As we close on three years of being one of the leading business entrepreneurship magazine in the UAE, we look back in pride. Not so much for the various collaborations we have entered into, or the impressive distribution capability we built. Nor is it the fact that we have been part of the dynamic heartbeat of this entrepreneurial landscape or the fact that we survived through tough times. At Aspire we are truly proud that we have helped in the journey of some truly remarkable people. As we look back on three years of turning the dream of this magazine into a reality, we have been honoured to bring you the stories of the most dynamic, innovative, creative and out-of-the-box business leaders and entrepreneurs this region can lay claim to. As a tribute to these remarkable men and women who gave our covers substance and weight, we decided to recap their achievements and successes in one story, to inspire and uplift and showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of this amazing place.
Group Managing Director, Danube Group
Adel Sajan is a seasoned Director in the construction industry, excelling in areas such as business planning, sales, market research, and management. Since 2009, he has steered Danube Home (earlier known as Danube Buildmart), a prominent home improvement retailer in MENA. Under his dynamic leadership, the company has rapidly expanded, establishing new showrooms in the UAE, Oman, and India. Adel’s innovative vision transformed Danube Home into a leading home improvement destination, known for its diverse product range including furniture and décor. Recognized for his achievements, he has received prestigious awards such as the “40 Under 40” from Arabian Business magazine. Besides his business acumen, Adel is dedicated to philanthropy serving on the board of the Danube Group Foundation that supports various educational and charitable causes. He is also a strong advocate for sustainability and social responsibility. He stands as an inspiring role model, showcasing the potential for success through hard work and innovation in the MENA entrepreneurial landscape.
Founder / CEO, FiLLi Foundation
Rafih Filli unknowingly sparked the birth of the iconic FiLLi brand during his school days when friends affectionately dubbed him FiLLi. Little did they know this playful moniker would blossom into a tea empire. His brainchild, FiLLi, is synonymous with exceptional tea experiences and offers more than just tea; Tea n’ Talk is a sanctuary, where conversations find their perfect brew. A testament to Rafih’s determination is Zafran, his signature tea blend which made it the brand that it is today. As elegant as it sounds, Zafran is the result of the perfect alchemy of generations of perfecting the art of tea blending and the finest saffron from around the globe. After winning hearts of all UAE tea enthusiasts, the brand is now brewing in international lands as well.
Dr Mohammed Naji
Orthodontist / Executive Director / Youth Mentor (GADHA), Liberty Medical Group
Dr. Mohammed Naji, a multifaceted professional, stands as a remarkable figure in dentistry, entrepreneurship, and youth mentorship. Renowned for his impeccable dental expertise, he brings a unique blend of vision and values to every endeavor. Despite dentistry’s serious demeanor, Dr. Naji enjoys unusual fame, sporting a captivating smile that mirrors his passion. Heading Liberty Dental Clinic, a longstanding family establishment since 1998, he transformed it into a global icon, catering to celebrities and royal families across the UAE and beyond. Serving as the Executive Director, he achieved a significant milestone by securing ACSH accreditation, marking Liberty as the first internationally accredited dental clinic in the MENA region. Beyond dentistry, he ventures into entrepreneurship, hosts a medical reality show, has a sizeable social media following, and guides aspiring youth through GADHA, reflecting his diverse and impactful pursuits.
Chairman / Managing Director, Foodlink F&B Holdings
Sanjay Vazirani commands a prominent position in the Middle East and North Africa’s hospitality realm. As a self-made entrepreneur, he has transformed Foodlink into a global powerhouse, rapidly elevating it to a leading UAE catering company. His visionary leadership expanded the enterprise’s footprint, embracing restaurants, banquets, and diverse hospitality services in 12 countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, India, and the USA. Recognized as a beacon of innovation, he has revolutionized luxury catering in MENA, advocating sustainability and social responsibility. Vazirani’s accolades include the “Entrepreneur of the Year” title from Entrepreneur Middle East and the “Food & Beverage Personality of the Year” award. He stands as a testament to the transformative power of hard work, dedication, and innovation, inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs and hospitality professionals.
Entrepreneur / Investor, Vlog—The Moon
Carl Runefelt is a renowned serial entrepreneur deeply entrenched in the realm of Web3 startups. With investments in over 400 ventures, he has emerged as a prominent global crypto angel investor, earning accolades in renowned publications like Forbes 30 under 30, FOX Business, CNBC, Business Insider, and Cointelegraph. Apart from his investments, Carl is the brains behind cryptojobs.com, a platform aimed at bridging Web3 organizations and talents. Actively nurturing the Web3 ecosystem, he connects leading blockchain tech organizations with passionate individuals, fostering growth. His dedication is evident through speaking engagements and philanthropy, empowering the next Web3 generation. With a vast social media following exceeding 4 million across platforms, Carl wields substantial influence, driving widespread blockchain and cryptocurrency adoption. He believes in actively building the crypto future, supporting visionary founders, and standing at the forefront of crypto adoption.
Alia Al Nabooda
Founder, Fiafia – Play Area & Cafe
Alia Al Nabooda is a visionary mother and founder of Fiafia Kids Amusement Arcade at Al Wasl and Fiafia Play Area & Cafe at DIFC, CEO of Al Nabooda Group of Companies, a trailblazing logistics and supply chain management entity. She initiated her career within the family-owned esteemed Al Nabooda Group and currently holds the position of active board member and director of Dubai Printing Press one of the oldest companies in the group, gradually ascending the ranks before establishing her logistics venture in 2003.
A staunch advocate for women’s empowerment, she actively supports women’s development through roles in organizations like the Dubai Women Establishment and the Global Women’s Forum. She epitomizes resilience and determination, serving as a beacon of inspiration for Emirati women and aspiring entrepreneurs, showcasing the transformative power of dedication and perseverance. She created a happy space to get together and celebrate life milestones. Fueled by her passion and determination, Fiafia was born. Alia’s main core values as a leader include innovation, vision, integrity, empowerment, and people-centeredness. Alia is in a constant state of building FiaFia as a brand, and it will be an ongoing effort for her. Alia Al Nabooda’s story is one of inspiration.
Founder, ARENA Capital and Gladiator Mastery
With over 30 years of entrepreneurial expertise, Dariush Soudi has navigated diverse sectors like telecommunications, consumer goods, and health and beauty, focusing on sales and marketing. He runs a program called “Gladiator Mastery” to empower individuals and businesses toward abundance and innovation and is always on the lookout for superstars who are highly motivated, passionate about what they do, and are willing to step out of their comfort zones – “qualities of a true gladiator” as he puts it. Advocating simplicity in business, he emphasizes the importance of adhering to core values amid profit-making. Humanitarian work and philanthropy are integral to him, reflecting his commitment to community betterment. As a Turn-Around specialist he is an expert in sales, marketing consultancy, social media management, website development, SEO, and motivational speaking, crafting impactful narratives that inspire change.
CEO, Nas Company
Nuseir Yassin, widely recognized as Nas Daily, is a prominent Arab-Israeli vlogger renowned for his impactful one-minute videos. Born in Arraba, he is a Harvard University graduate with degrees in economics and computer science. Discontented with his job, he left to chase his dream of global travel and video creation. In 2016, Nas Daily was born amassing a vast following. Its positive content, emphasizing peace, understanding, and education, has earned him accolades, including being named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2018. He later founded Nas Company which has secured over $23 million in funding and provides technology tools empowering creators to build and monetize online communities. Additionally, Yassin established Nas Academy, an online platform offering courses in video production, entrepreneurship, and personal development, inspiring global youth to pursue their dreams with dedication and passion.
Founder / Director, Infiniti Holdings
Deepti Chawla, the pioneering Founder of Infiniti Holdings, stands as a stalwart in the Food and Beverage industry. With a rich background in finance, insurance, and private equity, she serves as a dynamic business leader and entrepreneur. Holding positions on multiple company boards, she excels in mergers and acquisitions. At the helm of Infiniti Holdings, a Dubai-based F&B powerhouse, Deepti oversees 25 diverse brands, including Amano, Kashkan, and Mithaas an iconic 25-year old brand serving sweets and savouries from the Indian kitchen. Her ventures, like Hippo Hospitality and DCloud Kitchens, have redefined restaurant and cloud kitchen segments. Yet another conception, ‘One Square Meal’ caters to the regular crowd through their Food Halls & Food Pavilion concepts. Future endeavors, like Mishka, Shor, Muang Thai, Lava Kitchen, The Bar Index, Big Fat Subs, Loaded Burgers, Calorie Smart, attest to her unwavering commitment to culinary innovation and excellence.
Rashiq Muhamad Ali
Architect, RqMA Architecture + Design
Rashiq Muhamad Ali is a research-oriented architect renowned for his holistic design approach and expertise in emergent design technologies and parametric design practices. With a remarkable 18-year professional journey spanning five countries, he exhibits exceptional project management skills and consistent results. With a Master of Architecture and Urbanism from the AA Design Research Laboratory in London, he honed his talents at prestigious firms like Zaha Hadid Architects and 10 Design in Hong Kong. His diverse project portfolio includes large-scale urban designs, high-rise towers, residential projects, and temporary pavilions. Rashiq’s outstanding communication and inter-personal skills earns him high regards with all stakeholders, while his holistic design philosophy ensures a deep understanding of architecture and its multifaceted aspects that is critical to any creative process. He excels in leading motivated teams, mentoring young professionals, and enhancing productivity and quality throughout the design and execution process.
CEO / Founder, Hospitality.COM
Raj Bhatt is the visionary CEO & Founder of Hozpitality Group, spearheading the creation of the world’s largest hospitality community. With over 25 years of expertise in the global hospitality industry, he boasts a rich background working with esteemed hotel groups like The Oberoi’s, Holiday Inn, and Ramada Plaza across India, Kenya, and Tanzania. His diverse skill set encompasses marketing, PR, market research, negotiation, business planning, operations management, HR consulting, and coaching. A graduate in Hotel Management and Business Management, Raj has made significant impacts in executive-level hospitality recruitment and pre-opening/bulk recruitment for renowned brands including Sofitel, Conrad, St. Regis, and Hilton, among others. His hands-on experience and strategic acumen have consistently propelled the success of prominent hotel establishments worldwide.
Director, Arena LLC, Creator Junior Gladiators Mastery
Angela Soudi, has thrived in the business realm for over 13 years, crafting successful sales and marketing consultancy ventures in the UAE. Her expertise was honed as a Sales Director in the UK, collaborating with renowned medical companies across Europe. Angela’s forte lies in building international sales teams, a talent she utilized to establish the Gladiator Mastery program alongside her husband, Dariush. Together, they’ve mentored countless entrepreneurs, employing proven methods. Recently, Angela shifted her focus to nurturing aspiring young entrepreneurs through the Junior Gladiators Mastery program, imparting vital skills for financial freedom. Angela’s mission is to empower young gladiators for life’s arena, equipping them with the knowledge and resilience to triumph over any challenge. Beyond business, she’s a dedicated philanthropist, founding schools in Nepal and Thailand for underprivileged children, reflecting her commitment to global impact.
Jazman Shahar Abdollah
Group CEO / Co-Founder, Kenaf Venture Global, Ar Rizq Capital Berhad Investment LLC (ARCB)
Jazman, the founder of a leading plantation company, has transformed it into Malaysia’s top Kenaf planter. Passionate about Kenaf’s potential in the fiber industry, he established Kenaf Venture Global Sdn. Bhd. (KGV), collaborating globally to maximize use of Kenaf natural fibers. With its low cost and eco-friendly attributes, Kenaf is a prime reinforcement for composite materials. Jazman’s brainchild, Ar Rizq Capital Berhad Investment LLC, in Dubai focuses on Kenaf investments. His leadership prowess, cultivated at KPMG, MRCB, and Khazanah, empowers teams to excel. Honoured as Masterclass CEO of the Year at the Malaysia Top Achievers Award 2022, and recently bestowed with the “CEO Burj CSR Award” in Dubai, he continues to drive sustainability and innovation.
Dr. Racha Abdrabbo Haffar
Founder / MD, DeXB Development finance
With more than two decades of experience in the financial sector, Dr. Racha Abdrabbo Haffar, a distinguished consultant and financial strategist, commenced her career at SCB in 1996, delving into feasibility studies and capital budgeting projects. Armed with an MBA in finance, she founded The AUDMBA Club during her studies, where she was able to successfully advise and mediate an affiliation between the graduates and UAE companies. Her coaching journey began by empowering women in SMEs for sustainable growth. Holding a PhD in Management-Finance from Walden University, her multilingual prowess aids her in fostering youth leadership and women’s empowerment through financial training and digital finance implementation in Dubai. As a committed academic, she spearheads DeXB focusing on startups, business acumen, and digital finance through innovative training methods ensuring participants are well-equipped for the evolving business landscape. She is also an advocate for community services that impact positive social change, especially environmental projects.
President, Pantheon holdings
Dr. Brian Poe Llamanzares, an award-winning author, journalist, entrepreneur, investor, and a distinguished figure from the Philippines, stands as a multifaceted luminary. Holding a Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of Perpetual Help, he has an illustrious educational background from renowned institutions like Wharton, Stanford, MIT, and Harvard Kennedy School. As Chief of Staff and the youngest in his role at the Philippine Senate, he’s a beacon of public service. In the business realm, his current portfolio boasts of multiple ventures ranging from, but not limited to, fine art, retail, media, marketing, business development, investor relations, esports, property management, and blockchain technology. Recognized with prestigious awards, including the Power Millennial Award by Lifestyle Asia in 2018, and recognized by People Asia Magazine as one of their “Men Who Matter” in 2020, Brian is celebrated for his impactful contributions in entrepreneurship and youth leadership.
Shabana Abdul Razzak
CEO, Maison De ARY Jewellery
Shabana is the fourth daughter of the legendary Mr. Abdul Razzak Yaqoob, who as founder of ARY pioneered numerous innovations in the UAE’s gold and jewellery industry. Imbibing values of humility and hard work, she joined the family business, where despite initial skepticism, she pioneered innovative and unconventional sales strategies leading to remarkable success. Her creativity extended to launching luxury watches, marking a new era of opulence. Amidst personal challenges, Shabana stood resilient, exemplifying her unwavering commitment to ARY’s enduring success. Her journey took a significant turn when her father fell seriously ill and after his passing, she remains committed to preserving her father’s legacy. Feeling an urgent need to reinvent her brand, Shabana decided to rebrand the ARY retail arm, calling it ‘Maison de ARY’, a business for jewellery in 18 and 22 karat gold, silver, platinum, precious and semi-precious stones and pearls, as well as crafting one-off designer pieces. Shabana has forged her path as a remarkable entrepreneur and visionary businesswoman.
Founder / CEO, Kennedy Communication Studio
Paddy Kennedy is a dynamic business communication coach and trainer. A transformative force in the business world she excels in enhancing fluency, productivity, and performance. With expertise in vocal training, strategic communication, leadership development, accent reduction, and professional speaking, she founded Kennedy Communication Studio International. Her international acclaim in global communication and leadership stems from her extensive work, benefiting clients across 100+ countries. As a former radio journalist, she possesses unique insights. Paddy is celebrated as a thought leader in voice and communication, empowering individuals globally through her programme “Your Brave Voice”, especially curated for professional women. Recognized as the leading voice coach in the GCC, she pioneers innovative leadership concepts through “Co-Elevation,” elevating corporate leaders and fostering collaborative success.
Entrepreneur / Leadership Coach, Saahilmehta.com
Saahil Mehta has forged successful ventures across 3 continents. Overcoming self-limiting beliefs, he redefined life’s spectrum, focusing on mental acuity, physical excellence, relationships, and efficient environments. His philosophy centers on decluttering life’s non-essentials, enabling self-liberation and personal mastery. Remarkably, he conquered summits like Kilimanjaro and Everest’s Kala Patthar in initial attempts. Presently, he balances business endeavours with his role as an author and coach where he guides leaders in health, wealth, and relationships, employing proven tools and rituals. Saahil embodies the ethos of “ahimsa” (non-violence) and relishes pushing boundaries, sharing his transformative journey in his debut book “Break Free.” He holds accreditation as an ICF Associate Certified Coach, certified EO Speaker, and is part of Dr. Marshall Goldsmith’s 100 Coaches community.
Sales Director, Capital Club
Exuding a natural charm and intelligence, Dave Chaggar was born in an entrepreneurial family to parents of East African descent and grew up immersed in business. After pursuing a Master’s in Economics, he joined the family business, managing Global Car Parts’ after-market direct sales division. His ambitious spirit led him to secure major contracts, expanding the business to Australia. Relocating back to the UK, he ventured into the power sector, transforming a family-owned power plant in Tanzania, displaying remarkable negotiation skills with global industry giants. Now, as Sales Director at the exclusive Capital Club in Dubai, Dave orchestrates a thriving networking hub, epitomizing humility, resilience, and genuine connection, earning him the moniker, The Capital Connector.
Author / Motivational Speaker, Podcast Host
Nidhi Bruce, a seasoned professional coach, specializes in guiding mid to senior-level individuals and teams through significant life and career transitions with confidence and clarity. Drawing from almost a decade of entrepreneurial experience, her diverse clientele includes C-suite executives, entrepreneurs, and creative solopreneurs. Nidhi offers tailored 1:1 coaching packages, online courses, workshops, and corporate programmes, all designed to unleash the full potential of her clients, fostering goal achievement. Her expertise extends to corporate workshops addressing specific organizational needs. As the innovator behind the Story Visioning method, detailed in her highly acclaimed book, she empowers clients globally to transform both personal and professional spheres, facilitating transformative growth and achievement.