Making peace – One business meeting at a time

September 24, 2020

Liza RobbinsBy Liza Robbins.

Last week, two Kreston firms became the first ever to exchange referrals on Kommunity, our brand-new platform.

Those firms were Kreston IL from Israel, and Kreston Menon from the United Arab Emirates.

It was less than a week since their two countries had signed the Abraham Accords peace agreement at the White House…

…normalising the relationship between them after decades without diplomatic or trade relations.

We couldn’t have had a better, or more hopeful, beginning!

And I’m proud that our firms wasted absolutely no time before they started doing business together – because that’s what our network is all about.

By the time I caught up with Doron Rozenblum, Managing Partner of Kreston IL, and Sudhir Kumar, Partner at Kreston Menon, earlier this week, the two seemed like old friends.

They were busy chatting about their plans to visit each other, the moment COVID restrictions allowed (“I’m a foodie, I’m looking forward to trying traditional, Kosher food,” says Sudhir).

And Sudhir had even learned a few words in Hebrew (“I used to say ‘Shukran’, now I say ‘Todah rabah’,” he laughs – referring to the Arabic and Hebrew terms for ‘Thank you’).

Both say that their fellow citizens are buzzing with enthusiasm for the peace accords.

“No one has had much good news recently, especially with COVID-19,” says Doron, “so this is very welcome. Israelis love to travel so there is a lot of excitement over this agreement.”

And Sudhir says that the accords were “treated with happiness. Over a period of years, people wondered, why couldn’t we have a relationship with Israel? It feels like a new era of prosperity, confidence and energy.”

Much of this, of course, is tied up with the new business opportunities washing across the region.

Over the past few days alone, a major Dubai conglomerate, the Habtoor Group, announced that it is opening an Israeli office, and Emirates, Etihad Airways, El Al and Israir are all either launching flights between the two countries or are in the process of seeking approval.

The state-run Abu Dhabi Investment Office is similarly opening up a branch in Tel Aviv, and two Israeli banks have already signed memorandums of understanding with Dubai counterparts, to help the two countries trade smoothly.

And that is just the very tip of the iceberg…

The two men expect enormous bilateral investment in everything from agriculture and inland fishing to cybersecurity and diamonds.

“The world’s first Artificial Intelligence university is in Abu Dhabi,” notes Sudhir, adding that Israel is renowned for its hi-tech industry – so there is a natural synergy.

“There’s going to be a lot of opportunities in financial services,” adds Doron, “including in Islamic finance which doesn’t exist in Israel, but of course there is an enormous market.” (Just over 20% of Israeli citizens are Muslims.)

In addition to the bilateral investment, they expect the peace treaty to open the doors to enormous investment from other countries.

“When the region is more stable, it’s good for business,” says Sudhir. “Major companies will spend more money here because we’re providing a security net for the region.”

He envisages that this will add value to the existing $95 billion UAE-India trade corridor, and create a new, high-value business corridor covering Israel, UAE and India – which is a good friend to both countries.

And he notes that many companies which previously had to choose between doing business in Israel and the UAE can now do both, because the treaty formally ended UAE’s participation in the Arab League boycott of Israel. 

The speed at which all this is happening seems astonishing…

Doron says that there is already another Israeli Doron Rosenblum doing business in the UAE, and he’s already been forced to clarify that they are not the same person – they spell their last name differently!

He says that this can happen fast because there was already business taking place between the two peoples before the treaty, “under the radar.”

“There’s no big difference between the Israeli and UAE people,” he says. “In the end, we’re related – maybe cousins. We’ve always got on well in the international committees that I’m part of.

“But we needed the politicians to lift the formal barriers between us, to allow us to do business openly.”

Kreston Menon, for its part, already has not one but three brochures written in Hebrew for prospective Israeli partners.

And Kreston IL has initiated a 3-hour Zoom conference, for prominent Israeli and UAE CEOs to meet each other, learn about each other – and network.

Kreston Menon’s logo “will be everywhere” on the call, Doron says. “I want our Israeli companies to know that if they need to do any business in UAE, they now have Sudhir and can reach out.”

Kreston’s other Israeli firm, Joseph Lipsky & Co, has similarly reached out to Kreston Menon and Kreston Awni Farsakh & Co, our other firm in UAE.

All this shows just how important it is for Kreston firms to look beyond their country’s borders for opportunities – because there are many…

…and how much there is to gain when we work together.

So if you think you might have an opportunity in either country, please do contact Doron or Sudhir – their contact details are on Kommunity!

Just don’t wait too long…

As this story shows, in today’s world, speed is of the essence. The opportunities are there, but they are easiest to grab when you are fast and agile.

The good news is that there soon may be even more business opportunities…

Rumours abound that Israel is about to sign more peace treaties with other Arab states.

Doron, for his part, isn’t waiting…

“I’ve reached out to acquaintances in Oman, and said, ‘let’s start doing business’. We can be the first ones….”