Qatari start-ups ‘could help tackle global challenges’
February 06 2016 12:20 AM
Al-Rumaihi: CEO of Howlak.

By Peter Alagos/Business Reporter

Local business ideas or homegrown start-ups in Qatar have the potential to help address global challenges, a Qatari entrepreneur has told Gulf Times.
“Start local but think global,” urged Mohamed al-Rumaihi, co-founder and CEO of Howlak, when asked about the role of Qatari start-ups on diversification and enhancing Qatar’s non-hydrocarbon sector.
Howlak is among the nine tourism-oriented start-ups included in Qatar Business Incubation Centre’s (QBIC) recently launched programme, “QBIC Tourism”, the country’s first specialised incubator for tourism start-ups.
Al-Rumaihi underscored the value of validating a start-up concept, saying that while the idea might address local needs, it may also help resolve issues or address certain challenges on a regional or global level.
Citing the objectives of Howlak, which means “around you” in Arabic, al-Rumaihi said the mobile App’s contribution to enhancing Qatar’s tourism landscape is by helping users locate the best restaurants within the nearest vicinity from a list of around 1,500 eateries in Doha.
According to the QBIC, “the involvement of homegrown talent in developing Qatar’s tourism sector is crucial to ensuring that visitor experiences are embedded in, and reflective of, the country’s national culture and heritage”.
It added: “Today’s start-ups in QBIC Tourism therefore have a unique opportunity to participate in laying the foundations for a strong tourism industry that will continue to grow and contribute to the national economy up to and beyond the FIFA World Cup 2022.”
Underlining QBIC’s “invaluable support” al-Rumaihi said the centre has equipped them with the tools needed to develop the company’s services and expand his team.
“We’re delighted to be of the first few companies to receive specialised support, and I hope we can continue to grow our contribution to society in the coming years,” he said.
Guided by Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA), QBIC Tourism enables entrepreneurs to develop and expand their business ideas within any of the four main sectors of tourism activity that have been identified as priorities for Qatar: business events, urban and family entertainment, sports and recreation, and culture and heritage products.
Al-Rumaihi also stressed on the role played by QBIC’s LeanStartup Programme, which was instrumental in helping al-Rumaihi and his partners validate their ideas for Howlak.
“What we followed was a lean start-up methodology, a process for taking an idea and validating it, and then bringing it to the market; there’s a very lean way to validate the idea before you go and put a lot of money into it,” al-Rumaihi said.
QBIC’s LeanStartup Programme was founded by Qatar Development Bank (QDB) and Social Development Centre (SDC), and focuses on providing entrepreneurs with real world, hands-on experience, and knowledge on how to transform their business ideas into start-ups.
Aside from seeking the assistance of incubators, al-Rumaihi said that up-and-coming start-up owners could also benefit from attending international events or conferences to expand their network and gain insights from other entrepreneurs.
He said his company’s participation in last year’s Web Summit helped him and his partners determine Howlak’s strengths by getting feedback from other participating start-ups and from potential investors present during the event.
“We were lucky to be selected from 30,000 applicants from around the world and we were the only Qatari mobile App that was short-listed in the 50 most promising Apps during the Web Summit. We came back from the summit fully-motivated despite feeling some uncertainties before joining the event,” he added.

Last updated: February 06 2016 08:07 AM

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