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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.
Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International.
LuLu Hypermarket to set benchmark on carbon reduction targets

 Whilst most of the establishments in the retail industry during the last couple of years have based their focus on developing business strategies for expansion, LuLu Hypermarket is aiming to set a benchmark for the company’s carbon reduction targets and circular economy best practices. Dr Mohamed Althaf, director, LuLu Group International, stated that LuLu Group has achieved sustainable operations certification for various outlets in Qatar as part of its ongoing efforts to reduce energy, water, and waste, and to incorporate sustainable practices. “A team was formed with a broader vision to reduce LuLu’s carbon footprint by 50% before 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. The project and the operations team started working on this broader dream by taking appropriate measures of studying and identifying the areas for reduction opportunities in energy, water, and waste. “The knowledge gained during the study was used to identify and quantify the savings gained from both the project and the operations. A central repository of data was created to store and review the cost incurred for energy and water procurement and waste removal during the operations. This data helped to justify the importance of adopting new sustainable practices and quantify the value of such practices,” Althaf explained. A leading retailer exercising sustainable best practices, Althaf said LuLu paved the way in its commitment to sustainability by taking “real and demonstrable measures” to protect the environment and contribute to reducing carbon emissions and food waste. As a recipient of the Sustainability Award 2019 at the Qatar Sustainability Summit, LuLu has highlighted its efforts to promote environment-friendly practices in its operations and 18 stores in Qatar, as well as in the community at large. The conglomerate has strong CSR policies to bring a reduction in the increased environmental concerns, he pointed out. Althaf said LuLu Group has framed its own strategy on sustainability, which is put into practice in all its retail units and supply chains worldwide. “LuLu is deeply committed to reducing its impact on the environment and taking real and lasting steps to ensure this. As part of our commitment to Qatar National Vision 2030, we have been actively working to reduce carbon emissions and food waste, as well as promote healthy eating,” Althaf stressed. LuLu Hypermarket, the retail division of multidimensional and multinational conglomerate, Lulu Group International, has always been known as a trendsetter of the retail industry in the region, Althaf emphasised. He said LuLu’s operations cover business divisions in the retail segment for the popular hypermarket brand, shopping mall destinations, food processing plants, wholesale distribution, hospitality properties, and real estate development. “The group has proved resilient despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. Two new stores were opened in 2020 in the region amidst the pandemic, and with that, LuLu in Qatar today symbolises quality retailing with 18 stores and is immensely popular with the discerning shoppers in the region. It is stated that the firm’s retail portfolio in Qatar will reach 22 stores by the last quarter of the current fiscal year,” Althaf emphasised. He added: “As an ardent promoter of ‘Made in Qatar’ products, LuLu provides dedicated retail space and point-of-sale terminals for locally-manufactured food products. The company has started sourcing its private label products locally, ensuring uninterrupted supplies and stock availability. LuLu engages closely with local farmers through a variety of support schemes and promotional initiatives to enhance supply and demand.” Ends Some of the sustainable best practices implemented by the LuLu team are as follows: •    GSAS-Op certification - LuLu Hypermarket in Qatar has become one of the first retailers in MENA to achieve sustainable operations certification under the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) from the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (GORD). •    Building Management System - BMS has been installed for buildings to efficiently manage the assets associated with the building ventilation and lighting; •    Cloud energy optimisation system - Honeywell forge has been installed to efficiently manage and optimise the energy used during the operations; •    LED - Use of LED is being encouraged for upcoming projects and existing projects are gradually being shifted to LED from conventional lights; •    Light control system - Light control systems assisted with motion sensors are being considered to optimise the use of energy, especially in the warehouse operations; •    Designing new buildings with energy efficiency in mind; •    Energy efficient chillers - Procurement of new energy-efficient chillers that optimise the use of energy and increase the cooling efficiency; •    Submeter for tenants - To manage the water consumption and energy submeters are being implemented in tenant spaces; •    Dual flush system for WCs - New projects are being encouraged to use the double flush system to reduce the water usage; •    Waste segregation and separation from the source - Outlets are being encouraged to segregate their waste for easy disposal and collection. Three compartment bins are implemented in all general areas to encourage customers in waste segregation; •    Food waste digesters - Food waste digesters are being used to efficiently manage the food waste generated in the operation. An innovative food waste solution called ‘ORCA’ recycles food waste by breaking it down into water (mainly), and some carbs, fats, and proteins, which are then captured or repurposed. This is currently being trailed at LuLu’s Bin Mahmoud store; •    Reverse vending machines have been procured and implemented in multiple outlets to encourage and educate customers on the segregation and recycling of plastic bottles and cans; •    Reusable bags have been introduced and promoted in all the outlets, encouraging customers to reuse their shopping bags thereby reducing the fresh plastic in the system; •    Recycle - Recycling of paper waste and oil waste is done and encouraged throughout with the help of recycling partners that efficiently divert these materials from landfills and recycle them back into the system; •    Setting in place a policy around the correct collection and disposal of used cooking oil; •    Reduce the amount of plastic in packaging. -    Introduction of Refilling Stations -    Introduction of Kraft paper bags -    Biodegradable Packaging made with sugarcane pulp, used for packing in-house kitchen products; •    Be efficient and eliminate waste in our operations -    Controlled production -    Controlled ordering of raw materials; •    Increase in the consumption of locally sourced ingredients; •    Promoting sustainable suppliers and products; and •    Introduction of plant-based food options. Ends    

Aerial view of Qetaifan Island North Waterpark.
‘Meryal’ unveiled as name of Qetaifan Island North Waterpark

Qetaifan Projects on Monday unveiled the name of the Qetaifan Island North Waterpark – ‘Meryal’, including a live visual of the attraction, highlighting the opening of Cityscape Qatar’s 10th edition, which will run until June 22 at the Doha Convention and Exhibition Centre (DECC). The unveiling ceremony was led by Qetaifan Projects managing director Sheikh Nasser bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani in the presence of Qetaifan Projects business development head Sheikh Nasser bin Abdulaziz al-Thani, and COO Hesham Sharaf, as well as the Qetaifan Projects team. Qetaifan Projects is a real estate development company fully owned by Katara Hospitality and the developer of Qetaifan Island North. Sheikh Nasser bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani said: “The name Meryal comes from our love for the Arabic language. It showcases our history and culture that we take pride in and it carries a word from the Qatari dialect to the world, which we hope will resonate worldwide with the promising future of Qetaifan Island North as a touristic haven and the waterpark as an entertainment and a cultural landmark added to other landmarks in Qatar.” The emblem and the name of the waterpark were inspired by the Qatari culture, while the design of the waterpark was inspired by the history of the oil and gas discovery in Qatar. The name of the waterpark is easy to pronounce by everyone despite differences in language. “The dream of Qetaifan Island North is about to become a reality: a project that started as a development of a waterpark that reflects our culture and history of the oil and gas discovery to the world and a contribution to the exposure of our identity that we take pride in. “We are truly happy with what we have accomplished so far, especially given the challenges we have faced over the past couple of years. On behalf of Qetaifan Projects, we are proud to be working on this huge national project and we aspire to compete with and promote this distinct real estate project to international levels as the first recreational touristic destination that contributes to the promotion of our culture, as well as working to serve the country’s different sectors – perhaps the most prominent of which is the tourism and hospitality sectors,” Sheikh Nasser bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani added. The waterpark area is approximately 281,000sq m, which comprises 36 waterslides and the Icon Tower – up to 85m high with 12 waterslides for the adventurous and excitement enthusiasts, leading as the world’s tallest waterslide by Guinness World Records. It will also include a discovery game with a 3D display and augmented reality technology that will take visitors on a historic journey back in time to learn more about the history of oil and gas discovery in Qatar and experience it first-hand. Sheikh Nasser bin Abdulaziz al-Thani said, “The design of the waterpark was inspired by the history of the oil and gas discovery in Qatar, adding to it a historical and a cultural aspect, and establishing the identity of the waterpark. “The colours used in the waterpark are rusty to give the visitors an idea and the feel of the oil and gas fields but in the form of a waterpark. There is no doubt that there is nothing better than the history of the discovery of oil and gas in Qatar, which is actively contributing to the development of our country, as well as promoting and showcasing our history and culture.”    

HE the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater is joined by dignitaries during the official opening of Cityscape Qatar yesterday at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
Cityscape Qatar shines spotlight on future of region’s real estate

Cityscape Qatar is shining the spotlight on the future of the region’s real estate as the 10th edition of the event was officially opened on Monday by HE the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry Sultan bin Rashid al-Khater. The event, which will run until June 22 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), is highlighting the latest real estate project launches in the region ahead of Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. More than 60 exhibitors from Cyprus, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, the UAE, the UK, and Qatar are prepared to meet visitors to discuss the region’s real estate industry and unveil a variety of prominent development projects. Following the undersecretary’s tour of the exhibition hall, Qetaifan Projects announced during an unveiling ceremony that ‘Meryal’ is the name of the Qetaifan Island North Waterpark. Qetaifan head of Business Development Sheikh Nasser bin Abdulaziz al-Thani said, “Over the next three days at Cityscape, we will be officially announcing our waterpark name and launching our Retail Plazas project. Alongside the launches, visitors will have the final chance to purchase the last remaining villa plots for sale ahead of fully selling out our latest projects.” Also taking place yesterday was the first of a series of free ‘Cityscape Talks’ conference sessions, which is aligned with the four pillars of Qatar’s National Vision 2030: sustainable, resilient, affordable, and liveable. The agenda included talks on the digitalisation of Qatar’s real estate sector by Aqarco leadership; a look at the green legacy for Qatar by hospitality leaders Raffles & Fairmont Doha, InterContinental Doha the City, and Cundall; as well as a strong focus on sustainable construction and how the country’s real estate market may look after this year’s FIFA World Cup by Qatar ValuStrat. Speaking at the conference, Orjan Lundberg, sustainability expert, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), said: “We see that the FIFA World Cup has been and is still a catalyst for national development on many fronts, including carbon incentives. Sustainability has been a core topic for this event from the planning stage. “The feedback we have received so far from FIFA is that this is the most comprehensive sustainability programme they have had to date. However, we do need the support of the wider real estate and hospitality sectors to support us in achieving a big sustainability push nationwide.” For the duration of the event, visitors can meet leading developers, including DAMAC, Regal London Properties, Aqarco, and Akam Developments. The industry is gearing up for a busy event season in Qatar with new projects offering investors state-of-the-art residential developments, commercial units, and luxury hospitality projects. Aqarco chairman Dr Ahmad al-Khulaifi said, “The importance of bringing together investors, developers, and government entities for better collaboration ahead of the country’s busy international event schedule is essential.” He added: “Cityscape Qatar is the right platform for us to introduce Aqarco into the market after our launch earlier this year. The platform allows real estate developers, investors, and potential clients to meet and understand the demands of the market as we approach a busy period for Qatar. Ends    

Francisco De Sousa, talabatu2019s managing director.
talabat plays key role in regional expansion of ‘Made in Qatar’ brand

talabat Qatar has been a strong supporter of the ‘Made in Qatar’ trademark. Not only is the company active in the local distribution of National Products but also in the regional markets. In an interview with Gulf Times, Francisco De Sousa, the company’s managing director, gives a brief rundown of talabat Qatar’s plans in the pipeline – pre- and post-FIFA World Cup 2022, as well as its recent achievements, including the ‘Great Place to Work in Qatar’ 2022 certification. Gulf Times: Kindly elaborate on talabat Qatar’s initiatives that help promote national products in both the local and international markets? De Sousa: Made in Qatar products have considerably increased. We have witnessed this tremendous growth and we have been following this trend very closely. In 2021, we were able to export ‘Made in Qatar’ products to talabat in Kuwait. These products included major brands such as Batato’s, Doha Dates, QFM flour, and Qatar Pafki, among others. This initiative, which took around nine months to complete, led to an interest in Qatari products from importers in Kuwait. At least 30% of Qatari companies started to do business with their counterparts in Kuwait after the launch of this initiative. What are the company’s recent achievements? As the only tech organisation to be awarded the certification of ‘Great Place to Work in Qatar’ in 2022, talabat has been an active contributor to the Qatari economy and beyond through many different initiatives. We’re really proud to be the first tech organisation in Qatar to receive this prestigious certification and to be rated in the top 5 rank of the Best Places to work in Qatar in 2022. And what’s more important is that to receive it, talabat’s own employees need to rate the organisation, and as any business owner knows, their employees are often their harshest critics. We are very lucky to have a committed tight-knit team that works together and works hard to put our entire ecosystem – our riders, vendors, customers, and community – at the heart of everything we do. It is also a testament to our culture – that while we grew immensely when everyone was working from home, our values and our collaborative spirit remained strong. We’re a youthful and energetic team with a ‘make-it-happen’ mindset, bringing innovative solutions to benefit our stakeholders. For us, a key to success has always been our ‘talabatys’. We are a team of over 200 talabat employees here in Qatar, from logistics to sales, to marketing, communications, tech support, and people operations…our team works relentlessly to serve our community. What about customers and the wider community, how important are they for talabat? Experience is paramount for us. Whether it be customer, vendor, or rider experience, we strive to have the best experience possible for all three parties. We’re proud to be the flag bearers for experience in Qatar. We’re also so thankful to have such a generous, amazing society in Qatar. Last year, our customers and the wider community contributed over QR2mn worth of donations to Qatar Charity, and region-wide, contributing QR1.93mn to support humanitarian efforts in Palestine. It is truly humbling to live in this society and to be able to impact the community and have a positive influence for change. I’d also like to thank our Qatari customers for riders’ tips. Since we launched cashless tipping in May 2021, Qatari customers per capita have been by far the most generous in the whole region. When choosing to tip, Qatari customers tip on average QR8 per order. Talking about contributions to the Qatari society, how is talabat contributing to the growth of the country? When it comes to our contributions in Qatar, we are equally serious about our commercial growth and our community impact. During the pandemic, our contribution to the diversification of the economy was extremely important. Our platform provided a consistent revenue source in a time of uncertainty, which helped to keep tens of thousands of people at work across the country, especially in the F&B industry. In many cases, revenue from talabat makes up a significant portion of a vendor’s balance sheet and it is our responsibility to make sure that we are helping them to grow sustainably. We take commercial growth very seriously, but also the growth of the community impact. For example, before and during the pandemic, our contribution to the diversification of the economy was tremendous, mostly with our restaurants, shops, and hotel partners. talabat has also set several partnerships with universities, corporates, and public institutions to impact the community as an agent of change. More than an asset, it is a duty for us to serve the country as best as possible. talabat is a Mena brand, but it offers different features that are not available in other countries, such as T-dine. Kindly explain why. At talabat, we use different markets to launch different products, and Qatar is seen as a great market for many new products. talabat dine is a made-in-Qatar feature and is crucial to the ecosystem as it is helping connect vendors and customers through dine-in, which is a vital aspect of the success and profitability of restaurants. While we are a tech company that focuses primarily on delivery, we are pragmatic enough to understand that for our business to be successful, we need restaurants to be successful in all of their sales avenues and we create products that will accordingly protect and advance our ecosystem. talabat was confirmed as one of the major sponsors of the Qatar Football Association. Tell us a bit more about this. At talabat, we love football! Currently, we are sponsoring the National Football and e-Sport Team of Qatar with QFA, as well as the Amir Cup. We understand that just as sharing a meal has the ability to bring people together, football also has the ability to bring people together through teamwork, camaraderie, and a shared goal. We’re proud to be sponsoring the Qatar National Team as they make their maiden appearance at the FIFA World Cup, after having had some outstanding results in recent years. For Qatari fans, we cannot wait to bring you some outstanding creative campaigns and activations for you to enjoy. What are talabat’s plans after the 2022 FIFA World Cup? Our vision is aligned with Qatar National Vision 2030 and we follow this consistently. Along the way, we want to continue the initiatives that we have implemented on environmental, social, human, and economic diversification. What we anticipate post-FIFA 2022 is the same as our vision. We strongly believe in the Qatari market and are confident that we will continue driving this change and positively impact the local market, through innovation, and our commitment to the ecosystem in Qatar

Viktor Goussev, head of Investment & Business Development at Invest Sofia.
Qatar seen as ‘gateway to the Gulf’ for Bulgarian startups, says Invest Sofia official

Qatar will serve as a key partner for Bulgaria, which is promoting and developing its startup and entrepreneurial ecosystems, as well as providing opportunities to tap international markets, an official of Sofia Investment Agency (Invest Sofia) has said. “I believe that the partnership we have forged with Qatar Chamber could be defined as a huge opportunity to expand to international markets, which is why I would like to underscore the importance of strengthening these ties,” Viktor Goussev, head of Investment & Business Development at Invest Sofia, told Gulf Times on the sidelines of a recently-held meeting at Qatar Chamber’s Doha headquarters. Goussev was part of a Bulgarian delegation that visited Qatar for its ‘Bilateral Trade and Potential Investment Projects’ event. The delegation was received by Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari in the presence of other chamber officials and representatives of different companies based in Doha. The delegation was led by Ahmad Muhieddine Alaeddine, the founder and chairman of the Association of Bulgarian-Arab Economic Chambers, and Tsvetan Simeonov, the president of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Invest Sofia officials, and representatives of over 20 Bulgarian companies from the food manufacturing and distribution, petroleum and chemicals, real estate investments, ICT, and construction sectors, among others. The meeting with Qatar Chamber, according to Goussev, provided a platform for establishing business contacts, productive exchange of best practices, and negotiations for potential agreements. “If we have a certain need in the market or a solution being sought in different parts of the world, our goal is to make it visible and available,” Goussev noted, adding that Bulgarian startups could provide their expertise in different sectors, aside from tech and innovation. He said: “I believe Qatar Chamber or any of Qatar’s startup organisations, together with their Bulgarian counterparts and Invest Sofia, should promote all kinds of investments – from startups with very low capital to the larger companies with huge investments – in order to create more opportunities and added value.” Goussev pointed out that plans in the pipeline include the exchange of delegations between Qatar and Bulgaria comprising different startups and entrepreneurs from both countries. “The aim is to be represented everywhere and to maintain a good relationship with our partners, so we could build a robust business relationship with them. In the past two years of the pandemic, we have been very active in attending online events related to startups and entrepreneurship. Now that many countries are easing Covid-19 restrictions, we are looking forward to participating in upcoming conferences and similar events in person,” he added. According to Goussev, the agency is part of the ‘Compass for Entrepreneurship’ project, a joint initiative by Invest Sofia and the Digitalisation, Innovation and Economic Development Department of Sofia Municipality. On its website, Invest Sofia stated that “the project aims to develop a comprehensive and accessible tool for all entrepreneurs who start a new business in Sofia or Bulgaria. The compass will feature all the opportunities for support that municipal, state, financial, and business organisations currently offer to entrepreneurs in Bulgaria, including open projects under national or European programmes.” Goussev said the compass is also aiming to provide Bulgarian startups and entrepreneurs access to international markets, such as Qatar, which also boasts of a burgeoning startup ecosystem. “Aside from the European market, we are deeply focused on an international level, hence our visit to Qatar for instance. A market is still a market regardless of geography. If one country needs a certain product, it doesn’t matter where the market is across the globe. “Participating in a delegation such as this is very important to both sides because the exchange of expertise, experiences and best practices, and networking will help build the community,” Goussev stressed.    

Qatar Chamber officials during a meeting with a trade delegation from Bulgaria.
Qatar-Bulgaria trade up 38% in 2021, says chamber official

Qatar and Bulgaria have recorded a 38% growth in trade exchange in 2021, according to figures from Qatar Chamber whose officials met Tuesday with a delegation from Bulgaria. Qatar Chamber first vice chairman Mohamed bin Towar al-Kuwari welcomed Ahmad Muhieddine Alaeddine, the founder and chairman of the Association of Bulgarian-Arab Economic Chambers, and Tsvetan Simeonov, the president of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, during the meeting held at the chamber’s Doha headquarters. According to al-Kuwari, the volume of Qatar-Bulgaria trade exchange stood at QR109mn in 2021, registering a 38% growth over QR79mn recorded in the previous year. Al-Kuwari said, “We hope that intra-regional trade will continue to grow in the coming years to reach the level of ambitions of the two countries, especially in light of the available capabilities and the firm desire of businessmen to strengthen these relations.” During the meeting, both parties discussed ways to enhance commercial and industrial co-operation relations and investment opportunities available in Qatar and Bulgaria, as well as the possibility of establishing partnerships between Qatari and Bulgarian business owners to increase trade and investment exchange. Al-Kuwari called on Qatari and Bulgarian businessmen to explore the investment opportunities available in Qatar and Bulgaria and to strengthen co-operation by establishing commercial alliances, whether in Qatar or Bulgaria. He stressed that Qatar is a promising market and that it welcomes all foreign investments, citing the country’s strong infrastructure, huge logistics capabilities, investment incentives, economic legislation, free zones, and industrial zones that provide many promising opportunities. Al-Kuwari described Bulgaria as a leading investment destination, especially in the energy, mining, machinery manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism sectors. He expressed the desire of Qatari business owners to explore investment opportunities in Bulgaria and to learn about the investment climate and the advantages that Bulgaria grants to foreign investors. “Qatar Chamber encourages Qatari business owners to take advantage of the incentives offered by friendly countries, such as Bulgaria in establishing investments and alliances that support trade relations between the two countries,” al-Kuwari said. Alaeddine said there are many opportunities for Qatari and Bulgarian business owners to co-operate and enter into joint partnerships. He said the Bulgarian side is keen to enhance co-operation with the Qatari private sector, citing members of the delegation who represent major companies specialising in the industrial and food sectors. He said the Association of Arab-Bulgarian Economic Chambers aims to enhance Bulgarian-Arab co-operation and bring together Bulgarian companies wishing to invest in the Middle East and co-operate with Arab businessmen, citing the interest to increase commercial co-operation and strengthen economic ties with Qatari business owners. Simeonov said trade relations between the two countries are strong. Several years ago, both countries signed co-operation agreements in the economic fields, which constitute a promising opportunity for the business sectors to enhance co-operation and benefit from these relations.

Philippine ambassador Alan L Timbayan cutting the ceremonial ribbon to open u2018Pinoy Fiestau2019, which showcases different Filipino brands available at LuLu stores in Qatar. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam.
LuLu Hypermarket celebrates Philippine Independence Day with 'Pinoy Fiesta'

LuLu Hypermarket is celebrating Philippine Independence Day with a grand retail festival aptly themed ‘Pinoy Fiesta’ to showcase a wide range of best-loved Filipino culinary brands and leading non-food products. Philippine ambassador Alan L Timbayan inaugurated the event at LuLu Hypermarket along D-Ring Road. The event will run until June 18 across all LuLu stores in the country. Timbayan led the event in the presence of officials of the Philippine embassy, the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO), Philippine Airlines, dignitaries, as well as LuLu Group regional director Shaijan M O and other group officials, and leading business firms operating in Qatar. During the event, the ambassador underscored the growing presence of many Filipino products in Qatar, saying the festival is providing an opportunity to promote the ‘Pinoy’ brand to a wider audience in the Qatari market. “We are happy to know that many of our products, including food and non-food items, are continuously gaining popularity not only among the Filipino community but with other expatriates in the country, as well. “I would like to thank the management of LuLu Hypermarket for sharing with us – the Filipino expatriate community and the embassy of the Philippines – our celebration of the 124th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence. Mabuhay!” Timbayan said. For the duration of the festival, ‘Pinoy Fiesta’ will be highlighting leading Filipino food brands, such as UFC, Mama Sita’s, Purefoods, Lemon Square, Magnolia, Selecta, Jack N’ Jill, Goldilocks, LaLa, SkyFlakes Crackers, Datu Puti, Mother’s Best, Del Monte, Bench, Silka, and Century Tuna, among others. Similarly, there will be a wide range of best-quality agriculture produce and food products from the Philippines – from different soy and oyster sauces to banana syrup and a variety of noodles, delicacies, and packaged foods – carefully curated for LuLu by the group’s sourcing office in Calamba, Laguna in the Philippines, making it possible for LuLu to sell products at the most affordable prices. Lulu Group has longstanding business relations with the Philippines and as a leading retailer in the region, LuLu has always been the major source of employment for Filipino nationals. The Philippine embassy and POLO are working closely with LuLu to enrich the sharing of skillsets and economic opportunities between the Philippines and the LuLu network worldwide. Speaking on the sidelines of the festival, Shaijan said: “LuLu Group has been celebrating the ‘Pinoy Fiesta’ for many years and it is very special this year as it coincides with the 124th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence. “Our sourcing offices in the Philippines have been the major foundation of strength in supporting LuLu’s operations in Qatar with the uninterrupted supplies of best quality Filipino products and agricultural produce.” He said: “Qatari citizens and expatriates alike are quite familiar with the quality of Filipino food products, especially Filipino agricultural produce, which is one of the most diverse ranges in the region.” Shaijan also invited all ethnic and expatriate communities in Qatar “to make use of this unique opportunity to taste the exotic goodness of the culinary specialties of the Philippines” and to explore the wide range of personal care products, among other items that are “best-in-class.” He said special emphasis has been given to filling the aisles of LuLu stores with a wide variety of best-quality agriculture produce and Filipino food products from the Philippines. “You can also take a shortcut to great taste via the LuLu Hot Foods section, which features specialty Pinoy delights, such as adobo, palabok, beef sisig, shanghai, and much more,” Shaijan added.    

CWallet CEO and founder Michael Javier at the UN headquarters in New York.
Doha-based fintech CWallet pitches insights at UN event in New York

Fintech startup CWallet has recently participated in a business flagship event hosted by Oracle and the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) on the sidelines of the first UN International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) 2022 held in New York. CWallet CEO and founder Michael Javier told Gulf Times Sunday that the tech company was invited offer insight into potential ways where technology could be used to assist fair labour migration. “We’ve also pitched and showcased practical, innovative, and scalable technological solutions to facilitate skills management during the IMRF 2022 hosted by the president of the UN General Assembly,” he said. During the event, “the IMRF assessed the progress of governments in the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration (GCM), which calls for stronger use of technology,” the IOE stated. According to the IOE, “the event lined up a series of speakers who link the business priorities of skills mobility, responsible cross-border recruitment, and skills recognition to three of the 23 objectives of the GCM.” It also stated that CWallet (finalist, IOE Migration Challenge 2020), along with Code to Change (winner IOE/Oracle Hackathon 2022) and WayLit (finalist, IOE Migration Challenge 2020), is among the three startups that pitched their insights at the IMRF side event held at the UN General Assembly Building in New York. The IOE also stated that over the past years, it has promoted startups to bring innovative solutions in the area of labour migration governance, be it in providing a simple immigration process for skills mobility or facilitating skills recognition. “In this context, IOE is collaborating with the governments of Kenya and Qatar, and the Belgian Development Agency, Enabel, to discuss the benefits of three such solutions to GCM objectives 5 and 18,” it stated. It also stated that the IMRF side event featured “three practical, innovative, and scalable technological solutions to facilitate skills management. The highlight of the event is the bringing together of three startups with the right solutions to show that technology can ease the management of labour migration governance, in particular the skills recognitions.” CWallet is an award-winning financial services startup that was born in Qatar and raised in the Middle East, Javier pointed out.

talabat managing director Francisco De Sousa.
E-commerce growth driving change in consumer behaviour, says talabat executive

talabat Qatar, the region’s leading local tech platform, delivering food, groceries, pharma, flowers, and other solutions has played a major role in Qatar during the Covid-19 pandemic by standing alongside government authorities and frontliners at the height of the health crisis. Francisco De Sousa, the company’s managing director, explained to Gulf Times some of the key initiatives talabat has introduced to a variety of sectors in Qatar to support the whole eco-system in Qatar. Gulf Times: The disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have caused significant impact not only on global economies, in general, but directly on people’s lives. How did talabat operate in Qatar at the height of the pandemic and what role did the company play during these challenging times? De Sousa: First of all, I would like to thank His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the government entities, and all the frontliners during the pandemic, who attended to the safety and welfare of the country, its citizens, and residents. As an organisation, we are always keen to join the ministries and other authorities during crisis meetings to provide any support or assistance required from our side. I applaud the government for doing a tremendous job, especially during the initial stages of the pandemic. This collaboration is extremely valuable and we are grateful for being able to offer our extended support. We have observed that so much has changed in terms of consumer behaviour. And talabat was able to respond well to these changes, especially during the pandemic. At that time, so many people were unable to leave their homes but we were able to play a huge role in making sure that we could supply the entire ecosystem, by providing not only food, but also groceries, medicines and many more. I would also like to thank our riders who were the heroes who kept everyone safe and at home, while delivering essentials as well as food during the pandemic. I personally feel so much pride when I see them on the roads. There have been frequent posts from the general public about the wonderful acts of kindness the riders have selflessly done over the past few years. It is heartwarming to see their contribution to the Qatari society. Tell us more about your impact on the groceries market. We have partnered with the major hypermarkets in Qatar, such as Monoprix and Spar, which played a major role in supporting the community during the pandemic. We also launched talabat mart, which revolutionised grocery delivery and q-commerce in the region in the pandemic. We were able to provide a service that no other big players could – groceries to your door within half an hour. q-commerce is the next generation of e-commerce. This means instantly (in less than 30 minutes) delivering to the customer whatever they want, whenever they need it. Having dark stores makes this possible as it’s not customer facing, which makes the picking process much faster. The q-commerce industry is really taking off in the Mena region and is expected to more than double from $9bn last year to $20bn by 2024. What role has talabat played in revolutionising Qatar’s food delivery ecosystem? We see the company as an added value to the community. As a tech company offering new solutions to the country, we make sure that our customers get their groceries, food, medicines, and other goods on time and at the right price. It should be hassle-free and with the most number of choices as possible. talabat has been a major contributor to the growth of Qatar’s e-commerce sector because we are not only witnessing a positive transformation in consumer behaviour but also a significant growth in our partners’ business operations pre- and post-Covid-19 through the online market. On the tech side, talabat is working with several startups in Qatar, such as Airlift Systems, which specialises in autonomous mobility in food delivery. It was incubated at Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP). We also partnered with the healthcare provider ‘At Home Doc’, in the delivery of medications to our customers’ doorsteps. We even offer the service to book online sessions with doctors. So, talabat is not only here to complement the ecosystem but also to support the different projects that are being implemented in the country. We are also proud to become an inspiration to other tech companies, as our presence in Qatar helped revolutionise the e-commerce industry. One of the pillars of Qatar National Vision 2030 is the diversification of the economy. In 2021, we launched several projects which had a major impact across the vision’s four pillars. This year, we want to raise the bar mostly in tech innovation, as well as through the ‘Made in Qatar’ partnerships with Qatari entities, which we will support to grow locally and internationally. We also have an important focus on sustainability, especially through our ‘Sustainable Packaging Programme’. What partnerships has talabat forged with stakeholders in the country and what advantages or benefits did these collaborations offer to your customers and the Qatari market? To support restaurants and shops, we have launched several initiatives. One of the major examples was that we heavily invested in our finance capabilities, providing cash flow within three working days to all our partners. No other competitor in the region has implemented such an initiative to alleviate the financial burden on small and medium enterprises. As you know, while delivery soared, dine-in stopped to a crawl. This allowed our vendors to have their liquidity on-hand to be able to make decisions to get their business through Covid-19, while not being hamstrung by antiquated payment structures. What is talabat’s contribution to Qatar’s goal becoming a major leader in human capital development in the region? There is a big pool of talent in Qatar, and we're excited to recruit and grow the business in support of the Qatar National Vision 2030. We currently have more than 200 employees, we started empowering local talent and we are planning to open new positions and grow our number of employees in Qatar. This year, talabat signed three MoUs with major educational institutions: Qatar University (QU), Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), and the College of the North Atlantic – Qatar (CNA-Q). These MoUs allow us to provide internship opportunities to the youth in Qatar. We want to scale up this initiative considering that we are expecting more opportunities and more projects here in the pipeline. We also want to grow the number of universities we partner with, in the future. In the near future, we will announce an interesting project in Qatar. Stay tuned. Lately, companies are progressively focusing on social responsibility impact. Kindly elaborate on some of talabat’s CSR initiatives in Qatar. The company has supported many different humanitarian programmes, such as those initiated in Palestine, Sudan, and Lebanon, among others. For instance, after the tragic explosion in Lebanon, talabat was able to send humanitarian supplies through Qatar Airways, in collaboration with Qatar Charity and Monoprix. In Qatar, talabat was also the first company to allow its customers to send donations through its app. We managed to send these donations seamlessly to organisations, such as Qatar Charity and Qatar Red Crescent, among others. This was a first in Qatar, making it an outstanding initiative because of its positive impact on the community. In line with our commitment to a sustainable future, we partnered with the Ministry of Municipality last year during the International Plastic Bag Free Day, encouraging customers to reduce plastic pollution and protect the environment.

Indonesian ambassador Ridwan Hassan, left and Qatar-Indonesia Business Council president Farhan al-Sayed. PICTURES: Shaji Kayamkulam
Envoy underscores Qatar Airways’ role in stimulating Indonesia’s tourism industry

As more international borders continue to open with the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, Qatar Airways has been playing a significant role in the recovery of Indonesia’s tourism industry, ambassador Ridwan Hassan has said. Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of Project Qatar and Hospitality Qatar, which concludes today at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), Hassan noted that tourism in the two countries “is steadily coming back, which is an important development” for both the Gulf and southeast Asian nations. “There are several indicators that show a positive trend in terms of the influx of tourists from Qatar to Indonesia. Qatar Airways flies to Indonesia thrice daily and the flights are always fully-booked. This is a very good indicator. Also, flights to Bali have resumed. They are, likewise, fully booked, and the embassy has been receiving a lot of inquiries about Bali. “We know that Qatar is a very important country with a significant number of expatriates living here, as well as its citizens. There has been a significant increase not only in the number of Qatari tourists but also from residents of Qatar,” Hassan explained. The ambassador also lauded the move to combine the 18th edition of Project Qatar and the seventh for Hospitality Qatar, which Hassan described as “a really a good initiative.” “Qatar is an important economic hub for Indonesia. Its economy is continuously growing and there is a lot of construction and development activities happening, and in anticipation of the World Cup, Qatar has been hosting many different events. “Also, a lot of properties are on offer in Qatar and for that reason, this country is one of the most important showcases for Indonesian companies, which are looking for many possibilities here,” Hassan stressed. Speaking on Indonesia’s role in projects across various sectors of the country after the World Cup, the ambassador said the tournament is part of a series of events lined up by the Qatari government. “We are going to see more events coming to Qatar, which is positioning itself to be a hub for international sports. That said, Indonesia, as with other countries, would like to continue participating in projects related to the development of Qatar, and this would hopefully lead to better economic co-operation between our two countries. “Indonesia is also looking to contribute to Qatar’s national initiatives, such as food security and self-sufficiency. These are areas where our country could participate in and work with Qatar beyond the traditional sectors, such as the oil and gas industry” he added. Qatar-Indonesia Business Council president Farhan al-Sayed noted that Indonesia is hosting the World Youth Cup in 2023, adding that “this would be a great partnership with Qatar.” “Qatar has extensive experience in hosting high-level sports events, so the country can be a great source of expertise for Indonesia when it hosts the World Youth Cup next year. In terms of trade, Qatar’s investment in Indonesia is huge and is steadily growing in different sectors, including telecommunications, energy, and hospitality, among others,” al-Sayed noted.    

Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas.
Investment opportunities for Italian companies to continue after World Cup, says envoy

On the back of its vibrant economy, Italian companies will continue to participate in major projects in Qatar even after the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas has said. “Italy has always been available for business with Qatar, but aside from that, we’ve always been available for Qatar when it comes to supporting the building of local capabilities,” Prunas told Gulf Times on the sidelines of Project Qatar and Hospitality Qatar, which concludes today at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). Prunas stressed: “Italian companies have invested in this country in many areas, so I think the situation will not change after the World Cup. We will remain here and hopefully, we will continue in contributing to the development of this country, which is incredibly ambitious and limitless.” According to the ambassador, the Doha Metro and Al Bayt Stadium were built through a joint venture between Italian and Qatari companies, adding that these developments emphasises the role of Italian companies in the growth story of Qatar, including projects related to the World Cup and in other sectors. With the presence of Italian companies in World Cup-related projects, Prunas said the upcoming tournament is seen as “one of the best organised World Cup events” in the history of the sport. “Seven of the eight stadiums that will host the World Cup were ready a year ahead of the event. I don’t think that this has ever happened before. Never mind the infrastructure, which has been a very relevant part of the World Cup preparations, but this city now has an extensive metro system that didn’t exist a few years ago. “What Qatar did is quite remarkable and in this framework, I’m very happy that many Italian companies managed to contribute to projects like the Doha Metro and Al Bayt Stadium, among others. We’re looking forward to seeing all these incredible infrastructures in use,” Prunas pointed out. Asked about the role of Italian companies in post-World Cup projects in Qatar, Prunas said: “I don’t think the World Cup would be the end of it. On the contrary, it is one step toward a direction that was taken many years before the World Cup was imagined. “There is so much already ongoing but in any good project, Italy is always available and ready in all sectors. We can offer a complete range of capabilities and we have a much-diversified economy and expertise in many areas, and Qatar knows that very well.” He added: “Business interconnection between our two countries is very deep not only in terms of trade but also in concrete exchanges of projects. Qatar knows which door to knock on if they need our help, and we are looking forward to continuing this cooperation.”    

Manateq CEO Fahad Rashid al-Kaabi. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam
Manateq sees investment growth in industrial, logistics projects; records 3,700 investors in 2022

Manateq, Qatar’s economic zones company, has been witnessing “huge investments” in areas, such as industrial and logistics, as well as growth in its roster of investors, which currently stands at 3,700, according to chief executive officer Fahad Rashid al-Kaabi. “As much as possible, Manateq aims to attract international and local investors, and we are finding different solutions for investors in sectors, such as industrial, logistics, and trading, including our latest solution – ‘open yard’. “Open yard is Manateq’s new solution for many large-scale construction companies that have completed projects related to the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” al-Kaabi told Gulf Times on the sidelines of the Project Qatar, which will run until June 9 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). Al-Kaabi explained that Manateq opened huge plots of land for its open yard solution, giving companies space for construction materials, equipment, or a ready area for new projects. “This also provides them with avenues for new project opportunities in the future in Qatar, so there is a huge investment in industrial, logistics area, and finding different solutions for investors. Manateq is happy to be part of this growth in investments with direct investors or BOT (build-operate-transfer) projects,” he said. Manateq sponsors four warehousing parks to complement its logistics activities. The warehousing parks under Manateq were awarded by tender to developers who oversee the management and operations under a BOT process. The warehousing parks offer prime locations comprising various sized warehouses and adjoining support facilities, “Earlier, Manateq awarded four projects worth approximately QR3.8mn spanning 2mn sq m to different investors who built their warehouses and kept them ready for investments, such as those targeting ready-made warehouses. “We are happy to see this project, which is approximately 1.5mn sq m in size. They have already finished Phase 1, which is about 50% of the project, and it is ready for lease with around 80% occupancy before the World Cup,” al-Kaabi said. Al-Kaabi also emphasised that post-FIFA World Cup, a shift is expected towards sectors, such as trading and industrial “so that businesses can continue finding different opportunities.” “The government is looking for different solutions and one of the most successful projects is the BOT, where there is sharing between the government and local investors. In warehousing, we have huge projects with more than QR5bn in investments between the private sector and Manateq in terms of BOT projects,” al-Kaabi added.    

The Ashghal and Manateq booths at Project Qatar 2022. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
PPP seen to attract more FDI to Qatar, says Ashghal official

Public Works Authority’s (Ashghal) project implementation system via public-private partnership (PPP) will open new ways to enhance co-operation between the government and the private sector, an official said on Monday. Speaking at the opening ceremony of ‘Mega Projects Qatar Conference 2022’ on the sidelines of Project Qatar’s 18th edition, Yousef Abdulrahman al-Emadi, director of Projects Affairs at Ashghal, said PPP will help improve quality and achieve the government’s aim to revitalise the private sector through government projects and providing it with new horizons to develop. “This system will attract global foreign investments that will allow the transfer of knowledge related to the management and implementation of such projects and provide financing, construction, maintenance, and operation for a long time before handing it over to the relevant government agencies,” al-Emadi emphasised. He said Ashghal’s participation in Project Qatar 2022 as a Strategic Partner will showcase its achievements in infrastructure projects and plans for other important projects. Al-Emadi said Ashghal’s strategic partnership with Project Qatar comes within its vision to enhance communication and partnership with various private sector companies that contribute to the implementation of projects in the country. “Because at Ashghal, we are keen to enhance cooperation with the private sector and increase its investments in the implementation of state projects, al-Emadi also pointed out. He added: “Ashghal is committed to implementing and managing projects in an efficient manner and according to the highest international quality standards with the aim of providing sustainable infrastructure for future generations. We will remain committed to delivering projects on time and we aspire to give more and work to build a better future for our country.” Aside from al-Emadi, the conference’s opening ceremony witnessed keynotes from the following speakers: Italian ambassador Alessandro Prunas, National Real Estate Committee, Federation of Saudi Chambers chairman Mohamed al-Murshed, ActivePure by My Pure Air executive director Commercial Distribution Group Todd Follmer, and Ashghal project engineer, head of Doha Highways Section Ali Mohamed Darwish. Meanwhile, the second session featured presentations by the following companies sponsoring the exhibition on their projects and programmes, whether related to the upcoming World Cup or beyond: Qatari Diar, Manateq, Milaha, and Suhail Industrial Holding Group, among others. Today (June 7), the Certified Conference Sessions and Trainings are being held to support the continuous development of professionals who will benefit from free learning opportunities. Many workshops are expected over the next two days on different topics, such as ‘Business Management in a Post-Covid World’, ‘Achieving Excellence in Asset Management through Project Portfolio’, and ‘Smart City Qatar – A Look into the Future of Smart Cities’, among others. Project Qatar, which will run until June 9 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC), is the country’s first and longest-running business exhibition specialising in construction, building, and other related industries. The exhibition offers access to Qatar's thriving construction market as well as the possibility of creating new business opportunities with companies of all sizes. Ends    

HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani preparing to inaugurate Project Qatar and Hospitality Qatar in the presence of officials and dignitaries. PICTURE: Shaji Kayamkulam.
MoCI minister opens 2022 edition of ‘Project Qatar’ & ‘Hospitality Qatar’

HE the Minister of Commerce and Industry Sheikh Mohamed bin Hamad bin Qassim al-Abdullah al-Thani inaugurated on Monday the 18th International Construction Technology and Building Materials Exhibition (Project Qatar) and the 7th International Hospitality and HORECA Exhibition (Hospitality Qatar), which will run until June 9 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC). Under the theme ‘One Show, Multiple Opportunities’, Sheikh Mohamed led the inauguration ceremony in the presence of engineer Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, CEO of Qatari Diar, and Fahad Rashid al-Kaabi, CEO of Manateq, as well dignitaries and leading players in the private sector. More than 300 exhibitors from 30 countries are joining both Project Qatar and Hospitality Qatar, which underlines the significance of the event hosted in Doha ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. After the opening ceremony, the minister toured the exhibition hall alongside a large group of public figures and official delegations, including Public Works Authority (Ashghal), Qatar Chamber, Qatari Diar, Manateq, and Milaha, among others. The ceremony also witnessed the presence of more than 30 ambassadors representing their respective countries and 16 official trade delegations from around the world, as well as the delegation of the National Real Estate Committee in the Federation of Saudi Chambers. Haidar Mshaimesh, general manager of IFP Qatar, said: “Since their inception several years ago, Project Qatar and Hospitality Qatar have played an important role in overhauling Qatar’s construction, infrastructure, and hospitality sectors to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “Today, as the mega event draws near, the two exhibitions set the stage for the business community to meet and network. This high-level crowd is a clear testament to the value of the company's exhibitions and its position.” Investment Holding Group, which completed a landmark acquisition of Elegancia Group, forming one of the largest conglomerates on the Qatar Stock Exchange, has changed its brand identity and brand name to Estithmar Holding. The group chose the event as a platform for its new name and identity reveal, further validating the confidence shown by the business community in the company’s exhibitions. Dr Henrik Christiansen, Group CEO of Estithmar Holding Group, said: “In today's rapidly evolving economy, diversification is a key to growth. Through this acquisition, the group is moving steadily towards diversifying its portfolio of investments and projects comprising various economic sectors in the country. “Our participation in the exhibition as a Diamond Sponsor marks the announcement of a new phase in the group's journey through which we are moving towards becoming the largest and most diverse business group in Qatar.” Qatari Diar, which is participating for the first time in Project Qatar as the Property Development Sponsor, is implementing and delivering more than 60 projects in 24 countries across five continents with investments worth more than $35bn. The company, taking advantage of the occasion, introduced its projects and investment opportunities. Its pavilion was the focus of the delegation of the National Real Estate Committee in the Federation of Saudi Chambers, which devoted a large part of its visit to view the projects of the company at the exhibition and through a site visit at the company's projects in the city of Lusail. Doha has long been a leading destination for Gulf real estate investment, hence it is expected that this visit will restore momentum for Saudi investment in the Qatari real estate market. On the other hand, Hospitality Qatar is the only exhibition in the country dedicated to hotels, restaurants, and cafes, and the most prominent and prestigious event for local, regional, and international companies working in the tourism and hospitality sector. The event provides a distinctive opportunity for such companies to promote their brand and attract more publicity, marketing, and eventually business opportunities. Hospitality Qatar promotes the growth of the tourism and travel sector and is an ideal platform to help all participants from producers, suppliers, and experts move towards a new era in the sector's development. The event has attracted over 300 companies, including 180 international firms from 30 countries, seven of which will participate through official national pavilions, along with 120 Qatari companies from major government and semi-governmental agencies and prominent private sector entities. Ashghal is sponsoring and supporting the exhibition as Strategic Partner, while Qatar Chamber is Business Community Partner and Qatar Tourism is sponsoring the hosted buyers programme. Other sponsors are Manateq (Economic Partner), Qatari Diar (Property Development Sponsor), Investment Holding Group (Diamond Sponsor), Suhail Industrial Holding Group (Industrial Partner), Al Sraiya Holding Group (Platinum Sponsor), Metito (Gold Sponsor), Milaha and QTerminals (Silver Sponsors), and Vodafone (Innovation Partner). Ends    

Ahmed al-Obaidli is one of the co-founders of the Doha-based Gems & Metals Calibration Lab.
Qatar’s first gems, metals calibration lab to play key role in economic development

Qatar, particularly its burgeoning jewellery sector, will stand to gain from the establishment of the country’s first laboratory specialising in examining and grading diamonds and precious stones. According to co-founder Ahmed al-Obaidli, the Gems & Metals Calibration Lab will “effectively contribute” to accelerating development in Qatar even as the country is preparing to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Al-Obaidli explained that the establishment of the lab, which is located on the seventh floor, Tower 2, The Gate Mall, “is considered an integral part of Qatar’s economy as it will keep pace with the change in the concept of individual consumption and the view of purchasing priorities”. The lab operates in collaboration with one of the largest institutes in this field – the International Gemological Institute (IGI), and it is fully equipped with the necessary testing devices used worldwide. The lab’s academic and technical team is also part of the IGI team, al-Obaidli noted. Speaking to Gulf Times, al-Obaidli said the 18th edition of the Doha Jewellery & Watches Exhibition (DJWE), which will be held at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre (DECC) from May 9 to 14, will be the highlight of the lab’s official launch under the patronage of Qatar Chamber chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani. “During the DJWE, we will be offering brief consultations and seminars at our stall during the event,” he said. As part of the lab’s vision and mission, al-Obaidli stressed that Qatar will be the first Arab and regional country to raise public awareness of the importance of grading diamonds, reduce fraud in this field, and seek to ensure the purchase of a product with correct standards. He also emphasised that one of the most important goals of the lab is to unify the market and promote Qatar’s expertise in gemology by raising awareness locally and globally. “Our lab will be offering training courses on the classification of diamonds and minerals to provide accredited certificates, which provide technical and legal guarantee to the consumer when purchasing jewellery,” he pointed out. He also said, “We aim to enhance the mutual trust between jewellers and consumers and to build a large base for investors in this field in Qatar, in the presence of such laws and technical requirements for the success of this sector. “We will help reduce commercial fraud by opening our laboratory to any visitor and consumer to check any merchandise purchased to avoid any fraud. Our expertise in this field will be expanded to all neighbouring countries after its success in Qatar. In addition, the lab will protect the trader in the first place from suppliers abroad in order to ensure that their goods meet the agreed specifications.” According to al-Obaidli, signing a contract with IGI and allowing it into the Qatari market will be a “great success for Qatar” as these types of institutes only have branches “in the most important centres of the world” where they were launched. “With IGI entering the Qatari market and agreeing to contract with our office, this will definitely allow our lab to serve its role properly,” al-Obaidli emphasised, adding that IGI was established in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1975 and is the largest independent gem certification and appraisal institute worldwide today. “IGI’s distinguished position in the world of gemstones is not a coincidence but rather the result of continuous research, support and synergy with professionals and consumers alike. IGl certifications are a worldwide trusted source when buying or selling diamonds, gemstones and jewellery,” he added.

Gord founding chairman Dr Yousef al-Horr in this file photo of the awarding of the GSAS certificate for Al Janoub Stadium. The facility is now the first stadium to have all three certifications: GSAS Design & Build, GSAS Construction Management and GSAS Operations.
Carbon-neutral World Cup a game-changer in sports events, says Gord official

Qatar’s “voluntary environmental commitment” will set a new precedent both locally and internationally in terms of staging future sporting events, an official of the Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (Gord) has said. “In the history of FIFA, Qatar 2022 will be the first carbon-neutral World Cup. With a sustainability advisory from Gord, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) has taken several measures to cut down the tournament’s GHG emissions while also utilising carbon offsetting services for the unavoidable emissions. “Within Qatar, we are seeing heightened interest from organizers approaching the Global Carbon Council (GCC) to explore the mechanisms behind events’ carbon neutrality,” Gord founding chairman Dr Yousef al-Horr told Gulf Times in an interview. Dr al-Horr stressed that the 2022 FIFA World Cup will be a “first of its kind", thus setting a global benchmark for the staging of future World Cups and other tournaments worldwide. He also emphasised that Qatar exceeded FIFA’s expectations, not just through carbon neutrality commitment, but also by taking voluntary moves as a part of its pledge to environmental conservation. Citing Al Janoub Stadium, Dr al-Horr said the facility recently received all three green building certifications under the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS). The facility is now the first stadium to have all three certifications: GSAS Design & Build, GSAS Construction Management and GSAS Operations. “Adopting GSAS Operations was an entirely voluntary move which Qatar plans to continue for all eight stadiums to ensure that the facilities operate sustainably. Globally, such initiatives will inspire future host countries and create a lasting legacy coming from the State of Qatar,” he pointed out. He said Gord is in the process of finalising GSAS certifications for all eight stadiums that will welcome FIFA fans in 2022. Audits for GSAS Operations are presently ongoing to evaluate the sustainability impact of stadiums in the post-occupancy stage, he noted. To ensure environmentally-responsible development and operations of temporary sites and fan zones, Gord also developed a unique GSAS EcoLeaf for Camps & Festival Sites as a tourism sustainability certification. It is designed to improve the purpose-built, temporary facilities’ performance and reduce the negative impacts generated by their activity, Dr al-Horr explained. In the context of carbon neutrality, Dr al-Horr said Gord, with the support of SC, has established the Global Carbon Council (GCC) – the Mena’s first voluntary carbon market catalysing climate change mitigation finance globally and especially for the region, which has largely remained under-represented when it comes to the use of carbon market instruments to fight against climate change. “GCC credits will be used for offsetting host country emissions linked with Football World Cup Qatar 2022 but the legacy will continue in the years to come. Today, this GCC programme is the only CORSIA-accredited international programme in the Global South. “It is also accredited by ICROA and has more than 260 GHG reduction projects registered from across the world including local and regional projects, with the expectation that this number will reach up to 500 projects by the end of 2022. Collectively, more than 20mn carbon credits are expected to be issued by GCC by year-end,” Dr al-Horr said. In terms of research activities, he said Gord and SC are collaborating on Al Thumama 'Showcase Stadium', originally built as part of Qatar’s bid to prove that football can be played in the Middle East despite the region’s tough terrain. Since Qatar’s winning bid for the tournament, the facility has transformed beyond a showcase space. Supported by the SC, the facility currently offers a platform for Gord’s pilot-scale research and development in anticipation of supporting one of the most sustainable tournaments in FIFA’s history, Dr al-Horr said. “Essentially, the showcase venue is reflective of SC’s stance on environmental sustainability, to which the hosting nation has shown unprecedented commitment. As a breeding ground for future technologies, Al Thumama 'Showcase Stadium' nurtures scientific research to develop innovations in the field of environmental sustainability,” he added. According to Dr al-Horr, Gord and SC are also collaborating to implement GSAS in all stadiums. To mitigate the carbon footprint linked with the development of World Cup venues as much as possible, the SC chose, following the approval from FIFA, GSAS as the green buildings certification system for all stadiums. “Through the adoption of GSAS, SC showcased a lifecycle approach for the first time in FIFA history by implementing sustainability best practices on all stadiums through the entirety of the life of the facility that encompassed design, construction, and operation phases. “In the same vein, SC voluntarily implemented GSAS Construction Management certification for the stadiums to ensure that all contractors abide by best sustainability practices during the course of construction. With less than a year ahead of the World Cup, the stadiums are pursuing GSAS Operations certification to ensure sustainable operations and management of the venues in the post-construction stage,” Dr al-Horr added.    

In its first u2018Invest Qatar Annual Report 2021u2019, the agency stated that the countryu2019s startup ecosystem u201cis also making strides in expanding and improving the environment for startups to thrive and innovate.u201d
Qatar’s startup ecosystem ‘making strides’ to expand and innovate: IPA Qatar

Qatar remains a viable seedbed for different startups and offers entrepreneurs a host of opportunities to transform their innovative ideas through different programmes and access to funding, according to a report released recently by the Investment Promotion Agency Qatar (IPA Qatar). In its first ‘Invest Qatar Annual Report 2021’, the agency stated that the country’s startup ecosystem “is also making strides in expanding and improving the environment for startups to thrive and innovate.” According to the report, the Tasmu programme, launched by the then Ministry of Transport and Communications, was a key player in expanding Qatar’s ICT sector through building connections between the public and private sector, providing funding, and empowering startups. The report also noted that the Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP) also took several initiatives to foster innovation in the country, including partnerships with Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and Microsoft. The funding available for startups has also increased significantly in Qatar compared to the previous year, the report emphasised, citing Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH) as the “second-highest investor in the region.” Despite the pandemic, the report said Qatar has succeeded in building momentum to launch new programmes, initiatives, events, and partnerships to encourage technological innovation and further rejuvenate the startup ecosystem. A number of events, including ‘Qatar FinTech Summit’, ‘Qatar Innovation Week’, and ‘Qitcom’ – the largest information and communication technology showcase and event in Qatar – were held since 2019, the report stated. According to the report, Qatar’s growing economy offers investors lucrative opportunities while bringing progress to development and diversification goals across sectors and geographies. As the country continues to pursue its economic diversification objectives, the report noted that many opportunities, especially in the non-hydrocarbon sector, have become available for investors. On foreign direct investments (FDI), the report stated that Qatar’s effective economic management during the pandemic and future growth projections are also evidenced in its FDI flows. During the height of the crisis, while FDI flows fell in most countries, Qatar demonstrated resilience, and FDI flows into Qatar recovered in the last quarter of 2020 and in the first quarter of 2021, it also stated. “In 2021, most of the foreign investments originated from the US (22%), with a total investment of QR895mn. Switzerland accounted for 14% of the total FDI flow, followed by Cyprus and Kuwait. Other countries that invested in Qatar include India, Germany, Canada, the UK, France, and the UAE among others,” said the report. The report stated that despite the challenges the pandemic posed on global job markets, Qatar was able to demonstrate the resilience of its economy. Investors leveraged Qatar’s strategic location, vibrant environment for innovation, and business-friendly ecosystem to expand their business in the region, and in the process, created quality jobs for the local population and attracted global talent to Qatar. “In 2021, FDI inflows to Qatar created an estimated more than 4,200 jobs. Most of the jobs were created in the software and IT services, with this sector generating close to 20% of the total jobs. Building materials, food and beverages, business services, and communication also created a good number of jobs in 2021,” the report stated.    

The QBG report highlights the investment opportunities emerging in agri-tech across the Gulf as GCC countries move collaboratively and individually to find sustainable solutions for their food security challenges
Qatar ahead of GCC neighbours in food security, says OBG report

Among Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries, Qatar is leading its Gulf neighbours in the Global Food Security Index 2021, according to a report by Oxford Business Group (OBG). Qatar was listed in the 24th spot (out of 113) in the global ranking and garnered an overall score of 73.6 (out of 100). Kuwait followed with a global ranking of 30 and an overall score of 72.2. According to the Covid-19 Response Report, produced by OBG, in partnership with the Arab Organisation for Agricultural Development, the Global Food Security Index 2021 listed other GCC countries as follows: UAE (35th global ranking, 71 overall score), Oman (40th, 70), Saudi Arabia (43rd, 68.5), and Bahrain (44th, 68.1). Titled ‘Agri-tech & Food Security in the GCC’, the report shines a spotlight on the wide-ranging strategies for agricultural innovation and food production taking shape across the region in an easy-to-navigate and accessible format that includes key data and infographics, OBG said in an earlier statement. The report highlights the investment opportunities emerging in agri-tech across the Gulf as GCC countries move collaboratively and individually to find sustainable solutions for their food security challenges, it also stated. “When looking to emerging markets, GCC countries are considered among the most food-secure in the Global Food Security Index 2021, compiled by Economist Impact. However, the region lacks direct control over the majority of its food supply and remains dependent on imports,” the report pointed out. GCC members imported about 85% of their food prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, almost all rice consumed in the region was imported, as well as around 93% of cereals, 62% of meat, and 56% of vegetables, according to consultancy strategy&. The report also stated that GCC countries have adopted several strategies in recent years to increase domestic agricultural production and hedge against disruptions to imports. A common component of these strategies has been water management, with all GCC members developing their capacity for desalination. In 2018, the report said the UAE inaugurated the world’s largest reserve of desalinated water to bolster domestic water resources. The man-made aquifer buried under the Liwa Desert holds about 26bn litres of water and can supply residents with around 100mn litres of water per day. Elsewhere, treated wastewater is used to irrigate certain crops. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia reuse about 50% of their wastewater, and Bahrain and Qatar reuse 10% to 15%, according to RAND Corporation. When it comes to boosting agricultural output in the harsh climatic conditions of the Gulf, alternative crop varieties are being adopted. For example, the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and the International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture in Dubai conduct advanced research to develop drought- and saline-tolerant crop varieties. Direct support for farmers is another common feature of food security plans, said the report. In 2019, Saudi Arabia initiated a programme to help small farmers switch to organic farming as part of a goal to bolster organic output by 300% by 2030. The Saudi authorities also inaugurated the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Programme in 2019 to boost the production, processing, and marketing of fruit, fish, livestock and Arabic coffee, as well as the systematic cultivation of rain-fed crops. Other GCC members have similar programmes. In Qatar, the State Food Security Projects 2019-23 plan aims to make the country 70% self-sufficient in eggs and greenhouse-produced vegetables, 95% self-sufficient in fresh fish, and 100% self-sufficient in fresh dairy products, poultry, and shrimp by 2023, according to the report.