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Ajyal Talks: Meet the Gamechangers

The gamechangers. Pioneers of the future.

On November 8th, Ajyal Film Festival hosted a panel discussion that welcomed three innovative entrepreneurs: JouJou AlFardan, Kerem Mergen and Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani who have disrupted the market by introducing new and innovative concepts to Qatar.

JouJou AlFardan found her calling and passion for a healthier, fitter lifestyle and introduced Niya Yoga as well as the first plant-based vegan restaurant to Qatar. Kerem Mergen disrupted the commercial real estate market with Workinton, the first coworking space in Qatar. Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani introduced sporting equipment at competitive prices, simultaneously creating a demand for new activities by building a community.

Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani, founder of Rasen Sports and an advocate for Qatar’s sport community, started making an entrepreneurial change in the market as a child. Sheikh Abdulla would purchase sweets and candies at wholesale price at Souq Wagef and set up a stand in his backyard to make sales during family gatherings. Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani believes that entrepreneurship is creating a market. One of the products that Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani sells at Rasen Sports are stand up paddle boards which at first had no market in Qatar. Sheikh Abdulla started a community for stand up paddle boards and created an ecosystem of returning customers. Sheikh Abdulla Al-Thani is not threatened nor see’s other sports shops as competition, rather reaching his success.

Kerem Mergen, country manager of Workinton Qatar, see’s creating a market to also be innovative. He believes that innovation and entrepreneurship is improving a process and or a product using what already exists in the market. Innovation is possible through collaboration enabling startups and connecting them with investors and corporates. This was Kerem’s vision when establishing Workinton Qatar. Providing innovative workspace solutions and a platform that connects various components of the startup ecosystem together.

Growing up, JouJou always found herself helping others, which later translated into helping them through health and fitness. Diving deep and recognizing her “thread of consistency”, JouJou focused that energy and interests into her entrepreneurial journey. Today, JouJou Al Fardan, is the owner of Niya Yoga and the Ride Tribe. Furthermore, co-creator of Evergreen Organics, Green&Go, OX Fitness. JouJou AlFardan created an ecosystem to bring a community together by introducing her start-ups which she refers to as her babies: Niya Yoga and Ride Tribe. Ride Tribe was the first indoor cycling experience class brought to Qatar that faced many challenges. There was no market for a stationary bike that is not going anywhere. You might be on a stationary bike not moving anywhere physically but the stationary bike is a vehicle to go on a journey within. JouJou further adds, in order to go fast you have to go alone, however if you want to go far you go together and at Ride Tribe the community goes far together.

Sharing their insights and experiences as entrepreneurs, all three faced similar challenges through their innovation journey. Each introduced a new concept that was non-existing in Qatar, these ideas were not being accepted by many, saying their idea will not work. Despite all that, the three believing in their vision launched their businesses, which then led to building a community of like-minded individuals and a successful business.

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