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BRAVE celebrates the 43rd UAE National Day
BRAVE celebrates the 43rd UAE National Day, by recognising national brand ambassador Mohamed Parham Al Awadhi as he pioneers a new age of crowd-sourced travel adventures and invites social communities to shape his world.
Peyman Parham Al Awadhi and Mohamed Parham Al Awadhi in Rome.
In celebration of the 43rd UAE National Day and in recognition of Mohamed Parham Al Awadhi’s commitment to pioneering change by helping the UAE take ownership of its global narrative, championing “social travel” and engaging with online and offline communities around the world; the BRAVE team was fortunate enough to sit down with this incredibly talented, inspiring and humble entrepreneur to talk about brand bravery, embracing transparency and creating organic social communities.
Q1) You have been very BRAVE in your approach with your restaurant business and your TV series – by placing your destinations and some of your major business decisions in the hands of the people. That requires a lot of trust and willingness to roll with the punches. What advice would you give brands who want to be more active on social media and more inclusive of consumers?
For me it’s all about having a plan. Having structure, guidelines and scenarios for when things go right and for when things go wrong. It’s about being transparent and honest. The worst thing a brand can do is go online and shout about how awesome they (or their products) are. At the end of the day, it is the user who is going to decide. The best thing for brands to do is go online and be human. If you look at some of the top brands in the world, they are always associated with human beings, human traits and aspirational individuals. So, social media and the virtual world is no different than the real world. You still have to be yourself; you still have to be human, because that’s what people relate to.
And overall you have to be prepared to take ownership of your brand and products. You need to accept both your strengths and weaknesses and be willing to embrace transparency.
Q2) You have done a great job of representing the UAE brand internationally – especially in your decision to wear national dress while travelling. What is your advice to brands from the UAE to have the courage to expand regionally and globally?
My brother, @PeymanAlAwadhi and I choose to wear our national dress on Peeta Planet because it is a starting point for telling our own narrative (about the Middle East). I think it’s important for Middle Easterners to do that and take more ownership of it. We need more positive stories in the media about Middle Easterners and we need those stories to travel internationally – so the world sees a beautiful and more humane side of the region. The other side of the coin is that if you leave it to the rest of the world to tell your narrative, good news is not always as sellable as bad news, so people will look for war and conflict and put that in the news – and before you know it that labels and represents you. And people start to see you through that lens. So in some ways, it’s a duty for us to produce the content that we produce to give the region and the rest of the world a different perspective – a real and honest perspective of who and what Middle Easterners are.
More brands need to join us and step up their communication and think beyond the city, the country and even the region and start engaging internationally.
In the UAE, we consume international brands from all over the world - but it’s fascinating to me that we don’t export more. In the UAE we have access to a lot more resources than many of the places we visited on Peeta Planet. We have been to remote slums - places where people have nothing, but there is still a tremendous amount of innovation. So – I think it is time for us to step it up a notch. We have the resource and capability and we need to start CREATING and EXPORTING.
Q3) What in your mind constitutes a BRAVE brand or individual?
BRAVE brands are HONEST, RESPONSIBLE and most of all CURIOUS.
- HONEST: BRAVE brands are honest about what they say they do - and what they actually do. They don’t hype it up.
- RESPONSIBLE: BRAVE brands take responsibility for their service offering and if things go wrong, they aren’t afraid to take ownership of it.
- CURIOUS: BRAVE brands always have to ask questions; whether things are going amazingly – or not. It is important that brands always remain curious and continue to ask; “What can we do next?” “What’s beyond the horizon?” “What can we do differently?”
Quite simply, if brands don’t evolve – they will eventually stop being relevant and cease to exist. They can’t hold onto the past – but instead acknowledge that the world around them is changing and evolve with that.
Q4) What’s been your favourite moment so far?
With Wild Peeta – it was the first cup of coffee that we made on our first day. The funny thing is that we didn’t have Shawarma available on our first day so we only had coffee to serve. But what made this special is that we still had a packed house. Our followers still came to drink our coffee. Our bad coffee! Which they told us was bad and which we openly admitted was bad online. They believed in us though. And for the first time we demonstrated that a business and its customers can become powerful collaborators and partners instead of being devided like in traditional consumerist business models. It also showed us that we hadn’t built a Shawarma restaurant – we had built a movement, an organic ecosystem and a community that people wanted to be part of.
With Peeta Planet, there have been so many amazing and varied experiences. Going to such diverse places across 6 continents and 24 countries; from slums to urban cities - and on adventures like white water rafting and jungle survival.
One particular memory that sticks with me was when I was horse back riding in the Andes in Chile, and I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the mountains – bigger than anything I’ve ever seen in my life - and the fact that they are thousands and thousands of years old – and I was faced with the feeling that I was just a speck on eternity – and this put a lot of things in perspective for me.
Q5) Who do you draw inspiration from?
My family, friends and followers who keep things in perspective for us. We’ve built a relationship with our followers where they are honest and open with us and they share what’s going on with them. And when you see what’s happening in other peoples’ lives, the challenges they are going through and the fact that they still percivere, then it puts what you’re going through in perspective. And naturally, our leaders, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and what they have done with our country in the past 43 years is phenomenal. It’s an incredible story and it motivated us to keep evolving. Kept moving forward.
Q6) What’s next for you and your brand?
I want to keep focusing on my three passions: FILM, JOURNALISM AND EDUCATION
We will continue to drive Peeta Planet. We want Peeta Planet to be a resource for social travel – and to evolve into a global brand. Social travel is about participating in the community that you travel to, allowing you to connect with the local community. And we will produce films related to aspirational people, food and adventure. We will also continue to champion the arab narrative to let the world see a different side to our lives.
We are looking to distribute the show internationally on CNN, BBC, Sky and are keen to grow our partnerships. We recently had the opportunity to go and speak at the Clinton global initiative and we established some strong relationships there and are keen to continue to explore those also.
Aside from these, I’m also the co-founder of a new app called @wepressapp that will help freelance journalists collaborate across the globe. Our launch will be in Feb 2015. Check us out www.WEPRESSapp.com
To get in touch with Mohamed, please connect with him via email@example.com
If you have a question about this blog post or would like to know more about BRAVE, please contact Gina Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Flo Janin at email@example.com