Business students pitch ideas for Yas Island

ABU DHABI // Business graduates from Zayed University have put their years of learning to the test by designing entertainment, retail and hospitality attractions for Yas Island.

The Yas Island Breakthrough Challenge drew more than 150 students, who presented 33 projects for Miral Asset Management’s consideration.

The company, which manages Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld, is developing the US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) Warner Bros theme park in the capital, which is expected to open in 2018.

The students’ ideas included a theme park on water and a virtual reality facility where visitors could view famous global destinations on headsets and restaurants that serve exotic food from those countries.

A team of women won the competition with their proposal for a market.

“The Yas Market would have restaurants, booths, shops and some venues for hosting special events,” said Sheikha Al Kharji, 21. Everything – from the building’s facade to the food on offer – would reflect Emirati culture, she said.

“To give Yas Island something unique, while incorporating local culture, we incorporated characters from Emirati cartoons,” said Ms Al Kharji.

The marketplace would have Disney-like parades featuring beloved Emirati cartoon characters such as Shaabiat Al Cartoon, Shahfan, Hamdoon, Majed, Mansoor, and Khosa Bossa.

“That’s the theme and it would attract locals and foreigners,” she said. “It’s something interesting that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.”

Dr Osama El-Temtamy, associate dean of the university’s business college, said students spent the entire semester working on their projects as part of their strategic management class.

The challenge enabled the students to experience the application of business theory in the real world.

“This is something that is a godsend for us because we always want to offer our students something that is related to real life,” he said.

“There’s a lot of benefits from them. The students learnt project management, they learnt communication, the importance of planning, exposure and networking.”

Mohammed Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral Asset Management, said he was very impressed with the quality of the students’ ideas.

“I’m very proud and amazed with what they have done,” he said.

As to whether The Yas Market would be turned into reality, Mr Al Zaabi said: “Why not?”

He said his firm would study the proposal and other ideas from students.

“We have a number of steps. Step one is to get the idea, we have that now,” said Mr Al Zaabi. “Step two is to go through more than 33 criteria. And then if it passes these, then it goes to the next step which is concept design and the feasibility study.”

Each member of the winning team was awarded Dh3,000, an annual pass to Yas Waterworld, a tour of Yas Marina Circuit and one night’s stay at Yas Viceroy. Participants in the four groups that were shortlisted also received cash and Yas Island prizes.

Mr Al Zaabi said the Yas Island Breakthrough Challenge for Zayed University business students would return next year.

“This time it was about innovation. Next time it might be about efficiency or about how to improve business,” he said.

“Next time we might ask them, ‘let’s focus on one asset, how can we change, how can we add to that asset from a customer experience?’”

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