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 Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos
Peter Alagos reports on Business and general news for Gulf Times. He is a Kapampangan journalist with a writing career of almost 30 years. His photographs have been published in several books, including a book on the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption launched by former Philippine president Fidel V. Ramos. Peter has also taught journalism in two universities.
SAP and Microsoft officials together with their customers in Qatar's private and public sectors. PICTURE: Thajudheen
‘RISE with SAP’ kicks off on Microsoft global data centre in Qatar

Major players and stakeholders in Qatar’s private and public sectors stand to gain from ‘RISE with SAP’ in accelerating the digitalisation journey of companies and government institutions in the country.Microsoft and SAP jointly announced the launch of ‘RISE with SAP’ on Microsoft’s hyperscale cloud data centre region in Qatar during the ‘RISE with SAP on the Road’ event held Tuesday in Doha.SAP customers in Qatar can now host RISE with SAP on Microsoft Azure, expanding the opportunities for building a cloud-first economy in Qatar, the GCC, and the Mena region.On the sidelines of the event, Microsoft and SAP officials joined private and public sector stakeholders during a roundtable discussion to elaborate on the role of RISE with SAP in their respective digitalisation journeys.Farha Muhanna al-Kuwari, Human Resources Information Systems Centre director at the Civil Service and Government Development Bureau (CGB), said: “CGB has been partners with SAP for more than a decade to support the transformation of Mawared – the Qatar government’s HR system by standardising processes and streamline operations leveraging the latest technologies.“Considering the mission-critical services that the Mawared platform provides to government entities, the impact of disruption or outage can be severe in terms of business operations, data loss, and reputational harm. By deploying Microsoft Azure Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Solution (BCDR), we are now able to avoid disruptions, protect Mawared’s applications and data, and keep Mawared platform running and recoverable in case of unforeseen disasters or unplanned outages.”Abdulaziz Ibrahim al-Tamimi, CEO of Qatar Primary Materials Company (QPMC), said: “RISE with SAP was a key milestone for Qatar Petroleum Material Company’s (QPMC) holistic digital transformation journey in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 and the countries strategy to diversify its economy.“SAP’s expertise and cutting-edge technologies and Microsoft's cloud infrastructure will play an effective role in achieving our 2023 goals to drive innovation, enhance our competitiveness, and deliver greater value to our customers.”Hamdan Merchant, senior director Innovation & IT & BI at GWC, said: “The cloud offers the ideal option to support the strategic goals of the GWC. Using RISE with SAP on Azure for our deployment, we get instant access to the latest patches, innovations, and updates from SAP.”Al Meera Consumer Goods IT director Abdulaziz Almana, said: “In our journey to adopt digital transformation of our operations across our more than 60 stores to the cloud, we have selected RISE with SAP running on Microsoft Azure to allow us to leverage cloud computing, automated business process, and innovative solutions to significantly improve our operational performance and apply a more integrated approach in serving our clients.”Microsoft Qatar general manager Lana Khalaf said: “Bringing RISE with SAP on Azure to Qatar, supports our efforts to increase opportunities for our customers to innovate on their own terms and achieve their business goals.”Alaa Jaber, managing director, Qatar and Fast Growth Markets at SAP, said: “The aim is to go beyond a technical migration to the cloud and, instead, enable private and public sector entities to truly transform their operations, realising a faster time-to-market for new capabilities and applications.”

Canadian-Qatari Business Forum executive director and board member Yasser M Dhouib.
Business Forum seeks to boost Qatari investments in Canada’s tech, pharma sectors, says official

The Canadian-Qatari Business Forum (CQBF) is seeking to play a key role in increasing the volume Qatar’s investments in Canada’s wide range of sectors, an official has said.In an interview with Gulf Times, CQBF executive director and board member Yasser M Dhouib said that in the next two years, the business forum plans to establish a strategic economic alliance between Canada and Qatar in the trade, business, and economic fields.“Qatar ranks third in the Gulf at the level of trade exchange with Canada. The CQBF’s plans also include increasing the volume of Qatari investments in Canada in vital sectors, such as technology (AI, cybersecurity, and software development), real estate, education, medical sector and pharmaceutical industry, infrastructure, entertainment cities, and the insurance and banking sector,” he explained.Asked to provide an overview of Qatar-Canada bilateral trade and how it witnessed growth over the years, Dhouib said: “Canada and Qatar have enjoyed uninterrupted diplomatic relations since 1974. Qatar is a source of significant potential Canadian direct investment and an important security partner and diplomatic actor in the region.“As the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, the energy sector remains Qatar’s main economic driver, but the government is rapidly transforming toward a modern and diversified economy that is both hydrocarbon and knowledge-based.”Dhouib said in 2020, Qatar was Canada’s third largest merchandise trade partner in the Gulf Region and the eleventh most important partner in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) with a bilateral merchandise trade total of about $196.2mn.Canada’s merchandise exports to Qatar in 2020 were valued at $113.5mn and included mineral ores, aircraft and parts, machinery, cereals, and scientific instruments. Canada’s 2020 merchandise imports from Qatar, valued at $82.7mn, included mineral fuels and oils, aluminium, fertilisers, chemical products, and mineral ores.“More than 9,000 Canadian expatriates live and prosper in Qatar, working within Canadian and Qatari companies and institutions. This dynamic expatriate community is very active in Qatar and helps to advance our mutual interests.“Qatar Airways offers four direct flights per week between Montréal and Doha. Since December 2020, Air Canada operates three direct flights per week between Toronto and Doha,” he said.Dhouib added: “Energy is the most important sector in 2022 and 2023. Qatar Energy has partnered with ExxonMobil to explore Canada’s East Coast (offshore Newfoundland)“Qatar Energy has signed an agreement with ExxonMobil Canada, the leading player in the province’s offshore industry, to acquire a 40% ownership of exploration license 1165A off Canada's East Coast.”

Oliver Oehms, AHK Gulf Regional CEO. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Germany keen to explore green building management, renewable energy development with Qatar, says AHK Gulf exec

Energy and the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sectors is being seen as an important sector for Qatar-Germany investment partnerships post-World Cup, an official of the German Industry and Commerce Chamber in the Gulf Region (AHK Gulf) has said.Aside from hydrocarbons, several other vital sectors would also play a key role in enhancing Qatar and Germany’s economic relations, according to AHK Gulf Regional CEO Oliver Oehms.“I am also very curious to see what’s happening in the field of R&D-driven industry and industrial development, especially since there are exciting ideas in the development of biotech and pharmaceutical clusters. And I see that Qatar has a competitive edge over its peers here in the region,” Oehms told Gulf Times in an interview.This year, Oehms said he is committed to being more active in Doha, citing AHK’s robust partnership with the German Business Council in Qatar.“We still have a fairly new energy partnership between Germany and Qatar. It is a government-to-government (G2G) forum but we are implementing it here in Doha. This partnership is not only about sourcing gas from Qatar.“But in terms of sustainable management practices, green building management, and renewable energy development, among other fields, we would also like to explore these with our Qatari partners,” Oehms explained.He further said, “And knowing that COP28 will be held in the Gulf region, particularly in the UAE, it would be exciting across the region for launching new initiatives to kick off sustainable practices.”Oehms also expressed AHK’s strong support for the sustainable development efforts of Qatar, citing Germany’s expertise in the implementation of renewable energy and generation, solar photovoltaic technology, and wind energy, among many others.“I think the most interesting potential is in energy-efficient building management and energy-efficient building design, whether high-rise or industrial buildings. We still have a significant potential for reducing the CO2 footprint across the region.“Obviously, it would require some political decision-making and defining the respective technical frameworks but for me, it is a low-hanging fruit that would hopefully be picked by our partners here across the region,” he noted.Similarly, sports is also another sector that Qatar and Germany could explore further following the Gulf state’s successful staging of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was the first ever to be held in the Middle East.“The infrastructure is already here. It is a known fact that a lot of German professional football clubs like to utilise the facilities being provided by Qatar. For sure, we will see this growth due to the attractiveness of the destination and maybe Qatar is able to outperform some European destinations in this regard due to the quality of the infrastructure provided. In this regard, I am quite confident,” Oehms emphasised.Speaking on tourism and Qatar’s bid to position itself as a premier tourist destination both globally and in the region, Oehms noted that German tour organisers and cruise ship operators are interesting target groups that could participate in these efforts.“We are very much interested in Qatar’s participation in the International Tourism Exchange (ITB Berlin) slated from March 7 to 9 this year. It may still be too early at this time but certainly, for next year, I am expecting Qatar to come up with some exciting news to be launched during ITB,” he pointed out.

Glenn Penaranda, assistant secretary and officer-in-charge of DTI Trade Promotions Group. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Trade department is eyeing Qatari, other mainstream markets for Philippine exports, says official

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the Philippines is seeking to tap the Qatari and mainstream markets in a bid to make the Southeast Asian nation the "preferred source" for a wide range of food and beverage (F&B) and cosmetics and personal care products, an official said yesterday.Speaking at the Qatar leg of the DTI's Outbound Business Matching Mission (OBMM) to GCC countries, Glenn Penaranda, assistant secretary and officer-in-charge of the DTI Trade Promotions Group, said Qatar is a key export market for Philippine F&B, personal healthcare, and related products.Penaranda is leading this year's OBMM to GCC countries, which is showcasing high-quality products from more than a dozen export companies from the Philippines.In his speech, Penaranda lauded the participation of representatives of the different Qatari companies that attended the event, which concludes today. The OBMM kicked off in Manama, Bahrain, and proceeded to Kuwait City. From Qatar, the mission will culminate in Dubai (February 16 to 25) in time for 'Gulfood 2023'."Beyond this captive market, we really aim to also serve the mainstream market...we encourage both our buyers and partners and our exporters to establish partnerships in pursuing market opportunities here in Qatar and beyond."As we promote increased bilateral relations with Qatar, be assured that the Philippine government through the DTI, the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre (PTIC) in Dubai, and the Philippine embassy in Qatar, will actively engage the Qatari government, its authorities, and the private sector, in facilitating more bilateral business," Penaranda stressed.In her welcome remarks, Philippine ambassador to Qatar Lilibeth V Pono emphasised that exporting companies from the Philippines will not only serve the more than 260,000 overseas Filipinos in Qatar but also the hundreds of thousands of Asian expatriates here, making the country "a very large market for Philippine products.""These Filipino F&B and personal healthcare products will not only cater to the taste of other cultures but also meet global standards in the industry. Filipino products are marketable. They are global. And they can withstand the dynamics of the ups and downs of the global trade and economic environment," Pono said.She added: "The business mission from the Philippines sets out to reinvigorate trade relations and reduce the trade gap between the Philippines and Qatar. In 2021, the total bilateral trade reached $224mn, of which, $46mn represents Philippine exports to this country."In 2021, Qatar ranked as the Philippines' 41st trading partner. We see that there is still enormous opportunities that remain untapped based on our export assessment and the potential export of Philippine food and agri-based products alone can grow to as much as $90mn."

AHK Gulf Regional CEO Oliver Oehms. PICTURE: Thajudheen
German industries’ interest, commitment in Qatar ‘strong and impressive’, says AHK Gulf official

The interest and commitment of German industries in Qatar have always remained “strong and impressive,” according to an official of the German Industry and Commerce Chamber in the Gulf Region (AHK Gulf).The significant importance placed by German companies on Qatar is mirrored by “strong Qatari commitment” towards Germany, either as an investor or as a business or joint venture partner, AHK Gulf Regional CEO Oliver Oehms told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview.“For instance, AHK has been collaborating very closely with the Qatari Businessmen Association (QBA) and Qatar Chamber for many years. We have been operating in Qatar for the past 20 years with our standalone office, which, at the same time, has been supporting the German Business Council in Qatar,” Oehms explained.On Qatar’s pledge to invest €10bn in Germany as announced by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in 2018, Oehms noted that there are several German blue chip companies that have “very strong and growing Qatari engagement.”“It has been known that Qatar has been a very strong partner in Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank, and other German companies. We are very happy that one of Germany’s leading energy providers, RWE AG (RWE), is being supported by Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), which agreed to invest €2.42mn for its accelerated ‘Growing Green’ strategy,” he said.Oehms also said Qatar has investments in Germany’s automotive, banking, and energy sectors, including Hapag-Lloyd AG, a German international shipping and container transportation company, as well as in German pharmaceutical companies.On potential up-and-coming sectors that may encourage future investments and partnerships, Oehms said: “Looking into the portfolio of German industry, machinery is still a strong sector, which is contributing significantly to the development of German exports, which is relatively immune to the ups and downs of international market developments.”“If you look at the economic fundamentals, I think the German industry continues to be a safe haven also for Qatari investments,” he noted.Asked to give an overview of German companies operating in the Gulf, with a special focus on Qatar, Oehms said: “The German portfolio in the Gulf region, in general, is quite broad and deep; it has been developing very dynamically for the past two to three years for various reasons. But certainly, the most important reason is the energy crisis in Europe.”

Some of the collections of Noudar Jewels
Qatari jewellery brand Noudar to launch new collection in DWJE 2023

Qatari jewellery brand Noudar is set to launch a new collection during the highly-anticipated 19th edition of the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE), which will run from February 20 to 25 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC).Noudar’s latest collection is inspired by the history and timeless legacy of natural pearls in Qatar.Speaking at a press conference Sunday, Ali Alfardan, vice chairman of Alfardan Group and president of Alfardan Jewellery, emphasised that pearls are an integral part of Qatari culture.“In the past, Qatar has depended heavily on pearl diving. Today, many people are very interested in pearls, especially natural pearls, which have made a comeback in the market. Noudar is one of our brands that speaks about Qatari culture through its different collections,” he explained.Alfardan Jewellery’s brand name, Noudar, means gold in ancient Arabic. Noor Ali Hussain Alfardan, founder and designer of Noudar Jewels, combines influences from the timeless treasures of Arabian civilisation with a modernist take on luxury jewellery.This collection, like other Noudar collections, also takes inspiration from the noble heritage of Arabic traditions. Islamic patterns, reminiscent of mosaics and Henna designs, are aesthetically present throughout this daring, yet romantic jewellery for the modern woman.The designer’s fascination with watches and horological mechanisms has strongly influenced Noudar’s jewellery, emphasising the importance of craftsmanship to improve comfort, movement, and flexibility in her creations.Noor has been designing jewellery since she was a child. In 2012, she launched Noudar, and she feels that out of all the new fine jewellery brands that have emerged, the ones that are owned by women are doing their best. Today, Noor was included in the Arabian Watches and Jewellery Magazine’s list of the 20 most influential women in the industry.Noudar is the only in-house brand by Alfardan Jewellery and showcases how Noor has inherited the spirit of elegance and modernity of the family while keeping deeply rooted in the beauty of the culture of her ancestors. The designs have been worn across the globe by the likes of Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, and Kendall Jenner.

Ali Alfardan, vice chairman of the Alfardan Group and president of Alfardan Jewellery, speaking about participation in DJWE. PICTURE: Noushad Thekkayil.
Staging more exhibitions key to priming Qatar as tourism haven, says Ali Alfardan

Organising more exhibitions and events in the country will play an integral role in priming Qatar as a global tourist destination, according to Ali Alfardan, vice chairman of the Alfardan Group and president of Alfardan Jewellery.“Organising different types of exhibitions is part of the State’s plan to transform Qatar into a premier tourism destination in the region. After the World Cup and all the infrastructure that has been built, we need to get busy with different events to help spur economic development,” Alfardan told Gulf Times during a press conference Sunday.He announced key points about the upcoming and highly-anticipated 19th Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition (DJWE), which will be held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC) from February 20 to 25.A celebration of luxury and stunning craftsmanshipRenowned international brands and jewellery connoisseurs from all over the world are bringing extremely rare and large stones, both in terms of value and uniqueness.Apart from the perennial favorites, and with nearly 60 brands, this year’s Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition sees an increase in renowned jewellery brands joining the Alfardan Jewellery Pavilion to celebrate the spirit of luxury and stunning craftsmanship.The country’s top luxury retailers and renowned global brands will present their exclusive collections under one roof. They include Chopard, Franck Muller, Corum, Girard-Perregaux, Marli, Chaumet, Noudar, Al Tawash, Yeprem, Butani, Davidor, Gold Design, Molu Jewellery, Shay Accessories, Yessayan, Robert Wan, AWKN1, Mehta and Son, Araya, Krisonia, Khanna Jewellers, Piranesi, Pichiotti SRL, Casato, Zoughaib & Co Jewellery, Samra, House of Rose, and Luvor.“We need a lot of exhibitions in Doha and DJWE is one of those events that would help attract more tourists to Qatar. Events, such as the jewellery exhibition and the classic cars exhibition, for example, are very important to enhance tourists’ experience while visiting the country,” Alfardan explained.According to Alfardan, DJWE’s reputation is growing consistently worldwide based on the number of participating jewellery companies. This year’s exhibition has an exceedingly high number of major brands joining DJWE, he said, adding that about a dozen companies are still on the waiting list and could not be accommodated.“Due to the high number of companies wanting to join DJWE, we have asked Qatar Tourism Chairman and Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive HE Akbar al-Baker to expand next year’s exhibition to have a mezzanine added to the event to accommodate more participants, as well as more facilities to enhance the booths and pavilions,” he said.Alfardan said, “I consider DJWE as the biggest exhibition in the world – even bigger than SIHH (Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie) because many of the companies participating in DWJE are not joining SIHH.“And as al-Baker had said, there are over 500 companies participating in DJWE, including Franck Muller and Tiffany’s, which are not in SIHH,” Alfardan emphasised.In this year’s exhibition, Alfardan Jewellery will feature several high-class brands under its portfolio, such as Chopard, Tiffany, Vacheron Constatin, Marli, Sartoro, Girard-Perregaux, Noudar, Franck Muller, Chaumet, Persee Paris, Yeprem, and Corum.“Once again, Alfardan Jewellery will exhibit an unparalleled collection at the 19th edition of the Doha Jewellery and Watches Exhibition, highlighting unique and elegant gems and pieces, even from our very own Qatari brand. We thank all our customers and visitors for their encouragement as always,” he said.For 18 years, DJWE has been the go-to, exclusive, high-profile gathering for jewellery aficionados, global brands, and aspiring designers. And in 2023, it will continue to be the heart of glamour, where exclusivity, beauty, art, legacy, and unique artistry will intertwine under one roof with almost 60 Alfardan Jewellery brands represented.Unparalleled quality and sophistication are the hallmarks of Alfardan Jewellery, which has been trusted by generations. Alfardan Jewellery is a pioneer in the region for holding the exclusive jewellery and watches exhibition for the first time in 1977. It eventually became a public event in 2003 where the world’s finest designers gathered in the region to feature their best works.

Gulf Times
Philippines seeks to boost food, agri-based products to Qatar by $19.05mn

The Philippines has the potential to increase its exports of food and agri-based products to Qatar by $19.05mn, according to the Export Potential Assessment conducted by the International Trade Centre (ITC).This was announced yesterday by Dubai-based Philippine Trade and Investment Centre (PTIC) as part of the Outbound Business Matching Mission (OBMM) to Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, which is being held from February 11 to 25.The business mission is organised by the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) and PTIC-Dubai. As many as 26 Philippine exporters of halal-certified food, personal care, and cosmetic products will participate in the OBMM.Citing ITC’s Export Potential Assessment, PTIC-Dubai reported in a statement that the Philippines has the potential to increase its exports of food and agri-based products to the UAE by $56.40mn, Bahrain by $3.92mn, and Kuwait by $11.59mn.The ITC assessment also noted that the Philippines has the potential to increase its exports of personal care and cosmetic products to the GCC by $1.53mn.The Qatar leg of the GCC mission will run from February 14 to 16. It is currently being held in Manama, Bahrain until February 13. It will then proceed to Kuwait City (February 13 to 14) and will culminate in Dubai (February 16 to 25) in time for ‘Gulfood 2023’.The Philippines organises additional business-to-business (B2B) matching activities to complement its participation in Gulfood and maximise opportunities for exporters. This also provides an opportunity for buyers to meet Philippine suppliers who are not participating in Gulfood.This year’s mission will include exporters from five Philippine regions that can offer a variety of food, personal care, and cosmetic products to GCC’s diverse population, including Overseas Filipino Workers.In 2022, Philippine exports of food products and personal care products to GCC amounted to $223.4mn and $10.9mn, respectively. Based on the products of participating exporters in the OBMM and the ITC’s Export Potential Assessment, the mission aims to maximise the Philippines’ additional export potential to the GCC estimated at $100mn.In 2021, the UAE accounted for 61.48% of Philippine exports to the GCC followed by Saudi Arabia (18.38%) and Qatar (10.69%).“The Philippines is continuously strengthening its halal ecosystem to be able to better serve the growing global halal market. The mission aims to contribute to increased understanding of Philippine exporters on the halal market in the GCC, especially for the 15 exporters who are first-time participants to the OBMM,” said DTI-Trade Promotion Group assistant secretary Glenn Penaranda.He added: “Furthermore, our sustained initiatives to strengthen partnerships in the Middle East is a testament to our desire to work with other countries in attaining food security through cooperation and innovation.”

Gulf Times
Qatar Chamber official elected to World Chambers Federation general council

Sheikha Tamader al-Thani, the director of International Relations and Chambers Affairs at Qatar Chamber, has been elected as a member of the General Council of the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) World Chambers Federation (WCF), according to ICC Qatar’s latest newsletter.Sheikha Tamader is among the 13 women set to serve on the council, which the newsletter describes as “the most gender-diverse membership in WCF history.”In collaboration with ICC, the federation provides all the tools to support chambers and micro-small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), connecting chambers worldwide to develop and reinforce its chamber community.The WCF represents more than 1,400 chambers across the globe. The election results of its General Council scores high on regional and gender diversity.“Chamber leaders from local, regional, national, and transnational chambers were eligible to run for the General Council, each member serving a three-year term with the opportunity to run twice.“In addition to the 20 elected seats, 15 WCF members are appointed by the WCF chair, in co-ordination with the ICC Secretary-General and the WCF Executive Committee, to ensure a balanced General Council,” the newsletter stated.It also said, “This secures diversity in the network, ensuring members are varied in terms of gender and geography, including developed and developing economy, chamber size, and type of chamber. Five transnational chambers representing different regions of the world have also been invited to join the council.“The final composition of the council sees representation from all parts of membership worldwide. It includes nine representatives from the Americas, 13 from the Africa and Middle East region, nine from Asia-Pacific, and 12 from Europe.”Commenting on the new members, WCF chairman Nicolás Uribe said: “We are proud of the level of enthusiasm and support of our members who showed interest in serving on the ICC WCF General Council.”He added: “We have successfully brought together one of the most diverse and inclusive councils in our long history, and I look forward to working with all members to strengthen the WCF and the wider chamber community, with the overarching objective of elevating and empowering businesses worldwide to be leading players in tackling our most pressing issues. As the representative of chambers of commerce worldwide, we must lead by exemplarity to drive an impactful future for chambers everywhere.”

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
LuLu Group seeks to expand footprint in Australia

LuLu Group is looking to export to Qatar a wide range of Australian products bearing its brand name as the hypermarket chain seeks to expand its footprint in Australia, a top official has said.Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, said LuLu started with a very limited number of perishable items from Australia; but in the past four years, there has been an increase in Australian products to include a wide range of food and non-food goods.In co-operation with Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), the commercial division of the Australian embassy, LuLu Group now has a small presence in Melbourne, he said.“Very soon, we will start shipping some of the best products out of Australia. LuLu will buy products from Australia and we will go through all the needed processes, such as halal certification and traceability and quality testing,” Althaf said.According to Althaf, LuLu’s export operations and footprint expansion in Australia will play an increasing role in Qatar’s food security. Historically, GCC markets depended very heavily on Australia for their supply of protein, perishables, and other products, he noted.Althaf pointed out that Australia has a long history of working with companies and governments from the Middle East, as well as a long history of producing high-quality halal products.“So, LuLu is going to take the benefits of all of these now,” Althaf noted, adding that he is scheduled to visit Australia this month and meet with the government to officially start the group’s operations there.He said, “Because Australia is such as vast continent, LuLu will be working with existing logistics providers there, and over a period of time we would be able to determine the best area to locate. But we will start exporting; we are now putting up our facility for halal certifications and other types of testing, so once that is completed, we will start shipping directly.“LuLu will also approach small-scale but high-quality abattoirs and start shipping on our own. And we also want to move up the value chain by introducing high-quality Wagyu and speciality meat from Australia. We are moving away from commodity meat and will start introducing far more premium meat to Qatar.”Althaf also said LuLu will also include other export goods from Australia, such as fish, perishables, fruits and vegetables, and other organic ranges, noting that Australia also has a high potential for healthy beverages, which LuLu intends to introduce more on its shelves.“This partnership with Australia will not only be on imports and exports; Australia is also well known for food technology, and we are already in discussion with some food innovation centres in Australia, so we will try to work with them more closely to create healthy food range for the region,” Althaf added.

Australian ambassador Jonathan Muir. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar doubles investments in Australia to reach QR10bn, says envoy

Qatar has doubled its investments in Australia in the past two years, which now sits at around 4bn Australian dollars or about QR10bn, according to Australian ambassador Jonathan Muir.Speaking on the sidelines of ‘Australian Week’ organised recently by LuLu Group, Muir said: “We’ve seen a doubling of Qatari investments in Australia. Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is a major investor in commercial real estate, electricity grid, and a partner in the Sydney Airport.”Muir also lauded Hassad Foods’ investments in Australia, as well as Nebras Power’s contributions to the country’s energy mix.“We value Hassad Foods’ investments in Australia. But more importantly, we have seen an increase in Qatari investments over time...Nebras Power is a great investor in Australia, which is decarbonising its economy.“So, they are now important investors in Australia’s renewable energy sector, taking important stakes in two green farms, and we welcome further investments from them over time,” the ambassador emphasised.Asked about Qatar-Australia trade, Muir noted that bilateral trade between both countries is “really going well.”“Two-way trade reached 2.6bn Australian dollars or about QR7bn. Over the course of the last four years this is annualised growth of about 8% year-on-year, so despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic trade between Qatar and Australia continues to grow annually,” Muir told Gulf Times.He said Australia’s top exports to Qatar are mostly engineering services, meat, and produce, while its top imports from Qatar are aviation services, aluminium, and fertilisers.Muir also lauded Australia’s relationship with LuLu Group, which he stressed is ramping up its relationship with different major Australian suppliers. The ambassador also praised the support extended by Qatar Airways, especially during the pandemic, allowing Australian exports to reach international markets.“Over the past years, LuLu has ramped up its relationships with suppliers in Australia leading to an increase in our local products and the volume, as well. We are also grateful for the support we received throughout the pandemic from Qatar Airways by helping to keep our exporters connected to the world, and we’re also very grateful to the tourism that they bring,” he said.

Jonathan Muir and his wife leading the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the presence of Dr Mohamed Althaf and other dignitaries and guests. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Aussie F&B goods take spotlight at LuLu’s ‘Australia Week’

LuLu Group, in co-operation with Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), the commercial division of the Australian embassy, launched Sunday ‘Australia Week’, which will be celebrated in all LuLu hypermarkets across the region.Australian ambassador Jonathan Muir and his wife inaugurated the event held inside LuLu’s hypermarket at Giardino Mall, The Pearl Island, in the presence of Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.The event was also graced by other special guests, including ICC Qatar secretary-general Remy Rowhani, BLJ Worldwide CEO Justin Kerr-Stevens, and Austrade Business Development manager - Qatar Diana Monis, among others.Speaking at the event, Muir emphasised that Australian food and beverage products have gained “an impeccable reputation” around the world for superior quality, great value and innovative production methods.He stressed that Australian produce is renowned for its diversity, freshness and excellence, with beef, lamb, seafood, truffles, olives and cheeses consistently ranking among the world’s best.“Our products are also tailored to meet the specific needs of international markets, with many Australian companies specialising in organic and halal products, as well as those with reduced sugar, salt and fat, preservative-free, gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free,” Muir said.He also lauded LuLu’s “sustained efforts” to promote Australian food and non-food products locally and beyond the Qatari market through its extensive network of hypermarket chains.“You can find these products in the world’s most prestigious restaurants, in the cabins of Qatar Airways, on the shelves of the finest retailers, including, of course, your local LuLu. These unique food offerings have also become a major draw for visitors to Australia and research shows that travellers rate it as one of the top two countries in the world for food experiences.“With Australia hosting the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer, I am thrilled to announce that residents of Qatar are among the largest purchasers of tickets for the event. I encourage all of you to visit Australia this summer for an unforgettable experience, where you can not only enjoy exciting football but partake of some of the world’s best food,” Muir added.On the sidelines of the event, Dr Althaf told the media that Australian products “have been increasing significantly” at all LuLu outlets over the last four years “due to growing local demand”.“We had started importing different food and non-food items from Australia. Now, we have almost all ranges of Australian products, which have become an integral part of LuLu’s offerings,” he explained.According to Dr Althaf, LuLu Group is working closely with Austrade to expand its footprint in Australia. “We will be able to start shipping a wide range of products from Australia to Qatar soon. LuLu will buy products in Australia and export them to Qatar.“This will go through all necessary processes like halal certification, traceability and quality testing to bring the best products from Australia. We believe this initiative will play a proactive role in ensuring food security in Qatar. Historically, GCC markets depended very heavily on Australia for perishable and protein-rich foods, as well as other products.”According to Dr Althaf, Australia has a long history of producing high-quality halal products, especially for the Middle East and GCC countries. “LuLu is going to benefit from this initiative and we are looking forward to meeting with government officials to start import operations officially from Australia,” Dr Althaf said.‘Australia Week’, which has been organised by LuLu Group in Qatar since 2018, will run until February 11 and is showcasing major product lines that are directly imported from Australia.These include fresh meat, organic foods, muesli bars, plant-based milk, sauces, cake mix, honey, groceries, and fresh fruits and vegetables, among others. Recent reports say there has been a considerable increase in Australia’s exports of livestock, fresh food, processed food products and vegetables to Qatar.During the inaugural ceremony, students from King’s College Doha delivered live musical performances. Chef Ali’s live cooking sessions were also organised during the festival, while special counters were set up to allow customers to sample different kinds of food from Australia.

Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen. PICTURE: Thajudheen
LuLu’s Colombo export facility pushing growth in Sri Lanka exports to Qatar

LuLu Group’s world-class sourcing, food processing, and export unit in Sri Lanka has been playing a significant role in increasing Sri Lanka’s exports to Qatar, a top official has said.Speaking on the sidelines of the ‘Taste of Sri Lanka’ festival held Saturday, Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, emphasised that the South Asian nation has been developing a wide range of organic lines, which LuLu Group brings to Qatar “in large quantities”.The group’s state-of-the-art facility, which is located at the Katanayake Export Processing Zone near Colombo International Airport, focuses on sourcing, processing, storing, packaging and exporting fruits, vegetables and commodities from Sri Lanka to different LuLu operations across the globe.“Sri Lanka has several unique items that are in high demand in the local and international markets, such as organic products and superfoods. Many Sri Lankan products are well-known for their high quality, such as tea and spices, among others,” Dr Althaf stressed.Sri Lankan ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen emphasised that business between LuLu Group and Sri Lanka has been growing steadily year-on-year not only in a wide range of export products but also in manpower, thus providing more job opportunities for Sri Lankan nationals in Qatar.“Trade between Sri Lanka and Qatar is about $90mn. Our country is known for its wide range of high-quality products that are exported to Qatar, including apparel, vegetables, and fruits with a special focus on bananas and superfoods like moringa leaf and coconut,” the ambassador said.Dr Althaf also said the 2023 edition of ‘Taste of Sri Lanka’ festival, which is organised annually by LuLu Group in co-operation with the Sri Lankan embassy in Qatar, commemorates the country’s 75th Independence Day.“The festival is part of a series of events organised by LuLu Group to celebrate the culinary heritage and culture of different countries. The Sri Lankan community in Qatar is one of the largest expatriate populations, which played an important part in the development of Qatar,” said Dr Althaf.A wide range of Sri Lankan commodities and agricultural produce are offered on display at discounted prices. Special counters were set allowing customers to taste and sample different Sri Lankan food products, he added.

Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen and Dr Mohamed Althaf at the ribbon-cutting ceremony along with other dignitaries and officials. PICTURE: Thajudheen
‘Taste of Sri Lanka’ fest at LuLu stores showcases culinary gems, cultural values

Culinary delights and cultural values, among other highlights, are taking the spotlight during this year’s edition of the ‘Taste of Sri Lanka’ festival, which was inaugurated Saturday at LuLu Hypermarket, Ain Khaled branch.The annual event has been organised by LuLu Group in co-operation with the embassy of Sri Lankan in Qatar to mark the country’s 75th Independence Day. Sri Lankan ambassador Mohamed Mafaz Mohideen led the ribbon-cutting ceremony in the presence of Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.Other VIPs and dignitaries present during the opening rites included Naser Mohamed J al-Marri, chairman of Doha International Consulting (DIC); Ishan Final, CEO & GM of DIC; Charith Jayasena, COO, Al Harib Security Systems; Kumudu Fonseka, chairman, Board of Trustees, Stafford Sri Lankan School Doha; and Kashayapa Ukwatte, minister counsellor at the Sri Lankan embassy.LuLu Group is celebrating ‘Taste of Sri Lanka’ to promote the South Asian nation’s unique culinary heritage, diverse culture and values, and colonial influences, which were handed down for generations.The festival, which is being held at all LuLu stores across Qatar until February 10, showcases the best-quality Sri Lankan ethnic products, a wide range of grocery items, and other agricultural and organic produce.The celebrations will also promote traditional Sri Lankan dances performed by students from Stafford Sri Lankan School and Dinu Dance Academy, along with other cultural programmes, thereby creating an ambiance that is reminiscent of the country’s rich culture and tradition.Aside from culture, heritage and cuisine, the festival is also highlighting the longstanding Qatar-Sri Lanka business ties and Sri Lanka’s top export-quality products targeting both Qatari citizens and expatriate communities.On the sidelines of the festival, Mohideen emphasised that the festival is offering a wide range of authentic Sri Lankan products, including organic and superfoods imported by LuLu Group.“I am grateful to LuLu Group for all the support it is extending in promoting Sri Lankan products not only in Qatar but also across the GCC. They are one of our strongest supporters,” Mohideen pointed out.

Government policies and advanced technological infrastructure present investment opportunities worth $75bn in Qatar’s cleantech sector by 2030, according to a report by Investment Promotion Agency Qatar.
IPA Qatar sectoral study highlights investment opportunities in cleantech

Government policies and advanced technological infrastructure present investment opportunities worth $75bn in Qatar’s cleantech sector by 2030, according to a report by Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar).IPA Qatar’s ‘Cleantech Sectoral Study’, which was posted online recently, stated that government initiatives leading to investment avenues include the aim to develop 100% electric vehicles by 2030, the plan to provide and install over 600 charging devices at business warehouses and stations, carbon emissions reduction, and the establishment of the “world’s largest e-bus depot” capacity to accommodate 478 electric buses and equipped with 11,000 solar panel units.In terms of energy initiatives, the report reiterated QatarEnergy’s launching of its new sustainability strategy, which plans to reduce the carbon intensity of its LNG facilities by 35% by 2030. It also mandates the deployment of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) facilities to capture more than 7Mtpa of CO2 in the country.The report stated that Qatar was the first GCC country to implement a waste-to-energy programme that currently generates over 30MW of electricity from its Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre (DSWMC) at Mesaeeid.Qatar received international praise for hosting the first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup last year.But the country is also moving towards solar energy adoption and is also utilising renewable resources, stated the report, citing the installation of an 800 megawatt (MW) additional capacity of renewable energy sources that range from gas-based to photovoltaics (PV) and wind power, as well as major solar projects like Al Kharsaah (Siraj solar power plant), and Qatar Solar Technologies’ (QSTec) aim to develop a $1bn polysilicon production facility.The report noted that Qatar’s cleantech value chain is “incredibly dynamic” and integrated with several players across technology development, manufacturing, distribution and project development, and services.Qatar’s thriving technology sector is critical to the growth of cleantech in the region, according to the report, citing technological infrastructure and extensive R&D, robust support systems, enablers, and skilled talent.The report pointed out that successful national strategies and sustainability are poised to drive cleantech growth in the Mena region. It stated that tech-based agricultural practices in the Mena have revolutionised agri-food sector investments.Exposure to sunlight also plays a significant role in pushing cleantech sector growth. The region receives between 22% and 26% of all solar energy striking the earth, which enhances the potential for a vibrant renewable energy sector, stated the report, citing World Bank estimates. Also, solar installed capacity in Mena is expected to increase by almost 40GW by 2025, it stated.The GCC has the fastest-growing renewable energy sector reaching $25bn in 2022, and by 2030, GCC countries aim to reduce oil consumption by 23%, creating more than 220,000 jobs in the region’s renewable energy sector. Gulf national oil companies can have an early-mover advantage in green hydrogen production and export, potentially bringing in $200bn in revenue by 2050, the report added.

USQBC president Scott Taylor. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
USQBC expected to host US congressional delegation in Qatar

The US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) is planning to host a delegation of American congressmen, which is expected to arrive in Qatar this February, the council’s top official has said. Scott Taylor, USQBC president, said the planned visit of the US congressional delegation to Qatar is part of the council’s efforts to boost the trade and economic relations between both countries. “There is a delegation in the works and it will be composed of bi-partisan members of congress from different US states. Most of the time, members of congress have specific industries in their respective districts that relate to Qatar, whether it’s energy, sustainability, or defence. “The dates for this event are being firmed up and it may happen this February, probably right around or just right after the strategic dialogue that is currently happening,” Taylor told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. According to Taylor, members of the congressional delegation from the US are slated to meet with ministers and other high-level government officials in Qatar, as well as with US ambassador to Qatar Timmy Davis and other dignitaries. Also expected to participate in the meeting are US and Qatari companies and other players and stakeholders of both countries’ private sectors, as well as members of the US military and their Qatari counterpart, Taylor pointed out. Taylor, a former congressman and US Navy Seal, underscored the importance of forging networks between private sector companies and congress members, who can impact policy in different industries and business sectors. Asked about USQBC’s plans for 2023, Taylor said: “The USQBC will strive to organise a congressional delegation to Qatar once every quarter. AsUSQBC, we basically decided that I would visit Qatar at least once every quarter.” Taylor added: “My vision as president of the USQBC is to make sure that I am coming here on a regular basis because obviously, relationships are very important in this part of the world and it is important for me to build relationships with my existing members and with the authorities in Doha, as well as with prospective members.” Taylor was appointed USQBC president in June 2022, and he aims to utilise his extensive experience in international business development, government relations, and government diplomacy to support the council’s mission to expand and enhance the bilateral business relationship between Qatar and the US.As a congressman representing Virginia’s 2nd district, Taylor served on the Appropriations Committee. He was a sponsor of the AshantiAlert Act, a nationwide network for missing persons, and the VA SEA Act for accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to his time in Congress, Taylor served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar-India bilateral trade over $18bn in 2022, says Indian envoy

The value of bilateral trade between Qatar and India crossed the $18bn level, recording a 33% year-on-year growth, according to Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal.Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of ‘India Utsav 2023’ organised recently by LuLu Group, Mittal said: “Bilateral trade between India and Qatar has always grown strength to strength. Last year, we saw that the value of bilateral trade crossed $18bn and I think it is a new landmark since it is a more than 33% growth compared to 2021.“Our effort is how to realise its true potential and how to diversify the trade basket. We are happy that we are among the top five trading missions for Qatar. Our effort continues to find new ways and means to do so.”Mittal also underscored the need for Qatar and India to work on a comprehensive economic partnership in other fields, such as energy, citing Qatar as a “steady and reliable partner” of India’s energy security.“Our effort on both sides is how to deepen these ties and give it a comprehensive relationship because India is diversifying its energy mix. We are increasing our gas target from 6% to 15%, so we can work together in terms of gas-based infrastructure, which needs to be developed in India to increase consumption,” the ambassador pointed out.Aside from energy, Mittal emphasised that India is also looking to work with Qatar in the fields of food and health security, as well as other areas, such as Information Technology, Artificial Intelligence, and education and student exchange.On food security, Mittal lauded LuLu Group for organising India Utsav 2023, which not only showcases and promotes a wide variety of Indian products but also the importance of millets, citing the UN’s declaration of 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets’.“There is a special effort to present all varieties of millets at every LuLu outlet as 2023 was declared by the UN as ‘International Year of Millets’, explained Mittal, who stressed that millets are seen as a ‘super food’ and is environmentally sustainable.Mittal underscored the need to promote awareness of the importance of millet and its positive impact on people’s health, saying it is a “very good substitute” for rice and other grains.“When we talk of climate change and food scarcity, promoting millet is also the same as encouraging mindfulness on the environment and climate action in our way, and India is participating in a big way in these efforts.“The Indian embassy in Qatar is also doing the same and we are happy that the Indian Business and Professionals Council in Qatar, LuLu Hypermarket and other Indian hypermarkets, and Indian schools, are spreading awareness on millets and its strengths, and I’m sure as awareness on millets grows, the demand and supply of millets will grow, as well,” he stressed.Asked about the Indian embassy’s role in post-World Cup Qatar, Mittal said many Indians who came to Qatar for the first time during the tournament lauded the economic development achieved by the state.“Economic co-operation, trade, and investment partnership between India and Qatar are growing steadily and we have seen that during the FIFA World Cup, which was hosted very well by Qatar.“Around 16% of the fans who came here for the World Cup in Qatar were Indians and many of them came to the country for the first time, and they were very amazed and awestruck with the arrangements of the matches and with the development of Qatar,” Mittal told Gulf Times.He added: “A lot of businesses that came to Qatar during the tournament show a huge potential; that in itself speaks that there will be new trends and opportunities that will happen and grow, and we will see this trend growing upwards this year.”

Dr Mohamed Althaf explains the importance of millets during the inauguration of India Utsav 2023, which is being celebrated at all LuLu stores. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Health benefits, sustainable farming push global demand for millets, says LuLu top official

Millets, also known as ancient grains grown worldwide, have taken centre stage during the celebration of India Utsav 2023 held recently at LuLu Hypermarket, Barwa Madinatna.According to Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, millet is becoming "more and more popular" due to its benefits for health, particularly for diabetics. Similarly, the demand for millet in the agriculture sector is also growing because of its sustainability.Dr Althaf pointed out that India Utsav is an annual event. This year, the festivities also highlight ancient grains as a health product following the UN’s declaration of 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets', he explained.Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal, who inaugurated India Utsav 2023, said: “India is one of the largest producers of millet, which is considered a superfood, and India Utsav 2023 is a good opportunity for visitors to learn about the use millets in day-to-day life.”Regarded as an old grain, millets are small, spherical whole grains that are grown in Nigeria, India, and other Asian and African nations.Mittal said the 10-day India Utsav 2023 is not only focusing on a wide variety of millets and their health benefits, but the festival is also showcasing a wide range of Indian food and spices, authentic dishes, and ethnic clothing.India Utsav 2023, which aligns with India’s Republic Day, will primarily feature and promote top-notch Indian cuisine, as well as the nation’s rich cultural history. The event also strives to highlight India’s prowess in manufacturing and innovation among local and international audiences.The festival offers an exclusive display of these products at all LuLu stores in the region. Moreover, LuLu Hypermarket is also highlighting a huge range of bakery products made of millets, as well as fresh hot foods prepared in-store for the entire promotion – from biryanis to curries, popular street foods, traditional sweets, and many other delicacies.LuLu Group regularly imports more than 4,000 products from India, including popular fast-moving consumer goods (FMCGs), products bearing the LuLu private label, fruits and vegetables, packaged food items, household goods, kitchen essentials, and traditional wear and other garments, which are available throughout the year in all stores across the region.The group also has a strong network of food processing and logistics centres across India for exporting bulk products to countries in the Middle East, North-Eastern Africa, Indonesia and Malaysia.