Entrepreneurship forum will empower Qatar’s private sector

by  — 12 January 2014

Entrepreneurship is generally recognised as a vital element in economic development and provides stimulation for private sector growth and diversity. It is against this background that Qatar University (QU), in cooperation with Interactive Business Network (IBN), is organising the Entrepreneurship in Economic Development Forum to be held in Doha in February 2014.

Banks and financial institutions will also be part of the discussion panels says, IBN CEO Raed Chehaib, and that both traditional and non-traditional means of finance will be looked at.

Speaking exclusively to The Edge, Raed Chehaib, CEO of IBN, says that the event will bring together a wide panel of experts – from entrepreneurs to angel investors – who will not only share their own success stories, but also serve as a guide to budding entrepreneurs in Qatar.

What, according to IBN, are the aims of the forum?

There is a big demand in the market, especially in Qatar, to empower entrepreneurship and the private sector both of which go a long way in preparing companies to face challenges that come with development of the economy. Basically, the forum will look at various ways of empowering the private sector in Qatar, which is seen as one step that will aid in the diversification of the economy, something that has been expressly stated as one aim by the government in its National Vision 2030 as well as the National Development Strategy 2011 to 2016.

There is a gap between the vision that HH Emir the Father Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani has envisaged and its practical execution. The forum is an attempt to bridge this gap between what the vision wants to achieve and its execution in Qatar. The forum will bring together experts from chambers of commerce, Qatari Businessmen’s Association and others from diverse fields (such as non-profit organisations, financial institutions, and training) who will give their guidance, share their success routes and inspire the youth.

Why did IBN choose to partner with QU in this forum?

QU is a big, effective and neutral umbrella and experts who are part of the forum will willingly meet under this umbrella to discuss and share viewpoints on how to best take ahead the agenda of diversifying the economy and add more strength to the private sector.

What do forums of this kind do to make entrepreneurship a more acceptable career option, given that there is a prevalent mindset of going for safer options?

We all know that on the macro level there is a need to add strength to the private sector so that the national goal of diversification is attained. On the micro level, there is a general rule that the more risks one takes when it comes to one’s career (which comes with the spirit of entrepreneurship), the more the gains that one attains in return.

Through the various sessions in the forum, experts will address contrasting scenarios such as the increased financial gains one achieves with being the leader of a new venture versus those that go with just being an employee. The latter, it is well known, is a relatively easy choice with lesser gains, compared with being an owner, which improves the chances of one’s financial gains. 

The experts, culled out of the local, regional and international markets, will talk to prospective entrepreneurs on the common mistakes that entrepreneurs make, the pitfalls that one needs to avoid, and the safeguards one needs to take to improve chances of success.

How will IBN partner with QU in making this forum a success?

Both IBN and QU have distinct roles to play. QU has the role of being an educator, serving as a neutral platform for experts to congregate and share ideas and experiences. IBN, on its part as a conference organiser, is entrusted with the responsibility of getting experts from around the globe, something that it already has a proven track record in, having organised forums such as the Qatari International Businesswomen’s Forum, Arab Electricity and Power Forum (which was held under the auspices of the Arab League).

“The forum will bring together experts from Qatari Businessmen’s Association and chambers of commerce to give their guidance, share their success routes and inspire the youth.”

We are also responsible for creating and fine-tuning the marketing tools and the marketing strategy for the conference, taking care of the costs, which we aim to provide for through corporate sponsorships and auto finance it, and, to a limited extent, suggest to QU the broad scope of discussions in the various sessions, recommending steps to the government to enhance the spirit of entrepreneurship. 

We will also have sessions on how the education system can foster the spirit, which, in effect, will be getting to the root of devising newer courses and how these can have an impact on student psyche.

What kind of inputs have you shared with QU in making the forum as broad-based in terms of participation as possible? 

The forum will be an international forum and 70 percent of the speakers are international speakers. There are certain common traits that entrepreneurs all over the world share – risk taking, creativity, passion to be independent – which will help in shaping inspirational messages to the youth of Qatar. We will also promote the conference through social media, which is a great strength that we already have. 

We are also in touch with chambers of commerce worldwide to get their patronage and are in the process of talking to European educational leaders to present their advanced educational models, which can be emulated here.

There is one session within the forum called government and entrepreneurship. What would be the discussions in this session?

We will design this forum in such a way that it has the participation of local government leaders who will discuss whether Qatar is a conducive enough place for entrepreneurs or not; what the challenges are; and what steps can be taken to the next level so that some recommendations can come forth for policy changes at the government level.

Many a times, entrepreneurship is stunted by the lack of finance. Are you not targeting banks and finance companies to be part of the panels?

Yes, we are. There is a particular session that will have banks and financial institutions as part of the panel. There are two aspects of this panel: one looking at traditional finance and the other at non-traditional finance. The former will talk about retail banks and financial institutions. Non-traditional finance will bring to the fore the role that angel investors play in propitiating the spirit of entrepreneurship. We have quite a few angel investors coming in both from the region as well as the international markets.

The event literature says several workshops will be presented by notable professionals, academics, local and international experts. Can academics sow the seeds of entrepreneurship? And what value do you give to local entrepreneurs?

The conference will have panels, which will have both academics and entrepreneurs, local, regional and global. In fact, they will lead 80 percent of the panels. There is undoubtedly a synergy between academics and professional entrepreneurs and the idea is to benefit from this synergy. The panels will be called “How I did it” which will share the path that the entrepreneurs have taken to chase their success.

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