Empowering women and embracing innovation: an exclusive interview with a visionary leader
In an insightful interview, Dr Harmeek Singh, Founder and Chairman of Dubai Women’s Run and Plan b Group, discusses the inspiration behind his dedication to women’s empowerment, the synergy between business triumphs and philanthropy and his dynamic approach to challenging norms and fostering innovation.
Can you share with us the inspiration behind your dedication to empowering women, particularly through the Dubai Women’s Run? What led you to become such a prominent advocate for women’s participation in sports?
From an early age, I’ve drawn inspiration from the strong women in my family and the guidance they’ve provided throughout my life’s journey. Raised by a resilient mother, my dedication stems from this powerful foundation. The Dubai Women’s Run presented a remarkable opportunity to champion gender equality, a cause I ardently believe in. For me, it’s not about women merely attaining equality, but rather recognizing them as a superior force within our societal fabric. This belief propelled me to not just advocate but to also take actionable steps, setting an example through my involvement. Thus, the Dubai Women’s Run became the platform where my vision was brought to life. Together with my team, we’ve tirelessly worked to evolve this event from a one-day run into a burgeoning community that aligns with our visionary goals.
Your journey has been marked by both remarkable business success and philanthropic underworks. How do you balance these two aspects of your life and how do they complement each other?
For me, it’s not about striving to strike a balance; it’s about fostering an interconnected ecosystem. This interconnectedness becomes intrinsic to sustainability. I hold the belief that as responsible beings, we hold dual responsibilities: claiming our rights and fulfilling our duties towards society.
Rooted in Sikhism, which emphasizes universal humanity, this concept resonates deeply in my beliefs. This mutual relationship between success and philanthropy is a part of our essence. It’s more than a balance; it’s a natural coexistence, grounded in our faith’s principles. This holistic approach shapes the path forward.
You’ve been recognized for breaking stereotypes and embracing a forward-thinking approach. Could you elaborate on how you manage to challenge norms and encourage innovation within your industry?
Throughout my career, from childhood onwards, I’ve perceived the world from unique vantage points. This perspective has driven me to pursue uncharted paths rather than following pre-existing ones. Leadership, for me, involves envisioning improved alternatives and then pursuing them vigorously. In the world of media, we transformed the mundane outdoor advertising landscape by introducing 3D displays in 2013—a move ahead of its time. During the pandemic, we broke stereotypes by implementing touchless activations in retail spaces, rekindling confidence. Our innovations aren’t limited to delivering, but also redefining how we deliver. This approach has made us forces to be reckoned with, driving our ethos of leadership through innovation.
The Dubai Women’s Run has grown into a significant event, promoting women’s participation in sports. Could you share some of the challenges you faced and strategies you employed to make this event such a success?
Organising an event centred around women’s empowerment poses unique challenges, given the diverse perspectives. While focusing on the community, we’ve consistently aimed for a level playing field for women and advocated for gender equality for many years. The UAE’s proactive stance on gender equality fuelled our pursuit. Initial challenges included limited participation and societal doubts, but we envisioned the run as more than a mere event. It became a platform for liberation and knowledge exchange, embodying freedom. It wasn’t just about running; it was about breaking barriers and forming a community. Embracing a holistic approach, we integrated knowledge sharing and opportunities for women, by women. This approach has paved the way forward, aligning us with the right trajectory.
You’ve not only made an impact within the UAE, but also in the global Sikh community. Could you tell us more about your investment and contribution to this community and how it connects to your broader goals?
As a Sikh, the principle of ‘Sewa’ or community service is deeply woven into our fabric. This philosophy transcends religious boundaries, emphasizing shared humanity. Our community kitchens, including during crises like COVID, exemplify this commitment. My investment in the first Sikh temple in St. Petersburg, Russia, reflects this spirit of ‘Sewa.’ The temple will double as a community kitchen, offering free food daily. This endeavour echoes Sikhism’s emphasis on unity and humanity, reflecting my broader goals.
How do you envision your continued efforts in both business and philanthropic shaping the landscape for women’s blood, empowerment, and societal progress?
Moving forward, my aspirations centre around organic growth and a seamless flow, mirroring the vitality of life itself. Each endeavour I undertake is aimed at a defined version of progress. Our community is evolving both vertically and horizontally, encompassing initiatives like “Woman of Substance.” This open forum empowers women through employment, knowledge sharing, and bolstering self-belief. I firmly believe in kindling multiple flames from one, uniting individuals in common causes. Our commitment to gender equality, combined with philanthropy, serves as a catalyst for positive transformation. It’s not a balancing act; it’s a harmonious ecosystem propelling us towards an empowered society marked by equality.