How Dubai-Based Basmaty Is Disrupting The Culinary World
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Disruptive innovation is a common theme across many, if not all, industry sectors nowadays. As in many other cases, the culinary world has also witnessed its rules being rewritten, with many chefs from around the world building their own enterprises to conquer the dining sector. So, how are they going about doing this? We asked some chefs who have embarked on such entrepreneurial endeavors in the MENA region to tell us their stories. Here's what Alia Adi, founder of Basmaty, had to say.
Alia Adi is the founder of Basmaty, an Arabic website featuring Middle Eastern recipes. Born and raised in Switzerland, the Syrian noticed a gap in the market for online food recipes in Arabic and launched Basmaty (‘my smile’ in Arabic) in Damascus in 2011. Her four-strong team used to produce around 100 Arabic-language cooking videos a month from their studio in Damascus. In the civil war causing her to flee Syria, Adi spent a year in London, being trained in video production at YouTube, before coming to Dubai to establish her company (for the second time) at in5.
“Having to move my business from Syria to Dubai and learning all the technical skills related to video production in order to keep my business afloat, as I had lost my team, was really challenging. Furthermore, working alone for two years was a huge struggle for me but I was determined not to give up,” she says.
Today, Basmaty has grown into an online food network that houses cooking content from all over the region, with one million views of their YouTube channel per month and nearly 200,000 subscribers. “Over the past five years, Basmaty has grown into one of the leading cooking platforms in Arabic,” Adi says. “It has recently evolved into the first online food network in the region with the aim of identifying and supporting food talents in MENA.
So not only does Basmaty produce its own content, but it is also aggregating content from food talents, helping them with more exposure, technical and creative assistance. The business model is based on advertising and sponsorships. I’ve worked with major brands in creating content for them to be featured on Basmaty, and the platform’s USP is clearly related to the fact that it is the only online food network in the region, offering access to talented people. As a network, Basmaty has the potential to grow on a very large scale by integrating more and more talent into the platform.”
HOW DO YOU TURN A PASSION FOR FOOD INTO A PROFITABLE BUSINESS?
“You need to have a clear understanding of the market in terms of needs and trends since food is a domain that is in constant evolution. The market trends and consumer needs in the food industry change regularly due to various factors, such as health-related findings. The challenge is to be able to predict those trends and adapt quickly. Across the MENA region, this is even more true for the UAE due to the high exposure of diverse cuisines and people. It isn’t always easy to combine both commercial aspect and culinary vision and they sometimes find themselves in contradiction. The way I addressed this occasional conflict is through diversifying my content and launching different channels under the Basmaty network, each having a different positioning."
"For example, I am sometimes approached by brands which don’t necessarily fit within my culinary vision as a chef, however, I understand that my platform needs to cater to different needs and avoid missing commercial opportunities. The best way for me to balance between the two was simply to create a new channel under my network which aligned perfectly with my culinary vision without compromising any commercial viability of my platform. I launched a channel called ‘Delish by Alia’ which represents my culinary vision as a chef and allows me to work specifically with the brands that fit within my vision while at the same time working with other brands on Basmaty.
ALIA ADI’S DO'S AND DON’TS FOR RUNNING A BUSINESS
- Keep learning and evolving.
- Identify collaboration opportunities that will help add more value to your business and increase your exposure.
- Always evaluate feedback from the market and do the necessary changes, if needed.
- ... launch a product or service without a proper market study.
- ... get comfortable doing what you do because the market needs in the food sector are in constant change.
- ... spread yourself too thin by wanting to do too much at the same time. Focus!