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HP Presents #NeverStopBusiness: Insights On Starting Up And Market Opportunities

About 200 entrepreneurs and business owners came together in September at Atlantis The Palm Dubai for HP presents Never Stop Business, powered by Entrepreneur Middle East, an event where they discussed and shared market opportunities, challenges about starting up, and insights on achieving success.

Tony Bssat, Category Head, Print Business Unit, HP Inc. Middle East, KSA and East Africa

The event, which was centered around the UAE launch of the world’s first cartridge-free printer designed specifically for small-and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the HP Neverstop Laser, had Entrepreneur Middle East Editor in Chief Aby Sam Thomas as its emcee, who also moderated discussions with prominent members of the country’s entrepreneurial community.

The event included attendance from Peter Oganesean, Managing Director of HP Inc. UAE and East Africa, Tony Bssat, Category Head of Printing Business Unit of HP Inc. Middle East, KSA and East Africa, and other executives from the HP leadership team. “Market reports estimate employment potential for small and medium sized enterprises in the GCC to touch 22 million, with the sector valued to be worth US$920 billion by 2023,” said Oganesean.

“This offers a huge opportunity to cater to an audience that demand hassle-free products to increase efficiency. In line with this, we developed the Neverstop Laser printer to reduce common interruptions, thus giving entrepreneurs and SMBs a chance to focus on running a seamless business operation. And, besides meeting customer demands, another aspect that is extremely important to us is sustainability. This remains at the core of what we do, and is reflected in the Neverstop Laser design, which is made with more than 25% recycled plastic, while the toner reload kit is made of 75% recycled plastic.”

Following the launch of the HP Neverstop printer, the knowledge-sharing element of the event began with Thomas engaging in a fireside chat with Ronaldo Mouchawar, Vice President, Amazon MENA, and co-founder, Souq.com. Reflecting on his career so far, Mouchawar shared stories from his personal history that proved insightful for the entrepreneurs and business owners gathered at the event. “You have to prioritize among the many ideas you have, because your resources, as a SME owner, are limited,” Mouchawar advised.

Tony Bssat, Category Head, Print Business Unit, HP Inc. Middle East, KSA and East Africa

“We were wrong many times, launched services that didn’t work, our first app was a disaster, we acquired businesses we shouldn’t have, but you have to fail fast and move on.” As for the current state of the startup ecosystem, Mouchawar acknowledged that it’s a lot better for entrepreneurs in the region today; however, he remained emphatic that it’s not a path for everyone. “Failure is not as much a taboo as it used to be,” he noted. “I’m much more bullish on the region’s entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurship is not a replacement for a job- they need to believe in their ideas.”

The fireside chat with Mouchawar was followed by a panel discussion on challenges entrepreneurs face on a dayto- day basis, and how they get past them. Manar Al Hinai co-founded Sekka, an online platform dedicated to uncovering, publishing, and promoting Khaleeji stories, in 2017, with her entrepreneurial journey beginning after she quit her career in corporate communications in the investment development sector.

Panel discussion with Aby Sam Thomas, Edior in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East; Tom Otton, founder and CEO, Create Media Group; Manar Al Hinai, co-founder and Storyteller-in-Chief, Sekka

“When we launched Sekka, a type of an online magazine which had not existed before, I had to put my ego out of the business,” Al Hinai said. “I knew that I had a vast experience in comms and marketing, but not particularly in this field [the publishing industry]. So, I had to be humbler, to be willing to learn, and to be more open. I also had to learn about different facets that come to play in this business, such as graphic design, culture graphics, and once you learn how all these things work, you need to learn to delegate, because you need time to start strategizing your plans for the forthcoming years. When we started, another challenge was time management, but I think it’s a constant challenge because as your business grows, you need to inject more hours into it every day.”

Another panelist, Tom Otton, founder and Managing Director, Create Media Group, a Dubai-based digital communications agency, spoke about taking his company from a startup stage to a business that now has a multifaceted team of 70 people working with clients like Emirates Airline, Expo 2020, and Dubai Tourism. In achieving that, Otton explained, he has relied on making thoughtful, informed decisions as quickly as possible.

“Some of the challenges are decision-based, and your decision-making process changes over time,” Otton said. “When there are time constraints, you have to come to these decisions more quickly than you may think. As a small young company, you have to move fast while, at the same time, trying to keep up with the speed and think even bigger, but if you keep focused on what sort of business you are in and its capacity, your decision-making can get easier. Therefore, whether you are a small or a large business, being time efficient as a founder is absolutely crucial.”

Peter Oganesean, Managing Director, HP Inc. UAE and East

Lastly, Omer Gurel, co-founder and CEO, Repeat, highlighted the importance of having the right team onboard on a startup to get it to develop and grow. “When you start with one idea, what I can tell you from my personal experience is that you will always have to pivot that idea, and any idea without a business model to monetize it is wasted,” Gurel said.

“Therefore, even if you think that it’s a good idea, the underlying factor is executing it effectively… One of the fatal mistakes you can do, especially at the higher management level, is not judge rightly how your people management works, or whether it is done right. If you believe in only a small percentage of your employees to be the ones to work on and executive a task, then you’re causing a large chain of errors right there.”

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