People Power

Sound & Stage turns the spotlight onto some of the key figures in the regional events industry
2015, Adrian Bell, Companies, Danielle Nay, Dubai, Elie Battah, Event, Events, Industry, ISES, Lee charteris, List, Middle East, People, Power, Rebecca Wilson, Rick Wade, Thomas Ovesen, SPECIAL REPORTS, Top 10
Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown
Manu Abraham
Manu Abraham
Elie Battah
Elie Battah
Firas Tayfour
Firas Tayfour
Al Woods
Al Woods
Lee Charteris
Lee Charteris
Lucy Miller
Lucy Miller
John Jossifakis
John Jossifakis
Stefano Duchi
Stefano Duchi
Martin Luiz
Martin Luiz
Warren Barlow
Warren Barlow
Thomas Ovesen
Thomas Ovesen
Rebecca Wilson
Rebecca Wilson
Adrian Bell
Adrian Bell
Alan Thomson
Alan Thomson
Rick Wade
Rick Wade
Rami Harfouche
Rami Harfouche
Simon Burnett
Simon Burnett
Danielle Nay
Danielle Nay
Oliver Wood
Oliver Wood

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As another busy year gets underway in the Middle East events industry, Sound & Stage turns the spotlight onto just a few of the key figures currently playing a valuable role in the regional sector.

Click through to see if you can spot any familiar faces...

Kevin Brown
Production director, HQ Creative

Since starting at HQ Creative in March 2012, Kevin Brown has been responsible for managing the production team, as well as arranging resources and specialist staffing for all HQ Creatives’ portfolio of events.

Brown also acts as project director for events, from conceptualisation to delivery, which is a role he says he enjoys most, specifically: “aligning the details of an event to a client needs and their key messages.”

With a career history that has seen Brown holding a variety of high ranking positions — including director of live events, QMDI, Qatar Foundation, and head of events for various UK city councils including the London Borough of Southwark — Brown claims that the highlight of his time with HQ so far has been: “Dealing with many consecutive and concurrent events.

In the last five weeks HQ Creative has delivered the 10th Anniversary of DIFC, The Zayed Heritage Festival, Dubai National Day at Burj Al Arab, Dubai Smart Government Awards, ADIA Global Investment Forum and the ADIA National Celebrations.”

He continues: “HQ Creative has secured some of the largest events in the UAE in the last 12 months, delivering both the largest national day celebrations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. We have successfully delivered over 20 major events across the whole spectrum of event delivery including live events, conferences, exhibitions and the prestigious design and fit out of Qasr Al Muwaiji museum — the birthplace of HH Sheikh Khalifa.”

Another highlight, he reveals, is: “Having won the Best Design award at the 2014 Middle East Event Awards for the Dubai International Parachute Championships in 2013.”

As HQ Creative enters its 20th year since its foundation, Brown told Sound & Stage that the company’s overall objective for the year ahead is: “the continued securement of prestigious events across UAE and the Middle East, as well as pushing the boundaries of creativity and design and producing events that thrill and excite a whole spectrum of clients and attendees.”

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Manu Abraham
Group HSE manager, eclipse Group

After completing post-grad studies in engineering, Manu Abraham decided to focus his profession on Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) and obtained his diploma in Industrial Safety with the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH). Abraham worked for a year in the UK at an MEP company before moving to the UAE and taking the role of deputy HSE manager at an engineering company.

However, Abraham had other fields in mind. He explains: “To work for the events industry had always been a passion for me both personally and professionally. The amount of hazards for the activities within this industry is enormous and to find the control measures and solutions to eliminate/reduce those hazards is challenging and interesting as most shows are different.”

It was this personal and professional goal that saw Abraham joining eclipse Group in June 2012, where he provides specialist advice to the management team regarding matters relating to health and safety risks. This includes protecting staff safety by making sure risks in the workplace are identified, evaluated and properly controlled, as well as ensuring that employees comply with all aspects of UAE laws and regulations.

Abraham expands: “This region has lots of HSE regulations, however there are none related specifically to our industry. The policies and procedures that I make for the company are related to UAE laws but not totally focused to our industry. The international standards and procedures are followed by us, however if we could force our government to develop regulations on HSE specific to our industry it would be beneficial.”

And the drive towards creating a safer industry for all is one that Abraham and eclipse want to continue pushing into 2015 and beyond. He says: No technical AV company in this region has a full-time HSE manager and we aim to be at the top in this region by 2015, driving up safety standards both internally and throughout the region.

We have started working to develop, implement, maintain and continually improve Integrated Management Systems in all departments and, by the end of 2015, we’re focusing on becoming certified for our management system by an external organisation to make a self-determination and declaration of conformance with international standards.”

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Elie Battah
General manager, Robe Middle East Trading LLC

Having set up his own distribution company in Lebanon in 1996 — which is still operational to this day — Elie Battah started the distribution of Robe products in Lebanon in 2002. In 2005 he joined Robe lighting as regional sales manager for the Middle East then, as a logical consequence, the subsidiary was established in Dubai in 2013 to supply major rental companies, installations and customers in the Middle East.

Now, Battah’s role is focused on developing the presence of Robe in the region, responding to customers’ requirements and making sure that they get the level of service they expect. He explains: “The work I am doing is a passion, I don’t feel like I’m working even though I am available 24/7! Most people I meet in the industry share that passion for their job, which makes the environment very exciting and challenging.”

Battah also believes that the company’s success is down to a “team of like-minded people who share the same vision and are dedicated to ensuring that Robe Middle East can set new and exacting standards.” He adds: “It takes a lot of hard work, constant networking and ‘pitching it right’ as well as having a great portfolio of reliable and innovative products that can enhance creativity and spectacle in any show or scenario.”

And, with one such product – the Robe BMFL - launched late last year, Battah’s plans for the year ahead are very much focused on maintaining the innovation ethos. He says: “We will be pushing the BMFL and the two new variations of the fixture that are planned for 2015. Our Middle East launch of the BMFL resulted in very positive feedback from all the companies who attended. The objective is to get this fixture into the various Middle East markets as it is ideal for many of the shows and events that are being staged here.”

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Firas Tayfour
Owner & managing director, Fonoon

Before founding Abu Dhabi-based production company Fonoon in 2001, Syrian-born Firas Tayfour worked as a professional musician, composer/arranger and music teacher. When he first arrived in the UAE in 1987, it was Abu Dhabi where Tayfour settled, performing with his band while building up contacts and friends in the city.

Noticing that, at the time, very few companies of a similar nature were in operation within the capital, Tayfour took the opportunity to fill the gap by setting up Fonoon.

Having grown from small beginnings into a company with around 30 staff and three stores, Tayfour is still as passionate about the industry as when he started. He explains: “It’s a creative world, full of joy and fascination. My main role is to lead Fonoon to higher levels of production, while managing to do so with confidence and patience.”

Revealing that during 2014 the company has gained important clients and added more staff to its crew, Tayfour’s objectives for the near future remain focused on doing what the company does best. He says: “[Fonoon is] not yet into mega projects — we prefer to stick to medium-high projects for one more year. Adding skills and the latest gear remain a prime challenge for the year to come.”

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Al Woods
Director, Delta Sound LLC

Before joining Delta Sound 18 months ago, Al Woods was director of a small UK company. With his main field of work being large special events and mainstream touring over many years, Woods has been audio crew chief for ceremonies at the 2012 Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, as well as sound designer, system engineer and crew chief for many touring concerts including Take That, Kylie Minogue and The Killers to name a few.

Now, at Delta Sound, Woods supports general manager, Andy Jackson, in the smooth operation of the company. He explains: “My job role is to help Andy run the company: assist in recruiting decisions, manage the engineering department staff, appraise, train and generally look out for their well-being. I am the company health and safety management representative, I design audio systems, project manage shows, install and set up audio systems, load and unload trucks, I’ll happily sweep the warehouse floor!”

Woods continues: “My job role is everything I loved about my last one: people management, sound design and being involved with high-end music touring acts and large special events. But now I have the opportunity to pass on my knowledge and use my experience gained in the last 25 years. It gives me such a buzz to help mould and educate the younger staff at Delta Sound — I love the training aspect of my job.”

And, as a relative newbie to the Middle East, the region has provided its own challenges for Woods. He reveals: “Although I love it, producing shows in this region is a massive challenge with the language barrier, heat and infrastructure to name but a few things.”

But the challenges haven’t put him off pushing forward into 2015 with the aim of developing and maintaining the global standard within the Middle East industry.

Woods says: “Having first-hand experience working alongside audio companies from all over the world, I can say Delta are a company who do produce a world class service. Since I joined there has been noticeable growth within the company and within our specific market.

We have a fantastic team who are undoubtedly testament to the success of Delta Sound LLC and — while I can’t speak for everyone in the company — personally my objective is to try and ensure that, as the company grows, we continue to work well as a team and continue to meet and exceed our clients’ expectations.”

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Lee Charteris
Vice president operations, Flash Entertainment

With 30 years of worldwide tour and event experience, Lee Charteris moved to Abu Dhabi in 2008 to become operations director for the newly founded FLASH Entertainment.

Now vice president of operations, Lee is accountable for all operational and technical elements for the live entertainment company and reveals that he is: “driven to deliver the best quality events and live experiences for all ages, cultures and nationalities,” and to share his vast experience with the next generation of event producers.

Closing out a momentous year of shows and festivals in the UAE from FLASH, Creamfields Abu Dhabi recently brought together a crowd of 16,000 for the biggest dance festival of the year at the du Arena. But this was merely the cherry on top of the cake for Charteris, with a list of productions under his belt over the past 12 months that have seen some of the biggest stars gracing the region’s shores.

He tells us: “There have been some really great personal moments in 2014 — The Rolling Stones in February and, more recently, The Who at the F1 after race concert. And, for FLASH, the return of Justin Timberlake as that was really the start of it all back in 2007.”

But, coming full circle with the recent Timberlake gig by no means signals the end, or even a period of slowing down for Charteris and FLASH. When asked of the company’s main objectives for the next year ahead, he says: “To continue to deliver the best international events in the region and, for me, to ensure that we keep people safe and happy so that they will keep coming back.”

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Lucy Miller
Managing director, EMS EMEA

Lucy Miller joined Event Marketing Solutions (EMS) in August 2014, after starting out in the events industry in London 15 years ago and living in Dubai for the past seven years.

With roles in corporate event management and both experiential and integrated marketing under her belt, Miller made the move back to pure experiential with her role at EMS and has since worked on a variety of local projects such as the launch campaign for Jumeirah Zabeel Saray Hotel and several campaigns to market the Dubai World Cup.

She explains: “For me, experiential is the most dramatic and fun marketing channel — there is so much creative scope, and it’s a great feeling to see people interacting with a live activation you’ve been working on for months. It’s also one of the most measurable channels, you can literally see whether an activation is working as you hoped and planned.”

Miller continues: “My current job is running the EMS Dubai office which covers the MENA region. At EMS we specialise in roadshows utilising our fleet of large, state-of-the-art vehicles that open out to create bespoke brand experiences that can be driven to audiences anywhere.

Truck based roadshows are fairly well known in Europe and the US but here in our region it’s a new concept so it feels very fresh and exciting. The biggest highlight has been the opportunity to work on some exceptionally creative briefs, because our vehicles are in essence a mobile blank canvas and are new to this market. Clients and agencies are excited about the possibilities this new medium delivers, particularly when teamed with cutting edge digital technology.”

Having been up and running for five years now within the GCC, the next twelve months ahead look set to be jam-packed for EMS as a company and, as the woman at the forefront of the Dubai operation, a very busy year indeed for Miller.

She tells us: “As a group, one of our objectives for 2015 is to continue to be the best in the mobile roadshow marketing space. To support this we have recently unveiled the latest addition to our fleet with the ‘Exposure’ vehicle, which marks the start of an Dh7m investment planned for 2015. We aim to continue to build upon the reputation we’ve developed and also plan to extend our reach into new sectors and to continue to create experiences that are memorable and rewarding.”

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John Jossifakis MSc
Director of events, Innovations Unlimited ME

Having been involved in theatrical productions, corporate events, conferences, concerts and large-scale events for over 15 years, John Jossifakis has been with IUME for three and a half years. Currently managing the events division, Jossifakis is also VP of Qatar for ISES and a regional lecturer and speaker in event management.

He explains: “As the director of events, I overlook the whole operation and management of the events division. From creating client relationships to delivering a top-level proposal, my day-to-day work is a hybrid between creating and managing the audience experiences.

What I enjoy the most in our industry is the pressure of events and have for the past two years directed and show-called most of the IUME events. I like to be involved directly with projects and enjoy being on the ground and assisting my team in the event deliverance.”

It’s this hands-on approach that has seen licensed fireworks designer Jossifakis involved in many career highlights including 12 international opening and closing ceremonies in different sporting events, four separate EXPO Pavilion multimedia clock shows during the Shanghai 2010 Expo, being chief pyrotechnician and project manager for the Qatar National Day Fireworks in 2013, and the 2014 Guinness World Record attempt in Dubai for the largest fireworks display.

And Jossifakis believes that there is plenty of life in the regional market yet. He says: “The market in the Middle East is challenging but benchmarked to other markets, it is very stable. It has slowly bounced back and with regional successes like EXPO 2020 and FIFA World Cup 2022, I think that in the next five to eight years it will be the place to be.”

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Stefano Duchi
General manager, Giochi di Luce

Previously head of the sales and production department at Giochi di Luce in Italy, Stefano Duchi joined the UAE branch in 2012 as general manager.

During his years with the company, Duchi has also held the role of key account and productions manager, which allowed him to enjoy key management roles in some of the biggest events Giochi di Luce has been involved with in Europe and Middle East. These events ranged from corporate events to 3D mapping shows, opening and award ceremonies, product launches and fashion shows.

Now, as general manager of the company, Duchi’s role is to supervise and coordinate operations within all the company’s departments. However, he is very much an active face within the industry, taking a hands-on approach to the managerial role.

He explains: “My great involvement is still on the field, following clients and supervising the production department, from the creative and technical design to the execution on site. You can’t forget the passion that drives on working in the events market.”

Giochi di Luce ended 2014 with its best year yet in terms of turnover, net profit and event achievements since the branch opening in 2010.

Duchi says: “We have been able to take all the opportunities that a rising UAE market gave us, but maybe also go beyond focusing us on reliability and innovation. Consolidating this strong growth that we are experiencing, we plan to go ahead investing in team skills and technical resources, as well as investing in other regional markets such as Saudi Arabia, where we are already operating with very good results.

We are also supporting our Milan-based head office working on several challenging projects for the Milan Expo 2015, which will help us to be even more ready for the 2020 Dubai Expo.”

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Martin Luiz
Managing director, SLS Production Equipment LLC

Martin Luiz arrived in the UAE from India 35 years ago and began working within sales for the trading industry. Being a musical artist himself, music, sound and events have always been a passion for Luiz so, 17 years ago, he decided to start up SLS Production.

Luiz explained to Sound & Stage: “I am quite grateful to say that my passion is now my work. My current role as managing director involves overseeing the entire operation of the company, which genuinely gives me a personal satisfaction. While there have been many highlights, the ongoing challenge for me is to ensure that every job we take on for our clients is carried out with the highest efficiency and quality.”

And, with the focus on efficiency, 2014 has been a year of big change for the company, with many announcements and developments expected over the next year ahead also.

Luiz says: “SLS Production made a quantum leap in 2014, primarily due to significant additions to our team and our equipment. We are happy to have the opportunity to add to our team, with people from different countries who have brought their expertise and experiences to add to the growth of the company. 2015 will see SLS Production striving to be a more socially committed and wanting to exceed the expectations of our clients as well as our employees. On the professional front we want to be seen as a model of success.”

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Warren Barlow
Head of events, Al Laith

Prior to taking up his current rols at Al Laith three years ago, Warren Barlow was director at HSL — a production house in the UK — and worked on major festivals including Isle of Wight, T in the Park, and V Festival to name a few. Since 2007, Barlow had also enjoyed working on a variety of MENA projects including DIFC anniversaries, Ferrari World opening, Construction of the first event in the Du Forum, and various IDEX projects.

In his current role, Barlow is responsible for the entire events arm of Al Laith, including — but not limited to — implementing and maintaining systems for pricing, scheduling, and general workflow throughout the division. He is also charged with actively seeking new opportunities and developing existing client relationships, procuring stock and developing new products, and planning maintenance of the existing stock.

With such a varied list of responsibilities, Barlow has seen challenges and triumphs throughout the past three years.

He explains: “The biggest challenge since taking on the role has been to redevelop new pricing strategies and quotation system to ensure Al Laith remained the market leader in its sector. The implementation of the Liondeck platform system has proved a notable success in the revenue growth for the division, coupled with a turnkey approach alongside the Site Services Division, which specialises in the supply of cabins, ablutions, and golf buggies.

This gives our clients a more diverse way of looking at the production elements of their requirements, which in its own right makes Al Laith the first choice for all structural and site requirements for a vast array of major events.”

While the main aim for Al Laith’s events division over the next year, according to Barlow, is to focus on: “development of our turnkey model alongside further development of accessories for our Liondeck system,” the company will also be carrying out further viability studies in order to develop its presence in other MENA regions.

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Thomas Ovesen
COO, Done Events

Since 1999, Thomas Ovesen has been involved in live events within the region. While heading up various companies, he developed new concert and festival projects with clients in Africa, booked top entertainment around the world for Dubai-based corporates and even had a stint working with Beyoncé and other artists as an agent.

Ovesen tells us: “It has never been dull — even when experiencing the less glamorous side of the industry. Whether meeting an under duress Michael Jackson in Bahrain or promoting the second last ever Amy Winehouse concert in dubai, I have never regretted quitting my job as air traffic controller to work harder, longer hours for less payment as the real payoff was always there - seeing the smiling faces when the audiences walk out of the venue after another great night of live entertainment.”

With Ovesen heading up a small team of event experts, Done Events delivers event services from creative, graphic and production solutions to a variety of corporate, government and private clients. The company has also become known for staging some of the biggest live concerts, shows and comedy events in the region. But the company is not yet ready to rest on its laurels, as Ovesen revealed to Sound & Stage that the company has a variety of expansion plans lined up for 2015.

He says: “Internally, we have shifted some energy — and indeed money — to launch new annual event properties including RedfestDXB and Blended. Both our corporate and live teams have done more work for other group companies than before, and there is now a group agenda for an even more aggressive expansion.

Our overall plan is making ends meet! This is no small feat given the high costs of producing live shows, ticket taxation, high artist fees and the continued lack of purpose built live entertainment venues.

But, of course, we are looking forward to doing a good job on what will be the biggest ever concert staged here when we host One Direction in April. On the corporate events front we will strive to continue expanding the team and adding new services to the service portfolio, potentially via high level partnerships or even outright acquisitions.”

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Rebecca Wilson
Managing director, ESP International Event
Recruitment & president of ISES Middle East
After nearly a decade of developing and managing a UK event recruitment business with her business partner Liz Sinclair, Rebecca Wilson set up ESP’s Dubai office in 2008, which she has run ever since.

Telling us more about the company’s development over the past six years, Wilson explains: “We have worked with many of the key business leaders in the UK and Middle East markets on major recruitment drives and one-off searches.

With a background in the events industry from early careers in the London Convention Bureau and two London hotel sales and events roles, I have always been excited by the sector and recruitment has enabled me to combine my passion for people and helping them to find their true vocation in life; as I myself am fortunate enough to have done.”

But Wilson’s dedication to the industry does not end with ESP International, as she was recently announced as president of the ISES Middle East chapter.

She says: “I have been involved with ISES for nearly three years now and, after a year as president elect, stepped up to the role of president on 1st August. I am so passionate about the industry and the Middle East needs a driving force to take it to the next level, so I’m thrilled to be able to actively contribute to bringing about positive change and tangible improvements.”

Wilson continues: “With ISES we are trying hard to lobby the government and set about real, permanent changes. This takes time, but we have made great headway through the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and, through our close contacts at DWTC, we have set up a health and safety task force. Our first goal is introduce a set of H&S guidelines that are tailored to the events industry rather than the existing construction industry lead legislation.”

While the ISES ME chapter has grown from 50 to 75 members over 2014, this number is expected to continue rising as awareness increases. However, the main challenge for those involved, according to Wilson, is that: “It’s a difficult balance as we all also run our own companies or departments and have to divide our time between both “jobs”, but the reward is worth it as we really are making inroads.”

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Adrian Bell
Executive director, Action Impact

Having been in the performance and presentation industry all his working life, Adrian Bell arrived in the UAE in 1998 having spent his twenties working in London for one of the largest production companies in the world at the time. Together with his business partner, Mike Wain, Bell founded Action Impact in 2005, which has since grown to become one of the region’s premier experience agencies.

This growth is something that Bell believes stems from the root of the organisation. As he explains: “It’s not a job; it’s a way of life. I’m the co-founder and still deeply involved in everything from pitching to production. And my job is never typical — it’s an untypical industry, which is why I still get incredibly passionate about the work we do.”

While the industry is now enjoying a steady period of growth across a variety of sectors, Bell is among those who have faced one of the biggest challenges on their position in recent years. He says: “I don’t think anyone will forget the devastating effect that late 2009 (and the subsequent few years beyond) had on the industry. It was extremely tough for all of us.”

Although, with Action Impact aiming for “positive growth in the bottom line” for 2015, Bell has every confidence that the industry has recovered. He adds: “There’s been a notable surge in confidence across the board — more opportunities but, equally, more competition. Most sectors are up but noticeably we are seeing particularly positive activity in the IT, Telco and real estate sectors, all of which are key for our business.”

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Alan Thomson
Managing partner, Unusual Rigging & Engineering LLC

Having been in his current role for six years, Alan Thomson can lay claim to over 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry, primarily in the UK but also several years in the Middle East region during the late 1990s.

Major projects for him over the years have included Golden Jubilee Celebrations for HM Queen Elizabeth II, while Thomson’s clients have included Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber and Cameron Macintosh, the Royal families of the United Kingdom, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the governments of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman.

Thomson says: “As managing partner of the company my main role is to build the business, but I also oversee the major projects, ensuring that our work meets the internationally accepted standards of our profession.

What do I enjoy? Well, I like a challenge, which is just as well, because a new one arises every day in this constantly changing, but forward-looking, environment! I also like the fact that there are young people from different nationalities and cultures coming into our industry; I enjoy mentoring them and seeing their careers develop.”

The theme of mentoring also underpins Thomson’s approach to the ongoing issue of safety with the industry. He explains: “While we do work on many major projects in the public sector, we also undertake many private events and extravaganzas, some of which I am especially proud of.

The biggest challenge has been getting potential clients to understand that all our riggers are trained professionals and it has taken a while to get across the fact that we work to high standards of health and safety and work ethics. We do now have a reputation for professionalism, for the quality of our work and our services.”

He adds that Unusual Rigging’s overall company objective for 2015 is: “To continue the steady growth of the business, and enhance our reputation for excellence, professionalism and quality. Also to continue to promote high health and safety standards in the region.”

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Rick Wade
General manager, Neumann&Müller Event Technology LLC

Having held the position of general manager at Neumann&Müller Event Technology LLC since 2010, Rick Wade has worked in the Middle East region for over 16 years. He started out in the UK working on high profile corporate events including the G8 Summit, together with major shows and tours for artists like Phil Collins, Elton John, Tom Jones and Michael Jackson. Wade reveals: “I fell in love with lighting design during a Whitney Houston show. I knew that I had found my chosen career as it didn’t matter many hours I did — it was fun.”

Nowadays, Wade is responsible for the day-to-day leadership and management of the N&M Dubai branch — the flagship location for the Middle East.

He says: “I love working in this fast paced, diverse and dynamic market — every day offers new challenges! The UAE is known for being the best and biggest in terms of iconic projects: the tallest building in the world, the world’s richest horse race, the International Parachuting Championships.

Amazing projects like the New Year’s Eve celebrations around the Dubai fountains or the National Day celebrations are all technical realisations by N&M — all present their own challenges and it is so satisfying delivering solutions and end results that leave a lasting impression on anyone who witnesses them.”

And it’s delivering on these high-profile events that Wade believes has influenced the company’s current position in the industry.

He says: “2014 has been a very successful year for N&M across all markets and, in Dubai, we’re very pleased to have been selected by clients who we have built up a trust-based relationship with — that know and expect us to deliver technically sophisticated concepts with the utmost efficiency.

This is so important in this region — they know they can rely on our expertise and a high level of commitment. We have invested in new equipment, resources and, very importantly, in people. Our team is continually growing to make sure that the quality we deliver sets standards.”

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Rami Harfouch
Business development manager, Procom Middle East

Before Procom, Rami Harfouch worked as a management consultant for several years in the Middle East. During that period his friend and relative, Raja Harfouche, introduced him to Procom — a company he founded several years ago for audio and lighting equipment distribution in the Middle East. The pair felt that together they could take the company to the next level, so Harfouch joined Procom in September 2013.

He tells us: “I don’t find it easy to define what I do because I am involved in every aspect of the business. Primarily, I help define and implement the strategy of the company including marketing, recruitment, supplier relationship management, internal process improvement and setting up new functions.

The most enjoyable part for me is recruitment. Attracting the right people and then making sure they are successful at their job is very rewarding and I had plenty of chances to do that in the last year — the Procom team has doubled in size in 2014.”

But coming from a background completely unrelated to the audio and lighting industry wasn’t without its challenges along the way.

Harfouch explains: “Acquiring the technical knowledge of the industry in a short period of time was a major challenge. But this has been a smooth ride so far, surrounded by a fantastic technical team of industry veterans committed to make me one of them. The learning curve will remain steep in 2015, and that is exciting.”

He continues: “Since my joining, Procom has added several exclusive brands to its portfolio such as Eurotruss, Philips Selecon, Strand Lighting and Showline and DAS Audio. The newly acquired brands, coupled to new marketing channels, were very successful.

In 2015, Procom will continue its expansion by adding products to its portfolio, investing in its technical capabilities to provide support to industry professionals. Procom will also continue investing in its video mapping capabilities, spearheaded by its range of Avolites Media Servers.”

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Simon Burnett
Director of production & delivery for EventServe Event and Hospitality Services, DWTC

Before joining the EventServe team at Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) in October 2012, Simon Burnett had been working in the UAE since 2006. In this time, he led several events and exhibitions across the region, of which he tells us a personal highlight was the launch of the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Burnett says: “Before moving to the region, I managed several technical departments in leading touring UK venues. With a passion for venue management, this led me to take up a senior position as operations director at Unusual Services UK, managing some of Europe’s largest events in production management.”

This wide-ranging experience set Burnett up well for his current role, where ‘large-scale’ isn’t just a term to describe the events themselves.

He explains: “EventServe works alongside clients to map out specific requirements and provide fitting solutions through to execution. With over 600 events happening yearly on site and having welcomed over 2.2 million visitors just last year, we have unrivalled expertise in providing end-to-end solutions for events of all sizes, which is further supported by a well-developed operations, sales and logistic outfit.

We offer organisers a vast array of support services from venue design and AV engineering to entertainment, hospitality, stage building, communications, facilities management and more.”

Burnett adds: “It is my duty to ensure all clients are aware of the variety of services available. This includes everything from fabrication, delivery and events portfolio. What differentiates DWTC’s team is the scope of services available at any given production event. We have long had a solid reputation for delivering quality on every scale, and this is now being translated more and more to events around the UAE, not just at our venue, as we continue to grow our portfolio.”

And Burnett reveals that the EventServe team has experienced significant growth over the past several years in a variety of areas, not just its own portfolio.

He says: “There are several factors which have attributed to this growth, including substantial investments in state-of-the-art AV technology, grand staging/furniture inventory, and increase in WiFi bandwidth. These factors have all led to additional offerings, thus, an increase in market share. This not only strengthens existing partnerships but also opens avenues for new partnerships to prosper.”

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Danielle Nay
Managing director, Transformers

Having moved to Dubai in late 2009 to work as a creative producer in the events sector, Danielle Nay struggled to source the quality of original content and creative suppliers in the UAE that she had become used to working in London. This was when, as she says: “A business idea was born.” Nay explains: “As a former PR, I’ve always thought in pictures. Tthe live communications space — including stunts and events — is the most interesting creative medium in which to grab headlines and create talking points, more so than ever in the age of Instagram and YouTube.”

And it wasn’t long before Nay’s business idea became Transformers, a company that specialises in supplying, as she puts it: “shareworthy event ingredients — the proverbial ‘wow factor’ for brands.”

Nay continues: “Our fastest growing product is Social Mosa, the live conversation visualiser for Instagram and twitter. There’s no point encouraging people to share content at your event unless you celebrate that content actually on site and reward it with 15 seconds of fame for the user. It is quite staggering to observe the shift from twitter to Instagram in the year since we launched the product. Everybody is thinking in pictures now, with Instagram video about to explode.”

However, while rapid growth in the fields of technology and social networking may have been one of the most valuable factors in Transformers’ success, it has also provided plenty of challenges.

However, Nay maintains a balanced view of the current climate in the regional industry, revealing to Sound & Stage that: “The biggest challenge to our business — increasing competition from clever peers in the supplier network — is also the thing that makes Dubai in 2015 a much more interesting place to work (and socialise) than when I arrived. Dubai is no longer second-best but in some fields is actively leading the pack.”

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Oliver Wood
Innovations director, Blink Experience

Originally starting in business development, Wood has been based within the Middle East for nearly 10 years, working for a variety of event management agencies and consulting on live campaigns for a range of brands and corporations. However, it’s in his current role of the past five years at Blink Experience that he really gets to implement his ideas to the full.

Wood explains: “‘Innovation’ by reputation is an exciting space. Position this within the thrill of a live event, where brands come to life, and we can get direct engagement with target audiences, then you’re talking about arguably the greatest marketing position there is.

Tangible emotions, visible reactions and a chance to invent, create and develop exciting ‘stories’ from start to finish. I take pride in leading a team who values the clients’ ideas and responses to our thinking, listens and understands their needs, and then also understands just how their consumers behave and interact with their brands.”

But creating just the right mix is not without its obstacles. As Wood explains: “We leave in a procurement world, I enjoy the challenge, but it can be tough. Costs are compared when solutions are completely different, but this has made my team and I work harder to build proposals that deliver that same level of ingenuity and that formula of ‘fresh’ but at a cost that can compete.”

And the hard work seems to be paying off for Blink, having more or less doubled its key client base over the past year.

With over 70 people in seven offices across the GCC, Wood believes that over the next year: “We will continue to grow our existing client base until we have become a permanent addition to the boardroom. Alongside this we will be looking at building even more on the innovation sector of the business — we have the perfect base on which to diversify into other disciplines. The final objective is to continue having fun and passion in what we do.”

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