In 1995, Qatar experienced a fundamental shift in its outlook when the Amir, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani took rule, and initiated an economic and soft diplomacy strategy, it came from the strong belief that Qatar, was ready to make its mark on the world stage and it culminated in the country’s hosting of one of the largest sporting events in the world, the FIFA World Cup.
We first saw it in the advent of Al Jazeera as an alternative news channel with a local viewpoint, launched in 1996 by the then Amir, a mere year after he ascended the throne. For the first time, a local voice could be seen and heard on televisions across the Arab World and beyond. As Al Jazeera grew, so too did its reputation as a global news source and as a local success story.
Al Jazeera rivals the BBC and CNN as a leading global news source, but still with a local voice, which matters more than ever amid the devastation occurring in Gaza.
Around the same time, Qatar Airways was taking its first steps towards expansion. With Gulf Air, Qatar was part of a joint venture with the UAE, Oman and Bahrain, but the country wanted focus on its local carrier, eventually withdrawing from the Gulf Air partnership a few years later. Qatar Airways is now recognised as one of the best airlines in the world, coupled with one the best airports in the world. Qatar became a hub of air transport infrastructure brilliance.
The country’s vision has provided proof towards why investing in local is important. And the power of local also accelerated, I would argue through three trends that all lead to us to examine seriously our national strategic priorities towards this subject.
On a global scale, covid made people reconsider their relationship with their community through the grounding of flights and limitations of mobility,
and businesses to re-examine its supply chain amid world supply of product shortages.
On a geo-political block scale - The war on Gaza, leading to the revaluation of consumers in the muslim world with international brands, deeming them
incompatible with their ethical or moral principles.
Lastly, on a national scale, the blockade of Qatar in 2017 by neighbouring countries that made the proverbial phrase “cows fly” come to life, kick starting a
whole dairy industry in the wake of months (thank you Baladna!).
Localism has become more important than ever. The challenge is the need to develop the architecture of economic and social ownership of localism in Qatar. So now we need to turn inward again and find a new collective goal to drive our ambition.
So what does that mean for entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurs in Qatar now have the belief that they can walk in the steps of these local- -gone-global-giants. It’s time we envisioned a future together where the world’s next big brands could come from here, where Snoonu becomes the first unicorn, a Stripe emerges right here from Qatar or the next Coffee Brand replacing Starbucks. This isn’t just a dream; it’s a tangible possibility. These businesses wouldn’t just be selling a product; it would be sharing a piece of Qatar’s soul, its rich history, and its vision for the future. It’s deliberate action in unison.
To do this we have to form collaborative partnerships with our key stakeholders, whether it is with our customers, suppliers or even with government employees. In fact in many cases the same person can be all three. We need to innovate more to really understand what our customers want, and focus less on what we want for ourselves. When it comes to supply chains we have to work together to open up new sources, whether from the region or even farther afield. Finally, we need to form better relationships with local government, in order to help them design easier-to-navigate bureaucracy and to seek better incentives for great products and services.
So the entrepreneurs and dreamers in Qatar, if a global pandemic, a geo-political blockade, or a targeted smear campaign against the country couldn’t effect the positivity and determination. I say: Your local business can be the next global phenomenon. Embrace your heritage, harness your creativity, and let your ambitions soar.
Happy Qatar National Day!