This week we celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and each day we will highlight a different homegrown company, because SMEs are on the front line and the first to be hit by any economic changes.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Dubai’s economy, representing 95% of all establishments in the Emirate. These SME businesses account for 42% of the workforce and contribute around 40% to the total value add generated in Dubai’s economy.
We hope our features will inspire you to #golocal and support small businesses. Do get in touch if you are a homegrown company with a sustainable edge and we will add you to our directory.
#staysafe #stay connected and #golocal
Q&A with Mohamed Somji, Director at Gulf Photo Plus
Gulf Photo Plus celebrates photography through workshops, events and photo walks. For over 10 years, Director Mohamed Somji and his team have been hosting international photographers and inspiring regional and local ones to join the ever-growing community of passionate picture takers. Despite business being severely impacted by the pandemic, Mohamed is looking forward capturing the world again but perhaps through a slightly different lens.
Can you tell me how and why the idea came about for your business?
I made a transition from the corporate world to become a photographer over a decade ago and at the time, we lacked a community resource or platform. We ran photography workshops but also facilitated events and talks aimed at the photography community. When we moved to Alserkal Avenue in 2011, we were able to take that up a notch by hosting exhibitions and events that accommodated more people and in recent years, our footprint has expanded beyond the UAE to also host and work with organisations across the Middle East region.
What have been the challenges to setting up such a business here in the UAE?
When we set up, the art and culture scene here in the Emirates was in its infancy, we had to do a lot of work in explaining what our business was and to get partners on board to work with us to make our programs available to the wider public. We lacked a framework for the art and culture sector and it is always a challenge to navigate around that.
How have you adapted to the evolution of picture taking especially now everyone has such great quality cameras on their own phones?
We have certainly had to adapt to the industry and recalibrate our business to reflect the changes resulting from this trend. Our workshop offerings are very different from what they used to be and also include many smartphone workshops and we do a lot more corporate and private education as well as consulting on photography projects for private and governmental organisations.
How has the pandemic affected your business, what are some for the challenges you are currently facing?
Our business has been severely impacted by the pandemic as we have not been able to host our workshops or photowalks and can only generate revenue through our printing business and print sales which too have taken a hit as people curtail their spending.
What does a post COVID Dubai/world look like?
I believe it will be a while before we will be encouraging crowds of people to congregate and the physical distancing will alter a lot of our behaviour. The financial impact will also mean spending and consumption patterns will change and businesses will have to look at how they can operate during these times to stay alive.
How important it is to include some kind of sustainable practice in your business, can you tell me about it? (it would be great to hear about some environmental photographers or exhibits with a sustainable angle)
It’s always been important for us and we have learnt well to do more with less and that has in some way helped us mitigate the damage from the pandemic. We have been forced to be lean and mean for a number of years by having a team that is good at multi-tasking, having a collective purpose, working with others in the industry to barter our goods and services, thinking about the use of materials when designing our exhibitions like re-using frames, etc.
The power of a picture to tell a story, especially now in this very visual age, how can people use this for good purposes?
Thanks to there being fewer gatekeepers, artists and photographers can get their work out with fewer barriers and that allows for more perspectives to reach a wider audience.
Can you tell me about the COVID artist relief competition?
It’s not a competition but rather it was an open call to artists to submit images for consideration that we then selected and put up for sale. 70% of the proceeds went to the artist and we selected 50 out of 300. Selection and details here: https://gulfphotoplus.com/artistrelief
What will you be doing this Eid?
I’m looking forward to driving around the Emirates and taking photos of places and landscapes. The weather is starting to turn so before it gets prohibitive, would be nice to go shoot and spend some time outdoors.
List some things you do in your daily life that are sustainable?
I save all the A4 papers to print on the reverse sides so as not to waste paper
Also I pretty much have a uniform of black t-shirts and black trousers so I can save money shopping and also not contribute to the landfill!
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