We continue to feature Dubai's trailblazing women who are striding with their enterprising spirit and astute business sense.
Cynthia Bou Khalil is the Nutritional Consultant and Clinical Manager Excellence, at Elipse by Allurion, a proven programme that takes a holistic approach to losing weight through a world first and only weight loss device that requires no surgery, endoscopy, or anesthesia. A clinical dietitian, based in Dubai, Bou Khalil has been working Allurion since May 2019 and believes that weight loss is a one- on- one approach fundamentally based on motivation, counselling and support.
Born and raised in Lebanon, Bou Khalil graduated in Nutrition and Dietetics from Université Saint Joseph (USJ) in Lebanon. In 2006, Bou Khalil went on to channel her passion for nutrition completing a Master of Science in Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal.
Today, Bou Khalil has more than ten years’ experience in weight loss. She founded a clinic in Lebanon where she consulted patients for five years and worked in Saleh Clinic and Wellness By Design Clinic as a Bariatric Dietitian for almost six years in Dubai. With such a wealth of knowledge, Bou Khalil has also channelled her expertise and learnings within the education sector, teaching in many universities in Lebanon and the UAE including the Lebanese University, NDU (Notre Dame University), USEK (Université Saint Esprit Kaslik) and Sharjah University.
Today, Bou Khalil works with Allurion to create an effective programme that is based on good healthcare and good science. With a proven programme of over 40,000 patients, it is a holistic approach to losing weight with patients benefiting from six months of dietary support to ensure lasting lifestyle changes long after the Elipse Balloon placement has passed naturally.
Further to her industry experience, Bou Khalil has stepped into the public eye hosting her weekly radio show on Nutrition and Health called ‘Sahtak bi Sahnak’ for two years on the Voice of Lebanon radio station and featuring on TV stations, such as Dubai TV, MBC, Fatafeat and Skynews, to talk about health in the region, a topic she feels passionate about sharing and educating others on often referencing that most people don’t have a problem going on a diet but struggle to be consistent.
Anisha Oberoi started her corporate career in Hospitality and Fashion prior to joining the Ecommerce industry in 2014 as part of the founding team that launched Amazon Fashion in India and Australia, before moving to UAE in 2019 to launch the online vertical of Bloomingdales Middle East.
Secret Skin was born in 2020 with a unique framework committed to ‘People, Planet and Purpose’ as an ecommerce discovery platform that connects global conscious brands to beauty consumers in the Middle East.
“Secret Skin’s story is my story. I was addicted to the superficial as one often is when younger, and my frustration at not being able to find any chemical-free beauty or safe personal care products during my cancer treatment that wouldn’t disrupt my hormones or negatively impact my fertility became the inspiration to create a brand that women like myself could trust; one that would reinforce the importance of women’s health through the narrative of Beauty. I chose to fight back in 2010 and I’m alive today because I had a stubborn desire to live – to see what I was made of, to experience what lay ahead.”
“With our solution customers can buy affordable, plant-based toxin-free beauty and personal care products, and give back to the community. Our brands maintain high standards of product integrity, use ethically sourced ingredients through fair trade, are cruelty-free and gender-neutral with sustainability practices across the flywheel of sourcing, production, packaging and shipping. Through our Eco-Rewards program we enable customers to recycle their plastic bottles and be incentivized for pro-environment behavior.”
Anisha holds an MBA from INSEAD and a digital marketing qualification from Columbia Business School. Having battled breast cancer at an early age, Anisha works passionately with hospitals to raise awareness of early detection amongst the youth. She also mentors young women leaders and MBA aspirants in their career progression path and has been featured in many global publications.
Secret Skin won Women in Tech Global Pitch competition in 2021 and has received wide coverage locally and internationally across print, digital, radio, TV and podcasts since its launch in October 2020.
Deepthi Chandran Joyau is the founder of Only Ethikal, a sustainable fashion e-commerce platform in the UAE.Born and raised in Dubai, Deepthi, a frequent shopper, always found great comfort in buying clothes regularly at a discounted price. After spending fifteen years in the corporate world, she wanted to explore, learn and get creative by shifting her lifestyle to include more sustainable choices.
During this time, Deepthi realized the lack of awareness about the need for sustainable fashion and the impact today’s global fashion industry has on human rights and more importantly, on the environment. This led to the idea of creating Only Ethikal, a platform that could bring together ethical brands and connect them with people who wish to shop, both casually and sustainably.
Only Ethikal curates from brands that believe in defining fashion through the stories each piece of clothing narrates, giving it not only a purpose, but also a trend. All designs produced are traded ethically and are made from sustainable fabrics by workers skilled in the craft of making designs.
Deepthi views Only Ethikal as a platform that can bring a positive change in people’s wardrobe and have an influence on consumers to make conscious choices when they buy clothes. By choosing sustainable fashion, Deepthi feels she has grown closer to many cultures, processes, people and most importantly the piece of clothing itself. She believes that each design on her website speaks a unique story and creates awareness in its own way.
Headquartered in Dubai, Re:Set has been set up as a resource of tools and stories around education, parenting, gender, inclusivity, mental health and well-being. Collaborating with thought-leaders, government officials, parents, educators, counsellors and corporate ninjas, Re:Set provides an in-depth and trusted resource where people can connect, get inspired and learn from one another.
With easily digestible hacks reinforced with real-life examples, Re:Set is a powerful voice in a world full of noise for everyday people to share their real-life experiences and ignite discussions. Together with these collaborative voices, Aakanksha and Re:Set provide insights into the challenges we are confronted with, decoding what it takes to create the next generation of well-rounded changemakers.
Upon completing her Masters in South Asian Studies and International Affairs from Columbia University in 2014, Aakanksha took forward an opportunity to work as a Production Assistant at VICE News, New York, and worked her way to Associate Producer for Daily VICE, a position she held until 2017 in the Toronto office. Aakanksha’s time at VICE saw her pursue countless hard-hitting news stories, with the exciting journey exposing her to the likes of the FBI, tracking down hackers, as well as pitching, producing and interviewing personalities such as the late Chef Anthony Bourdain, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and poet Rupi Kaur. During those years she produced over one hundred stories, worked on numerous documentaries and feature stories, and hosted on-air for the global media channel. Aakanksha also organized and moderated panels with Indian politicians and economists including Derek O’Brien in November 2014 in New York and Dubai in 2017, and Jaivardhan Singh and Arvind Panagariya in May 2018 in Dubai.
Having grown up in a home where education was at the forefront and conversations around tough topics were always encouraged, Aakanksha’s curious nature was nurtured and soon led her to explore and identify major gaps within the Middle Eastern region when it came to addressing important topics such as education, mental health, well-being and inclusion. With parents, children and teachers repeatedly offering their own first-hand experiences and stories, the spark that was Re:Set was ignited, and Aakanksha’s determination to forge a platform to dig deeper and open conversations on these challenges was born.
Living in a world where, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 450 million individuals globally have experienced some form of a mental health disorder and one in four individuals during their lifetime will develop a mental or behavioural disorder, Re:Set aims to dispel misconceptions and stigma surrounding such topics as mental health. Promising a safe, inclusive space that encourages dialogue on issues that matter and inspire change, Re:Set starts conversations via insightful storytelling, proposes solutions, and encourages education around these tough subjects.
With a lack of information and stigma around topics such as mental health, well-being, disabilities, and inclusion, Aakanksha says her determination to dismantle those boundaries and open a dialogue is only the tip of the iceberg for her vision for Re:Set. Re:Set has entered into distribution deals that will reach up to 25 million students, 1 million teachers and 5 million parents by 2025 via workshops, courses, digital and physical well-being activities for schools and families.
Samantha moved to Dubai in 1984 with her parents who were setting up a business that they ended up running for 35 years, so to some extent you could say, it’s in the family! She was always very interested in the region so she decided to learn Arabic at home and then went on to do her degree in Arabic at Durham University.
As a Mum she struggled to find ‘her place’ in the work place – “somewhere that Ï could enjoy the challenge and also have the flexibility to spend time with my family.”
Flowers came into her life because she always loved having them in her home but couldn’t find anywhere to buy a variety of seasonal flowers that were great quality and reasonably priced. Her love for flowers took her to pursue a three-month course in 2014 at London Academy of Flowers to learn floristry. “This was almost six years back; the market has changed so much since then; at that time it really was supermarket flowers or lose a limb,” says Samantha.
Her love for flowers and her floristry course led her to initiate her enterprise- The Gorgeous Flower Company in May 2015 in Arabian Ranches – and what a ride! Samantha is the proud owner of three shops (along with online business) and employs twelve staff. “There have been many challenging times and I have learnt an awful lot along the way but what has never changed is the pleasure I get from watching our customers receive a gorgeous bouquet of hand-tied flowers – it’s the most wonderful product to work with!”, reckons Samantha.