Euroventures Conference 2008: Accelerated growth through cross-border collaboration

Amidst a global atmosphere of financial uncertainty, the second annual Euroventures Conference featured a series of speakers that focused on opportunities instead of obstacles. Over 250 Ismaili entrepreneurs and professionals from ten countries across Europe gathered from 4 – 5 October at Le Palais des Congrès de Paris.

Manley Hopkinson, at the 2008 Euroventures Conference, spoke of being caught on his sailboat during a hurricane and how he overcame the obstacles. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU
Manley Hopkinson, at the 2008 Euroventures Conference, spoke of being caught on his sailboat during a hurricane and how he overcame the obstacles. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU

Amidst a global atmosphere of financial uncertainty, the second annual Euroventures Conference held in Paris featured a series of speakers that focused on opportunities instead of obstacles.

Following on the success of last year's conference in Lisbon, the 2008 Euroventures Conference – an initiative of the Ismaili Council for the European Union (ICEU) – assembled over 250 Ismaili entrepreneurs and professionals from ten countries across Europe at Le Palais des Congrès de Paris, from 4 – 5 October. The theme for the 2008 Conference, Accelerated Growth Through Cross Border Collaboration, set the stage for panels and workshops that addressed opportunities for growth in a time of global economic upheaval.

In his opening remarks, ICEU President Anvaraly Jiva stressed the importance of “creating a conducive environment where entrepreneurs and professionals can collaborate, invest, and prosper together within the European Union.” Reflecting this vision, several prominent speakers and guests addressed issues such as innovation, leadership, emerging markets, collaboration, and business ethics.

Investing in innovation

Delegates interact at the Euroventures Conference held at the Palais des Congrès de Paris. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU
Delegates interact at the Euroventures Conference held at the Palais des Congrès de Paris. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU

An important theme that came through in all the Paris sessions was that of innovation. Matt Bross, Chief Technology Officer of the BT Group, stressed that no matter what the market forces dictate, innovation should “occur at the speed of life, not at the speed of technology.” With a deluge of new technologies available, the important distinguishing factor of any innovation strategy is how it affects the life of people.

The theme of innovation was echoed several times during the Conference. Shiv Nadar, Founder, Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of HCL Technologies spoke about “enjoying the chase” and finding “a distant signal” ahead: good entrepreneurs innovate different ways to overcome obstacles and “pursue this creativity with zeal and passion.”

Malik Sacoor, Chairman and CEO of Sacoor Brothers, framed his thoughts on innovation simply: “dare to be different.” He stressed that innovation didn't lie simply in the domain of technology; in an industry where the products are similar, service becomes the difference. Sacoor spoke of how innovations in the domain of customer service have helped Sacoor Brothers stand out in the clothing retail industry in Portugal and across the world.

ICEU President Anvaraly Jiva addresses the audience at the Euroventures Conference in Paris. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU
ICEU President Anvaraly Jiva addresses the audience at the Euroventures Conference in Paris. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU

The emphasis on innovation was also reflected in the business opportunities that were presented and discussed at the Euroventures Conference. Among them, innovative and topical industries such as personal wellbeing, emerging markets in Africa and the Middle East, and solar energy – a domain that Euroventures Convenor Hanif Lalani deemed “the future,” particularly in a world where environmental issues are rising to the forefront.

Investing in people

In his address at the Euroventures Conference Gala Dinner held at Paris' renowned Pavillion Gabriel on 4 October, Jacques Bentz, Chairman of Groupe Steria SCA, Linedata Services and Danet GmBH, encouraged “fostering a team spirit to encourage sharing and create change,” and then using that organisational change to fuel innovation.

Bentz wasn't the only person to focus on the power of people – almost every speaker at the Conference reflected on the enormous importance of collaboration and human resource development in tumultuous economic times. Jean Philippe Peugeot, Vice President of the Supervisory Board of Peugeot-Citroen SA, explained that all good organizations had great leaders: leaders that “shared ambition, a willingness to work with others, and knew how to work within constraints.” Investing in building these leaders was key to any business.

Delegates participate in a speed networking session at the 2008 Euroventures Conference. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU
Delegates participate in a speed networking session at the 2008 Euroventures Conference. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU

This focus on creating engaged leaders was reflected in the Conference programme itself, which included workshops and sessions on leadership skills, collaboration success stories, and building trust. The trust building roundtable session was particularly poignant, outlining the importance of not only investing time in building good partnerships, but also highlighting the necessity of creating good exit strategies at the beginning of any partnership.

Speaking on the importance of investing in people, explorer and leadership guru Manley Hopkinson reflected that “leadership is about relationships, about setting direction instead of giving direction, about empowering everyone on the team with the picture of success.” Hopkinson stressed the importance of building relationships based on trust and working on a team where everyone has the chance to grow.

Investing in opportunity

CEOs discuss innovation on a panel on business and entrepreneurship. Photo: Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU
CEOs discuss innovation on a panel on business and entrepreneurship. Courtesy of the Ismaili Council for the EU

Apart from bringing together members of the Jamat from across Europe, the 2008 Euroventures Conference also helped Ismaili entrepreneurs and professionals learn about the opportunities available to them through both Jamati and external European institutions. In his closing remarks, Richad Kassim-Premdjee, President of the Ismaili Council for France, stressed the importance of “using the resources that are readily available” either through the European Union initiatives, local Jamati projects, or through programmes such as the ICEU Lifelong Learning and Euroventures programmes.

These programmes and opportunities, as well as the possibility of cross-border collaboration, offer the potential to accelerate growth – even in times of global financial uncertainty.