Back from a week in Dubai and Mumbai, two cities with a "bai" ending but little else in common. I talked about Mumbai before so I'm focusing on Dubai this time around:
1) The cranes are leaving
It used to be said that 1/4 of all the world's cranes were in Dubai. Whether that was ever true, it's certainly a different story today. As this article relates, the number of cranes has dropped 50% from the construction peak in 2007. Dubai's economy was fueled by construction so when the pace of building started to slow down, the economy took a massive dive. Now, as you look at the mile after mile of finished or almost finished skyscrapers, it's difficult to imagine how all of that office and apartment space is ever going to be filled or that the economy will recover any time soon.
2) No-one's here
I took the Metro into Dubai. It's the Arabian peninsula's first urban train network and was planned at a time when it was expected that population and visitor increases (to fill all those skyscrapers) would lead to severe traffic congestion. But, as of now, there's no congestion, most of the Metro stations are not open and the trains are empty. On the way back to the airport, my driver pointed out places along the route where he said that people who came to Dubai to strike it rich had ditched their expensive cars as they abandoned the country when the crisis took hold.
3) Is it Dubai. Is it Chicago?
This photo, taken in the Dubai Marina, reminded me a little bit of Chicago. But generally, Dubai reminded me more of a mix of Las Vegas and Universal Studios. Las Vegas for its anything-is-possible and build-it-and-they-will-come mentality and Universal Studios because most of the buildings right now are just facades, unfinished and unoccupied. As it has transformed from desert to shiny metropolis, Dubai also seems to be having trouble deciding who or what it is. On the one hand it presents itself as an open and friendly tourist destination. On the other, while I was there, the Dubai appeals court upheld a one-month prison sentence for an English couple who had been convicted of kissing in a restaurant.
4) Cooling Down
I have a Northerner's perspective when it comes to the seasons. It's the cold of winter that shuts everything down and forces us all indoors. Not so in places like Dubai where it's the summer heat that closes things down. It had never occurred to me before that, instead of heaters, swimming pools might need cooling systems to keep the water from getting too hot.
5) Hills Bros in the house
This was the last thing I expected to see as I did a quick walk-through of a Waitrose store in one of Dubai's numerous shopping malls--my old brand Hills Bros sitting there on a shelf. New owners Massimo Zanetti must have decided that there was a market in Dubai for this coffee. I noticed tho' that they decided to replace the iconic "Taster" with a more neutral image.
6) Is ten past six the new ten past ten?
At least in this one jeweler's store in Dubai, most of the watches were set to ten past six rather than the traditional ten past ten. Not sure whether this was the whim of the jeweler, a Dubai custom or a new trend. Anyone have the scoop?
That's it! Back soon (when I've caught up) with more stories from the world of brand strategy. More thoughts and comments also available on Twitter (@martinjbishop).