Reem Hong, who runs the Chinese-language institute Happy Mandarin, in Dubai. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Reem Hong, who runs the Chinese-language institute Happy Mandarin, in Dubai. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

My UAE: Breaking language barriers with Reem Hong



The Emirati founder of Happy Mandarin, a ­Chinese-language learning institute in Dubai, attributes her entrepreneurial skills and ambition to her years of number-crunching and competitive market analysis as a corporate trader.
Reem Hong, who was born in the garden city of Yangzhou, China, came to the UAE in 1997 with her businessman father, who wanted her to improve her English. She never left. She ended up marrying an Emirati and converted to Islam, a decision that she says was "the most beautiful transformation of my life. I am a more peaceful person and I can always rely on my religion."
Happy Mandarin, which launched in October last year, already has 40 students. The institute offers Mandarin courses to children and adults, delivered in a fun and interactive manner.
"We have many expat Chinese children, whose parents want them to learn their mother tongue," she says. "However, currently, 25 per cent of our students are Emirati. Parents are becoming more and more aware of the benefits of making their children global citizens. We also cater to private and government organisations. In my own way, I want to bridge the gap between Chinese and Emirati cultures."
Hong has grand plans for the future. Not only has she recently started classes for babies - the youngest Happy Mandarin student is 14 months old - but she is also going to introduce shorter executive-focused courses for inter­continental businessmen and women.
The master's graduate admits that it has been quite challenging to "find passionate and qualified teachers", but she's very particular about the intensive training her staff need to go through before they can conduct a class.
The mother of four adds: "None of this would have been possible without the love I receive from my family. From being a native Chinese to an Emirati businesswoman, the journey has been very fulfilling."
Quick chat with Reem Hong
What's your all-time favourite movie?
I enjoy watching movies sometimes, but I am not a television person. I prefer reading all kinds of books, and my favourite is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
What sort of car do you drive, and what does it say about you?
I drive a Nissan Patrol four-wheel drive. It is a safe and comfortable family car.
What are some your favourite Ramadan dishes?
Lamb biryani [pictured] and harees with beef, and rangina, which is a traditional date dessert.
What's your favourite holiday destination?
Yangzhou, China. It is covered in greenery, the people are very welcoming and the local food is delicious.
What music do you have on repeat at the moment?
Chinese popular singer Lin Yi Lian. I love her romantic voice - it cheers me up.
What's your favourite restaurant in the UAE?
Din Tai Fung in Mall of the Emirates, and Caesars for great Indian biryani.
If you were stranded on a desert island, what three things would you want with you?
Fresh water, lines and hooks to catch fish, and a small tent.
What do you do to unwind?
Read books and walk in my garden. I also make it a point to chat with my friends regularly.
What's your favourite landmark in the UAE that you recommend to tourists?
The Burj Khalifa. It is an awesome and amazing architectural design.
pmunyal@thenational.ae

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

TEACHERS' PAY - WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Pay varies significantly depending on the school, its rating and the curriculum. Here's a rough guide as of January 2021:

- top end schools tend to pay Dh16,000-17,000 a month - plus a monthly housing allowance of up to Dh6,000. These tend to be British curriculum schools rated 'outstanding' or 'very good', followed by American schools

- average salary across curriculums and skill levels is about Dh10,000, recruiters say

- it is becoming more common for schools to provide accommodation, sometimes in an apartment block with other teachers, rather than hand teachers a cash housing allowance

- some strong performing schools have cut back on salaries since the pandemic began, sometimes offering Dh16,000 including the housing allowance, which reflects the slump in rental costs, and sheer demand for jobs

- maths and science teachers are most in demand and some schools will pay up to Dh3,000 more than other teachers in recognition of their technical skills

- at the other end of the market, teachers in some Indian schools, where fees are lower and competition among applicants is intense, can be paid as low as Dh3,000 per month

- in Indian schools, it has also become common for teachers to share residential accommodation, living in a block with colleagues

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

WHY AAYAN IS 'PERFECT EXAMPLE'

David White might be new to the country, but he has clearly already built up an affinity with the place.

After the UAE shocked Pakistan in the semi-final of the Under 19 Asia Cup last month, White was hugged on the field by Aayan Khan, the team’s captain.

White suggests that was more a sign of Aayan’s amiability than anything else. But he believes the young all-rounder, who was part of the winning Gulf Giants team last year, is just the sort of player the country should be seeking to produce via the ILT20.

“He is a delightful young man,” White said. “He played in the competition last year at 17, and look at his development from there till now, and where he is representing the UAE.

“He was influential in the U19 team which beat Pakistan. He is the perfect example of what we are all trying to achieve here.

“It is about the development of players who are going to represent the UAE and go on to help make UAE a force in world cricket.” 

UAE'S YOUNG GUNS

1 Esha Oza, age 26, 79 matches

2 Theertha Satish, age 20, 66 matches

3 Khushi Sharma, age 21, 65 matches

4 Kavisha Kumari, age 21, 79 matches

5 Heena Hotchandani, age 23, 16 matches

6 Rinitha Rajith, age 18, 34 matches

7 Samaira Dharnidharka, age 17, 53 matches

8 Vaishnave Mahesh, age 17, 68 matches

9 Lavanya Keny, age 17, 33 matches

10 Siya Gokhale, age 18, 33 matches

11 Indhuja Nandakumar, age 18, 46 matches

Top 10 most competitive economies

1. Singapore
2. Switzerland
3. Denmark
4. Ireland
5. Hong Kong
6. Sweden
7. UAE
8. Taiwan
9. Netherlands
10. Norway

The specs

Engine: 3.8-litre twin-turbo flat-six

Power: 650hp at 6,750rpm

Torque: 800Nm from 2,500-4,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto

Fuel consumption: 11.12L/100km

Price: From Dh796,600

On sale: now

RESULTS

3.30pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 – Group 1 (PA) $75,000 (Dirt) 2,000m
Winner: Jugurtha De Monlau, Pat Dobbs (jockey), Jean-Claude Pecout (trainer)

4.05pm: Dubai City Of Gold – Group 2 (TB) $250,000 (Turf) 2,410m
Winner: Global Storm, William Buick, Charlie Appleby

4.40pm: Burj Nahaar – Group 3 (TB) $250,000 (D) 1,600m
Winner: Discovery Island, James Doyle, Bhupat Seemar

5.15pm: Nad Al Sheba Turf Sprint – Group 3 (TB) $250,000 (T) 1,200m
Winner: Al Dasim, Mickael Barzalona, George Boughey

5.50pm: Al Bastakiya – Listed (TB) $170,000 (D) 1,900m
Winner: Go Soldier Go, Adrie de Vries, Fawzi Nass

6.25pm: Al Maktoum Challenge Round 3 – Group 1 (TB) $450,000 (D) 2,000m
Winner: Salute The Soldier, Adrie de Vries, Fawzi Nass

7.10pm: Ras Al Khor – Conditions (TB) $300,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: Al Suhail, William Buick, Charlie Appleby

7.45pm: Jebel Hatta – Group 1 (TB) $350,000 (T) 1,800m
Winner: Alfareeq, Dane O’Neill, Charlie Appleby

8.20pm: Mahab Al Shimaal – Group 3 (TB) $250,000 (D) 1,200m
Winner: Sound Money, Mickael Barzalona, Bhupat Seemar

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

UAE central contracts

Full time contracts

Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza, Mohammed Usman, Chirag Suri, Mohammed Boota, Sultan Ahmed, Zahoor Khan, Junaid Siddique, Waheed Ahmed, Zawar Farid

Part time contracts

Aryan Lakra, Ansh Tandon, Karthik Meiyappan, Rahul Bhatia, Alishan Sharafu, CP Rizwaan, Basil Hameed, Matiullah, Fahad Nawaz, Sanchit Sharma

Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom

Director: James Wan

Starring: Jason Mamoa, Patrick Wilson, Amber Heard, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II 

Rating: 2/5

The specs: 2018 Volkswagen Teramont

Price, base / as tested Dh137,000 / Dh189,950

Engine 3.6-litre V6

Gearbox Eight-speed automatic

Power 280hp @ 6,200rpm

Torque 360Nm @ 2,750rpm

Fuel economy, combined 11.7L / 100km

TWISTERS

Director:+Lee+Isaac+Chung

Starring:+Glen+Powell,+Daisy+Edgar-Jones,+Anthony+Ramos

Rating:+2.5/5

Company profile

Company name: Leap
Started: March 2021
Founders: Ziad Toqan and Jamil Khammu
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Funds raised: Undisclosed
Current number of staff: Seven

Company profile

Name:+Dukkantek 

Started:+January 2021 

Founders:+Sanad Yaghi, Ali Al Sayegh and Shadi Joulani 

Based:+UAE 

Number of employees:+140 

Sector:+B2B Vertical SaaS(software as a service) 

Investment:+$5.2 million 

Funding stage:+Seed round 

Investors:+Global Founders Capital, Colle Capital Partners, Wamda Capital, Plug and Play, Comma Capital, Nowais Capital, Annex Investments and AMK Investment Office