Qatar Tribune: CMU-Q grad helps boost Qatar’s self-sufficiency drive through culturally-inclined business
Editor’s Note: Mohammed Rashid Al Matwi completed his studies in business administration at CMU-Q in 2015 . Al-Matwi is also the Founder of Shnaita.
By: Tribune News Network
He wants to see his country being self-sufficient. Mohammed Rashid al Matwi, the 25-year-old Founder and CEO of ‘The Perfume Factory’ in Doha, and a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university, is quite clear about it as he says, “I’m proud I’m contributing to that goal.” While the statement typifies the enthusiasm of Qatar’s young entrepreneurs in general, it also reflects QF’s graduates, such as Matwi, who have bucked the trend of starting tech ventures, and chose instead to focus on businesses that contribute towards Qatar’s cultural self-sufficiency.
“Perfumes are an integral part of Arab culture; the number of shops and home-based businesses that sell perfumes in malls and souqs is proof of this. For decades, perfumers who had their own small-scale set up in Qatar imported liquid raw materials to mix their own scents.”
“These chemicals, when imported by individual businesses, are always expensive, and are often from unreliable suppliers. People in the country were forced to use them as they had no local supplier. Hence, the end products were always expensive and of low quality.
“As a person who could clearly understand just how ingrained perfumes are in our day-to-day life, I wondered if there was anything I could do to help people in Qatar enjoy something that is a part of their identity – at lower costs and higher quality.”
Matwi’s solution was to build a facility to manufacture perfumes with raw materials of the highest quality, sourced from some of the best suppliers in Europe. In addition, he would create a first-of-its-kind service: to build a customised perfume business that handled the A to Z of perfuming making – from sourcing raw supplies to the manufacturing of ready-to-use perfume brands. With persistence, and some timely support and guidance from Qatar Development Bank, he set up the country’s first ‘factory’ dedicated only to perfumes, at the end of 2017.
Situated in Doha’s Industrial area, parts of the building resemble a high-end perfume shop, complete with soft spotlights, elegant furnishing and display cabinets. Design studios, a high-security blending lab, and a bottling, storing and dispatching area complete the facility.
The QF graduate’s business currently caters to a sizeable segment of the local perfumery market. He sells liquid raw materials to local businesses, in addition to blending bespoke fragrances, serving different market segments, including those selling perfumes in hypermarkets and high-end perfume outlets.
Across Doha, in one of the high-rises in West Bay, yet another QF graduate – Noora Bu-Helaiqa, founder and CEO of Qommunication, a home-grown Public Relations (PR) company – is on a similar mission to help Qatar’s businesses, organisations and people grow.
“Having worked in the communications departments of reputed organisations in Doha, I noticed that all the top-rated and in-demand PR agencies in Qatar were from abroad. And though these international teams were good, there was clearly a gap – the market needed home-grown PR professionals who had lived here all their lives; experts who could identify better with the cultural nuances of local businessmen, and hence, could effectively communicate Qatar’s culture and achievements to the outside world.”
Bu-Helaiqa decided to do something about it. She quit a high-paying job and attended the incubation workshops at Qatar Business Incubation Center. She started Qommunication, but realising that she would need a formal, structured training programme if she wanted to take her plan forward, she joined HEC Paris in Qatar, another QF partner university, to study a postgraduate degree in Strategic Business Unit Management.
“The modules I learnt at HEC Paris in Qatar taught me to read financial reports, discuss budgeting, make informed business decisions, and hire the right talents to support me,” she says, adding, “And it paid off! In just over a year, our team was one of the companies who worked on the inauguration of the National Museum of Qatar in March and recently of the Al-Janoob stadium in Al Wakrah.”
According to Bu-Helaiqa, it also gave her the confidence to get ahead of other PR agencies and expand on a trend that was just catching on in the country – that of using social media influencers to promote different areas of interest to the public.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned at HEC Paris in Qatar was to capitalize on resources, by applying them to as many opportunities as possible,” she says. “So, when it came to social media, our team was one of the first to position local social media personalities to promote both international and local brands, in addition to lifestyle trends and businesses.”
Both Bu-Helaiqa and Matwi point out how their QF education taught them that the emotional needs of a population are inseparable from business and market trends; that they are mutually inclusive.
“I never knew the extent to which a QF education would empower me to directly influence the way people in the country, and abroad, perceive Qatar – its culture, its achievements, its vision,” concluded Bu-Helaiqa.