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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.
Alfardan Group chairman Hussain Ibrahim Alfardan, Turkish ambassador in Doha Dr Mustafa Goksu, and Commercial Bank chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Jabor al-Thani lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony, while Alfardan Group president and CEO Omar Hussain Alfardan looks on. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Commercial Bank opens 2nd exclusive Premium Lounge at Place Vendome Mall

Commercial Bank opened on Monday its second Premium Lounge at Place Vendome Mall as it continues to lead the way in providing world-class banking experience for the bank’s Premium customers in Qatar. Commercial Bank chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali bin Jabor al-Thani and board members officially opened the lounge during the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by key dignitaries and the bank’s top officials.   Following the successful launch of the first CB Premium Lounge along D-Ring road, this additional facility presents a new milestone in Commercial Bank’s plan to expand the availability and accessibility of banking for its premium clients. It provides them with access to a full range of financial services in luxurious and discreet surroundings and really helps establish Commercial Bank as the number one choice for premium customers in Qatar. Located at Place Vendome Mall’s C-level, the new CB Premium Lounge is designed to welcome Sadara and Private Banking clients in an extraordinary environment, where they will experience a distinct level of service, accessing a full range of banking services, including wealth and investment management, real estate financing, secure access to stock markets, and the full range of banking services offered in the privacy of individual suites. As part of the opening celebration, Commercial Bank is offering eligible guests the chance to win a VIP shopping trip to Turkey for two people, plus the chance to win instant prizes through a grand draw for both new and existing members of Sadara and Private Banking. Commercial Bank Group CEO Joseph Abraham said, “The launch of our new luxurious CB Premium Lounge at Place Vendome Mall is a continuation of our focus on providing our Premium clients with an exclusive experience in luxury premises combining innovative products catered to their lifestyle and wealth needs combined with personalised service and offerings.” To highlight the exceptional services and unique customer experience provided in the new Premium Lounge, Shahnawaz Rashid, EGM and head of Retail Banking, said: “The new CB Premium Lounge aims to exceed our Premium client’s expectations by providing them with access to a wide range of financial services in an extremely luxurious and comfortable environment where they can discuss all their financial matters in total discretion. “All handled by specialists and relationship managers, they will enjoy access to financial advice helping them achieve their goals, accessing wealth, tailored investment and borrowing solutions, plus traditional banking services and access to safety deposit boxes.” Also, Hussein al-Abdulla, chief marketing officer and head of Premium Banking, added: “Our commitment to investing in our Premium customers starts with understanding their deepest needs. We find solutions often in an innovative way to go beyond the ordinary. “This new exclusive Premium Lounge shows our capability in providing them with world-class services in the highest levels of modernity and luxury they have come to expect. Once again, Commercial Bank leads the way in redefining the banking experience in Qatar.”  

USQBC president Scott Taylor delivering a speech during his visit to Doha.
US firms eye investments in energy, food security says, USQBC president

Qatar’s energy sector and food security initiatives are among the many investment opportunities that US companies are keen to explore, according to an official of the US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC). Scott Taylor visited the country for the first time since he was appointed president of USQBC in June this year and has held meetings with the Ministry of Municipality, Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA), Qatar Financial Authority (QFC), Hassad Foods, and Media City Qatar, among others, during his trip. “These meetings lead into my vision, where I see USQBC, and what we should be doing. USQBC is a bespoke organisation, which has very tailored solutions and access, and is helpful to our members, especially US companies that want to have connections or may need our help to do business in Qatar and vice versa. “Where I think we need to go is one of the reasons why I'm here, and why we'll get to be here fairly often is to understand the direction of the country – where it is going in terms of defence, energy, and food security, climate change, and genomics, ICT, and so on. This country has a vision and USQBC needs to grow with it and aligned with Qatar’s focus, as well,” Taylor told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. Citing Qatar Media City, for example, Taylor said it has “an ambitious plan,” which includes e-sports and gaming that complements Qatar’s direction post-FIFA 2022. “We have a lot of that (e-sports/gaming) in the US, so that gives me an understanding of where they’re going and where they want to be, so I can reach out to US companies in that space who may want to do business here and have a presence in Qatar. It all comes down to aligning USQBC’s efforts with this country and where it is headed,” he explained. Taylor also lauded the recent arrival of US ambassador Timmy T Davis, with whom he had discussions on US-Qatar business and commercial ties, as well as on the growing relations of both countries. “I’m excited to have him. I know he is going to be a massive resource not just for commerce and business, but also for the relationship of our two countries,” Taylor pointed out. Taylor also assured USQBC’s role in facilitating Qatari investments into the US, citing sectors like real estate and investments in equities and companies, as well. He stressed that USQBC will be bringing different business delegations representing US companies from a variety of sectors to Qatar by next year. “The USQBC will be bringing trade groups, as well as business and congressional delegations, among others, to Qatar after the World Cup. We also would be inviting Qatari companies to explore the investment climate of the different states in the US. The best is yet to come, and we will create a lot of bilateral trade to strengthen the relations of our two nations,” he added.

Hilal al-Kuwari, incubation specialist at QDB.
Fintech industry offers opportunity to drive Qatar’s economic diversification, says QDB executive

As an industry, financial technology (fintech), offers a significant opportunity to drive Qatar’s economic diversification, one of the four pillars of Qatar’s National Vision 2030, an official of Qatar Development Bank (QDB) has said. Regulations and support dynamics, such as access to funding, have been put in place bringing up an exciting future for this rising sector, Hilal al-Kuwari, incubation specialist, QDB, told Gulf Times in an exclusive interview. “In fact, the country is steadily becoming a regional fintech hub with a determined growth agenda,” said al-Kuwari, who explained that QFTH is founded by QDB to support the growth of the fintech industry in Qatar. According to al-Kuwari, the country is already taking “big steps” to become a global fintech hub, notably by establishing the QFTH. This has created a sound ecosystem for incubating domestic fintechs and providing an enabling environment for foreign fintechs to invest and grow in the region, he stressed. With two flagship incubator and accelerator programmes, running two waves per year, QFTH has completed three waves and its fourth is ongoing, al-Kuwari explained. “QFTH has already supported 66 fintechs worldwide out of over 2,300 applications we have received across the four rounds we have launched. So far, we have invested more than $7mn in fintechs from early-stage startups to matured companies to support accelerating their growth. “We have also mobilised partnerships with 13 global fintech hubs and have signed MoU’s with the industry’s big players, such as Microsoft, Visa, Mastercard, Vodafone, and most of the leading banks in Qatar,” al-Kuwari emphasised. Furthermore, al-Kuwari said QFTH has launched a whitepaper to analyse the factors and conditions driving fintech in Qatar and to showcase globally why and how the country is emerging as a new home for this growing industry in the Middle East and North Africa. He said the report features the results of detailed studies on various topics, such as the emerging players in the industry, key global fintech trends, drivers of Qatar’s startup attractiveness, key fintech collaborators and venture capitalists in Qatar, and other insights about the fintech ecosystem and their enablers in Qatar. Al-Kuwari noted that the whitepaper had a wide audience of more than 10,000 people and was featured in various platforms across the region. It was in line with the Qatar Central Bank’s vision and was welcomed by all the major fintech associations globally, he also said. Al-Kuwari stressed that QFTH’s incubator and accelerator programmes target entrepreneurs with innovative and cutting-edge fintech ideas, offering financial, mentorship, and training support. “QFTH has, to date, registered 25 fintechs in Qatar, out of which, 15 are Qatar-based startups. These fintechs are operating and creating jobs in the local market. The impact of QFTH’s efforts can also be seen in the achievements of QFTH alumni – from raising funds to partnering with global players and launching new services in the local and regional markets. “Moreover, we are in talks with Qatar University and others to create an internship programme for students, in partnership with QFTH fintechs with an aim to further cultivate and foster fintech talent in the country,” al-Kuwari added.  

Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta. PICTURE: Diego Sperani
Qatar is ‘2nd to none’ in sports-related facilities, says Dorna Sports CEO

Gulf Times’s two-part interview with Carmelo Ezpeleta, the chief executive officer of Dorna Sports, concludes with a preview of the company’s plans for Qatar. He also shares optimism about the future of youth in Qatar, especially in the world of motorsport. Ezpeleta also praised Qatar for the mega infrastructure it has built not only for the country’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup this coming November and December but also for future sporting events to be held here, as well as Qatar’s commitment to the development of athletes. According to Ezpeleta, Qatar has set such high standards aimed at elevating sportsmanship to greater levels – a feat that would help inspire the youth and future generations. Gulf Times: During the Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg, you mentioned plans to have riders “from many nationalities.” Is Qatar on your radar and are you optimistic that you would be able to tap young talents from this country, as well? Ezpeleta: Qatar is very much on our radar and that of the Road to MotoGP programme. The Road to MotoGP is unrivalled in motorsport – it aims to open doors and increase access to the sport across the world, wherever a rider is from and whatever their background. That includes Qatar and we have already seen Qatari riders compete in the Asia Talent Cup and take podiums, as well as move into the European Talent Cup in JuniorGP. To see this system working makes us very proud. The Road to MotoGP now starts with the FIM MiniGP World Series, in collaboration with the FIM and motorcycle federations and unions around the world. It’s the first global initiative in motorsport aimed at creating grassroots equality, and we were delighted to see the FIM MiniGP Qatar Series immediately become part of this vision. Creating a ladder where opportunity is equal for everyone, whatever the biggest challenge is for each rider, is one of our key goals. Do youth in Qatar have what it takes to become a part of MotoGP? Yes. Young people from Qatar and those from every corner of the world have what it takes. We are very proud that our grids, across MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3, are so full of talent and riders who have shown their ability and been rewarded for it. This is so important to the sport and to our audience and fans too – all doors to MotoGP are open. On track and off, we want everyone to enjoy motorcycle racing, whether they ride or come to see the sport in the grandstands. Or both! Kindly comment on Qatar’s infrastructure and its sports-related facilities, and do you think these facilities would play a role in encouraging the youth here to aspire and pursue sports as a career? Qatar is second to none in sports-related facilities. From Lusail International Circuit which is the track used for MotoGP as well as Formula1 and the case for all other motorsports, including the Academy, but it also serves as a base for sports in general like cycling and running. The Qatar Motorsport Academy is closely engaged with Aspire, Qatar’s world-leading project for athlete development. These opportunities to grow and test new skills can’t be underestimated. The same will be true in other sports too as Qatar continues to invest. Having amazing facilities like these is only a positive, and an inspiration too. As well as physical infrastructure, the organisational and human side is also important and the QMMF (Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation) provides a good example of both. We can already see the results of their investments – including the time, effort, and work put into building each project. This is very important, and the combination of world-class facilities and systemic investment can only encourage and inspire the young people of Qatar. As a major sports property, we are truly grateful that Qatar has set such a high standard and taken such a big commitment to sports as a nation. The values of sport, entailing sacrifice and competition are vital for the new generations.

Participants of the u2018California-Qatar Smart Technology Business Opportunitiesu2019 webinar hosted by the US-Qatar Business Council and its partners.
USQBC webinar highlights smart tech opportunities for Qatar, California

The US-Qatar Business Council (USQBC) hosted a webinar yesterday showcasing business opportunities in the smart technology sector between Qatar and California. Titled ‘California-Qatar Smart Technology Business Opportunities’, the event was organised in partnership with the World Trade Centre of Northern California; Consulate of the State of Qatar in Los Angeles; Office of the Commercial Attaché, Embassy of the State of Qatar in Washington, DC; California Mobility Centre (CMC); Qatar Mobility Innovations Centre (QMIC); and San Diego Chamber of Commerce. The speakers included Mansoor al-Sulaitin, Consul General of the State of Qatar in Los Angeles; Emily Desai, Deputy Director of International Affairs and Trade at the Governor of California’s Office of Business and Economic Development; Fahad al-Dosari, the State of Qatar Commercial Attaché to the US; Kevin Mather, president, World Trade Centre of Northern California (WTC-NorCal); Dr Adnan Abu-Dayya, executive director, QMIC; Mark Rawson, CEO, CMC; and Mohamed Barakat, managing director and treasurer of the board of directors, USQBC. Moderated by Mather, the virtual event discussed the latest developments and opportunities in Qatar’s sustainable economy and smart city initiatives, which included a panel discussion featuring Abu-Dayya and Rawson, who discussed the recent MoU signed between CMC and QMIC. Al-Sulaitin said, “Qatar has been working toward its smart cities vision for years and the country is quickly being recognised as a leader in digital transformation. Qatar hosted the second edition of Smart City Expo Doha 2022 where more than 70 world-renowned smart city experts from over 60 countries were in attendance, showcasing Qatar’s centrality and prominence in the field of smart technologies.” Desai said, “The State of California looks forward to strengthening the already strong commercial ties with Qatar. California’s technology companies are global leaders and we see exciting opportunities for them in the domestic Qatari market, but also to use Qatar as a foothold to expand to the entire region.” Al-Dosari said, “US companies and their technology have been critical to Qatar’s efforts to drive sustainable economic diversification and improve the quality of life for its residents. Qatar and the US share a long history of commercial partnership and US firms will find many opportunities for export and investment in the Qatari economy, especially within smart city and mobility technologies.” The MoU signed in March 2022 between CMC and QMIC allows both entities to collaborate on initiatives and activities for promoting the development and commercialisation of advanced mobility technologies and services. It also opens the door for the CMC and QMIC to explore further steps towards a definitive agreement to mutually support each other’s initiatives and to work collaboratively to meet shared goals. Abu-Dayya said, “QMIC has been very active in developing and deploying data-centric platforms and services in Qatar since 2009 when it was founded as one of the first market-focused innovation centres in the Middle East in the areas of intelligent mobility and smart cities. “Through our MoU with CMC, we hope to consolidate our expertise in further promoting the development and commercialisation of smart mobility technologies, solutions, and services.” Rawson added: “The CMC aims to advance mobility technologies, strategies, and policies for the benefit of people globally. Our collaboration with QMIC is emblematic of our drive to create exceptional opportunities and technology exchange between California and the State of Qatar.” Mather said, “California companies can succeed globally, and we look forward to more companies expanding their exports and investments in Qatar.” Barakat added: “Qatar is already a regional hub for smart solutions and digital transformation. With the country’s investment-friendly ecosystem, including TASMU, Qatar Financial Centre, Qatar Science & Technology Park, and Qatar Free Zones, among others, the country is well positioned to help American technology companies tap Qatar's domestic market and the wider region as well.”

Professor Eliamani Sedoyeka, permanent secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, and Fatma M Khamis, principal secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Heritage Zanzibar. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Tanzania seeks Qatari investments in tourism, hospitality sectors

A delegation from Tanzania’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism is in Qatar to promote key sectors in the East African country that would be strategic investment opportunities for Qatari investors. The delegation, which is headed by Professor Eliamani Sedoyeka, permanent secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, is composed of Fatma M Khamis, principal secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Heritage Zanzibar; Hafsa H Mbamba, executive secretary, Zanzibar Commission for Tourism; Richie Wandwi, director of Tourism, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism; and Felix John Michael, deputy director general, Tanzania Tourist Board. Sedoyeka said the delegation’s visit to Doha aims to ensure a robust relationship between tourism and hospitality-related businesses and companies in Tanzania and Qatar. “We’ve seen how Qatar developed, especially in the past 10 years, and that only shows how aggressive the country is in terms of how it wants to strategically position itself, so in the same manner, business people from Qatar can come to Tanzania and invest in our country,” Sedoyeka told Gulf Times. He said, “The main objective is to invite the global business sector and forge partnerships with our tourism operators. One angle we’re looking at is to maximise Qatar Airways flights to and from Tanzania to give tourists a good time, while the other is in the physical infrastructure. “One of our very strategic partners is Qatar Airways, which brings people from all over the world to Tanzania. When they land in Tanzania, it would be beneficial for Qatari companies to tap those numbers; visitors can stay in Qatari-owned hotels in Tanzania, for example, and that would be a win-win situation.” Other investment opportunities in Tanzania is the country’s transport sector, as well as for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) in Zanzibar, Dar-es-Salaam, and Arusha, where an ecosystem and partnerships between Qatar and Tanzania could be forged either business-to-business (B2B) or government-to-government (G2G), Sedoyeka said, adding that the frequency and role of Qatar Airways flights will contribute to the success of potential tour packages for visitors. Khamis also said the delegation’s main target is to take advantage of repositioning Tanzania and its destinations, such as Zanzibar during this period when Qatar is hosting the World Cup. “We understand that the whole world would be here during the tournament, which is why this is the perfect opportunity for us to further promote our country as a destination, as well as for investment opportunities. “We are hoping that this visit would help increase investor and tourist interest in Tanzania, but at the same time, we are also looking to forge long-lasting relationships with authorities from Qatar Tourism, Qatar Airways, Qatar Chamber, and other key players and stakeholders to promote tourism and investments on both sides,” she said. Tanzania also has other investment opportunities in agriculture, mining, oil and gas, sports tourism, and halal tourism, as well as activities like kite surfing, visits to archaeological sites, cultural heritage, and cuisine. Sedoyeka also invited companies in Qatar to participate in the sixth edition of the ‘Swahili international Tourism Expo’ (S!TE), which will be held in Tanzania’s commercial city of Dar-es-Salaam from October 21 to 23.

Microsoft country manager Lana Khalaf. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
‘Microsoft cloud data centre region to add $18bn to Qatar’s economy in next 5 years’

The Microsoft cloud data centre region in Qatar, which was opened yesterday during a launch event held in Doha, would be supporting the country’s economy and people, as well as efforts on sustainability, an official said on Wednesday. “We’re adding more than $18bn and more than 36,000 new jobs to the economy over the next five years,” said Microsoft country manager Lana Khalaf on the sidelines of a press conference on Wednesday. During the press conference, Khalaf provided a preview of the launching of Qatar’s first hyperscale cloud data centre region held under the auspices of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), in partnership with Microsoft. Khalaf stressed that the launching of the first global data centre region in Qatar will position the country as a digital hub in the region and the world, supporting Qatar National Vision 2030 toward a sustainable, diversified economy. “This data centre has the largest number of cloud services since the history of Microsoft. It helps companies in major industries to accelerate their digital transformation and innovate from Qatar to the world. “This will be the first global data centre that will be launched in Qatar. It will connect Qatar to the largest cloud infrastructure in the world with more than 140 countries. The data centre will contribute to Qatar National Vision 2030 with three main pillars: the economy, people, and sustainability,” Khalaf explained. She added: “Also, our investment is not only on technology but in people. In collaboration with the MCIT, we previously launched the Digital Centre of Excellence, which aims to skill, re-skill, and digitally skill more than 50,000 people by 2025. “On Microsoft’s commitment to sustainability, the cloud data centre will enable anybody utilising Microsoft’s cloud services to be 93% more energy efficient and 98% more carbon efficient.” Microsoft customers across industries, including the MCIT, through its national initiatives, such as Tasmu Platform and Qatar Digital Government, as well as the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, and many others, have already embraced the Microsoft Cloud to develop digital capabilities and innovate in their industries. In 2021, MCIT partnered with a global consortium of partners led by Ooredoo to initiate the Tasmu Platform, a one-of-a-kind, ground-breaking, smart city solution. Microsoft has played a vital role as a global technology enabler throughout this collaboration. “In our continued, unwavering efforts to build a ‘smart Qatar’ that is digitally-powered and innovation-driven, we are committed to harnessing the power of integrated cloud-based technologies to offer endless potential value to the people of Qatar,” said Reem Mohamed al-Mansoori, assistant undersecretary of Digital Society Development at MCIT. The Microsoft cloud data centre region in Qatar will drive growth and scale the more than 100 Microsoft partners in the country, as well as global partners looking to establish themselves in Qatar. Microsoft partners, such as EY, Ooredoo, Vodafone, QDS, PwC, ICT, Malomatia, Intel, Mannai, Meeza, Starlink, Veeam, and more, are delivering transformative solutions across the Microsoft Cloud to drive customer success. More than 70% of Qatari startups are on the Microsoft Founders Hub. These startups have the potential to go on and become the next unicorns of their industries. Also, a minimum of 11 global partners and ISV established operations in Qatar last year. IDC’s research also sheds light on downstream revenues generated by Microsoft’s partner ecosystem. The findings reveal that for every $1 of Microsoft cloud-generated revenue, the partner ecosystem is expected to generate $7.87 by 2026, up from $6.41 by 2023. Ends    

HE the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohamed bin Ali al-Mannai is joined by HE the Minister of Transport Jassim Saif Ahmed al-Sulaiti and Ralph Haupter, president of Microsoft EMEA, during the opening of the Microsoft cloud data centre region held on Wednesday. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
MCIT, Microsoft open 1st global data centre region in Qatar

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), in partnership with Microsoft, launched yesterday Qatar’s first hyperscale cloud data centre region, bringing new opportunities for a ‘cloud-first economy’. The Microsoft cloud data centre region joins the world’s largest cloud infrastructure footprint, significantly enhancing Qatar’s competitiveness on a global and regional level in line with Qatar National Vision 2030 and increasing the country’s position as a leader in the digital era. The event, which was held under the patronage of HE the Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohamed bin Ali al-Mannai, also launches with Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, giving organisations access to hundreds of scalable, highly-available, and resilient cloud services. The launch of the Microsoft cloud data centre region in Qatar was recently announced during a special celebratory event – ‘Qatar’s Digital Journey into the Future’, which was held in the presence of esteemed ministers and high-level private sector executives, as well as Microsoft’s global and regional executives. The data centre will have a significant impact on the development of the local economy and support the country’s efforts to diversify its economy, build talent, and attract foreign investment. Speaking at the opening ceremony, al-Mannai said: “We are delighted to translate our ideas and efforts in the field of digital transformation into reality on the ground. Cloud data centres are expected to accelerate innovation, create jobs, encourage skilling and capacity-building initiatives, empower partners, and drive impact on the national economy in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030. “At MCIT, we are proud of all that has been achieved so far in the field of transformation towards comprehensive digitisation, and we are honoured to realise the ambitions of the country’s wise leadership and its vision of digital transformation. We affirm that our ambitions in this field have no limits in the field of digitalisation.” Al-Mannai added: “The launch of the data centre is considered an important milestone in the process of transforming the State of Qatar into an advanced and pioneering digital centre in the Middle East and the world. This journey was inspired by Qatar National Vision 2030, which aims to establish a diversified and competitive national economy.” “These pioneering projects in the field of digital transformation, communications, and Information Technology would not have been achieved without the ambitions of the country’s wise leadership and its vision to this vital sector, believing in its crucial role in the development of other economic sectors, legislative and legal regulation of the sector, and enhance its attractiveness.” Businesses of all sizes and industries can now host their cloud workloads in Microsoft’s Qatar data centre, availing enterprise-grade reliability and performance. Customers can begin leveraging Microsoft Azure to develop advanced applications using AI, data and analytics, IoT, and hybrid capabilities with advanced digital security and more, as well as Microsoft 365, the world’s productivity cloud that delivers best-of-breed productivity apps delivered seamlessly through cloud services. With over 100 compliance offerings – the broadest set of compliance offerings and programmes of any public cloud provider – the Microsoft cloud significantly empowers customers to meet local compliance and policy requirements. This includes the National Information Assurance Certification issued by the National Cyber Security Agency, which Microsoft received earlier this year. The president of Microsoft EMEA, Ralph Haupter, said: “Across Qatar, Microsoft customers are already leveraging our trusted cloud to innovate, achieve their business goals, and do more with less. We are proud to deliver the first hyperscale cloud data centre region to the country, which will significantly amplify opportunities for even more transformation.” Microsoft country manager Lana Khalaf said, “With its longstanding history as an early adopter of technology, Qatar has completely embraced cloud solutions and revolutionised entire industries to develop a new, advanced digital economy. Today’s announcement will enable the country to take these groundbreaking innovations to the world, showcase its standing as a leader in digital transformation and cement its place as a global hub for innovation.” Ends    

South African ambassador Ghulam Hoosein Asmal.
Qatar investors to gain from free trade with Africa, says South African envoy

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) would further boost economic and trade relations between Qatar and South Africa, as well as other countries in Africa, South African ambassador Ghulam Hoosein Asmal has said. According to Asmal, the AfCFTA is the “second largest free trade agreement in the world” and provides investors access to global markets. He said South Africa has concluded several trade agreements that support export market growth prospects. “The best example is the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which was founded in 2018 with trade commencing in 2021. It creates a single market for goods and services to deepen economic integration in Africa. “Fifty-four of the 55 African countries have signed the AfCFTA and the combined GDP of its members is approximately $3tn to $4tn, and a population of about 1.5bn people,” Asmal explained. The ambassador pointed out that Qatari investors looking to pour investments in South Africa’s manufacturing sector, for example, “would have access to the whole African continent.” “More importantly, I believe that Qatar and South Africa, as well as the rest of Africa, can have trilateral co-operation in terms of investments and to maximise the mining sector, among other industries. The capital may come from Qatar and the resources from South Africa, and I think that is a ‘win-win’ solution. “We need to take advantage of new areas of communication and co-operation so that we could develop our economies and bring development to the ordinary people of the world,” Asmal pointed out. According to data from the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa (IDC) and InvestSA, foreign investors seeking access to the rest of the African continent can leverage South Africa’s well-developed industrial ecosystem and diversified economy, particularly its established manufacturing sector and value chains, among other benefits. IDC and InvestSA data also noted that numerous regional investment opportunities are available in the climate-smart agriculture and agro-processing sectors. Around 60% of Africa’s arable lands is uncultivated and the continent has abundant water resources for agriculture development. In mining and minerals processing/beneficiation, investors should target key mining sectors for globally-competitive downstream manufacturing metals industries, and minerals exports, as well as to promote energy security and support climate change mitigation efforts. Other sectors for regional investment opportunities include hydrocarbons, particularly natural gas; manufacturing, digital technologies, including Information and Communications Technology (ICT); infrastructure, logistics, and energy development; and other consumer goods and services.    

Dorna Sports CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta.
Qatar’s carbon-neutral World Cup to help drive ‘positive change’

The chief executive officer of Madrid-headquartered Dorna Sports, Carmelo Ezpeleta, has lauded Qatar for its bid to host the first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup: The much-anticipated football tournament, which is expected to draw millions of fans and visitors to the country by the end of November this year. Ezpeleta was among the distinguished speakers at the 2022 edition of the Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg, held in Doha. In this two-part exclusive interview with Gulf Times, he elaborates further on some of the major points that he discussed during QEF 2022, such as the shift to sustainable fuels and e-bikes, as well as the success of the World Cup in Qatar. Gulf Times: During the Qatar Economic Forum, Powered by Bloomberg, you reiterated announcements made in 2021 that MotoGP will start moving to sustainable fuels in 2024. Kindly elaborate briefly about your journey towards sustainability and how this decision will have a positive impact on the sport. Ezpeleta: MotoGP has a vital role to play in the world’s push towards sustainability and our move to sustainable fuels is a cornerstone of the sport’s future. Our new era of zero-carbon fuels means we will only use fuel of 100% non-fossil origin from 2027. The first step towards this goal will come in 2024, using fuel of a minimum of 40% non-fossil origin. Billions of people rely on two-wheeled transportation and as the pinnacle of two wheels, MotoGP is the top of this pyramid. We are in the perfect position to drive progress and innovation throughout the sector, working with all our partners and stakeholders to put sustainability top of the agenda. MotoGP is a testing ground where we can help shape a more sustainable future for the whole planet, not just our sport. We can create this positive change and it will then become a tangible change for billions of people. That is true more generally as we work to spread the popularity of two wheels – which is already the most sustainable form of powered transport – and work with partners such as Michelin in their mission to revolutionise the world’s tyres. The same is true of sustainable fuels as its own initiative. Our new era is built on sustainable, drop-in fuels with no single proprietor, meaning greater accessibility and real change for people on the street. Being able to create this positive impact then creates a huge positive impact on the sport itself. It’s that rarest of races: One where everybody wins. Aside from sustainable fuels, you also mentioned plans to achieve carbon neutrality (as well as producing “100% MotoE bikes”). Congruent to these above-mentioned plans is Qatar’s announcement to host the first carbon-neutral FIFA World Cup. What is your opinion on Qatar’s aspirations to deliver this mega-event in a sustainable manner? It’s something incredibly positive. This is how real change is created – everyone; every sport, country, company, and person doing their part to maximise their positive impact. Together, all these positive actions create a domino effect in the wider world and inspire us all to keep looking for ways to improve and create positive change. How successfully do you anticipate this event will turn out considering the world-class stadiums and other related infrastructure that Qatar had built for the World Cup and for future sporting events? During our history of racing in Qatar, we have come to anticipate success and I can only imagine the same will be true of the World Cup. Our experience of Lusail is of a world-class facility, and I expect the infrastructure and facilities built for the World Cup will be no different for all the competitors and attendees. Are you anticipating that more countries, as well as other stakeholders and major players, to follow suit and gravitate towards organising net-zero sports events in the future? Yes. None of these initiatives exist in a vacuum, and I expect to see these positive changes only grow in their scope and influence. Our philosophy is one of racing together; that’s how MotoGP pushes to create positive change, and it’s true of the wider world too. Whether in direct collaboration or healthy competition, everything comes together to create this positive domino effect. And it has to begin somewhere – with pioneers and innovators taking the first steps to inspire that growth to spread.    

Naveed Dowlatshahi, Aura Group CEO, delivering a speech during the special event. PICTURE: Thajudheen
Aura Group to launch 36 new restaurants in Qatar

Aura Group has announced that it is slated to open 36 new restaurants in Qatar, thus providing more dining options for citizens and residents, as well as for the fans and visitors during the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Naveed Dowlatshahi, Aura Group CEO, made the statement during a special event held recently at Orient Pearl Restaurant along the Corniche. The event gathered and familiarised key players in the country’s hotel concierges and travel agencies sector with the new high-end dining options and to establish a beneficial collaboration in promoting the brands during and after the World Cup. The new brands will be spread across three main destinations: Lusail Boulevard, Al Maha Island, and Hamad International Airport, featuring a mix of Aura’s most successful homegrown concepts and world-famous brands, such as Nammos beach club, the Mykonos beachside restaurant; Zuma for contemporary Japanese cuisine; Em Sherif, fine dining Oriental cuisine; Billionaire Doha, the luxury dining and extravagant show concept paired with nightlife; LPM French Mediterranean and Niçoise Restaurant; Carbone, an Italian-American restaurant; Beefbar Steakhouse; and Tatel for Spanish-Mediterranean cuisine. The group is also set to open outlets of other notable concepts, such as Rossopomodoro, Streetery, Concept by Lemon Butter, Han Shi Fu, Pura Vida, Maia Lounge, Maia Café, Maia Boutique, Moka Caffe, Belhambar, and many more, in various iconic venues, including Mall of Qatar, The View Hospital, the Korean Medical Center (KMC), Qatar’s newest state-of-the-art medical facilities, and Doha Corniche. These globally-renowned restaurants will cater to the growing demand for upscale and international food outlets to satisfy the gastronomic taste of guests before, during, and after the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The internationally-admired brands will serve as motivation to attract more visitors from abroad and bring an amazing new experience to the market. Aura Group is the leading F&B and entertainment company in Qatar. Within a short period, the group has developed a diversified portfolio of both local and world-leading signature brands. Through its commitment to excellence, Aura Group has continued to deliver a world-class and prestigious experience, earning it an enviable position as a leading operator within Qatar and beyond. Dowlatshahi said: “We are excited to enrich Qatar’s dining offerings with the opening of new high-end and most sought-after restaurants carefully selected from award-winning brands from across the globe. We always strive to ensure that Qatar’s hospitality and entertainment industry continually see a deserving expansion that is corresponding with the fast-pacing development the country is witnessing in various sectors in anticipation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the first to be held in the Arab region. With its expansive portfolio, Aura Group is all set to satisfy the culinary and entertainment needs of football fans coming to Qatar from different parts of the world during and after the tournament.”    

Ukrainian ambassador Andrii Kuzmenko.
Ukraine-Qatar trade hits record in 2021, says envoy

Trade and economic co-operation between Qatar and Ukraine “have significantly intensified” over recent years, said Ukrainian ambassador Andrii Kuzmenko, citing data from the State Statistics Service of Ukraine. Kuzmenko said the total volume of foreign trade (goods and services) between both countries in 2021 stood at “$178.9mn,” “which is the largest figure in the history of Ukraine-Qatar diplomatic relations.” Speaking to Gulf Times yesterday, Kuzmenko said the volume of trade in goods “increased significantly” and reached “$166.71mn.” At the same time, the volume of exports to Qatar amounted to “$148.03mn,” while the volume of imports of Qatari goods stood at “$18.68mn.” “The positive balance for that period is worth $129.55mn,” the ambassador noted. Kuzmenko said bilateral trade in services between Ukraine and Qatar “is relatively low.” However, in 2021, there was a slight increase, mainly due to the renewal of transport services, which amounted to “$12.19mn.” “The export of services to Qatar amounted to $6.44mn. Imports to Ukraine amounted to $5.74mn. The positive balance for Ukraine is $704,000,” Kuzmenko pointed out. Trade between both countries “took off on a positive note” at the beginning of 2022, the ambassador emphasised. “Exports to Qatar constituted up to $4.88mn, while imports from Qatar stood at $1.39mn in January 2022. Of course, the delivery of commodities was almost fully terminated due to the blockade of the Ukrainian seaport after the war with Russia began,” he explained. Kuzmenko said: “According to results in 2021, despite the restrictive measures taken by the Qatari government and certain changes in trade policy aimed at combating the spread of the coronavirus infection, a positive trend towards bilateral trade in goods is preserved.” In 2021, Ukraine’s exports to Qatar comprised the following goods: ferrous metals (54.3%), ‘different items’ (17.6%), fats and oils (12.8%), food industry residues (4.2%), ferrous metal products (2.9%), and milk and dairy products. Ukraine’s imports from Qatar in 2021 were plastics, polymeric materials (78%), organic chemical compounds (13.9 %), and products of inorganic chemistry (7.9 %). “The establishment of the Joint Commission on Economic, Trade, and Technical Co-operation between the governments of Ukraine and Qatar brought strong impetus towards the acceleration of trade between the two states, and the deepening and intensification of business and people-to-people ties. “Both sides have agreed on the key areas of cooperation and mutual interest. The second session of the joint commission took place in August and September 2021 in Kyiv. Both sides confirmed to conduct the third session of the commission in 2023,” he said. Kuzmenko said the “most successful achievement so far” in the development of investment cooperation between Ukraine and Qatar is the agreement signed between the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority (USPA), and Qatari company QTerminals for the concession of the Ukrainian port, Olvia. The official signing ceremony took place on August 20, 2020, via video conference. Under the agreement, QTerminals will invest about $140mn to develop the port over the next five years, he noted. Kumenko added: “Qatar’s role in humanitarian relief and development is quite remarkable, and this is the right time to think about post-war reconstruction and development. “And we believe that the achieved level of bilateral co-operation in the field of trade and economy will be restored after the war, and this will demonstrate new high record levels. Along with this, Qatar is welcome to participate in the implementation of various post-war reconstruction projects to rebuild Ukraine's civilian infrastructure.”  

Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal.
Indian companies are supporting Qatar’s economic diversification, says envoy

Indian companies are keen to support and play a significant role in Qatar’s economic diversification, said Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal, who stressed that “it is a joint commitment” between Indian and Qatari businesses “to promote and keep up the pace.” “Many Indian companies are looking to participate in Qatar’s own vision of economic diversification,” the ambassador told reporters on the sidelines of ‘India Utsav 2022’ hosted by LuLu Hypermarket Ain Khaled branch. Mittal said, “Many new companies have registered in the Qatar Financial Centre and also in the free zones, so I'm sure we are seeing an upper movement as Qatar also undertakes its journey for economic diversification to look at new opportunities.” As one of the “fastest growing economies in the world,” Mittal said India’s quick recovery from the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to many opportunities with Qatar. “We have efforts to link up the private businesses on both sides, to set up a business council between India and Qatar, organise more events and exhibitions where businesses can come and showcase their products, and hold special festivals. “During the visit of India’s vice president, we had the India-Qatar Economic Forum, which gathered a wonderful participation from both sides; more than 40 Indian business houses were present at that time, and that kind of business exchange is something which we are looking to develop further,” Mittal explained. He also stressed that both countries are focusing on how to create a strong network for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from India and Qatar to ensure robust ties between both countries. “This is an opportunity to discuss manufacturing capabilities, so I'm sure there's a lot of scope and we're working together on these efforts,” Mittal emphasised. Mittal lauded LuLu Group for organising ‘India Utsav 2022’, which is simultaneously being celebrated in all LuLu Hypermarkets across Qatar and in other outlets in GCC countries. “It's a very special moment for every Indian to be celebrating the 75th anniversary of India’s independence, and LuLu has been a very important part and parcel of promoting ‘brand India’ here and in the GCC. “LuLu has been playing a very important role in terms of contributing to the food security of Qatar, so during some challenging times over the past few years, LuLu has stepped up and contributed immensely,” Mittal stressed. He also said the 2022 FIFA World Cup is an opportunity for the Indian expatriate community in Qatar to express support for this international event, which is slated this November and December. “Considering the uniqueness of the World Cup, every Indian here is supportive of the efforts of their host country, Qatar, to have a very memorable and unique World Cup. There's a lot of support. Over 50,000 Indian volunteers have registered and are also looking at how they can promote cultural diversity and participate in the cultural mill. “I'm sure that the 2022 FIFA World Cup will produce thousands of Indian fans who will come here and see for themselves how Qatar is progressing and the opportunities that it will showcase to them, and I'm sure that it will also enable further exchange of people and tourism between the two countries,” Mittal added.

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.
Food retailers among first to leverage smart tech, says LuLu official

Leveraging technology is among the essential components that companies specialising in food retail and distribution must consider when taking into account environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, a top official of LuLu Group International has said. In the report ‘ESG Intelligence: Qatar’s Sustainable Economic Transition’, Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, emphasised that it is important that companies’ wider business targets are aligned with ESG goals. “As such, it is necessary to implement an ESG framework that complements and strengthens existing business units,” Dr Althaf stressed in the report, which was produced by Oxford Business Group (OBG), in partnership with LuLu Group International. Dr Althaf said: “Corporate strategists must consider how ESG goals can be adapted to meet the requirements of the local market and dovetail with the national economic development plans of the countries in which they operate, such as Qatar National Vision 2030. “Another key consideration is the creation of a cross-functional ESG policy committee for strategic guidance, alongside a core implementation team involving operational heads, engineering and project departments, public relations and supply chain managers.” Dr Althaf also pointed out that “food retailers have been one of the first movers in capitalising on the potential of smart technologies such as automation and the internet of things.” He noted that companies can also utilise technology in reducing food waste and monitoring stock losses. “New cloud-based shipment tracking solutions can help businesses ensure product freshness and effective cold chain management of shipments, as well as help with the traceability of products. Artificial Intelligence is enabling retailers to make accurate demand predictions which, in turn, makes supply chain management more efficient,” Dr Althaf explained. He also underscored the importance of effective public-private collaboration in the strengthening of food security and product safety. “For example, private companies and government authorities can deepen their partnerships in the strategic storage of essential food products to mitigate food security challenges during periods of disruption in global supply chains. “There is also scope for further collaboration in research to develop new production techniques and more resilient food systems. In addition, the government can work with the private sector to establish food technology parks, which could help to attract more global food companies,” Dr Althaf stressed. He added: “Empathy, kindness, and trust are key leadership qualities in the modern business environment. Leaders are required to encourage collaboration across their organisation and make quick decisions effectively, while communicating complex and sometimes uncomfortable problems to key stakeholders.”

Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Qatar public-private sectors prepared for 2022 World Cup, says chamber official

With government support, alongside private sector participation, Qatar is ready to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup this November and December, a top Qatar Chamber official has said. Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari made the statement on the sidelines of ‘India Utsav 2022’, an event held recently at LuLu Hypermarket Ain Khaled branch to celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day where he emphasised the part being played by LuLu in further developing Qatar-India bilateral trade. On Qatar Chamber’s role in mobilising the private sector for the preparations needed for the World Cup, which is less than 100 days away, al-Kuwari said that in the past several years the chamber has been “working hard” with the different local and international companies that want to participate in the building of different mega infrastructures, such as roads and football stadiums, as well as other projects and activities related to the tournament. “The chamber has also been very supportive in assisting the government’s efforts all its efforts related to this world-class sporting tournament. So far, everything looks promising and okay. This is a huge event for Qatar but we are sure of the government’s efforts to ensure the success of this event,” al-Kuwari told Gulf Times. The tournament, which is the first-ever World Cup to be staged in the Arab world, is not only expected to cement Qatar’s position in the global hub for sports, it is also seen as an event that will stimulate the local economy with the influx of millions of fans and tourists. On measures that would boost the country’s trade with India, al-Kuwari said LuLu has been playing a key role in enhancing Qatar-India trade. “We are happy to see more Indian products, which cater to the needs of the large Indian expatriate community in Qatar,” al-Kuwari noted. Al-Kuwari also lauded LuLu for its major contributions to the local market. He said the hypermarket chain has been offering a wide selection of products at affordable prices. He also noted that LuLu outlets are strategically located across different communities in the country, making them accessible to many customers. “We are proud of LuLu in Qatar and we support them like they are part of our family,” he added.

Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International.
Qatar is playing ‘key role’ in India’s domestic growth and energy security, says top LuLu executive

On the back of robust bilateral relations, Qatar-India ties continue to strengthen across all sectors, a top official of LuLu Group has said, citing India as a “soon-to-become” $5tn economy and global powerhouse by 2024-2025. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of LuLu’s recent celebration of ‘India Utsav 2022’, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence Day, Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of LuLu Group International, noted that collaboration between Qatar and India has been benefiting both economies. “Qatar’s contribution to India’s domestic growth is also very huge, first, in terms of investment, and second, from an energy security perspective, Qatar is helping to fuel the fast-growing needs of India, so there’s a huge collaboration. “And we are very happy that LuLu is placed very comfortably between these two countries now both in terms of our reach and also in terms of our understanding of these two markets,” Althaf explained. He said India’s efforts to address the food security concerns of Qatar play a significant role in providing the needs of not only the Indian community here but also of Qatari citizens and other expatriate residents in the country. “India has increasingly become a major supplier, especially when there are extraordinary geopolitical crises, as well as logistics challenges. But India has emerged as a very reliable and very consistent supporter of the food security needs of Qatar and other countries in the region. “Access to the Qatari market has helped us mitigate a lot of other challenges that have happened in the region by supplying important commodities like grains, fruits, and vegetables from India,” Althaf pointed out. Compared to five years ago, Althaf noted that Qatar and India have also grown closer in terms of collaboration with the presence of more shipping routes. “This direct relationship between Qatar and India right now is helping us to enhance bilateral trade,” he emphasised. With less than 100 days to go for Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Althaf said he believes all the necessary preparations for the tournament “are actually done now,” adding that “there may be last minute minor adjustments that we have to make from our perspective.” “And I'm sure that most of the traders in the country and all the institutions are now ready to receive guests. We are very confident that LuLu is in a very good position to meet the food requirements of any nationality that will come here – whatever dietary preferences or restrictions they have, we are fully prepared. “We will always tell them that this is not only going to be a celebration of football, but at the same time, it is also going to be a celebration of the diversity and the kind of cuisines and food that we could offer to all our guests,” Althaf stressed.    

Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal and Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari are joined by Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of Lulu Group International, and other dignitaries during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam.
LuLu celebrates India’s 75th Independence Day with ‘India Utsav 2022’

LuLu Group on Monday held the first-ever simultaneous region-wide launch of its celebration of India’s 75th Independence Day – ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, under the tagline ‘India Utsav 2022’. At the same time, LuLu also launched its popular Indian Independence Day festival ‘India Utsav’ across all LuLu stores located in other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries. Indian ambassador Dr Deepak Mittal inaugurated the festival in Qatar, at LuLu Hypermarket Ain Khaled branch in the presence of many dignitaries, including, Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari, Sheikh Mohamed bin Ahmed M A al-Thani, Abdulla al-Kuwari, Ibrahim al-Malki, and Dr Mohamed Althaf, director of Lulu Group International. In his speech during the event, Dr Mittal lauded LuLu’s Hypermarket’s initiative in organising an Indian festival across all LuLu outlets in Qatar and in other GCC countries. “It is a very special moment for every Indian citizen to be celebrating the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. LuLu has been playing an important role in promoting Indian brands in the GCC,” said Mittal. He noted that Lulu has been playing a major role in supporting food security in Qatar, “especially during challenging times in the past few years.” “The festival is showcasing a variety of products, which have been imported exclusively from different parts of India, ranging from the northeast and southeast,” he said, adding that the festival is showcasing various food items, including fruits, organic vegetables, millets, and other plant-based protein products that are suitable for vegans. Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the event, al-Kuwari said Lulu Hypermarket is offering a wide range of Indian food items during the festival, including fruits and vegetables, among others, “in very nice packs.” “LuLu Hypermarket is very famous for its promotions and for offering products at competitive prices. It always offers something new to its customers. We are grateful to LuLu for supporting our local market,” said al-Kuwari. Dr Althaf also noted that the festival aims to celebrate Indian culture on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. “Being a major player in Qatar-India relations, LuLu Hypermarket is taking this opportunity not only to promote Indian products but to enhance trade and cultural relations, as well as cuisines,” said Althaf. He said diplomatic relations between Qatar and India span 50 years, “bringing the two countries closer.” According to Dr Althaf, many new shipping routes have been opened in the past five years. “Now we have direct trade relationships between Qatar and India, which would enhance further trade ties of the two countries,” he stressed. On Qatar’s food security, Dr Althaf said India is playing “a very major role” by exporting large quantities of food items to the benefit of everyone in the country. “This is one of the major events we are hosting in this new LuLu Hypermarket branch. The festival-related offers are available in all the 18 stores in the region,” added Althaf. LuLu has been celebrating the festival under the same theme for two decades, aligning the event with India’s Independence Day to celebrate the diverse culture and heritage of India, and to highlight the unique quality and richness of Indian food products. LuLu, which has a strong Indian network of food processing and logistics centres for exporting bulk products to Middle Eastern countries, has flown in many exclusive Indian products for this “well-loved and immersive” shopping festival that showcases a wide range of food products, agri-produce range with fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as meat and seafood. LuLu chefs have created a huge range of authentic specialties, desserts, and street food delicacies in the hot food section. To complete the Indian culture experience, trendy high-street fashion and a curated collection of designer wear for festivals are also available. This year, LuLu is highlighting more than 3,500 products in different categories imported from India for promotion. They include fruits, vegetables, meat, packaged food products, kitchen essentials, and traditional wear like sarees and churidars. A wide range of fresh hot food dishes is prepared daily. The festival also offers shoppers the opportunity to enjoy the taste of authentic Indian cuisine, such as LuLu’s delicious biryanis, mouth-watering curries, popular street foods, traditional sweets, and other delicacies that are available at the most affordable prices. Other key festival highlights include a special stall to promote Indian handicrafts, silk and handloom items, and Kashmir products, among others. The Indian food festival will also showcase different state cuisines and snacks. Shoppers will also be treated to cultural shows and competitions. India Utsav promotions are available at all LuLu Hypermarkets and online via Ends    

Gulf Times
South Korean firm in talks with Qatar, GCC companies on vertical farming, says official

A South Korean food manufacturer is currently in discussion with potential companies in Qatar and its Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) neighbours that have expressed interest in its automated vertical farming technology. Nongshim is South Korea’s leading instant noodles and snack manufacturer, and a global name in the food and beverages market, according to Y J Bae, manager at Nongshim. He said, “Nongshim is a conglomerate with all the essential subsidiaries to be the leader in its field. By identifying key elements, Nongshim is making vertical farming less human-intensive and easier to maintain through its subsidiary, Nongshim Engineering.” As Qatar progresses towards establishing vertical farms, Nongshim is keen to play a key role in providing vertical farming technology to interested entities, as well as the training of personnel, Bae pointed out. “In the near future and with the right collaboration with local entities, a training centre could be established to address the education and training needs of the people in the region. “Our training is done on-site with actual professionals to help trainees experience the actual day-to-day operational experience necessary to properly manage a vertical farm. We have an exclusive programme where one will need to pass the qualifications to be a Nongshim-certified vertical farmer,” Bae explained. He said, “While everyone is talking about vertical farming and its benefits, at Nongshim, in co-operation with Star Farm Enterprise in the US, we would like to provide education and training to help find talent and certify them to be key players in any vertical farms that would be set up in Qatar, the Middle East, or anywhere in the world.” Bae noted that the discussions with Qatari and GCC companies are a follow-up to talks held during the ‘9th Qatar International Agricultural and Environmental (Agritech and Envirotech) Exhibition 2022’ where several Qatari officials requested their South Korean counterparts to support Qatar in terms of advanced vertical farming technology. Earlier, Bae told Gulf Times that agriculture was among the key topics of the meeting held between HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani and South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum in Doha in March this year. “Currently this programme will be initiated for Nongshim clients while they wait for their vertical farms to be ready. Nongshim is part of a consortium that has been awarded the first smart farm project in Oman by the government’s smart farm initiative,” Bae noted.