Bright Future

Sound & Stage finds out more about the Qatar events industry and where it's headed
Companies, Events, Fireworks, Industry, Qatar, Rigging, World Cup 2022, Analysis, Broadcast Business

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With the World Cup set to grace its shores in 2022, we caught up with a selection of Qatar-based companies to find out more about the past, present and future of the country’s events industry.

DELTA SOUND
Paul Tonkin, general manager of Delta Sound Qatar, explains how the specialist audio company has been enjoying a period of growth within the region over the past few years.

S&S: How long has Delta Sound been in operation in Qatar and why did you choose it as a location?
Delta Sound Qatar has been operating now for about four years — I commenced my employment as general manager in January 2011. Delta Sound Dubai, previous to 2011, had been working in Qatar remotely for a few years and had some very good established clientele, so it really made sense to open a local office here. I have been working here in Qatar since 2009. I was working with my previous employer when I was transferred from Dubai to Qatar, so it’s now about six years in Qatar for me in total.

S&S: How is Delta Sound Qatar staying up-to-date with industry changes?
Since we started in 2011, we have expanded our inventory considerably from our initial start-up. We have just moved into a new larger warehouse and are looking at expanding our services again in the near future to offer more choice of equipment held locally here in Qatar.

S&S: What has been the highlight for your Qatar division?
The big highlight is always the annual Qatar Film Festival that we have been a major supplier for since 2011. Last year we supplied 100 per cent of the audio solution for the event. It’s just a very satisfying event to work on and one of the largest on the Qatar calendar.

Another highlight was being asked to participate in last year’s Qatar National Day for the first time. Cop 18 Environmental Conference was another great event to be a part of. This year we were asked to design and install a system for the bespoke World Cup Fan Zone for the Supreme Committee — this was a fantastic achievement by all the suppliers involved and was extremely successful with full houses on nearly every night of operation.

S&S: What do you think the World Cup 2022 will do for the country and are you already seeing effects?
World Cup 2022 will definitely put Qatar in the world’s eye and, if successful, will prove to all that Qatar is capable of hosting the biggest shows on Earth — Qatar, after all, is currently also pitching for the Olympics. The effects are everywhere, especially with the new highways being built that are causing seemingly endless traffic problems.

S&S: What does Qatar offer when compared to other locations, such as the UAE?
Qatar offers opportunities. If you are prepared to put in the work, struggle with bureaucracy of establishing yourself, be extremely patient and prepared to chip away, opportunities will present themselves. As Qatar is a new developing nation you can find niches that need filling and you can supplement income in other areas that may be outside normal scope.

S&S: What is the market like in the country with regards to your specialist area?
The Qatar market is very much a roller coaster and extremely difficult to forecast month to month. It is very much feast or famine and annual budgets are often made in very short amounts of time. Confirmations are often last minute, so having the right mix of equipment and crew in country can be challenging.

It has helped us to diversify having established the Delta Sound Shop. We sell all types of A/V consumable products, e.g. Professional Tape products that were not available before we arrived. We are also reselling brands such as Sennheiser and DPA Microphones, and are the local distributer for LeMark and Dirty Rigger.

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INNOVATIONS UNLIMITED ME
Markus Jordan, managing partner, and John Jossifakis, director of Events, discuss how Innovations Unlimited ME has maintained a pole position within the Qatar market during the past six years.

S&S: How long has Innovations Unlimited ME been operating in Qatar and why did you choose it as a location?
Markus: Innovations Unlimited ME was founded in Qatar six years ago and operates another office in Bahrain.

Qatar has a strong vision and cleverly takes advantage of natural resources; this combination leads to stable and healthy development, which consequently offers amazing opportunities for innovative companies. We have certainly made the right decision to establish our company in Doha and are proud to be part of this development.

S&S: How is your Qatar division staying up-to-date with industry changes?
Markus: Many of the large event agencies maintain a small office in Doha just to show local presence but keep their headquarters outside and fly in people on project basis. We follow a very different approach: our headquarters is in Qatar and we currently employee over 40 permanent employees from 19 nationalities. We are driven by “innovation and quality” and offer our clients turnkey event-services.

Further on, we have invested heavily into the latest AV technologies, which are stored and maintained in our own warehouse. Besides our own infrastructure, we maintain an exclusive global partner network that allows us to handle any large scale event.

Innovations Unlimited ME is also one of the only few companies here in Doha with a fireworks license and together with our partner, Fireworks by Grucci, we have produced some of the most impressive fireworks displays in the region, including the Qatar National Day Fireworks Display 2013 and the Dubai’s New Year 2013 Fireworks Celebration, which set a new world record in the Guinness Book of World Records.

S&S: What does the Qatar market offer when compared to other locations, such as the UAE?
John: One of the major differences is the actual saturation of companies that are able to undergo the work. The UAE is bigger in terms of events that are happening — in the UAE you have potentially two or three fireworks shows per week for example, while in Qatar you have six to ten per year. So, from a scale point of view the market potential is bigger in the UAE, but there are a lot more companies that slice it up.

In Qatar, the potential is a little bit smaller, but I would say that the opportunities are bigger for the different event agencies that have a stronghold in the market. This region, and the GCC in general, has amazing potential and I think over the next decade or so this part of the world will prove to the rest of the planet that they’re the true business leaders, not only in the events industry but in all industries across the board.

S&S: What has been the highlight/highlights for your Qatar division and why?
Markus: We have a great team and the passion that all of us bring to the table is reflected in our work. In the past years, we have delivered over 150 successful events and each one carries a lot of good memories; however, looking at milestones/significance in our history, I would certainly refer to the following: The Qatar National Day 2009 — our first large scale event that included massive building projections and lighting all over the Corniche; The 2011 Asian Football Cup — for which we delivered the Fan Zone for 300,000 guests; and the City Lighting Project — during which, for a duration of three weeks, we projected on 40 skyscrapers and “transformed” basically every single building in the West Bay.

For this project, we were nominated for the international LIVEDESIGN Excellence Awards for the largest worldwide wireless City Lighting project.

S&S: Do you have any further investment plans in the region that you can tell us about?
Markus: Definitely! This is a key strategic decision that we have taken since early on and we are fully committed to expand our services throughout the region. We strive to continuously develop and enhance our range of services, which includes further investing in our own equipment and especially our team.

We are also strengthening our office in the Bahraini market with great success. Further on, we are also considering opening up new offices in the UAE and Oman in the next 12 months. This is a very natural process and is based on the increasing number of client requests from various parts of the region.

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EVEN2
General manager Alexander Würfel tells us more about Even2, the company he set up with CEO Rene Karnahl to bring specialist rigging to the region.

S&S: How long has Even2 been in operation in Qatar and why did you choose it as a location?
We have been operating in Qatar since 2008 because our clients asked us to deliver our services to them outside the UAE, and I liked the challenge of working in this part of the world and bringing a European standard. The first projects were done by flying our riggers in and out, but this has changed over the years and we now have permanent people on the ground.

We started with a couple of motors, some stagedecks and few metres of truss sent over from our Dubai stock and stored in the garage of a friend in Doha. Nowadays we have 110 motors, more than 3km of truss and 400sqm stage decks in Qatar permanently. If we need more, we can stock up from our Dubai warehouse or the other way round.

S&S: What do you think of the current state of your specific industry in the Middle East as whole?
I personally believe that it is growing for everybody. It is still a stable environment and with the announcement of Expo 2020 for Dubai and the World Cup 2022 in Qatar more events will be held in the next years to make the region more popular and show the world that it is not dangerous here.

The business is always a moving process, one year we have a little bit turnover more in UAE, the next year a bit more in Qatar. We also get requests from other agencies from Saudi, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain so I believe we’re doing something right.

S&S: How is the Qatar division of your company staying up-to-date with industry changes?
We’re always trying to keep up with the market situation. Our benefit is to have two warehouses (Dubai 600sqm and Doha 1000sqm) and with our warehouse software we implemented this year we can easily check what is available from our stock - 6km of different trussing systems and 180 rigging motors, automation systems i.e. I-beam trolley systems, Kabuki etc.

We can see what is already booked from our project managers and we have a good network of trusted partners in the region where we can support each other with additional equipment. Our whole team grew over the past years and we can now say we have a total of 14 riggers permanently in the region.

S&S: What has been the highlight for Even2’s Qatar division?
Every job is a highlight itself, but my personal highlight was this year for the EMIR Cup finals. We brought a camcat system over and did a wired camera installation from the Torchtower through the Khalifa stadium to the other side on a huge mobile crane. This was a very challenging project in a very short time because of last minute orders.

S&S: What does Qatar offer your company when compared to other locations, such as the UAE?
Qatar offers great opportunities to expand and future growth for our company much faster than in other GCC countries because of the high demand for professional services.

Budgets also are higher here in Qatar than in the other locations in GCC countries, such as the UAE where competition is higher due to the high number of companies settled already. Qatar is considered the fastest growing economy in the GCC region - many projects and many companies are settling there which offer our company opportunities to work jointly with them in the events field and in getting sponsoring.

S&S: Do you have any further investment plans in the region that you can tell us about?
A huge investment has been made in the past year where we stocked up about 40 per cent of new material. This year we’ve invested already in new stage elements from Buetec different shapes and sizes, and another big investment is always our precious crew. This summer we sent everybody to attend the German SQQ training for NRC levels.

We want to be always a step ahead of others and therefore we need to assure that all our riggers are at the same page of knowledge. The next steps are to upgrade our automation systems and to finalise our warehouse management software.

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Creative Technology
As Creative Technology (CTME) celebrates its third anniversary in Qatar, managing director Andy Reardon explains how the company has grown and developed in its position.

S&S: How long has CT been in operation in Qatar and why did you choose it as a location?
Creative Technology has been established for three years. I’d been working for CT for three years before in London, so technically I’ve been servicing Qatar for six years but we’ve physically as an operation we’ve been up and running as an operation for three.

We moved into Qatar due to client demands — I had some great clients based out of the UK who serviced Qatar as production managers and it got to the point where travelling to and from the country became an issue. The other factor is that, in Qatar, they are against sending money externally — they would rather you come here and set up an business in the country as opposed to outside companies servicing it all the time.

S&S: What do you think of the current state of your specific industry in Qatar?
I would say it’s pretty much stable at the moment. In the first year or so we were here, Qatar boomed in terms of the events market, but I would say that over the past year it has slowed down in terms of the volume of work. Like in Dubai and Abu Dhabi it’s still got projects that are happening and there’s still an events calendar, but the events calendar in Qatar is certainly smaller than anywhere else in the GCC.

It was flying when we first arrived but I would say it’s slowed down now. We’ve seen a lot more production companies move into the region and there’s a lot of local AV suppliers who have been established here for years. I think it’s on a 50/50 level at the moment.

S&S: How is Creative Technology staying up-to-date with industry changes?
One thing is being able to offer clients the latest technology and definitive turnkey solutions. We have a fantastic brand new facility, we are pretty large in terms of stocking video equipment, and we are specialists at what we do. I believe that in other areas in the region, such as Dubai, there seems to be a one-stop shop full service, but I believe Qatar actually does have a place in the market for specialists and what they service.

At CT, pushing that is the latest projection, the latest LED equipment, and our people. We learn about technology, we develop a lot of technology ourselves and we often offer things that suppliers we work with don’t know about. Everyone sees mapping and this and that, but it’s trying to find the next level of technology for our clients.

S&S: What does Qatar offer your company when compared to other locations, such as the UAE?
It’s not a goldmine, everything does fit within a budget and I do see that generally there’s a lot of people going for the bigger projects now. We do also see a lot of event suppliers in the UAE now targeting Qatar work externally.

I think it’s just as hard here and just as tough to compete with those projects, but it’s key that you work with local businesses here to stay afloat — it’s not always about the larger, full end productions — there’s a lot of smaller work out there, which you have to keep on top of.

S&S: What do you think the World Cup 2022 will do for the country and are you already seeing effects?
We’ve just delivered one of the fan zones here. This was kind of one of the first elements for Qatar to prove that not only can they provide the cooling, but that they can host that kind of event in the region. In terms of big spectaculars, there hasn’t been anything at the moment.

It’s still in progress and there’s a lot of construction, so until you start to see stadium openings; that’s when it will filter through to the events market. Qatar also has a lot more sporting events before the World Cup to focus on, which will probably see more of our time delivering opening and closing shows.

S&S: Does CT have any further investment plans in the region for the near future?
CT has made some fundamental changes over the last eight to 10 months. We’ve got some great plans for the UAE and the whole of CT is now working as a joint force, whereas we used to treat each business very separately. The UAE and Qatar now share resource and we have a greater pull on equipment between Dubai and Doha.

We have invested hugely in some brand new products, and we’ve also seen a good level of change in personnel with some great people form the industry. I think the next eight to 10 months for CT in the Middle East will be a tough and challenging time, but I think it will be a great success.

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MEDIAPRO
Abeesh Pushkaran, founder and managing director of MediaPro talks us through the benefits of branching out into the Qatar market.

S&S: How long has your company been in operation in Qatar and why did you choose it as a location?
We opened our Qatar office in 2009, although we have been providing services there from Dubai for almost five years prior to that. Our visionary founder and I have been quick to realise the enormous potential of Qatar as an untapped market ever since our experiences there in exhibition industry. I have been guiding the Qatar division since its inception in 2009 and business has grown an average of 20 per cent, year-over-year.

S&S: What do you think of the current state of your specific industry in the Middle East as whole?
The ME market has matured since the heydays of property boom and the bust of recession. Those experiences have shaped the direction in which the industry going now.

I would say the market has grown tremendously in terms of size, budgets and scale. Quite interestingly, we are seeing that ME market is growing into its own persona, influenced by the low tax burden and business friendly nature of region.

S&S: How is the Qatar division of MediaPro staying up-to-date with industry changes?
Our experience in UAE taught us valuable lessons which are helping us in Qatar. That means staying on the cutting edge by using the absolute best, industry standard kit and attracting and retaining the best talent.

Due to the proximity of our store in UAE, we consider our inventory in Middle East as one. We have become quite adept in the logistics of moving our kit wherever and whenever we need it. Storage options in Qatar are neither abundant nor cheap.

S&S: What does Qatar offer your company when compared to other locations, such as the UAE?
Qatar is an untapped market in terms of key areas like turnkey government projects and government backed corporate events. Strangely, some regulations unique to Qatar provide a sort of relief from the brutal competition that the UAE has.

S&S: What is the market like in Qatar for your company’s specialities?
Our expertise in high end video segment combined with technologies like building 3D mapping (which we pioneered) give us an edge in an emerging market like Qatar. We are finding that the budgets are higher probably due to lack of significant competition. We don’t see ourselves limited to any region.

MediaPro wants to be everywhere mankind has ventured. If Antarctica suddenly has an affinity for projectors, we would be packing our winter coats and hoisting our flag there. The same philosophy applies to our vision for Middle East — all in due course.

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