Reem Al-Haddad's Instagram business @bakedbyreem was also featured at Torba Market
Reem Al-Haddad's Instagram business @bakedbyreem was also featured at Torba Market

Information Systems student builds business out of class project

A student in the Information Systems Program at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) has taken an idea she developed as a class project and transformed it into a busy social commerce business. Reem Al-Haddad started @bakedbyreem as part of an e-commerce course taught by Nui Vatanasakdakul, associate professor of information systems at CMU-Q.

Al-Haddad brings together Qatari traditions and the latest e-commerce trend with a business that sells home-baked khanfaroosh to the local market. “I started an Instagram business before with hand-calligraphy notebooks, but for the course I wanted to do something with baking.” Al-Haddad is an avid baker, and her family and friends enjoy her healthier, baked version of the traditional Qatari dessert, khanfaroosh.

“I learned so much in the class, like how to take care of customers and estimate my production levels,” said Al-Haddad. When the class was over, she continued with the business, noticing a sharp increase in orders when the pandemic started. “Then during Eid al-Fitr, I had so many orders I had my siblings help with the packaging station, and it was even busier during Eid al-Adha.”

The e-commerce course has been taught at CMU-Q for several years, with a focus on developing a commercial website. Vatanasakdakul decided to take a fresh approach. “I looked at what current businesses do online, and many of them, especially in this part of the world, are using existing technologies like Instagram,” she said. “I integrated design thinking into the course and gave the students the challenge of starting their own business. When they have practical problems to solve, I believe students will learn a lot more from doing than lecturing.”

Vatanasakdakul believes this is the first time a course specifically on social commerce has been taught in Qatar. “The Instagram market is so big here, and focusing on social commerce has an important side effect of supporting and encouraging the growth of local businesses.” The approach to e-business particularly resonated with the Qatari students: nearly all of the students who enrolled in the course last fall are Qatari.

“I saw a transformation with this group of students, including Reem,” said Vatanasakdakul. “They came into the class so quiet, but by the end they were very confident. It was wonderful to see.”

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