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Expansion Trade Tips For Your Business Mark Soufiar, General Manager, OMD Qatar,talks about entering a new market for business.

By Fida Chaaban

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Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, OMD launched its newest country office in Qatar in April of this year. "Our portfolio of Qatar-based clients was growing, and it was time for us to turn our local operation into a full-fledged office," says Mark Soufiar, the newly appointed General Manager of OMD Qatar. "The growth trajectory of the country -and its fast development- also made a compelling case for a full presence. Qatar has global aspirations and needs partners that can help them realize these ambitions across a number of projects, initiatives and sectors."

The plans to launch OMD Qatar were clearly influenced by factors like the securing of the 2022 World Cup, and also potentially in light of the continued investment in education made by the Qatari government. It probably helps that as a multinational, global institutions looking to expand operations into Qatar will, in all likelihood, take advantage of the fact that an established partner they have in another country now has a local office in the newest market that they're looking to properly penetrate. "As a leading global network, OMD has much to offer to local, regional and global entities, both from the public and private sectors. As such, our experience in a broad range of industries and sectors will catalyze growth for our clients and help them achieve the best possible results."

OMD Qatar's client roster currently includes enterprises that run the gamut from banking to tourism to broadcast to healthcare. Hence, the decision to open a local office in the small Gulf country wasn't a difficult one- it was a natural progression as servicing clients on their turf is always a boon to any company. The agency's Qatar clients have now all moved to the new office, and will be serviced from Doha. "In some way, we have been in Qatar for quite some time but once the decision to open a full operation here was taken, things moved on quite swiftly. Our recent wins have positively impacted our plans. Hence, it's been quite an exciting period with plenty of issues to address and opportunities to learn. We believe we have the right solution in place for the market and have now created the level of awareness and interest we needed to grow harmoniously. We're also fortunate to have received immense support from all our clients, partners and suppliers. It's a hugely exciting time to be in Doha."

Mark Soufiar, General Manager, OMD Qatar

The company's regional base in Dubai is close by, but if you've done business in Qatar, you'll understand that proximity and a local office are obviously advantageous, no matter the industry. Some of OMD Qatar's clients "include the Doha Film Institute, beIN Sports and the Sidra Medical & Research Center, part of the Qatar Foundation. We have already built strong relationships with our current clients and aim to grow this further on the back of our new office in Doha. A market of the size and ambition of Qatar requires us to have a full office, backed by the regional HQ in Dubai. With it, we combine local expertise and insights with regional and international best practice."

Soufiar, appointed to launch and execute the new country office, is heading up a team of eight "and already growing." It's always good for a new country office to have staff who already have their feet firmly planted in the market's enterprise space, and OMD Qatar's entry strategy incorporated that tactic. "We see that Doha has the potential to be a leading operation in our network, as clients' expectations will push us to provide best in class service. All of [our team] have been in the network for several years, and some have handled Qatari clients for some time. Others have joined them based on their complementary talent and for the opportunity that Qatar represents for their careers."

Soufiar acknowledges that the Qatari market has its own specificities, and that they're aware of the challenges the new branch is facing: "The market here is highly competitive and limited when it comes to media opportunities. Instead of a challenge, we regard this as an opportunity to provide out of the box solutions to current and potential clients. While strategies and agency capabilities are as important as they are elsewhere, there is also a lot of focus on value. All in all, Qatar is a market that requires innovative thinking and sharp negotiation skills."

Source: OMD

Both of these skills are also needed when you're organizing and recruiting a new team, and testing your mettle as a leader. "My personal ambition is two-fold: realizing the ambition and the promise of the Qatari market, on the one hand, and supporting locally-based businesses with the full power of the OMD network. This is how we will create a virtuous circle of success for all." Soufiar has clocked almost 12 years with OMD in various positions, his most recent as Senior Director at OMD UAE. The 33 year-old admits that the appointment of General Manager, and being tasked with the launch of a new branch, is a whole new ballgame, but one he was ready to meet as a hands-on leader.

"I knew that it was the right time for me to take on a challenging role that would sharpen my entrepreneurial skills and test my ability to launch and manage an office. Though I totally went outside of my comfort zone, I have been with the network long enough to know what makes it work, and thankfully the results have proved the wisdom of that call." And what is his source of personal motivation? "For me, it's a vision, a goal, and a clear direction of the path to success. This is all tied to some important factors, first and foremost to us is building credibility and demonstrable performance in the market, which will lead to effective relationships and ultimately new business wins."

Business wins are everything, and the quicker your enterprise can drum up new clients, the quicker you gain market share and a solid reputation. If your business has operated in the new country for some time, you may find yourself ahead of the game when you decide to open a local office. "Venturing into something new is always going to be a challenge but we knew the Qatar market very well, having serviced our clients there out of Dubai for the past few years. Thanks to this experience, we could open physically in the market in a position of strength, with a portfolio of clients, contacts and relationships already established."

And once your existing contacts know that you're coming directly to them, the next step, explains Soufiar, is tailoring your market offering to suit the local business climate and demographics. "What is important is to build the business model on market requirements, being flexible by adapting to these needs. These are defining factors to the success in growing our client base and creating strategic partnerships that will stimulate the growth of our operation in Doha.

Source: OMD


How does OMD Qatar plan to attract new SMEs and multinationals interested in executive Qatar endeavors?
"We believe our proposition is as compelling in Qatar as it is in the other countries in which we operate. OMD has a strong culture of innovation and effectiveness, which can be summarized with "ideas that work.' This approach, deployed with the expertise of our team and the technology of our network, ensures our clients are at the cutting edge in terms of thinking and execution. We seamlessly integrate all our expertise and specialist disciplines into every relationship to ensure every synergy is activated. The result is that clients perform at their optimal level and reap the rewards of our approach in the market. We see it as part of our mission to catalyze the power of our group and keep our clients ahead of the curve. This means that we constantly look for opportunities to innovate, against something deeply rooted in our culture. Hence, digital technology is an area where we believe we have an edge and this has proven particularly attractive with clients. We see this as equally critical in Qatar, considering the digitization of the country and the modern lifestyle people enjoy here. Brands can clearly capitalize from this landscape."

Fida Chaaban

Chief Communications Officer, KBW Investments

Fida Chaaban is the Chief Communications Officer of KBW Investments, a privately held Dubai-based investment concern that works across multiple sectors. Prior to her most recent appointment, Fida was the founding Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East and Entrepreneur Qatar magazines. She is a big believer in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region’s startup ecosystem, and endeavors to use both print and web to positively encourage development in various entrepreneurial spaces and across industries. Based in Dubai, UAE, Fida is a social media enthusiast and sees it as the medium of today’s effective enterprises.

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