Dubai Serves as Hub for Southeast Asian Digital Companies Expanding to Emerging Markets

Dubai is increasingly the hub for Southeast Asian innovators expanding to emerging markets in the Middle East and Africa, according to experts speaking at GITEX Technology Week.

Thanks to increasing purchasing power, Internet penetration, and online offerings, the ASEAN e-commerce market is set to grow more than nine-fold from USD 7 billion in 2013 to more than USD 67 billion by 2017, according to a recent report by consultancy AT Kearney.

This market growth presents a strong opportunity for digital marketing firms and startups to expand their innovations from Southeast Asia and localize them to emerging markets. Many of these firms are based in Singapore, a major business hub and the top Southeast Asian city for startup support, according to a recent ranking by the Compass Startup Ecosystem.

“Singapore’s digital-first companies and startups need to expand quickly, and emerging markets such as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia present the biggest growth opportunities.”

Said Aseem Puri, the Singapore-based Marketing Head at Unilever International.

Dubai Serves as Hub for Southeast Asian Digital Companies Expanding to Emerging Markets

He headlined the digital marketing conference GITEX Marketing Monday, part of the wider Vertical Days programme on how technology impacts different industry verticals.

Aseem Puri represents the best of Singapore-based digital marketing innovations. In his role, he launches and builds Unilever brands across new geographies, channels, and customers. Among the innovations he has led are e-commerce-exclusive launches and building a global customer relationship management platform for online direct marketing.

Now, Southeast Asia’s multinationals and startups are turning to Dubai for expansion. For example, the UAE is Singapore’s largest Middle East trading partner, with trade reaching S$ 18.3 (about USD 13.5) billion in 2015, according to International Enterprise Singapore.

“Digital marketing innovations that work in Singapore hold high potential in Dubai and the Arabian Gulf, with similar fast-growth markets, digitally-savvy English-speaking affluent customers, and a supportive startup ecosystem.”

Added Aseem Puri.

At GITEX Marketing Monday, fellow digital marketing innovators from AkzoNobel, Caesars Entertainment, Facebook, LinkedIn are addressing topics such as mobile marketing, the hyper-personal customer experience, and the augmented reality brand experience.

GITEX Technology Week and UAE Serve as Global Startup Hubs

Organisers of GITEX Technology Week, which is set to host more than 4,000 exhibiting companies, 64 participating countries, 230 speakers, and more than 410 startups from 60 countries this year, are tapping into Singapore’s experience, especially in regard to their support of digital marketing best practices for Middle East companies and startups.

GITEX Technology Week consistently attracts a strong showing by international tech companies, from global corporations to niche brands, drawn by its unique access to emerging markets from Africa, throughout the Middle East, to Central and South Asia.

The UAE is increasingly becoming a global startup hub. The government of Dubai recently launched the Dubai Future Accelerators, which provides a 12-week programme to bring together top companies, entrepreneurs, and partners to develop technology innovations.

Startups are also a key focus for the show under the GITEX Global Startup Movement, which aims to support hundreds of startups from around the world. Startups can validate their business plans as well as meet with investors and venture capitalists, pitch for a USD 160,000 grand prize to elevate their startups to a global ecosystem, and network with startup experts.

Southeast Asia-based investors will play a central role at the GITEX Global Startup Movement. Jeffrey Paine, Managing Partner of early stage seed fund Golden Gate Venture will speak at the GITEX Global Startup Movement on valuation. Jayesh Parekh, Managing Partner at early stage venture capital firm Jungle Ventures will meet with startups to evaluate business plans.

The Singapore Cross Trade agency will also host numerous companies at GITEX Technology Week, including Navtech, a mobile device manufacturer for communications companies.

“The Middle East and Africa are leapfrogging established markets in communications innovations. GITEX and Dubai are hubs for reaching these markets, especially for savvy customers that want the expertise and high quality craftsmanship that are hallmarks of Singaporean companies.”

Said Abhinav Patodia, Chief Strategy Officer at Navtech.

Dubai Serves as Hub for Southeast Asian Digital Companies Expanding to Emerging Markets

Trixie LohMirmand, the Senior Vice-President for Exhibitions and Events Management at the Dubai World Trade Centre, which hosts GITEX Technology Week, sees strong parallels between Singapore and Dubai.

“Dubai’s vision for future growth is very close to the Southeast Asian model – high-tech, service-based, built around trade, business friendly, and international in its outlook. For any tech or e-commerce business wanting to trade across Southeast Asia, Singapore is a major obvious base. Similarly, when they want to expand beyond Southeast Asia, Dubai is a logical next step, and GITEX is a good place to test the water.”

Said Trixie LohMirmand.

For more information on GITEX Technology Week, running from 16-20 October 2016 at the Dubai World Trade Centre, visit

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