Qatar awakens with entrepreneurial ideas ahead of World Cup

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With an estimated 1.5 million football fans descending on Qatar in November for the world Championshipthere are many companies eager to show foreign visitors what the country has to offer.

A food experience for the whole family

How many times do we all find ourselves in a shopping mall food court, trying to choose a place to eat? Now there’s an application for that.

West Bay’s Tornado Tower is home to a virtual “food court” where you can browse multiple restaurant menus and pay in a single transaction.

it’s called AND Experience and it’s not a lunch spot like the others – it’s more like ten restaurants in one.

Ali Nasser Al-Saadi is its creator: “A virtual hybrid food hall is basically where we operate different brands under one roof, where a customer can come in and order from different kitchens under the same transaction,” he explains.

Think of a food court: Mom wants pizza, Dad wants a salad, and the kids want pasta. The difference is that all brands here at AND Experience are property of Ali Nasser Al-Saadi. The adventure started in 2015 with mini pancakes in the area The Pearla family-friendly residential neighborhood built on artificial islands, north of Doha.

Al-Saadi said it took about a month for it to spread, but when it did, it didn’t take long until it was making 2000 mini pancakes every 10 minutes.

“It was something very new in Doha,” he recalls. “Having a Qatari concept, managing the business and being there on the ground. He turned pancakes, he was the cashier, he did everything. And he evolved”.

This success led him to open AND Café. Then came the pandemic coup. Trapped in a five-year lease on a building, Al-Saadi needed a plan. That’s when he had the idea to turn his cafeteria into a central kitchen. AND Café has literally become a new dining experience, AND Experience.

“We have the coffee, the pasta, your wings, but we also have people who provide us with West African cuisine. We take brands that people want to open and we help them develop, offering them a place, cuisine, cook and the right tools so they can expand their business”.

In most kitchens, a cook has to master a menu. But here, there are ten different menus for the team to prepare – from salads and hamburgers to Italian and Senegalese cuisine.

Food bloggers put the AND Experience to the test

Dionne Lobo and Ian Marks started their **food blog**five years ago. The couple regularly visit new restaurants in Doha and put them to the test.

“When we arrived in Doha, social media wasn’t such a big thing,” says Dionne. “Over this period of time, all over the world, people started to react more to bloggers, because they are more personalized, people identify with them more than critics.”

We invited Dionne and Ian to try the AND Experience. His verdict: “You can’t go wrong with the butter chicken,” says Ian. “The butter chicken was amazing.” “The potatoes were good,” says Dionne. “Very different, not like the usual potatoes.”

“I think people have started to move away from international franchisees and chains to learn from other people and create similar things in a better way,” says the founder of AND Experience.

Al-Saadi hopes to end cash transactions early next year and is also developing an app where you can place your order, get a table number and have your food delivered as soon as it arrives. Not bad for a business that started as a pancake kiosk just a few years ago.

A vegan business empire

How do you build a vegan business empire? There’s a man in Qatar who knows better than most – Ghanim al Sulaiti . The young founder of Enbat Holdings created seven successful vegan companies – from restaurants to skin care.

“I didn’t come from a business background,” he says. “I had to learn everything from the beginning. I had to immerse myself in the process. So the beginning was very exciting. We were trying to create a space that could inspire people, that could revolutionize the way people eat in Qatar, because we felt that people in Qatar were not aware when it came to our eating habits and how food was affecting our health. Six years later, it is no longer a small business. We are talking about 13 food and beverage outlets We’re talking about two spas that are fully operational. We’re talking about 250 employees and our team members. I always tell people that Doha is now becoming the most vegetarian city in the world. I’m comparing it to New York and LA and London and Paris, because it has 13 vegan restaurant locations around the city.”

Ghanim believes that veganism is more than just a diet: “Veganism is kind of a lifestyle and that’s why I call it a movement, because it’s not just about food,” he says. “It goes beyond that. It goes to the farms. It goes to the way we treat animals, to the way we dress every day. So I think being vegan is being the best version of yourself right now, with the current global situation”.

One of Ghanim’s locations is **Evergreen Organics,**in the Gate Mall shopping center. It combines an integrated shop with a restaurant.

The idea here is to create an escape for people who walk in the mall, which are surrounded by plants and vegetation”, says the founder. “Evergreen is a type of gastronomic experience for all day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have around 70 items on the menu. But at the same time, we have a nice supermarket. The idea is to encourage people to shop locally because we have a lot of local produce and we collaborate with local businesses and local farms to provide really good food.”

Also in the Gate Mall is Mylka vegan ice cream shop and chocolate shop.

“We tried to design it to reflect the beauty of Scandinavian design,” says Ghanim. “But at the same time, ensuring that it reflects simplicity and allows people to enjoy a different kind of space when it comes to veganism, and it doesn’t feel like a vegan place. But for us, that’s more or less the goal behind the concept.” .

There is a whole range of services: Green & Goto grab what you need quickly, evergreenwhere people can take their time a little longer, and Mylk for goodies that are still healthy.

“It’s a business ecosystem, so each business complements the other business,” says Ghanim. “Green & Go is for people on the go, on the subway, Evergreen is more for a weekend break. Mylk is more for when you feel like a sweet treat or feel a craving. So each concept feeds the right place to the right audience”.

Preparing for the World Cup legacy

With an estimated 1.5 million football fans descending on Qatar in November for the World Cup, there are many opportunities for companies to capitalize on foreign visitors interested in experiencing what the country has to offer.

In 2015, the Supreme Committee of Delivery and Legacy – the organization responsible for planning Qatar 2022 – has launched an open invitation to companies to develop projects that could eventually play their role in the FIFA World Cup. This initiative was called challenge 22.

“We wanted to inspire people who use the FIFA World Cup and make their products and services part of the global journey and the tournament itself,” says Ahsan Mansoor, director of Fans and Ambassadors at the Supreme Committee. “We also hope that people will also continue to look to mega-events as an inspiration for innovation.”

solar paving stones

Twelve regional companies were finally announced as winners, including SunPave . Co-founded by engineer Mohammad Al Gammalthe idea is quite unusual: solar panels that you can walk on.

“What’s special about our products is that they allow the freedom to install solar panels without hampering or interfering with space utilization,” he says. “So there’s no need to install frames or mess with the landscape and architecture of the sites. Instead, we just use them as cobblestones and their space is still usable.”

As part of the Challenge 22 legacy, the Al Thumama Stadium will have SunPave solar panels installed prior to the FIFA World Cup in a dedicated area outside the stadium.

“During the World Cup period, the stadium management decided that part of this energy will be directed to feeding an electronic charging area where people can sit down to relax a little and maybe recharge their devices”, says Mohammad.

The Experience Market

Another Challenge 22 planning project to serve visitors in a different way is the tourism application ViaVii. Originally created in Lebanon, it offers visitors a one-stop shop to access different local highlights.

“It’s an experimental marketplace platform where curators can list their experiences online,” says ViaVii COO, Faiha Sahirah.

“We connect those who want to look for new things, find unique things and adventures you can’t find anywhere else with those who can provide these services.”

the local artist rhyme Abuharb was contacted to partner with ViaVii last year.

“For the World Cup visitors”, says Rima, “I will be holding more workshops for them to create their own designs. Because what I want is for people to explore their imagination”.

The company works with service providers that are not simply found through Google, such as Mohammed Al Sulaitiwhose boat trips are entirely based on “word of mouth”, or a local farm that offers family days.

With the world’s biggest sporting event just a few weeks away and with millions of eyes on Qatar, all Challenge 22 winners hope that their business will satisfy a market need that extends long after the tournament is over.

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