One-to-one Exclusive Interview with Luma J. Bourisly, Founder of KOOOT.com

Luma J. Bourisly shares with Executive-Women her journey and how her financial, marketing and PR background has contributed to the success of KOOOT.com, the online retail platform.

 

  1. In ENDP, ENOC and du, you were the initiator of the PR and Media relations division and then the Corporate Communications Department; did tackling these different industries force a new approach in terms of strategic planning and execution? 

Working with dynamic sectors such as Banking, Oil & Gas, Telecommunications and the Government sector has given me visibility in three key aspects: 1. Client service, 2. Financial planning, and 3. Evolving communication trends. My experience on the communications side of businesses gave me direct access to all key business units, from finance, to strategy to marketing. Working closely with the executive management team and handling their PR portfolios and the strategic direction of each industry also helped shape my strategic thinking and gave me access to a wealth of personal knowledge as well as market studies on key drivers of economy. As a member of the executive management team in du, I had the privilege to complete the two-year INSEAD UAE Consortium for Executive Development Programme, which is an executive education program comprising of units in Strategy & Planning, Customer Centricity, Financial Management, Strategic Human Resources, Supply Chain Management, Leadership for Transformation and Strengths Based Executive Coaching.

I saw myself maturing over 26 years in corporate. My own vision started shaping up, and I found no better way than entrepreneurship as a green field to act on my vision and make it real. The UAE was the ideal place to set up a business as the country supports investment, freeing us from most of the formalities that other countries in the region have.

  1. Can you tell us more about your role in both the Kuwait Business Council and the Emirates National Development Program?

Initiating Kuwait Business Council in May 2016 was the result of extensive efforts by a group of Kuwaiti businessmen in the UAE. I am proud to be a founding member of this council.

Kuwait Business Council is an independent non-profit organization which operates under the umbrella of Dubai Chamber. Given the fact that Kuwait has a strong historic relationship with the UAE that started prior to its union, the Council aims to promote experiences, opportunities, and relationships for business professionals and Kuwaiti companies operating in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. The establishment of Kuwait Business Council is the first of its kind for business communities outside of the State of Kuwait. It was founded by more than 21 members, representing a group of Kuwaiti companies and entrepreneurs in Dubai and the Northern Emirates. Our logo is inspired by the Arabic calligraphy that appeared on the first Kuwaiti Dinar used by Kuwaiti traders during the reign of Sheikh Abdullah Al Salem Al Sabah, Amir of the State of Kuwait in the 1960’s. It is a symbol of the rich history and independence of the Kuwaiti currency, which also characterizes the Kuwait Business Council in Dubai. In addition to this, the modern drawing of the Kuwait Towers depicts the value of creativity.

The Kuwaiti Business Council seeks to strengthen its efforts in three main aspects:

  1. Opportunities: To promote business opportunities for Kuwaiti business owners, entrepreneurs and companies in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
  2. Expertise:To provide the Kuwaiti business community with information and tools that can help them grow their businesses in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
  3. Relations: To encourage Council members to exchange information, experiences and interact with one another.

On the other hand, I joined the founding team of Emirates National Development Program (ENDP) starting the PR and communication section. ENDP, a program that was launched by HH Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is launched to be the catalyst for the widespread integration of UAE nationals into the private sector, for the prosperity of the private sector and well-being of the UAE. My role was to promote the merit of building partnerships between private sector and UAE nationals using various types of communication be it PR, advertising, events or conducting focus group discussion, aimed at elevating the recruitment and long-term retention of nationals into the workforce. My role was to bring awareness to the program, promote development, matching and recognition programs.

  1. Throughout your career, did you face any gender bias in these male dominated industries?

No. not at all. Throughout my entire career, I focused on being a productive, innovative and dedicated employee, something that all the companies I worked with appreciated.

  1. Have you received any support from your surrounding environment throughout your journey? Was it vital to your success?

I am grateful to have been raised by a strong single mother who carried her children on her shoulders. She showed me that a woman can achieve what she needs to achieve. She also showed me that dedication and hard work pay off, whether you’re working at home or in the public sphere. These strong women in our lives are what shape us.

I’m also grateful for the many opportunities I’ve been given over the years to progress and grow as a professional. I could feed my curiosity with the support of my mentors and superiors throughout the years. The UAE is a great place to grow your career because the country’s quick growth also means your personal growth in that same environment.

  1. Have you faced any significant challenges as an e-commerce startup?

While e-commerce is gaining traction in the Middle East very quickly, we of course still face issues as a young market. Logistics partners are still lagging behind their international equivalents. We always try to fill in the gap between expectations and reality with our own efforts. In a highly competitive market, what matters is going the extra mile to (a) be relevant to your audience and (b) give them a smile-inducing experience.

  1. What is your message to women considering the transition from the corporate to the entrepreneurial world?

It’s a huge step of course. No one feels totally safe stepping out of corporate and into entrepreneurship. Corporate is at times frustrating, soul-crushing, and rigid, but it’s also scary to take your livelihood into your own hands. You might feel like it’s make it or break it when it comes to entrepreneurship, but success is all about your ability to be flexible. You need to be open-minded and take shocks well and use them to re-maneuver.

My advice is to make sure you’re taking a step that (a) fulfills a need in your community and (b) makes your community a better place. At KOOOT.com, our work with regional women entrepreneurs is what drives us every day. Their success is our success, and this building of an interdependent community is enriching for us as much as them. At the same time, we’re giving women in the region access to never-before-available products that fulfill their desire to always be unique.

 

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