A symbol of women’s empowerment in the Arab world

By: Editor In Chief
Fri 16 January,2015

Dr. Raja Easa Al Gurg is Managing Director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group LLC

Filed Under: Women Empowerment

Reluctant to enter the business world at first, Raja Easa Al Gurg joined the Board of Director’s of her father's company in 1989, with a determination to prove that she could be successful regardless of the fact that she is a woman or was chosen by her father. Ever since, she proved herself and  became one of the most well known and successful businesswomen in the GCC, showing other women that it is crucial that all women push their own boundaries and have the will to succeed.


Dr. Raja Easa Al Gurg is Managing Director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group LLC (ESAG), who has achieved laurels for her stellar leadership and model of women’s empowerment under the tutelage of her father, the Chairman, H.E. Easa Saleh Al Gurg, KCVO, CBE. 


Today she manages the family business encompassing 23 divisions that deal in trading, manufacturing, retail, franchise and real estate. Her counsel and valuable insights have significantly contributed to the growth and expansion of ESAG.


Dr. Al Gurg is furthermore the President of Dubai Business Women Council, Deputy Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Dubai Healthcare City Authority, Board member of the Dubai Chamber Of Commerce & Industry (DCCI), Dubai Women’s Association.  She is the first Emirati woman on the board of HSBC Bank Middle East Limited and is also on the advisory board of Coutts Bank, the wealth division of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. She is the Head of the Auditing Committee at the Federal Customs Authority and a Board member. She is also a member of the Board of Governors of the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University.


Dr. Raja Easa Al Gurg is also the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Al Jalila Foundation, a non-profit organisation whose mandate is to promote the UAE as a centre of excellence for medical research and education. She holds memberships at the Dubai Economic Council, Arab International Women’s Forum, National Advisory Council and College of Business Sciences.


Dr. Al Gurg was ranked first in the Forbes Middle East’s ranking of ‘The 200 Most Powerful Arab Women in Family Business’ for 2014 and was also on the Forbes Middle East list of ‘The Most Influential Arab Women in Family Business’ in 2013. She is ranked fifth in the list of the‘100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2012,’ compiled by CEO Middle East; was ranked among the top 100 – 58th place in the list of the world’s most influential Arabs in the Arabian Business 2012 Power 500 listing. Forbes International also listed her as the 4th most powerful Arab businesswoman in 2006.


She has earned several other plaudits and awards in recent years. These include the Stevie Award for Women in Business in 2011 and the ‘World of Difference Award’ from the International Alliance for Women (TIAW) in 2009. Dr. Al Gurg was also selected as the figure of the month, ‘The Mother of Pearl amongst Businesswomen,’ by the Al Waref Institute for Humanitarian Studies in Washington in 2010.


Dr. Al Gurg spends considerable time in several philanthropic, social and charitable activities, notably with the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Charity Foundation and the Al Jalila Foundation.


Raja Easa Al Gurg graduated from Kuwait University in 1977 with a degree in English Literature and prior to her career at ESAG, served as headmistress of Zabeel Secondary School for Girls from 1978 to 1989.  In 2014 she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature (D.Litt.) by Amity University, India.


Vision is crucial to good leadership, which requires time, effort, investment and reflection, says Dr. Al Gurg in an interview with LEADERS Middle East.


Apart from being recognized as one of the most successful businesswoman in the UAE, you have shown to have great passion to dedicating yourself to initiatives with a strong social component. What are some of your social and philanthropic projects most dear to your heart?


At the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Charity Foundation, we have a clear and compelling vision: "To enable people in need to help themselves."  One of most important strategies of Al Gurg Charity Foundation is providing assistance to the poor and needy people from different nationalities directly from the headquarters of the Foundation. The Foundation is involved in community projects and initiatives which primarily focus on education and health. A significant portion of our educational aid is also channelled to organizations in UAE that work in the field of special needs training. Besides I am also actively involved with the Al Jalila Foundation as its Chairperson


The Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group has been one of the UAE’s success stories. What does the future hold for the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group for the years to come? Which of your businesses will represent the biggest share of growth going forward?


The Group has a range of different product and business interests that predominantly include retail, trading, manufacturing and joint ventures.


Our retail offerings encompass fashion, furniture and a range of white goods that target several customer preferences. The Group is looking to expand our retail offering within the UAE and regional through more product options and services.


We are also looking to tap into the significant investment in infrastructure as there is a need for a reliable local player to meet demand for project supplies. Al Gurg FZE focuses on selling steel to Project buyers in the Construction and Oil and Gas segment. Being in Jebel Ali Free Zone allows Al Gurg FZE access to a pan GCC market.Scientechnic, one of our flagship companies has been largely involved with various infrastructure projects in the UAE. Scientechnic has been appointed as the Road Signalling System (RSG) Sub-contractor. RSG will ensure minimal or no stoppage of Transit vehicles at the intersections. The division works closely with various government entities. We are coordinating with Dubai Municipality to set up a Potable Water Dispensing System for the Dhow Wharf Development at DeiraCorniche at 18 locations.


The UAE has been home to your family business for over decades. How do you see the way the UAE is developing into the future? What would you say are some of the challenges and opportunities that the UAE will be facing?


Family businesses, which account for some 90% of businesses in the Middle East, have a major role in the region’s growth, job creation and competitiveness. Their sustained success is key to the region’s long-term economic development. The various long term joint venture partnerships that have been forged by Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group LLC are a testament of the longevity of family businesses. The UAE’s Dh1.55 trillion economy is listed by the IMF as among the 20 largest exporters in the world. The UAE’s positive economic outlook was also confirmed by the International Monetary Fund in its 2014 report where it says the country will have a budget surplus of 6.9-10.5 per cent over the next six years leading to 2019.


One of the UAE’s key challenges is to ensure that its education systemprovides nationals with the skills demanded by itsgrowing private sector, thereby helping to diversify the country’s industries. Ensuring highly-qualified Emirati workers with relevant skill sets are available in an innovative economy is crucial to the country, both in terms of capitalizing on present oil wealth and achieving its goals of long-term economic stability. The UAE government has a forward-thinking strategy that will help achieve its goals of developing a world-class, market-driven economy, taking advantage of the stable regional environment and increased access to global markets to attract local and international private sector investment.


You have been a great advocate for the empowerment and the development of woman into the business community in the region. What is the involvement of women in business, and how are women taking part of business in the UAE.


It is a matter of pride that the UAE is among the very few nations in the world that has announced a policy to make the representation of women in companies’ boards compulsory, which will enhance women empowerment.


Over the past 40 years, women in the UAE were able to take important steps in the field of investment and entrepreneurship. They have invested in trade, banking, real estate, tourism, industrial, construction and services sectors. They also have invested AED 2.1 billion in the manufacturing sector. According to the Ministry of Economy, about half of the small-to-medium enterprise sector in the UAE is handled by women; further, 48 per cent of women business-owners are also the sole owners of their firms.Within the various organisations that I have been associated with, be it Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Business Women’s Council or the Dubai Women Association, it has been a collective responsibility to encourage greater woman participation in the economic sector.


 What kind of leadership is needed in the various spheres of society in the UAE?


Good leadership is essential to business, to government and to the numerous groups and organisations that shape the way we live, work and play. Vision is the most important attribute of any good leader. In the UAE we are all inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. For an able leader, vision is a continuous work-in-progress, which requires time, effort, investment and reflection. This vision provides direction, meaning and a benchmark for decision making.I equate Leadership with excellence. The goal of excellence is to do everything in your power to fulfill aspirations and dreams. Everyone begins at a different place with respect to personal attributes. When you develop and stretch those attributes to the limit, you touch the level of excellence.