Start-up Watch: Embrace Doha
Embrace Doha is a first of its kind consultation company in Qatar that offers cultural awareness and training programmes for expatriates, visitors, companies and organisations. Located at the traditional hotspot Souq Waqif, the company is a brainchild of Amal Al Shammari, a graduate of Qatar University and an employee at a semi-governmental oil and gas company. In an exclusive interview with The Edge, she shares why she felt the need to develop a cultural bridge between the expatriate and the local communities.
What was the idea behind starting this company?
The idea behind starting this project was to build a bridge between expats and the local community, to help expats better understand local culture, and to break the ice between both communities. We realised there is a need for such services to help expats overcome the cultural shock and misconception about Qatar upon moving here.
We guide guests in learning about the region’s lifestyle, customs, and business etiquette through cultural sessions and cultural trips that can be provided in multiple languages such as English and French and, of course, Arabic.
How do you foresee your organisation evolving with the surge of population due to the 2022 World Cup?
We see ourselves as a cultural gate to our guests, no matter whether they come for work or travel. We also provide cultural awareness sessions to many organisations – something that can help speeding up the adjustment process for their employees. Besides, Embrace Doha is approaching various schools, large organisations and expatriate communities to spread awareness about the local culture and community.
What have been the main challenges in setting up this organisation?
We have had this idea since 2011, but we started the company officially in 2014 after being incubated by the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC). Since then, Embrace Doha has faced many challenges during the start-up phase. For instance, we had difficulties in registering the company as no such concept existed before. So we had to explain to them how important this organisation is for a growing country such as Qatar.
What unique do you offer as opposed to other government cultural bodies?
The role that government bodies such as Qatar Tourism Authority play is very essential. We cannot compare Embrace Doha to the government authorities. What we can do, however, is complement the tourism authority’s vision, which talks about ‘leading the sustainable development of Qatar into a world-class hub with deep cultural roots’. Embrace Doha can play a very important role in achieving this vision through many services that we offer.
What has the response been so far from the market?
We have worked with some of the best organisations in the country such as Qatar Foundation, international schools, banks and oil and gas companies. We are happy that people find our sessions tremendously informative and helpful. Most of the contracts we have received are through word of mouth.