing value-driven innovation and growing our market share in key industries.

Our goal is to be our customers’ most valued partner and we do that by continually investing in innovation, enhancing our on-site personalized service to solve increasingly complex customer challenges and last but not least, by investing in and attracting top talent.

What is your outlook for the economy in the GCC during 2017?

The GCC has seen a sustained low oil price environment along with regional geopolitical challenges, so reduced government spending is a fact of the economic environment leading to overall fiscal rightsizing in several key economies. However, GCC’s largely futuristic outlook and relentless focus on excellence keeps the region attractive for most industries and multi-national companies.

What strategic initiatives do you have planned in your business for 2017?

Given the geopolitical conditions, oil price and overall macro-economic situation in the region, we have been quite clear that business will have to be driven by share gain. Markets are not propelling businesses forward as they used to earlier in the decade. In 2016, our major focus was to strengthen our capabilities and position ourselves for growth, and we are seeing the results and a good momentum this year.

Our long-term purpose remains unchanged. Everyday, we make the world cleaner, safer and healthier, protecting people and vital resources. We continue to deliver on our purpose by:

  1. Developing water reduction, reuse and recycling capabilities to optimize water management for customers in every segment.
  2. Strengthening our food safety and public health capabilities.
  3. Expanding our enterprise digital capabilities to drive customer connections and digital innovation in our offerings and business model.
  4. Focusing on attracting and developing the world’s best talent.
  5. Strengthening our internal infrastructure to ensure we have the internal capabilities to continue to grow and meet global customer demand.

What are your company’s plans for growth in 2017?

In the Middle East and Africa region, we remain focused on delivering customer excellence, and ensuring we are creating value everyday. More than ever, we are focusing on attracting, developing and retaining talent across our organization. We know our people are our greatest asset. We recognize the needs of the current millennial generation, and realize these employees may have different career aspirations and needs than previous generations. We are working to remain an attractive and a long-term career destination for all generations.

We believe the region provides huge growth opportunities and we continue to build our capabilities to win here. Our recipe for success is to deliver the best product and service portfolio to our customers, while focusing on taking care of our employees. There are few companies in the world that can offer the diversity of long-term opportunities and the stability of a consistently high performing business. We are in a unique position to help address the global trends shaping the future of business – including population growth, the increasing demand for food and energy, and water scarcity – and are focused on delivering expertise and solutions to help our customers navigate these challenges.


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Hospitality Boom – is Expo to soon?

Will the UAE make the rush needed for Expo 2020.

Birds Eye View of Dubai

Hospitality Boom – is Expo to soon?

With crude oil becoming more and more an unreliable gross domestic product for the Middle East, Gulf States such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are focused on creating one of the grandest hospitality venues on the globe.

The UAE (180 projects) and Saudi Arabia (134 projects) remain the most active hotel construction hotspots in the region. The busiest year for hotel openings leading up to 2020 is forecast to be 2017 with 189 projects and 58,527 rooms.

“That is a lot of bedrooms, bathrooms, windows, doors, terraces, restaurants, pools, spas, gyms, and much more to be fit out and equipped over the next five years,” said Gary Williams, Event Director of The Hotel Show Dubai, which took place between the 17-19 September 2016 at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC).

According to a forecast by Alpen Capital, hotel-room supply in the UAE will increase by 5.3% annually during the period 2012-2016, boosting volume from 96,992 hotel rooms to 125,383 by 2016. This level of growth will be necessary if the country is to deal with the anticipated influx of tourists.”

Creg Oats of, said there are five primary reasons for the Middle East’s hospitality boom and subsequent drive for their Expo 2020:

Population effect – The steady rise in expats living and working in the region. “By 2030, China’s middle class will comprise 70% of its total population, while the comparable figure for India will be 50%,” quotes the report. “The impact on the GCC travel and tourism industry will be huge.”

Beyond Oil – The Gulf States have to start thinking beyond “black gold,” and with no other natural resources of much value beyond oil, they decided to pump over $300 billion and growing into the hospitality business. The UAE has also begun a program of waiving the 10% municipality fee for new hotels opening before 2017.

Infrastructure – UAE is single-handedly affecting global logistics: “‘Dubai is trying to become the node between Asia and South America, which is affecting the future of logistics and mobility on a global scale,’ says Professor Dr. Stefan Walter, managing director of the House of Logistics & Mobility (HOLM) at Frankfurt International Airport.”

Gateway – Abu Dhabi is becoming an international gateway. “The GCC is fast emerging as the new gateway to Africa, the last frontier in terms of natural resources such as oil, gas, uranium, and other resources—all of which will be in high demand across the world. With the added advantage of historic, economic, cultural, and strategic bonds with the African countries, the trade potential between the two continents is immense. Dubai alone witnessed a 700% increase in its trade with Africa over the last decade to USD 25 billion. Direct flights between the two regions have driven rapid growth in passenger traffic as well as cargo volumes, resulting in higher re-exports”

Social media and information – The global super information highway is making it easier for people around the world to research, book, and pay for their vacations and getaways online. “The Amadeus Future of Travel study ends with a look at the power of social media and trends relating to connected, personalized and sustainable travel. Without mentioning the viral #MyDubai account on Instagram, presently with 79,000 followers, the reports states Instagram is popular in the GCC mostly in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. On the photo-sharing platform, #JumeirahGroup and #VisitAbuDhabi are in the 8,000 follower range; #Dubai has 423,000 followers.”

Opportunities exist for boutique hotels and independent operators

Even with all the above benefits, the success comes with problems that the UAE and Saudi Arabia must overcome. Abdul Basit of the Khaleej Times writes:

“Over the past 18 months, the Middle East has experienced a number of geopolitical and economic challenges, creating disruption to feeder markets and adding further pressure to a year which was characterized by terror attacks, currency fluctuations and the lowest oil prices the world has seen in over a decade.” (2016)

A big question on everyone’s mind this year is where staff will come from in the future. As the region continues to struggle in the absence of a local talent pool, hoteliers in particular will be forced to consider options.  Merger and acquisition activity will continue in the wake of high-profile hotelier deals, such as FRHI’s buy-over by AccorHotels at the end of 2015. The big three Gulf airlines, Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, will continue to explore partnership opportunities with European and Asian airlines.

Looking closely at the forecasts of global financial, business, and tourism analysts, the Middle East is poised to take over the global hospitality market. With the coming Expo 2020 as Dubai’s premier, expect things to get even grander in the years, and especially decades, to come.

Follow MENA Solutions on Linked In and Twitter for more insight into the exciting progress being made in the industries we specialise in.

Article written by David Flemming, Director of MENA Solutions.

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Peter Attfield, SVP HR, Future Pipe Industries

Peter Attfield, SVP HR for Future Pipe Industries (FPI) in the Middle East, shares his insights on the economy and his experience of working in the region.

Image of Peter Attfield from FPI

Peter Attfield, SVP HR for Future Pipe Industries (FPI) in the Middle East, shares his insights on the economy and his experience of working in the region.

What is your outlook for the economy in the GCC during 2017?

The most obvious is the continuing issues with the oil price and the lengthy impact on business and consumer confidence this has had. In addition, large job losses in the Oil & Gas and Banking sectors have dented confidence further. Retail sales were slightly down in 2016 and are predicted to be flat in 2017 which is a good indication of the drop in consumer confidence.

Getting paid is another issue for companies in the GCC. Payment cycles are longer as governments and companies manage their cash flow more carefully. In KSA for example, this has driven some companies to the brink of bankruptcy as we have seen in the Construction sector there.

In summary things are tough, but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I think the level of vision you see across the GCC to diversify away from Oil revenues is the best example of “strategy into action” anywhere in the world and they show no signs of stopping.

Difficult but confident.

What do you see to be the most dominant risks in today’s GCC market?

The number one will be oil price. If the oil price stays depressed then the region stays depressed. The ability of the whole region to diversify will affect the region, especially in Saudi Arabia. For example, what will happen if they don’t progress and achieve their 2030 vision?

The obvious political and social instability in the region, for example Syria and Libya, is contained currently in the home countries, however if that was to ever spread wider it would have a huge impact. It appears to be well contained for now, however this may not always be the case.

I wonder in a world where VAT is coming in February next year and everyone is looking for alternative revenue streams what the wider fiscal impact may be. For example, would you stay here if you were paying 45% tax, I am not sure too many expats would see the region as such an attractive place to work. I don’t see it happening anytime soon, however it is a long term interesting question for the governments in the region.

For me the risks are all in the oil price, political and fiscal space. I also wonder what impact we might see if the more conservative GCC countries suddenly start to relax some of the restrictions currently in place on personal freedom, etc.

Where do you see the areas of economic growth to be?

It’s hard to generalise as all the countries are so different. Take the UAE for example, turning it from an oil dependent nation to a leading tourist and business destination has clearly been a successful move. This brings along with it a huge number of linked benefits for sectors such as Food and Beverage, Hospitality and Retail which all feed off the success of what the UAE has become.

If the Saudi’s are successful in delivering their 2030 vision, they will also see growth coming from multiple non-oil related sources – tourism, new industry sectors (e.g. automotive) and the significant external investments they are making through their sovereign wealth fund.

Qatar are trying to become more of a tourist destination, focusing on the Islamic community. They also aspire to be a go-to location for major sporting events.

However, I do worry about countries such as Oman or Kuwait. When the oil runs out in Kuwait it is hard to see what they will do next as they don’t have any major ancillary industries which will fill the void.

In the end I think there is always going to be growth in this region as there is a concentration of some of the world’s richest people so that will always have an impact.  The Arab community have always been very entrepreneurial traders and there is a lot of innovation happening right now right across the region.

What is the best thing about working in the Middle East market?

I have lived all over the world in my career and been very fortunate to travel for over 30 years now. I don’t think I have had a harder assimilation than coming to the Middle East, whether that be people, culture, business environment, they all have a huge impact. In my particular case the profession of HR here is very different to the western world as well. I generalize as there are obviously some great companies here with leading edge HR practices, but they are in the minority. It is not an easy place to assimilate into.

But that said, I would much rather be here than in Europe or the US right now. Goes back to what I said above about the growth opportunity and mindset here. Despite the problems in the region there is a sense of vibrancy and can-do you don’t find elsewhere.

Compared to the mess which the political systems seem to have become in Europe and the US I also admire the ability of governments in this region to make decisions and get things done. This is not a comment on what is right or wrong in terms of the political system – it is more about the progress that can be made by not having to pay attention to the political machinery that other countries are burdened with.

The best thing for me is the opportunity it brings from a professional stand point. Although you don’t necessarily come here to learn new things professionally it is a great place to give back what you have learnt over your career. You can really impact change in organisations in the region. If you like to build something from scratch it is a great place to be.

What’s the number one rule you have learned during your career?

I will give you two for this as I can’t separate them.

Do what you say, say what you mean and treat others like you would like to be treated yourself. In other words, basic human integrity matters a lot to me.

Secondly, have the courage of your convictions. My advice to my children for example is have a point of view. Be prepared to defend it, debate it. You don’t have to be right all the time but don’t roll over and die. As you get older you need to work out where the “blurry” line is when the battle is lost – but I very much appreciate people with a point of view rather than those without one.

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4D Consultancy

MENA Solutions pride themselves on client feedback, here what they have to say.




4D Consultancy

8 positions covering functions such as technicians, finance, operations, sales, and customer service operations


Our client, 4D Consultancy, approached MENA Solutions to work in partnership with their leading semi government client from Europe.  Their client designs and implements cutting edge technology solutions for governmental FMCG quality monitoring purposes in the manufacturing industry. The project consisted of 2 phases to launch their Middle East operation, requiring MENA Solutions to source 8 positions in phase 1 and

4D Consultancy Logo

12 positions in phase 2. The roles were unique and specific to their business, focusing on operations, engineering, customer service, sales and finance.

As a project recruitment business, MENA Solutions has the ability to use its industry wide services to match the needs of any client. We were quick to align ourselves to the client’s needs and source profiles with the view to delivering a cost effective solution.

Our Approach

Our challenge was to provide access to a local recruitment service as 4D Consultancy’s client had previously utilized a multi-agency and largely European centric approach. After considerable consultation, we successfully partnered with the client, with an agreement and firm commitment to provide a time based and cost effective solution.  MENA Solutions allocated a dedicated Account Manager to the project with the use of our central resourcing function. Based on the agreed timeframes, our project was split into three key components, which were search, interview and onboard the selected candidates.

Scope of Work

  • To maintain a successful candidate CV supply of no more than 3 CV’s per role, within 4 weeks.
  • To engage the successfully selected candidates to employment contract acceptance level within 12 weeks.

To ensure success, MENA Solutions spent a total of 4 weeks sourcing for Phase 1 with 8 allocated positions. Subsequently we were then able to arrange multiple interview days at both the clients office and our headquarters in Dubai. The result of the above process was the successful delivery of 8 positions within an agreed timeframe of 12 weeks.

Delivery Time

12 weeks


Talent Pool                                         195

CV: IV                                                  2:1

1st IV: Placement                               4:1

Placements                                         8

Client Reference – Tanya Ellis – CEO – 4D Consultancy

In the GCC market, it is often difficult to find a quality recruitment company who you can confidently partner with to ensure you client’s needs are met within the timescales required.  I approached MENA Solutions based upon a history of working with this business and their continual drive to not only meet your needs, but also their focus on customer delight.

This project was no different to the standards and quality of work I have become accustomed to MENA Solutions delivering. Their consultative approach, understanding of market trends and partnership mentality remain second to none in the GCC market.  We are successfully working through the second phase of our project currently and I feel absolutely confident that the entire project will be delivered on time and budget.

I will continue to recommend MENA Solutions to all my clients and personally find the entire team thoroughly enjoyable to work with.

Tanya Ellis, CEO, 4D Consultancy

Tanya Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of 4D Consultancy sat down with us to talk about what challenges and initiatives they are using to grow their business in the Middle East.

Image of 4D consultancy and board room

Tanya Ellis, Chief Executive Officer of 4D Consultancy sat down with us to talk about what challenges and initiatives they are using to grow their business in the Middle East.

4D Consultancy was created to help CEOs push beyond current and future challenges through their people. Challenges may be the result of expansion or diversification strategies, or they may be the result of organic growth previously requiring the implementation of short term solutions. Regardless of how the difficulties you are now facing materialized, our aim is to help you ensure you have the right people strategy to fulfill your vision.

How was your company’s 2016 performance?

2016 was a challenging year for many industries in the GCC resulting in much needed strategic organisation design projects.  4D Consultancy was engaged on multiple programmes working closely with clients to understand their exact challenges, short, medium and long term strategies and building agile structures which enabled them to deliver their desired results whilst maximizing upon the talent within their business.

The year was extremely exciting for 4D Consultancy as whilst the financial difficulties faced by clients was concerning, we were able to drive lean, performance driven solutions into businesses enabling them to recognize some poorly designed structures, lack of recognition of their key A-Players and drive performance based cultures which resulted in exceptional results on clients EBITDA.  In short, whilst top line financial results were decreasing LFL on 2015, our work significantly increased Net Margins proving a strategic people agenda is key to high level business performance.

What is your outlook for the economy in the GCC during 2017?

We see 2017 holding the same level of cautious business decision making as seen in 2016.  This is highly positive as we have seen businesses grow too quickly, often unsustainably and continuously resulting in a growth/decline cycle which is both damaging to their industry and employer brand.

We are also seeing a trend to hire highly qualified and experienced talent into organisations who have proven results in their ability to sustainably grow businesses in the local market and wider geographies.  Diversification is decreasing and companies are now valuing the concept of becoming true specialists in their fields and expanding globally with this focus in mind rather than diluting their core offering.

What strategic initiatives do you have planned in your business for 2017?

We are focused on widening our message to businesses on the true value of strategic HR.  The market has sadly placed ‘people’ in an administrative box with low level impact on organisational performance.  We firmly believe in saturated markets, the USP for businesses to focus on, is their talent and attracting, engaging and retaining the very best in market, globally.  We are focusing on businesses who truly want transformational HR solutions and not only recognize but also value their people and see them as their true path to ultimate financial success.

What do you see to be the most dominant risks in today’s GCC market?

We have seen a trend over the years of accepting average in many parameters.  Average performance, average results, average thinking and average strategies.  Businesses need to focus on being the very best and bench marking themselves against their global competitors rather than the trend to bench mark against local competitors.  Only then will they have the capacity to catapult their business to a market leading organisation on a global scale.

What are you companies plans for growth in 2017

We are comfortable with our performance in 2016 and aspire to similar results in 2017.  We are now seeking some pro bona work and wish to work closer with governmental bodies in order to magnify our wider strategic HR impact in this region.


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Marie Nina Louise, HR Director, Automotive

Marie Nina Louise, a leading HR Director for an automotive brand within the Middle East, recently sat down with us to share her insights on a number of topics having an impact on the region.

Image of Marie Louise HRD and automotive and tyres

Marie Nina Louise, a leading HR Director for an automotive brand within the Middle East, recently sat down with us to share her insights on a number of topics having an impact on the region.

What is your outlook for the economy in the GCC during 2017?

On a macro level the market situation is challenging in many sectors, I believe we will see this continue throughout the year. This can of course also mean opportunities, especially if you are cash flow solid and ready to invest in businesses. You can also reap the fruit of quieter time and invest in yourself as an employee.

What do you see to be the most dominant risks in today’s GCC market?

No surprise, but talent shortage is a key issue. The markets grows faster than capabilities, which poses a risk of losing out/slowing down/not being able to capture all the potential. As the region also “normalizes” (packages look different, VAT coming) there is a challenge of managing expectations. I sometimes have very interesting discussions with people who left Dubai some 8-10 years ago and still expect it to look the same as when they left, which is not the case.

Where do you see the areas of economic growth to be?

Long term I still think we will see growth in GCC, as the overall development take place, the purchasing power grows as well.

What is the best thing about working in the Middle East market? It is truly dynamic and diverse. You meet people from all over the world, working beside and with each other. UAE is very progressive as well which is inspiring.

What new initiative are shaping the HR world now?

Being able to address the customers’ needs and views on the company, and align internal efforts to improve the customer experience. Clearly HR analytics as well, but I see many companies still in infancy stage (which is a huge opportunity). In the region, I believe the old Ulrich Model is still under development. I hear feedback on insourcing back operations which was earlier outsourced.

What’s the number one rule you have learned during your career?

I always work with myself and my teams on 3 P and 1 C, Be proactive (d not wait for someone to tell you what to do, they will not), Be pragmatic (reduce waste and think about the end user in whatever you do), Have passion for what you do (as soon as you lose the passion, it is time to do something different) and have Courage (challenge and stand up for what you believe in)

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David Flemming

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