Learn more about the Forum Speakers

Hear from the foremost thought leaders and innovators in the industry.



Ahmed Bin Sulayem continues to play a leading role in positioning DMCC and Dubai as a major international commodities hub for trade. Under his leadership DMCC has built and delivered the UAE’s largest and fastest growing Free Zone; ensured the UAE has 60 percent market share of global tea re-exports, enabled mainly by the DMCC Tea Centre; helped establish Dubai as the world’s leading physical gold market and one of the world’s top 3 hubs for the diamond trade. Mr. Bin Sulayem’s extensive knowledge of the diamond trade also led to his appointment as global Kimberley Process Chair on behalf of the UAE Ministry of Economy in 2016. The UAE Chairmanship saw Mr Bin Sulayem travel to 20 countries including Latin America before concluding the successful chairmanship with a speech on the draft resolution “The Role of Diamonds in Fuelling Conflict” at the UN General Assembly in February 2017.









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Dr. Shashi Tharoor is an award-winning author of 17 books of fiction and non-fiction, including The Great Indian Novel, Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century, An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India and the upcoming Why I Am A Hindu. He has won numerous literary awards, including a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize. A second-term Member of Parliament representing Thiruvananthapuram, and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, he has served as Minister of State for Human Resource Development and for External Affairs in the Government of India. During his nearly three-decade long career at the United Nations, he served as a peacekeeper, refugee worker, and administrator at the highest levels, serving as Under-Secretary General during Kofi Annan’s leadership.










Anil Cooke is President/CEO of Asia Siyaka Commodities PLC, a leading tea Broking house and largest Auction logistics provider in Sri Lanka. He is a member of The Chartered Institute of Marketing UK and has been a professional marketer of Tea throughout his carrier of 30 plus years. He is a past Chairman of the Colombo Brokers’ Association, past Director of the Sri Lanka Tea Board.

Anil has been closely associated with development and implementation of marketing strategy for Sri Lanka’s extraordinary range of specialty Ceylon Teas; and has guided production of three short Documentary films on Ceylon Tea. He is frequently sought as a speaker at International Tea events.










Bala Sarda, 26, is the CEO & Founder of Vahdam Teas - a direct-to-consumer premium tea brand. Founded in early 2015, Vahdam Teas is among India's fastest growing consumer product brands & have been shipped to consumers in over 83 countries. It is building among India's first home-grown truly global tea brand by leveraging technology, cutting out middlemen & disrupting the fragmented supply chain of tea. It has raised venture financing from some of India’s leading angels & consumer VCs, including Fireside Ventures, Singapore Angel Network, Mumbai Angel.

Bala, who started the company at 23, is a passionate entrepreneur & comes with over 80 years of lineage in the Indian Tea Industry.










John spent over two decades working as a creative director with leading London agencies heading a variety of accounts, including; River Island, bp, Shell, Giant Casino, Sainsbury’s, McLaren F1, Emirates, Bmi British Midland, Austrian, Emaar, Burj Khalifa, Armani, Sega, Land Rover, Tata Motors, Taj, Tsogo, Oberoi, Mubadala, Blackstone, BEA (Bank of East Asia), Wanda.

Brash is the result of John’s vision to establish a creative consultancy with a more personal and bespoke way of doing business. He founded Brash in May 2007 and has built a handpicked team of talent who share his vision. John is not your typical CEO, but then Brash is not a typical brand consultancy. Everyday John and his team try and find creative and unconventional ways to help clients identify and realise opportunities for growth. A natural entrepreneur, John is tireless in his enthusiasm and curiosity. His optimistic nature, his genuine interest in clients and their business has played a significant role in cementing our strong reputation in the market. Brash is authentic and agile, their independence will enable them to stay ‘Brash’ and relevant.








To successfully lead the commodities business of DMCC, the world’s number one Free Zone for commodities trade and enterprise, requires a commodities expert that goes way beyond the numbers, logistics and supply chain ‘know-how’ to give the organisation agility to maintain its competitive edge - today, tomorrow and long into the future.

Meet Sanjeev Dutta, Executive Director, Commodities, DMCC, who brings over two decades of multi industry expertise in both audit and consulting as a Chartered Accountant with PwC, India and KPMG, Bahrain and Oman, as well as a wealth of knowledge on the global commodities trade from his more recent roles at DMCC.

Since he joined the organisation 12 years ago, Sanjeev has subsequently taken on a range of both financial and operational roles within DMCC, that span Chief Financial Officer for the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange, through to DMCC’s Director of Control, with overall responsibility for financial controls, corporate governance and risk management.

He has been instrumental in building DMCC’s Innovation Hub; its Tea Centre, which handles over 41 million kgs annually; and DMCC Tradeflow, the dedicated online platform for registering possession and ownership of commodities stored in the UAE; and the much anticipated DMCC Coffee Centre. Sanjeev’s latest role to lead and cement DMCC’s position as the global gateway for commodities trade and enterprise, continues to evolve.

Drawing upon DMCC’s world-class trade infrastructure from its DMCC Free Zone, home to over 14,100 companies; through to its trade facilitation for key commodities sectors such as precious metals, its financial services platforms including the Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange; and its unique platforms like DMCC Tradeflow; Sanjeev ensures the organisation develops the appropriate infrastructure the trade needs to succeed, as well as connecting market participants from all over the world through global events such as DMCC’s annual global Dubai Precious Metals Conference; the Global Dubai Tea Forum; and the Dubai Diamond Conference.

From precious metals, diamonds, tea, coffee, to the food and agri trade; and its financial services platforms that brings trade finance solutions as well as Commodity Murabaha mechanisms to market, Sanjeev ensures the suitable infrastructure that enables people to trade with confidence is in place.

Sanjeev is also a member of DMCC’s executive leadership team, responsible for contributing to the organisation’s general management, strategic direction and growth initiatives. He graduated from Calcutta University in 1995.





Khaldoun Asmar is the CEO of the Barari Group. He is a Serial Entrepreneur and angel investor. He holds a BSc in Computer Science, Leeds University in UK, 1987. Khaldoun Joined the family money exchange and gold trading business in 1988. He moved to Jordan in 1990 and started trading operations in foodstuff, car tires, and auto spare parts. He moved to Dubai in 1993 and laid the foundation for Naseem Al Barari General Trading L.L.C, the mother company of Barari Group. Today Barari Group holds shares in over 30 companies with operational presence in 10 countries.












Mike was born in Germany in 1953 in a town called Gaggeneau; whose name exemplifies culinary excellence. In 1967 he started a 3 year apprenticeship program as a pastry chef followed by another 2 year apprenticeship program as a chef; this paved way to fulfil his ambition to become a professional pastry chef. The following years were years of wanderlust, he got his first experience in a 5 star hotel called Atlantic in Hamburg - Germany and Bayerischer Hof in Munich. In 1975 he left for London to work at the Hilton Park Lane and at The Berkley. During this time he also worked hard to learn the English language. The following years took him to places like Operakalleren in Stockholm, Southampton Princess in Bermuda, Ambassador on the sea in Cape Town. And after his return from South Africa in 1983 he decided to go to Cairo to work at the Nile Hilton as executive sous-chef, this opportunity changed his life, in 1987 he earned the position of an executive chef with the Hilton in Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates.

He has travelled and worked as a chef and executive chef in over 20 countries and in over 35 five star hotels across the world, in the course of which he gained invaluable experience of the hospitality segment and priceless insights into this highly competitive industry. The pursuit of his quest led Chef Mike to set up the Emirates Culinary Guild in 1992 which is the chefs’ association in Dubai with over 1200 members. He served as the guild’s treasurer and also as the organiser of the Emirates Salon Culinare during the annual Gulfood exhibition that hosts over 1200 participants. The other Middle Eastern experiences were mostly around the nineties - 1993 Sheraton Oman, 1996 Doha Sheraton, 1997 opening of the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel in Dubai.

Chef Mike has worked tirelessly to make life easy for the members of the guild. He realized early that reducing prep time and minimizing storage challenges would reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of professional kitchens.

After spending over 16 years in the Middle East and a total of 27 years of experience within the hospitality industry, his cherished dream of serving his culinary counterparts with convenience led Chef Mike to join hands with Barakat Vegetable & Fruits L.L.C. Here, he evolved the novel concept of creating freshly pressed juices and cut vegetables and fruits into a tasteful art. After two years of meticulous planning and thoughtful execution, his dream came true. Barakat Quality Plus was opened for business in 2001, as an extended kitchen to the food industry in the UAE. The new factory was unique in the Middle East. In 2012 Barakat opened another factory dedicated to fresh cut vegetables, gelato ice creams and freshly made soups for retail. Today Barakat Quality Plus has over 750 employees and processes 160 tonnes of fruits and vegetables every day and 46000 litres of fresh juice every day to most hotels, airlines hypermarkets and supermarkets in the region.






Education: Educated at St. Xavier’s Collegiate and graduated with B.Com (Hons) in 1982.
Current Occupation: Wholetime Director with Mcleod Russel India Limited.
Designation: Director Global Sales and Marketing Industry


1.Chairman, Indian Tea Association
2. Chairman CCPA (Consultative Committee of Plantation Associations)
3. Past Chairman of Indian Tea Association’s Export Promotion and Marketing Committee.
4. Past Chairman of Calcutta Tea Traders Association (CTTA)
5. Has been an active member of The Tea Board and Govt of India business and trade delegations to various countries under the Ministry of Commerce, India.

Hobbies and Interests: Cricket, Tennis and football.








MB. Nguyen Thi Anh Hong is standing vice chairwoman of Vietnam Tea Association cum Director of Center for Tea Market Development and Research, with 20 years of experience in the Tea Industry. She is mainly responsible to create and manage trade promotion programs of VITAS including allocation of resources, make plans and take final decisions, contact foreign counterparts, attend international meetings and promotion of trade proposals for the tea industry. She is the one who established the national trademark “Cheviet” for Vietnam tea industry, register the trademark domestically and internationally and popularized it on mass media. She is also Chairwoman of the Board of Organizer of Vietnam Tea Masters Cup, and a righteous judge of International Tea Masters Cup.











Dr. R.A. Fernando is an Alumni of the University of Cambridge having completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business in 2008 and a Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership in 2014. He holds a Doctor of Business Administration Degree from the European University, Switzerland 2016. He also has a Diploma in International Management and Advanced Management Program at the INSEAD Business School in France. He is an Executive in Residence at the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre since September 2010 and Chairman/CEO of Global Strategic Corporate Sustainability Pvt. Ltd.

His career with multinationals spanned 1981-2003, Unilever, Smithkline Beecham International covering Africa, Middle East and Asia in CEO/Business Development positions 1981-2007. He was the first CEO of the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology 2008-2011 and Operations Director of the Malaysia Blue Ocean Strategy Institute 2011-2016 and was the UN Global Compact Focal point for Sri Lanka 2007-2011.

In terms of work exposure he has worked in FMCG, Healthcare, Apparel and Nanotechnology. In terms of assessment of sectors and embedding sustainability/ESG in corporate strategy in addition to the sectors he has worked in, his work with INSEAD/Cedep/UN Global Compact and numerous Boards covered other sectors focused in Asia i.e. National Sustainability Strategy Reviews for Singapore (INSEAD Case 2012), Malaysia (Sustainable Tourism), Vietnam (Pharmaceuticals and Apparel), Plantations (Aitken Spence) and Urban Sustainable Apartments (Fairway Holdings), Leasing and Finance (Lanka Orix Leasing Company) Cedep (EU Management develop initiative) based at INSEAD has contracts with many French MNC’s. Since 2014 he worked with L’Oreal, Valeo, Renault/Nissan’s Asia Pacific management cadre’s each year in June /July in Shanghai to challenge and sensitize them to Climate change risks to their supply chain.

In terms of ongoing projects he is currently involved in working with the European Investment bank, Luxembourg to develop an INSEAD Case Study by reviewing EIB’s commitment to investing in Sustainable projects in the EU and Asia as they mobilize the Euro 88 Billion budget to impact the UNSDG’s.

He has developed the following unique Sustainability/ESG assessment and Strategy embedding tools /matrix for his Masters and Doctoral studies:

1) UN SDG/SCS Embedding Matrix – To help define which 1-3 of the 17 UNSDG each business and Industry should engage and impact
2) Strategic Corporate Sustainability – 7 Imperatives for Sustainable business – An assessment tool to identify which imperatives a business needs to focus on to ‘embed sustainability /ESG’.
3) Strategic Management of Risk - Impact of Climate Change Risk on Sectorial Supply Chains
4) Strategic Management of Sustainability led-Opportunity - Creating New Sustainable Blue Ocean

Market spaces in the emerging sectors of Nanotechnology, Sustainable Tourism, Apparel and Agriculture)

In September 2007, he won a “Global Strategy Leadership award” at the World Strategy Summit for his work in the Apparel and Plantation sectors. In November 2015, he published ‘Strategic Corporate Sustainability – 7 Imperatives for Sustainable business’ (Partridge: Penguin Random House), based on his work at Cambridge University.






Snigdha perceives tea as a lifestyle product and not a commodity. She trained under Japanese Tea Master, Nao Numekawa and founded Tea Trunk in 2013. Tea Trunk curates finest teas directly from farmers and crafts them into unique tea blends with all natural ingredients. Snigdha is an empaneled author and spokesperson for Tea Board of India.

Snigdha is a trained Tea Taster who specializes in creating unique hand-blended teas. Received her certificate as a Tea Sommelier in 2011 from the Tea Sommelier Academy in Sri Lanka. She was trained by the well-known Tea Master, Nao Kumekawa, from Japan. On her tea trails, she has tasted and profiled more than 5000 varieties of teas.

In July 2013, she launched her own line of signature tea blends, where they source teas directly from farmers and craft them into unique tea blends. All blends are 100% natural. No artificial flavors or colors are used. These luxury teas are available at high-end boutique stores, award winning restaurants, cafes, spas and five stars hotels across India. Through the online store, the teas are enjoyed in over 10 countries.

She popularized Tea Appreciation and Tea Tasting events in India, and pioneered the much admired Chai Walk in Mumbai. Over the last three years, she has conducted Tea Workshops and Tasting events for clients like the American Consulate (Mumbai), IIFL, CII, FICCI Flo among others. Over 2000 people have attended these tastings in India and USA. She was awarded the INK Fellowship in 2013. In May 2015, Snigdha was a speaker at World Tea Expo at Long Beach, California, USA. She was profiled alongside eminent tea personalities of the world on World Tea News, the definitive platform for tea trade across the globe. Snigdha is an empaneled author and spokesperson for Tea Board of India. She represents Indian Tea industry in International publications and at Tea conferences around the world.

Her passion for tea extends beyond the trade. She plans to launch a Tea School to revolutionize academic opportunities to study tea. Snigdha’s vision is to set up a global learning hub for Tea, in India. She believes, India without a Tea school is like France without a Wine school.






Mehak Srivastava is a journalist based in Dubai; having spent 90% of her life in the United Arab Emirates, she is well-acquainted with the rampant (as believed by some) tea-culture in these parts. On most evenings, you will find her huddled in front of a chai-stall, constantly complaining about the lack of “authentic Mumbai chai” in the metropolitan city of Dubai. When she finds time away from tea, she pursues writing, reading, and watches films. She holds a bachelor’s degree in media and communications from Manipal University Dubai, and aspires to one day be a significant part of the Indian film industry.












Huzaifa Nalwala, an Indian, obtained a postgraduate First Class degree in Management Science with specialization in Marketing Management from the University of Bombay.

A Research Analyst in Frost & Sullivan’s Automotive practice in Mumbai, he moved to the UAE in 2002 to first join InCite Research as Market Research Executive before moving on to IMES Consulting as Consultant in early 2006. Following the acquisition by ManSci in 2010, he was promoted as Senior Consultant and he has continued to add valuable service to ManSci’s increasing clientele. He is actively engaged in various industry market research and consulting projects in the Middle East & North Africa, including feasibility studies, IPO prospectus studies and market assessment studies in both food and non-food sectors during his career. He is the ManSci’s permanent Research Consultant for Dairy and Beverage markets in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and Algeria. Huzaifa is permanently based in Dubai.









He was born in Bandung, West Java Province where more than 75% of the national tea is produced there. He started his working experience early when in 1965 (till 1968), after completing an internship at the Commodity Trading Division of C. Tennant & Son, New York City, he worked there, which later was acquired by Cargill of Switzerland.

In 1956, his late father, Haji Badruddin, bought a tea plantation called Dewata from a Dutch company, Tiedeman van Kerchem, which was the embryo of the now Kabepe Chakra group of companies which owned 6 tea estates in West Java and Sumatra, and started to venture into Palm Oil plantation in West Kalimantan, to diverse its activities.

PT KBP Chakra had for the last 10 years built close relationship with the small tea growers surrounding their tea estates on a ‘socio entrepreneurial’ basis and was adopted as the company’s strategy in its expansion program. Since 2010 up to November 2017, Mr. Badruddin chaired the Indonesia Tea Board, and he was Chairman of Indonesia Tea Association for two terms (1994 to 1998 and 1998 to 2003), and in 1993 to 1998, was Chairman of the Indonesian Green Tea Cooperative.

He in 1961-1962 participated in the American Field Service (AFS) Exchange Student Program, attending Senior High School in East Windsor, Connecticut, USA and afterward studied at Textile Institute, Bandung, Indonesia.






Ramaz Chanturiya, General Director of the Rusteacoffee Association, which operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation and unites all leading tea and coffee company of the country.

Ramaz is a tea specialist in the third generation and has been engaged in tea business for more than 25 years. Over the years of work in the field of tea, he has gained experience in the production and marketing of tea products, has knowledge of technical regulation for the tea business and is a recognized expert in the field of Government and Public Relation.

From 1997 to the present time he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of International Tea House, whose activities include production of business magazines “Coffee & Tea in Russia” and “Coffee & Tea International”, organization of various tea exhibitions, events and festivals, implementation of generic tea promotion projects, etc.

Ramaz Chanturiya is one of the ideologist-founders and the Chairman of the Tea Masters Cup - the worldwide system of competitions among tea specialists, which development was started in 2013 and where 16 countries are already taking part.







Ali Al Khabbaz is a Business Development Manager who works with Saeed Ahmed Al Mahroos & Sons Company in Saudi Arabia who partners with sales and marketing executives to achieve and grow their business goals. Ali is responsible for ORLANDA TEA in Saeed Ahmed Al Mahroos & Sons Company. Ali is a trained import and export director in GCC.

Ali holds a Master Degree in Marketing & Human Resource Development from the University of Newcastle, Australia.