Endless Coffee Cup Podcast #74: Creating Arabic Influencers

i think there was a statistic that said that the digital economy is four percent of the overall gdp of the country and that was a few years ago i think about four or five years ago and that's when his highness the prime minister and the ruler of dubai established a ministry called the ministry of ai but also a digital economy welcome to endless coffee cup a regular discussion of marketing news culture and media for our complex digital lifestyle join matt bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing grab a cup of coffee have a seat and thanks for joining well hello and welcome to another edition of the endless coffee cup podcast i'm your host matt bailey and i've got a great guest today one who i we have gotten to know each over the past couple years working on a project in the united arab emirates i would like to introduce you to rashad alawadi rashid how are you doing today i'm great man thank you so much for having me oh you're very very welcome rashid i from the day we met you have had some of the greatest stories about how you got into social media how you got into you know youtube and and just listeners i have to tell you so rashen and his brother are both foodies and i mean you had to be one of the first in the region to have a youtube channel where you guys were traveling the world yeah so so it actually all didn't start on on content it all started because my brother and i had a dream and the dream was to open up a restaurant and that dream came about when we were super little because my father was in the business of toys and he was the agent for a number of different brands in the region over here and specifically hello kitty and i remember when we were young yeah we actually go he had a store in the first mall in the whole country in dubai and every weekend yeah he'd take us to the store and we'd go meet at parties at carl's jr and then we'd come up and we'd play inside the store with all the toys and they were like smurfs and they were hello kitty and there were the snorkels and there were the trolls and all this stuff it was it was great needless to say we were the first people invited to every birthday by the way because we brought the best gifts for everybody but i remember when we were young my older brother and i'm on it we said wouldn't it be cool if the restaurant was actually attached to this toy store and ever since then that was when i was probably you know eight nine ten my brother was three years older and that dream kind of stayed with us as we went through college we actually built a concept for a restaurant and we never got a chance to do it we graduated from college we came back we both got jobs both of us in multinational fmcg companies and that dream was still still alive but we had a little bit of an issue like here in the region specifically in the uae the the concept of an sme sector a small business it didn't quite exist there wasn't anybody that that gave you money like there was no banks that would loan you any sme money because nobody did that you you know you were either somebody who already had money and did your business or you went and worked for somebody and i'd say we're probably one of the first smes to get funded through an entity called the sheikh mohammed bin rashid the sme program and and we ran some money after we tried everything to open our restaurant we got some some some funding opened up a restaurant and then here we are this is 2008 after eight years of working on this concept and the concept was very cool it was the first globally branded shawarma restaurant except the shawarma restaurant was you know the ingredients the way that we were making it was like like a five-star hotel and it was everything was anyways we we got someone we started we were about to open the restaurant and we realized we're like wow how are we going to compete with big brands we have no money from marketing we understand the game of marketing but the game of marketing in 2008 and 9 requires a lot of money for traditional media and it just so happens that facebook and twitter suddenly appeared in the uad yeah and we said you know what we're going to use this to our advantage we were one of the first few people on social media on facebook and twitter and what we did was something very simple matt in 2008 we found this app called the twitter fall we put a suite in our restaurant and we put hashtags related to our restaurant and we encouraged everybody that came in to write about their experiences now that meant when you come to to the restaurant you could see what everybody was thinking it was good great even the team feel energized and everything if it was not good we immediately addressed everything so it's kind of a check and balance for operations but we built such a big community on the back of that in those days matt we had 3 000 twitter followers in dubai and it was actually globally and that was that i think that would probably equate to something like three million in today's world right three thousand three followers in in 2008 and and i kid you not because we were actually invited to speak on a panel with the gentleman who was running social media for president barack obama so he's the one that actually was heading social media former us president he was heading the whole campaign and we were on this panel with him talking about how we know we wrap shawarmas we have this community and you know the person who comes to the restaurant uh seven days in a row becomes the mayor of you know our restaurant called peta and it was just it was just amazing we we continued to build on the community and it was just a fantastic experience and we a lot of people from around the world actually reached out to us and said wow you guys are doing something that that's very very unique and i think that was kind of the first steps that we took into social media marketing and i think i want to say one of the first people in the world that actually used it in that manner you know we actually by the way my brother and i never used our real names you know we had names with restaurants he was wild pita i was gourmet shawarma that's how we introduced you know one another it was i mean it was super super super exciting in those days to kind of build this from uh from scratch oh absolutely i i you know that early to be that innovative with how you were using it really just you know it i mean i look back on how people use twitter and it was a lot of a formulation there i love how you explain that because it was just so organic the way it came around that hey we found this app well here's what we could do with it and just developing it from there i love just the the organicness if that's a word of how you develop that yeah you know the thing with with us also the other thing that we did you know i mean social media is all about this community that you build that engages with you and i think from a very early stage we focused on that a lot we were also i believe the first restaurant in the world that said hey twitter followers what would you like on the menu and we had a list of stuff and what they chose we put on the menu we said hey guys we've got this wall we don't know what to paint it you know what color to paint it what do you think and we did that and and we kind of did that throughout everything the packaging was done back like that the the decor was done like that the menu was done like that and the community felt very empowered and they felt like that was their space and what happened after that matt is people started to organize events at our restaurant like we'd walk into a restaurant and they'd be like like six people playing scrabble and we'd be like oh hey what are you they're like yeah we're the scrabble club you know and we decided that this is gonna be our venue and we're just gonna be here you know people were organizing like comedy nights and open mic nights and things were just happening organically because we built that community and i think that as a concept if you take that that is it is so powerful to do that even today people kind of lose uh track of of that you know they forget that that's the whole point of having a social media channel for channels today right absolutely it's you know if anything today it's just so formulaic and i feel like there is a lot of following the headlines that i just read that people are doing this let's do the same thing without that focus on what's best for us what would work for our community and how do we serve those closest to us i i think you're absolutely right yeah and you know what happened after that is we we basically we had worked so hard on that restaurant and and we were just like super tired and we we we wanted to take a break and we decided to to travel and and as with everything that we did we went online we went on twitter and we said hey guys where do you think muhammad and i can travel to for two days that's within a four hour radius you know we don't need visas for this was in 2008 a long time ago when we couldn't walk into every country right and get a visa on on arrival and and it turns out the only country that we could do that was sri lanka so we literally hopped on a plane we went to sri lanka and in those days we had we had two phones and and when we went there we just started to take photos of everything and videos everything and post it on social media so we were doing this daily kind of vlog style content in 2008 and i know there were people that did that before us for sure but we were kind of taking pictures of everything we were in the taxi and we're talking to a taxi driver and we were just uploading everything onto our channels and it's an amazing experience and when we got back people said wow we absolutely loved that trip we actually felt like we were on the trip with you guys you've never had that experience before and my brother and i then thought you know this is actually an idea there could be an actual travel show about two imarati guys dressed like this who travel around the world connect with change makers and everything they do so which country they go to where they stay what they eat who they meet is all a result of q and a's with their community and we actually took that concept to a company called 2454 and then google came on board as the first sponsor of the show yeah robert kinsel from from from google said i love the concept i'll give you some money we had intercontinental hotels on board and then dubai tv came on board and said i want to distribute this and we ended up doing a two-year travel show we traveled through 24 countries and it was brilliant and matt when we did that that was we had the concept in 2009 we actually started shooting season one in 2012 uh or 2000 yeah 2012.

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and in 2012 the concept was have this hashtag on screen you know if you're listening to music write on screen what that music is we took tweets and we put them on speed and i dare say if we look back at 2012 if if anybody was doing that at that time which today is customary right you watch right you're like there's a hashtag there's you know whatever we had a qr code on screen and could you imagine people in 2012 saying what are you guys doing why do you have all this stuff on screen yeah and it was because we were trying to always engage our audiences we always were aware that people are consuming content on multiple devices and we're trying to move people back and forth from their phones to tv and we were just trying to engage on different levels you know if you like this music by the way we have a playlist which you can you can go to this place that we're going to is is actually on foursquare and you can you can check it out so we were just innovating as much as we could with content and i remember also telling the the network that we're you know that the crew is you know the camera guys the videographers and we said we're taking a videographer with us on travel they said why because we said well we're gonna do we're gonna do live content on social media they said wow okay are you sure he said yes and we actually had a social media manager in 2012 as part of the crew once again something very unique in those days no shows did that but once again it was all about the community man you know everything goes back to what do you do it's not just about producing that content it's about producing content that creates conversation and engagement and a continued conversation that was always the goal of us absolutely and and when i look at your content it's fantastic because you know i look in you're trying on costumes in rio you're in the philippines doing survival with the you know the survival guys you're wrestling luchadores in mexico which probably has to be one of my favorites so yeah it's not just you're you're going and seeing things the the participation in the area that you're in in the people the change makers as you said that is so inviting because you're experiencing things that you know people have have heard about maybe they've seen and now you're there and taking part in it and so it's a it's a very exciting video when you watch it it's non-stop what's going on and what's happening it was an amazing experience i mean i think there was a few other goals for us matt i mean one of them was you know when we were scrolling through you know tv channels around the world we would consistently see people uh dressed like this in in the candora in a negative way when we looked at global global news and media you know and we we thought you know what you've probably seen people dressed like this on screen but have you seen people in real life dressed like that and that was kind of the reason why we dressed in that manner and i'll tell you this every guest that we met we we had some conversations with them but never with a video on and when we got there we'd actually roll the video and meet them for the first time with us being dressed like this yeah so imagine us being in a little town in chile you know and meeting people for the first time dressed like this and you know obviously like apprehensiveness the first time they meet us and you know just like shyness and quietness but as soon as we start talking and as soon as we talk talking about the things that we love that we share everybody was like wow you know we've never met somebody dressed like that before but we never imagined that you guys have the same interests in terms of music and food and art and culture and things like that so i think that was very important for us to kind of kind of change that stereotype a little bit naturally we're from the uae but this was the easiest way to represent overall arabs because you know when you look at somebody like this you know straight away you're you're arab so that was a that was a big goal for us as as well well you were truly ambassadors you know ambassadors as you said not just for the uae but for the the arab region to go represent and and you know it's funny because this hits on the theme of a number of shows we've done on on just multiculturalism or communication is once you get to know someone in a different culture and once you start to share a meal a conversation immediately those barriers just start to go down it's hard to apply a stereotype when you're getting to know someone and you know you you and your brother were truly ambassadors breaking down those barriers and and that's one of the things i think that makes those videos so fun to watch yeah yeah you know we always call ourselves the global bedouins and you know it's it's it's on the premise and there's a there's a bedroom proverb that says you know when you break bread with somebody that person is no longer your enemy you know they're your their your friend and we certainly felt that i mean we traveled to 24 countries like this i've been to a further 30 countries just like this and i tell you i never felt anything but love from everybody generally you know people are are curious they're they're looking and they're watching and they're like what is that they want to ask you you know like what what is that you know on your head and why but generally everybody was super courteous and we were even in the u.s actually after the boston bombing and you know we were in austin texas a fantastic city one of my favorite cities in the us and everybody was super amazing i mean we never honestly i never had an issue and i i you know i i would say but you know we've been to argentina we've been to chile costa rica the us italy south africa you name it no issues japan korea thailand australia never one time were we ridiculed never one time where we belittled not at all and it's amazing there's a lot of goodness in the world matt that is amazing and yeah happy that you found that and and happy that it comes across in the videos and and that's just such a great message such amazing stuff that what you've brought together there and and i can't help but think now i you know i as i was telling you before we started the the interview here i'm watching you while you're at the expo in dubai and i g like i said i was there for about six hours i ate at the at the african pavilion and had oh i i i couldn't eat enough i i i i knew this was like my only night there and i and so i'm watching you there i'm like i should i wish you to wat made these videos before i went so i could know exactly where to go how does this tie into the expo in dubai i mean what an exciting place it's it's my god i i i've probably been there over 15 times now we just we just shot the the new global campaign for expo which is i mean phenomenal and my god it such a great feeling while while you're there you know i i keep saying 192 countries so if we consider a lot of people consider 197 being every country in in the in the world you've got 192 here i know that it takes most people seven to 10 years to be able to hit all 197 countries i've seen people do that imagine that you can actually do all of that right here in one place okay so that that's that's number one that's amazing more than that imagine you are walking into a different culture and you can walk into 10 or 20 different cultures every single day how amazing is that the opportunity for you to see what people wear what people eat you know how people speak you know how they are it's it's just unbelievable and whoever doesn't take advantage of that opportunity is really really missing out and i love how they've packaged it in a way i know a lot of people think that expo is an entertainment destination i know that a lot of people before they go there they say is this like disneyland am i going to go on rides there's certainly entertainment but there's so much to learn and get out of it it's such an amazing entertainment uh destination and and i love that you know i love you know going to the world but if you're not going to the world then come to the world over here in dubai and and i have to say that you know dubai historically has always been this right the dubai has has always been a microcosm of the world i mean i'll tell you this my family every single member of my family speaks five languages every single one member of my family has been so connected to global culture i i kid you not i mean i i travel around the world and i'm rarely ever culture shock you know and and i guess you know my family's done a lot of travel to my father and grandfather but generally this is a city and a country where you potentially will bump into six seven different people from six seven different countries and six seven different cultures and i tell you five languages i speak i use four of them almost every single day yeah that's something that struck me when i was there is just how international the city is and you'll meet people everywhere from every culture it's just absolutely amazing to be in that much of a you know to use the american term a melting pot it it truly is and to see you know the roles people have and where you meet them and you know i love just you know going to the mall and walking down and just taking it all in it's just such a it's i would say for someone if if this is one of the first trips you take it might be a little challenging but welcome to the world i mean that's how i feel when i'm there it's just welcome to the world everybody's here and then going to expo like you said and visiting some of the different countries and i love it when some of the countries would have a restaurant right there in their building and you can get a taste of something that's unique to their culture their country and then also seeing how the different countries represented themselves through exhibits through the people through the message that they were bringing it it was really a phenomenal phenomenal time like i said i hope to get back out there again hey matt and you said it you know i think really the premise for this is to tell everybody you know let's connect let's talk let's learn about each other and let's move forward from this point onwards thinking about how we're going to do things together going forward no matter what that is and that is the message of alexo you know it's come over here let's shake hands let's let's hug wear a mask but and let's figure out what we want to do when it comes to you know opportunities and whether that is in the space of blockchain or bitcoin or whether it's in the space of sustainability or whether it's in the space of you know a driverless transport or mobility or or anything like that and i love that you know people are very i see a lot of people there and i see a lot of thought to hey what else can we do together and i think that's that's very very powerful you know i'm kind of sad you know we have two and a half months left and i'm sad that that's you know it's no longer going to be here at least in its entirety so part of it is going to stay as i understand but uh but yeah it's amazing it's amazing i hope you come back soon man yeah i gotta get there two and a half months oh no well on that subject of opportunity you are now the executive director of new media academy and we've been working together almost since day one and why why i mean let me set this up my impression of dubai from a couple of trips is i feel like when i go to dubai there's no fear of big things that there is a you know what this needs to be done who's going to do it and how are we going to do it and how are we going to do it so that it competes globally that's my impression of dubai and the emirates is there is this we're going to get better and we're going not just an acceptable level of getting better we want to make an impression and there's just no fear of failure it seems like it's just a like you said think we're going up we're going up and we're going fast so how does that roll into the the creation of new media academy and and obviously i think they tapped you because you've got that background and social media and how powerful it can be well first of all matt it's been an absolute pleasure working with you and i really appreciate everything you've done we honestly could not be here today without you know having you on board with us as part of the team so you know i want to really really thank you very much for everything you've done we're a year and a half old and we've achieved some some amazing we've got an amazing community we've got you know over three and a half million followers on our social media channels we've trained over 40 000 people in different forms of training between short and long courses and we've created i think over 7 000 pieces of arabic content in the last year and a half which is which is fantastic and it's been it's been phenomenal look this this this all is about the belief from our leadership that the real resource in the country i mean we're a very small country born out of the desert you know next to the sea and and the belief that the real resource is is the people and that we have to continue to invest in people because people will be the drivers of everything that we the strategy of of the country like like you talked about is is around the digital economy which is you know where where the world has already had it and where you know we're somewhat behind but not for long the reason we exist today really is is three reasons uh primarily the digital economy and how do we make sure that the people that will be driving the digital economy in the near future how do we prepare them to to do that so and and that's basically the first division that we have under new media academy it's our learning division and this is where we look at really reskilling and upskilling the current workforce but also as you know we're in constant thought about how do we prepare future generations to be ready to go when they leave high school or when they leave university you know so that they they they come into the workforce and they are ready to power the digital economy so that that's a lot of what what we do and there's a lot of work to be done i think there was a statistic that said that the digital economy is four percent of the overall gdp of the country and that was a few years ago i i think about four or five years ago and that's when his highness the prime minister and the ruler of dubai established a ministry called the ministry of ai but also a digital economy the ministry of ai and digital economy to power the digital economy and at the core of that you know technology around ai and things like that with the goal of doubling the representation of the digital economy in the gb3 over the next you know five to five to ten ten years now naturally when you're doubling that you require a huge amount of skill sets and so that's one of the things that we do the second thing that we do is unlike the rest of the world influencer marketing is stagnant in the arab world and lots of reasons behind that you know i believe there was a time when there were some content creators who became influential as a result of platforms kind of you know incubating them within their within their platforms i don't think you know we diversified their revenue well enough i don't think we worked on branding them well enough to become actual brands to have a specific positioning to represent other brands i don't think we did all that and as a result we're not growing at the same level as the global trend which is i think it's doubling every year matt right the influencer marketing right yeah economy so we actually established an incubator for social media influencers and what we do is our model is quite quite simple we scout about a thousand people in the arab world every year we shortlist 300 we take 50 and we train them for six months using some of the top content creators in the world all our investment and then we take 10 of those 50 and we sign them to a three-year exclusive contract where we continue to invest in them and help them become influential content creators and out of those 10 what we expect is one of them turns into a unicorn and pays for everything backwards you know that's the model that we that we work on so we start people from scratch we like to look at talent we like to scout talent and we like to invest in them and our goal is to create sort of the professional content creator the person who is creating by themselves and is earning money by themselves without a need to have a job and and i'm so happy that you know is the first i'll call him the mvp which makes so much sense you know he's mvp in in kind of both ways because he's a guy that had a government job who who had 60 000 followers on instagram came to us and said you know i love this industry but i don't know how to film i don't know how to script write i don't know how to edit but i want to grow i want to become an influential content creator and today he sits at 800 000 followers on multiple channels he is the most sought after content creator he's in the space of economy which is harder than some of the other you know sectors and things like that but he's done amazing and he just quit his job a couple of months ago and is earning more money than a high paying job in the capital which is which is fantastic that is amazing and especially his content is the economy is economic issues and i find that so fascinating because so many times people think influencers and they think fitness or what you know fashion or fashion or travel whatever no it's it's the economy i i love that and so i'm fascinated watching you know some of his videos but also knowing some of the creators that have come out and how exciting it is when you know i've had a hand in doing some of the training and now i see like mayta who in our first class she wouldn't even turn her camera on didn't talk and now i see her and she's got her finger in the camera and she is and yet what she's doing for young arab women in in self-esteem in social situations and and she's being recognized by the uae leadership for what she's doing i oh i just i love seeing the growth and and what's happening for these influencers and and maitha is just phenomenal you know was sitting at 3 000 followers she's now at 300 000 followers and we just did some numbers for her by the way which i'll share with you matt so so she was actually working for government company as well and she left that job the first day she came to your training program and today a couple days ago we sat with her and we did a review of you know all her kpis and everything and she's actually earned double the amount that she was earning when she was working for that government entity she was in shock she's like that's how much i made and i said yes and that's just the beginning that's just like a year worth of your work and she is phenomenal she's a superstar oh she's just you know just a transformation of her from her first video to where she's at now she's so comfortable you can see that confidence when she's delivering and and that's the training i i i love you know what you're doing as far as we've got this group of people we're starting with but we're going to train this amount and we're going to try and find here i mean you're teaching people how to shoot video how to edit video how you know really preparing them that even if they don't make the cut to the next level they have skills and knowledge and the ability to continue on their own even absolutely matt both of those guys so both and ahmed now have studios in their houses so they have a full setup they both shoot their own videos they both edit their own videos they both do their own sound design and their color grade and everything like that so wow they've learned every skill necessary and i think you know the biggest thing with them is they've got the will they they want to make it they want to be great content creators and and that's you know that's the best part of it you find people like that it's it's not difficult to to make happen and it's very important for us you know i always talk about you said it you know there's influencers in the space of fashion and beauty and sports and that's amazing in the arab world and this is something that we're trying to do right we're encouraging people to become influential in areas or sectors where there is no influence so today give you a simple example the uae is investing heavily in climate change heavily and we do not have one person in the arab world who is influential in the space of climate change similarly in space you know with the space program and the morris program and now the the jupiter the the jupiter program that we have right we don't have an influential content creator in the space of states we don't have that similarly with you know with sustainability with law with real estate all of these sectors which are a big part of our gdp there's nobody to actually talk about all of this and again that's one of the other drivers for why we're doing what what we're doing i'm super happy because our second cohort right now we've got a lawyer we've got somebody in sustainability we've got somebody in in in culture we've got somebody in current affairs we've got somebody in politics i mean really really good these are these are people who we want to encourage and these are people who we want to help to stand on their own and and to to create you know great content which we could all you know engage with and learn from and i think that's that's the that's the core i mean i love i love entertainment content and the arab world and that's the third thing that we do right there's a there's very little arabic content online it's about one percent i think people say content online where the consumption is actually six percent online so huge demand for arabic content but when you break down that one percent so much of it is entertainment pure entertainment which is great but we need a lot more content that is valuable we need content around literature we need content around history we need content about geography we need content about sustainability a lot of that in arabic and i think that's the other thing that that we're very passionate about and what we want to help to do in the region i love that i i love that emphasis like you said it's it's investing in people and it will be people that have those specialties and i'm sure that they exist and they need now that confidence boost that people want to hear this content or people want to hear my content and so i think that's that's fantastic as a regular listener of the endless coffee cup you know that i am passionate about learning and teaching others with that i've launched my own education portal for marketing professionals it's at learn.sitelogic.com i'm creating and launching a series of courses on analytics first course is how to create an analytics strategy that aligns to your business objectives the second course is six analytics skills that turn data into insights the third course launching in just a few weeks is how to eliminate data overload and improve your presentations this final course teaches you how to speak the language of the c-suite in your presentations making you more persuasive powerful and effective in your marketing role you'll also find short topics on data google algorithms and local seo and finally the centerpiece is the omca certification course this is a 40 hour coached course that provides you with a solid digital marketing foundation at the successful conclusion of this course you are eligible to sit for the omca exam and you'll receive a free voucher for the exam a 225 value that is included with your course enrollment i'm an advocate of the omca certification as omca certified marketers make 16 to 25 more than their non-certified co-workers the omca is proof of your skills and knowledge in this industry go to learn.sitelogic.com right now to accelerate your marketing career [Music] that are like 2 000 or 3 000 words and we're having to go in and say hey you need to continue to tell those amazing stories but you need to tell them in 150 words because you know people don't have that that that capacity to read something that long or hear something that long right now so that that's our biggest challenge right now that we're going to a lot of you know government entities and saying let us help you digitally transform not just technologically but you know really systematically and mentally this is you know we've got to become digital players digital leaders or netizens as as people call it and i think that's that's the biggest thing that that we're doing with the training program that we have right and and you certainly see it matt you know when the people come in you you see the varying levels of people that are you know some of them are decision makers in large government entities some of them are kind of about to become the decision makers and it's important that these people are digitally inclined i should i should say you know so i think that that's our our biggest task i would say right now that's great i i love how the focus on digital is not just a a bottom-up it is a top-down sheikh mohammed bin rashid's 10 principle that i i i love that because it's the leader of a country saying here's my expectations for how our citizens will act on social media i from the moment i saw that i thought was fantastic and then you're now in the process of implementing that into schools of teaching digital literacy digital responsibility i i i think you know as part like you were talking about that transition to this digital economy i love that top down here's how we're going to be seen and then integrating that into the schools that's one thing like i said i love about the uae we're going to do it let's do it yeah i mean look the thing with us is you know he's the prime minister of the uae the vice president of the uae and the ruler of dubai he's he's very adamant that you know this is this is how the world communicates right now he certainly is you know i think he's one of the first leaders that used social media channels and content in in that way to reach audiences you know so he set an example for everybody and now you know he structured these principles to tell people you know what what he uses to kind of drive his his content and his channels and and he's a big believer and we're as a result big believers in you know the the concept that everybody needs to be great a great content creator everybody needs to be a great storyteller because you need to take charge of what you want people to hear and and see and for the longest time it wasn't like that so i know this this cheesy thing that people talk about you know teach somebody how to fish you know and they'll take care of everything and and we kind of believe the same thing when it comes to content and that's how we're kind of moving forward right so for us we have some immediate goals which is to reskill and upskill you know people within the government who are going to power the the digital economy on the digital space but our goal is if you're a teacher we want you to be a great content creator as well you know if you're an engineer we want you to be a great content creator as well and it's agnostic to what you're doing we just want to create people who are able to understand this digital communication in a way where they can really engage with that community that we talked about earlier right and be a part of that community so we're we're very lucky you know that that it comes becomes top down and it's encouraged every single day hey become better online you know good practices good skills good engagement you know patience awareness you know cultural sensitivity all of the stuff you know these are the messages that we hear every single day and it's what we integrate into everything that we that we do that is fantastic i i i love to see that and and being a part of it and and watching it every day is just such a i i can't believe i i i get to play a part in this just a small part because it is just it's just amazing to see amazing huge part matt huge part you play a huge part in it honestly like we love everything that you bring you know to the to the team we we love it and this is it you know we always talk about this is really going to this is really going to be one of the biggest drivers of you know the achievement of you know our digital economy goals it's super super important unlike i wouldn't say unlike anything but like many of the very large scale things that were done in in in the country this is super super important and i'm very proud to play a small part in that you know as part of the academy along with with all of all the team and yourself so it's amazing to see you know and honestly matt like everybody that i've seen that's gone through the programs and is now growing in their roles is now moving to a larger role is driving strategy is driving you know the right strategy the right digital strategy i i love seeing that you know it's fantastic it's really amazing so where is this going where do you see in five years the impact of new media academy as well as the the impact in the arab world of new media academy and this growing understanding of how to use digital communication so i think wow there's there's a lot of work to be done you know there there certainly is so much that we that we want to do but you know on one hand i i'd like to see a couple of things you know selfishly one i'd like us to get to a stage where if you're in a leadership position you have to be digitally trained certified and inclined you know for me i think that's super super important and i think that needs to happen very very soon anybody who's making a decision on strategy and who holds a budget should be digitally inclined i think that that should be that should be something that that happens so so that's number number one on the skills part number two on on the influencers part again selfishly i would i would love to see a time where the influencer role actually becomes part of an org structure of or of the org structure of every government entity in the uae i would selfishly like to see that and and i i think there is merit to us using the system that we have where we created a social media influencer agnostic of what sector and space you know to become uh self-sustaining to have to to have that person be an employee of a company so that employee invests in these influencers in-house because i think that has so much more value than going after somebody who's outside of an organization and saying here's a sheet please read this you know make sure you understand it and make sure you you say it in the right way and they'll usually do it right but i think the future is not that i think the future is there is no better person to influence stakeholders and audiences than somebody who's in-house so i'd love to see that we're having you know some some conversations there and then thirdly i would love to see just a growth in the amount of arabic channels that are just creating you know beautiful globalized localized content or globalized i should say content i'm starting to see that come up not enough i'd love to see more channels around cars i will see more channels around sneakers i love to see more content around coffee i'd love to see more content around camping and adventures in arabic good quality content that's not just for entertainment purposes but you know that gives you a different value there's a lot of education in it you know i i selfishly want to want to do that and i guess the other the other big thing for me it's a project that we've spoken about matt you and i it's it's going into the schools and starting to digitally train people or kids from when they're 13 years old to when they're 18 so that they are understand and are more of a full stack digital professional when they're when they're 18 so and they understand the concepts at least of strategy creation distribution engagement analytics so that when they're 18 and they're ready to go into what comes next which again a personal dream of mine is to have something which is a a different version of a college degree when it comes to digital you know something of a shorter night at noon that's more of a shorter time span that's more practical you know i'd love for that to happen so that we get people into the workforce to power the digital economy at age 20 and and they are superstar digital professionals i mean that would be that would be i would love to one day see that when we look at how education was developed and and now we're in this digital world if we're we if we are putting out 18 to 20 year olds with that kind of knowledge they're going to be competing on a global scale at an earlier age because right now there's people coming out of the university with marketing with communications and yet don't understand the full stack digital much less analytics and some of these other things so it's i love that vision because i do think kids younger and younger we have a responsibility to teach them digital literacy to understand also you know how to deal with cyber bullying how to encounter these things this is equipping them for adulthood for jobs for those types of things and the longer we go neglecting that type of education we're just doing them a disservice because we're giving them a powerful technology and putting it in their hands and many i was reading the other day how many people under the age of 15 have iphones and we're giving it to them with no education of how to use this tool and and here's the potential for the tool for good and bad if we don't teach them that we're being completely irresponsible i agree agree and i think you know really educating everybody that you know there's a lot of there's a conversations around why you actually create content and today a lot of that is about reach you know there's this this thing about hey everything is that number it's about who you reach how many people you reach how many people like and i think you know we need to start re-educating people and telling them it's all about the quality of engagement you know we're we're transforming the people's people's goals into into that and i think that's that's very important if we do that from a younger age and get them prepared for when they join the workforce i think you know things should be a lot more efficient for for everybody so so yeah big goals i i would love to see all that uh happen let's see how much of that well at least we'll maybe lately some of the stones for that uh you know or the bricks some of these bricks for that to happen over the long long term but so much has to happen around us for for that to actually come to fruition but you know we we will certainly play our part you know where we can yep i love how you said that it's just getting beyond those vanity metrics and getting into have you changed lives have you in truly influenced someone or something and i think yeah too many times we allow those vanity metrics to take over and we think about mass reach rather than what have we done to make this better to to make the world a better place to help somebody it may be harder to measure but wow it's so much more of a i would say an important metric rather than the big numbers that's one thing i said is my first lesson of analytics is big numbers lie so it's it's the little numbers that tell the story hey ratchet i want a circle back and i want to ask you what are the top three meals you have eaten or the top three foods because i want to end this you are a foodie and i love watching where you are what you're eating and every time i'm out there you're taking me to a new place and dear listener it's an experience to go out and eat with rashford because the whole way there we'll probably drive for about 30 minutes and it's a build-up it's a build-up of of how he found this place and how many times he's eaten there and what he's had and and it's from this part of the world and this region and so you're gonna find this and so it's a complete build up and we get there and i've never been disappointed let me put it that way so that that's meal time with rashford which i absolutely love so i gotta ask you off the top of your head what are probably the top three dishes you've had in your life top three dishes that is all right i'll tell you i think the one dish that i just absolutely i think i cannot live without and it's the one dish that for some reason i i i could eat almost every single day and i crave almost every other day is the shawarma a great shawarma and i've had and i can tell you i've had a shawarma in jordan and it's a place called reem and these guys make the traditional old shawarma super small it's it's literally a 7 by 10 shot that has like three 50 kg skewers of just beef and they say it's buffalo meat wow i i understand and so they do a buffalo meat shawarma but my god i got to that that shop and i ordered three because i knew they were small and the guy looked at me and he said is that all and i said yeah you normally order more he's like he did that i was like i ate that three and then i was like oh my god can i have another seven and i actually ate ten shawarmas it was amazing it's and it's and it's not a pack it's predominantly that just that bread and that that meat that it's just unbelievable and and i had ten of them man you know i know they're four inches you know long but oh my god that's one of the dishes that that's super memorable for me in in the world so so that's definitely wow number number number one spot that's that's one of my favorites yeah that's one of my favorite things i'll tell you what i i'm a huge fan of thai food and at expo there's a restaurant called long chin which is the first michelin star thai restaurant outside of wow and they now have this this place here at expo and they have an oxtail soup which i swear to god is one of the greatest things i've ever eaten in my life well i mean that thing is put in front of you and it's got like deep fried shallots all on top of it it's got fresh chili flakes on top of it the soup is just so aromatic it's got coriander and oh my god honestly like it's one of the best things i've i've i've ever i've ever eaten the the last thing and i wonder if i'm actually taking you to this uh restaurant and if i haven't that's next on the list for when you're here is something called the regag have you had that the ragog and it's the thin crispy pancake that that they they take the dough they drop it onto the hot plate he like spreads it all over and then he adds an egg on top of it he adds a cream cheese and then the anchovy sauce on top of it what okay no no one of the greatest things you'll ever eat and that's next on the list for when you're when you're here again that is one of those things that i could eat all the time so what is that called again it's called the regag and the regag regard bread and they call it the god because it comes from the word which means thin and it's a super thin crispy pancake even when they when they fold it you can hear the crisp up turns into a triangle oh it's yummy fantastic so one thing from the uae one thing from thailand and one thing from nice great great well listener i hope you can hear now when when when rashid is explaining food you hear that passion that knowledge of of he knows what he's talking about so when he recommends a restaurant i'm listening amazing so come back soon man because i got to take you to the to the best place absolutely and sometime i'll have to get you out here to the u.s now the midwest we're not really known for high cuisine but i would certainly take it as a challenge to try and find something around here that would certainly appeal to you i've got a few ideas amazing it'll be my pleasure i can't wait all right roger thank you so much for making time today i really appreciate you coming on the podcast and sharing you know life in the uae and what's going on and also your thoughts on influencing it's been a treat thank you so much for having me it's absolute pleasure all right thank you listener for listening in on another edition of the endless coffee cup and i hope to see you again on a future episode this podcast is heard along the marketing podcast network for more great marketing podcasts visit marketingpodcasts.net [Music]

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