Qatar caps 2021 with ‘exponential growth’ in digital transformation, says industry expert

The State of Qatar witnessed in 2021 an “exponential growth” in the acceleration of digital transformation, particularly in its startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem amid the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Hefzi Malhis, partnerships manager at Innovation Café, 2021 was a good year for tech startups, especially for companies that were “responsive and active” at the height of the pandemic.
“Though it is unfortunate that the pandemic forced many startups to close shop, a lot of them, nonetheless, experienced growth despite the situation because they changed their business model very quickly to adapt and overcome the challenges in the market,” Malhis told Gulf Times.

Malhis said many entrepreneurs were discouraged to continue after experiencing failures in their respective businesses at the height of the pandemic in 2020 forcing them to shut down operations.
“What people do not understand is that for startups the return on investments is very high. But it is also all about risk and failure. There must be room for failure because if you don’t fail, that means you’re not trying something new; there will be no progress. Failure is a very important part of the process,” Malhis explained.
He further said: “For startups that changed their business model, going digital helped saved their companies and businesses because the disruption caused by the pandemic had changed the mindset of people, making them realise that in the current situation there is no other way but to go digital and to go online.
“As more companies are leveraging e-commerce, many tech startups are doing much better now than before the pandemic. The Covid-19 crisis really helped accelerate the digital transformation of many businesses. People now know the worth of digital technology.”
According to Malhis, while there are still a lot of uncertainties going forward, the experiences gained by entrepreneurs in 2021 “will encourage the growth of more startups this 2022.”
Malhis said Innovation Café aims to conduct a series of events this year in the fields of fintech and ‘health tech’, among others. Also in the pipeline is a plan to hold another hackathon by mid-January.
He said the ‘E-Commerce Hackthon’, a first-of-its-kind in Qatar organised by Innovation Café last November, solicited a “positive response” from industry stakeholders and major sponsors, who are calling for the staging of more similar initiatives this 2022.
E-Commerce Hackathon attracted the participation of innovative entrepreneurs from Qatar and nine Arab countries during the event, which was aimed at encouraging innovation and crowdsourcing solutions to address, nurture, and launch the latest innovation opportunities in the e-commerce industry.
In an earlier statement, Innovation Cafe founder Ramzan al-Naimi said: “We were honoured to host the first-ever e-commerce hackathon in the State of Qatar. We received more than 300 applications and after the assessment and ideas evaluation, we shortlisted over 100 applicants from all backgrounds from 10 countries to participate both virtually and in person at Qatar Science & Technology Park.
“Our biggest aim of organising this hackathon was to come up with cutting-edge solutions in the e-commerce sector that could become the next billion-dollar Qatari-based unicorns.”