Saturday, December 25, 2010

Google Trends for Middle East 2010

The below study covers UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
Check out below the Top Keywords that the users searched on Google in 2010. The searches are dominated by social media sites.

One interesting point to be noted is how users are searching their interests in Arabic (العربية) on Google.

Dubai emirate has dominated search in UAE, considering it has been in highlights for financial issues through out the year. Facebook remains the most sought after site in the search world.

User search for صور (Games) was the 3rd highest in Oman. Forums (منتديات ) stands at 7% of the top 10 searched items. 

Youtube is the most popular video engine site in the Middle East and Facebook the most popular Social Media Site.  People are keen to play games, view photographs and participate in forums. 

Interestingly Lebanon has Nokia among the top 10 searches, which can predict that it may be one of the most popular brands there. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Qatar 2022 - Twitter Times

FIFA awarded Qatar the 2022 world cup to Qatar today evening. Qatar brings the World Cup to the smallest host ever but one which has unparalleled financial power to stage the world's biggest single-sport event. It overcame the reservations of many people about holding the games in desert heat. 
Qatar will stage a World Cup in and around Doha in a desert summer but promises state-of-the-art technology to cool fans and players alike. It beat the United States in the final round of voting 14-8.
The community tried to bring the #Qatar2022 amongst the top 10 trending topics on twitter, however, twitosphere had different plans. Varied versions of Qatar like Quatar and Katar came out as a trending topics on twitter. 

Check out collection of some interesting tweets posted before and after the announcement: - 

@dohanews 'Russia's really cold, so maybe they'll be ok that Qatar is really hot' overheard watching #qatar2022 bid

@AlmahaAli When Americans ask me "what's Qatar" I will go like "u know the country who beat u 2 the bid 2022

@rachelannmorris To all those (mainly in dubai) who told me I was nuts moving to #doha all those years ago...don't make me say "I told you so"

@AlexKunawicz The speed camera in Doha that fines you £800 is going to be working overtime for next 12 years. Wonder what fine will be by #Qatar2022 ?

@ya3gooby We learn from #Qatar2022: 1)Importance of clear Long-term vision, 2) Work Hard and You'll achieve, 3) Top-Level Support is vital for success

@sghazzi 21 degrees in doha but tonight doha is on fire #qatar2022

@Alkhulaiwi Thank you Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al-Thani. You are a true hero for the younger generation. #Qatar2022

@Xische The bid website has to be contractually taken down 60 secs after announcement. Its down already! #Qatar2022

@eskaff if Beers not allowed go for #redbull #Qatar2022

@hussdajani am seriously out of words! I don't think it has kickd n yet!:) this has HUGE positive changing effect4this region

@leiandroid It makes me smile knowing that a country people can't even locate won against... well, the US. Maybe it'll motivate people to grab an atlas.

@Mohsinaltaf i need your support for 2028 for pakistan :) . ok?

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Check out a new blog roll on Doha. The blog will display tweets about any one and every one that mentions Doha or Qatar in their Tweets.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Gamification of the Online World

The trend of neologism – creating new words – is on a rise in the world of technology. We need new words to interpret new ideas.  We had the Internet, Websites, Blogs, Web 2.0, Social Media, Tweet and now Gamification.
‘Gamification’ is the new buzz word and it’s coming soon to your gym, your job, your government and even your doctor. In fact it has already arrived in the world of financial services, and is used by marketers to engage customers online.
As defined on Wikipedia – “Gamification is the use of game play mechanics for non-game consumer technology applications (also known as “funware”), particularly consumer-oriented web and mobile sites, in order to encourage people to adopt the applications”
The corporate world is realizing that “gamification” is an effective way to generate business using the same mechanics that keeps gamers glued to their television/laptops.

Since the inception of videogames, people have questioned why gamers spend hours to reach to that final stage of the game, working towards intangible rewards. The study of human behavior shows that incentives offered for completing a task, tend to be addictive.

An outright example for this is location based website – Foursquare. The mobile app encourages people to share their location wherever they are. The users try to check in to locations several times to receive one of the several badges offered by the site.

The entire experience of achieving the “Mayor” status of a particular location gives users immense pleasure. The commercial side of this is that many retailers give their customers discounts/freebies upon achieving “Mayor” badge (or any other badge prescribed by the retailer). E.g. Dominos pizza in UK offers exclusive discount to anybody who checks into their outlet frequently and becomes the Mayor of that outlet. transformed the financial services into a gaming experience - Want to go to Bali for your next vacation? Select that option from drop down list of rewards on the website, and as you save your deposits toward achieving the desire target, a gauge fills, showing you how close you are to your next vacation. Mint is making managing one's money more fun with a unique approach.

A regional example is RAK Bank in UAE, who has recently launched games on their website to engage customers with the brand and indirectly inform them about their products. 

However, the Gamification is still in its infancy stage. The Gamification of services/products should not be just restricted to points like programs. The users may reject Gamification as any other loyalty program.
Points/badges are part of a game rewarded to customers for completing a task. Once this phenomenon is mature, a game itself must be able to give the player a choice to take a decision that will result into a reward. E.g. choosing a XM8 Lightweight Assault Rifle v/s AK 47 will help the player to win a game resulting in a reward.

If the "gamified" businesses, programs and products are implemented they will mutually benefit the company and the consumer. 
The above post was published on ICT Qatar's blog (Qatar's Telecom Regulator). Click here to continue reading the post.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Virtual Online Banks for Social Networks

The scope of the article covers banks for social networks and not Internet Banking.

Many banks have realized the potential of online social engagement; however, most of them are reluctant to connect with customers online. The concept of virtual online websites is not getting any younger. The realm of social media or online social engagement is growing with an estimated value of US 10 million in 2010 as estimated by Engage Digital Media.

In 2009 Mashable had reported that a user of Entropia Universe – an online virtual engagement website – bought a virtual space station for US $ 330,000. This transaction is registered in the Guinness book of world records as the most expensive virtual world.
People have got used to making online payments for goods on Internet and conducting their daily transactions via electronic channels. The comfort level now extends to social networking sites, where users are paying for virtual goods, and this builds a case for introducing financial services.

The scope of innovation in the world of online payment market is extensive. Once extended to virtual online world the scope is challenging. Some of the existing websites in the online social engagement world that facilitate financial transactions are: -
  • Facebook, Secondlife, Entropia Universe – Purchase of Virtual goods 
  • Purchase of Online Services – Facebook - Qtel Mobile Top up
  • Online Social Lending – Virgin Money, Kiva
The above examples are an insight to various business opportunities that are yet to materialize. 
Mind Ark, the company which runs the Entropaia Universe became the first company to issue virtual banking licenses to real world banks in 2007. In March 2009, the Swedish Financial Authority, granted license to Mind Bank AB, that will allow it to function as a central bank for all the virtual world’s within Entropia Universe. Mind Bank will be able to process real money transactions for activities in the virtual world.
During my research, I came across an application on Facebook that allows users to perform financial transactions - Fiserv's MyMoney, a US based app, which is now only available to credit unions, and may be offered to banks in the near future. Facebook users download the application, which helps them to find and join a credit union, view account history, balances, and make transfers.
Banks are experimenting with this space but are yet to come out with a firm working model. Expecting a ROI on spend is not the way forward, as Social Media is still in its infancy stage.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Google goes la la la laaa

Google India has recently introduced the Bollywood Search Engine. You can now search the latest to the oldest bollywood music online and listen to the songs. The search can sort by Artist, Albums, Songs and even the time period.

List down the 1950 melodies or the latest hindi movie songs on the website. Google has partnered with SaReGaMa, In.Com and to stream music, which is fully legal.

Click here to listen to the music

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What did you tweet when Facebook was down?

After Facebook went down on Thursday, thousands took to Twitter to share the news, vent their frustration and get their fix of social networking. The two-and-a-half-hour outage for the users was like they were drug addicts going through withdrawal. Facebook's more than 500 million users have grown accustomed to sharing updates from their daily diets to pets. Twitteratis were not behind in expressing their humor in 140 characters. I have collected a few interesting tweets below: -

@OPB: BREAKING NEWS: Facebook is down. Worker productivity rises. US climbs out of recession #facebookdown

@BugFrog Congress considering emergency funds to help out Farmville farmers hurt by Facebook outage,"

@maxxhendriks "Facebook is down! Users are roaming the streets shoving photos in people's faces and screaming "DO YOU LIKE THIS? DO YOU?"

@alqaeda #facebook is down. Not sure if  we did that, but we should claim anyway. Hitting the infidels where it hurts, etc.

@vladimirRS - Facebook down due to explosion in Farmville's manure composter. Five million people forced to work

@MTVClutch - Facebook is down. We can't tell who's hungry or tired

@joeschmitt - Either Facebook is down or Mark Zuckerberg just set everything to PRIVATE

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Twitter Conversations on Common Wealth Games

The Common Wealth Games (CWG) to be held in Delhi in October 2010 have been slammed by national and international media for lack of readiness. I believe some of the officials may have screwed up but the games will definitely happen and the Indian government is working towards it. Lot of negative publicity churned with mishaps at the venue has given some of the potential hosting candidates like Australia and New Zealand to speak foul. Nevertheless, the humor being shared among twitteratis with the use of #cwg is worth reading. Please see below a few tweets that are making round in the twittosphere: -

@nidhi_narain The running track at #CWG says "Men at work, go slow"

@khuliyar If the #CWG is cancelled, does it mean we can keep all the gold medals to ourself? We can give away silver medals to Pakistan. #fail #fb

@kousik I guess the loot from #CWG is being invested in SENSEX/NIFTY.

@a_sanan @ibnlive @CWG2010PR #CWG #Delhi #India #Commonwealthgames We Know Our CWG Officials' National Song - "DHAN DE MATRAM" ! #ProfitablePolitics

@Miss_Imp0ssible Suresh Kalmadi tried to hang himself, after the #CWG fiasco..but the ceiling collapsed !! :P

@Krafty_Karan #CWG quote of the day:'We've fallen flat on our faces or should I say on our 'feces'.' -M.S Iyer on @BDUTT 's show. :-D

@meetneo instead of #CWG chair, kalmadi should be made to sit on the 'chair' of UTV bindass show..atleast get the devil out of him!!

@swamitwitanand @HeadlinesIndia The #CWG stadia can be used to store grains.Pawar can join hands wit kalmadi

@KiranKS #British bookmaker Hill has begun to take bets on whether #CWG will go ahead. Latest odds 4-1 for cancellation #CongressWealthGeneration

@iabhishek How times change! From 'Chill Madi' to 'Kalmadi' #CWG

@kishiarora #CWG baba baba kalmadi have uany shame,nosir nosir common loot game, crores 4 my partner,crores 4 my dame,crores 4 me 2,putting india2shame

@weemundo Brilliant. Can all of you #CWG haters please read this : on SMH cc (+ve one)

@htTweets  Games security 'extensive and well organised': Australia #cwg #ht (+ve one)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Photographs of Google Office in Dubai

Check out the below link for few unofficial photographs of the Google Office in Dubai Internet City. The office has a modern Arabic look with dedicated area to work and relax. Most of the meeting rooms are named after famous Arabic cartoon characters.  Google opened its office in Dubai Internet City in early 2008 as part of its plans to focus on its Arabic language services.

Google office is located in Dubai Internet City, Building no. 9.

Address Details of Google Office

Updated on Nov 19, 2011

Google UAE
Dubai Internet City
Building 4, office 306
P.O Box 502966
Phone: +971 4 4509500
Fax: +971 4 4509523

Photographs are courtesy @ghonim. Click here to view all the pics.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blackberry may not be banned in UAE

This is what we all would like to hear, don’t we? To put things in perspective, UAE and Saudi Arabia are not banning the BlackBerry device produced by Research in Motion Limited (RIM). But instead it is the BlackBerry mobile services like e-mail and text messaging by October 11, 2010.

The reason for this ban is a dispute between the UAE and RIM concerning RIM's encrypted data system. The system makes government monitoring of data more difficult. The problem for RIM is that the other GCC countries may follow suit, which will have a major business impact for the company. India has also been negotiating with RIM to access the encrypted information being exchanged on Blackberry devices.

Many countries including India claim that such moves are driven by national security. Many will suggest that this is simply an excuse to block data, but others suggest that this is a viable excuse to limit data. There can be a business reason to block the service, citing the possibility that service providers in UAE may come out with a similar service for the subscribers.

UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority noted that "certain BlackBerry services allow users to act without any legal accountability, causing judicial, social and national security concerns for the U.A.E." Countries like Qatar have come forward and have announced that the service providers will not block the Blackberry service. Don't know if they also feel the security threat or not?

RIM will have to rethink its position on not sharing the data information, as potential business may be lost. UAE and Saudi Arabia has around 500,000 and 400,000 blackberry users respectively. Assuming the remaining GCC countries may comprise of another million users; RIM can’t afford to lose so many users while they are expected to unveil the new BlackBerry 9800 at a press event on 03 Aug 2010. U.S.-listed shares of Research in Motion (RIMM.O) fell 1.6 percent in early trading on Monday as the ban news spread across the world.

When discussing UAE’s adamancy with RIM to provide access to the data, it’s worth highlighting the fact that it had unsuccessfully attempted to install a application, rumored to be a spyware, on the devices of Etisalat users in 2009, informing the user’s that the patch would enhance the performance. The region has always attempted to block websites, which pose threat to the existing regimes.

Could this ban impact RIM’s business? The rumors are that RIM is already in talks with the Middle East governments to have a work around. There are more than a million Blackberry users in GCC and if even half of them change mobile devices, there could be major loss for RIM.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Zaraa Hatke Quotes on Facebook

English Translation - 'Awesome Quotes on Facebook'. More often than not many of us write hilarious, thought provoking, opinioned quotes and share with our friends. I decided to keep a track of these quotes, by my friends, over the past few weeks on Facebook and below is the outcome. Every quote has been credited with its respective source and are selected on the basis of being hilarious and thought provoking..(ps. the original source of the quote "may" be different)

Agar duniya main Mehnat ki Qadar hoti To Gadha sub se zayada izzatdar hota....! - Boski G

Call me Miss Flintstone, i can make your bedrock - Mansi S

Vaadon Aur Yaadon Me Kya Fark Hai?
Insaan Vaadon Ko Tod Deta Hai,
Aur Yaaden Inshaan Ko Tod Deti Hai - Aashish B

life is : leaving the house in morning dressed in clothes , that u brought with credit card for work ,driving through traffic in car that u still paying for ,putting in fuel that u cant afford,in order to get to the job u hate but need so badly so that u can pay for the clothes,car fuel and the house that u leave empty the whole day , in order to live in it - Kamal A

kutte. CONGRATS BUDDY!!!! Who is the lucky girl? when did you get engaged - Rishi S (The Dharmendra Style but for a different reason)

Khatta Meetha - ahem, I m allergic to Bullshit - Sapna R

Can you get Drunk without Drinking??? - Seema KB

A man who smiles when things go wrong.... has already thought of someone to blame it on :D - Rohit

Well when we Indians goto a baba who has a Parrot who picks up a card and predicts future ..... World goes OMG look at "dot heads" for everything they goto an "Animal"....... Join the gang u Focktupusians ..... :) - Anil A

Beware its gonna get 'MESSI' - ARGENTINA!! - Sandeep B

The entire German team will be arrested outside the stadium for publically raping not only a team but d entire nation (In context of Germany v/s England Fifa World Cup 2010)- Atul B

Life is like a coin. Pleasure and Pain are the two sides. Only one side is visible at a time. But remember other side is also waiting for it's turn. - Varsha S

Reality is more interesting than fiction - Varun B

Nothing is personal if you don't take it personally - Khushboo B

Dubai sheher ka saara, Meena Bazar Leke - Vishal M

Conclusion - clothes are supposed to fit us - we are not supposed to fit into the clothes ! -Satyen C

Facebook is for people you went to school with. Twitter is for people u wished u went to school with - inspiration 4 ppl wanna b on twitter - Source Unkown

Monday, July 26, 2010

World's Cheapest Laptop @ $35 - The Indian iPad

The Indian Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) announced the launch of $35 laptops; cheapest in the world.

The Linux based device will also have provisions for running on solar power besides the usual battery operated systems. A student at VIT, Vellore came up with a mother board design, and the PCB of the same was later fabricated in IIT, Kanpur. The Rs 1,700/$35 computing device is expected to first target hit higher education institutions starting 2011.


  • 5/7/9 inch touch screen gadget
  • Internet browsers
  • PDF reader
  • Open Office
  • Touchscreen
  • Remote device management capability
  • Multimedia input-output interface option

Is this India’s answer to the iPad even though the customer target varies?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Twitter's New Revenue Model

Twitter looks set to unveil another revenue raising model with launch of @earlybird account, that will carry special offers with brands paying to feature on the channel.

The development was first reported on Read Write Web, but there is no official statement from Twitter. The company’s spokeswoman told Read Write Web: “There are interesting things in store for @earlybird. Keep waking up early and you might be the first to find out what they are.”

As they say "Early Bird gets the worm".. looks like Twitter is seeking various option to generate dollars. The account is currently protected and is followed by 258 people.  

Twitter has been experimenting with its advertising initiative "sponsored trending topics" which is truly innovative. Twitter announced its first paid-for service, Promoted Tweets, in April 2010.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Are Banks Monitoring Conversations Online?

On 17th June @ sandeepgeetla tweeted the below rumour which led to a slide in the ICICI shares by
3.5 % in the intra day trading hours, however within hours the stock price recovered due to prompt action by the bank. This info was published in Business Standard on 24th June.
ICICI bank is known to monitor 3-5k tweets per day via its Twitter handler @icici_care. The bank also monitors online conversations on Facebook, Blogs and other social mediums, to help stop rumors.
The bank responded to the user on twitter as follows:-
@sandeepgeetla These r baseless rumours abt ICICI Bank, request u to not pay heed to them & also not spread them further…”
ICICI has gone ahead and filed a complaint against the person with the cyber crime cell of the police and market watchdog SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India)
How about the banks in GCC – do they monitor conversations online? Some of the banks that are active on Twitter in GCC are: -
  • @DubaiBankAE
  • @arabbankgroup
  • @rakbanklive
  • @ithmaarbank – Bahrain
  • @Gulf_bank - Kuwait
@Rakbanklive is interactive and they do listen to customer complaints/feedback. But, how many banks in GCC monitor Social Media Conversations?
Check the screen shot below taken from a popular forum in UAE, where a customer is complaining about a bad experience with a bank : -
The person may have had a bad experience with the bank but may be was never heard. However, he has found the web to share his experience with people. 
What is the Impact of such online posts.....
  • One bad customer experience would cost the bank many others
  • Does the bank know about this post?
  • Is it a competitor bank spreading the rumor?
There are many groups on Facebook, where customers share their experiences with other potential bank customers, which does influence choices to an extent. Many people resort to share their personal experience about anything on the web as it is a feasible medium to voice their opinion. This makes many bank's vulnerable to online abuse, as some of these opinions may be rumors, proving that bank's need to have online monitoring tools.

Many banks have Internal Communication Departments who monitor print media for news but discount online conversations. What can a bank do to minimize the impact?
  • Have a communications team to monitor online conversations and tackle rumors/complaints
  • Hire a PR agency that can monitor the web 24x7
  • Have a strong e-Marketing team that can create a positive perception of your brand online
Having an online presence is a must but tackling rumors/complaints is a challenge. The banks will have to bear the brunt of online conversations if they continue to ignore this medium. Online conversations will make or break customer relations in the future as more and more people seek feedback from peers on the web.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Twitter Hits the Limit

To fix the "whaling" issues on Twitter and avoid frequent outages, Twitter team has placed restrictions on various functionalities. Below is a list of restrictions placed by the technical team to ensure maximum availability of the websites: -

Direct Messages: 250 per day.

API Requests: 150 per hour.

Updates: 1,000 per day. The daily update limit is further broken down into smaller limits for semi-hourly intervals. Retweets are counted as updates.

Changes to Account Email: 4 per hour.

Following (daily): Please note that this is a technical account limit only, and there are additional rules prohibiting aggressive following behavior. You can find detailed page describing following limits and prohibited behavior on the Follow Limits and Best Practices Page. The technical follow limit is 1,000 per day.

Following (account-based): Once an account is following 2,000 other users, additional follow attempts are limited by account-specific ratios. The Follow Limits and Best Practices Page has more information.
The above information is sourced directly from the Twitter Help Centre which you click to read for more info. The above restrictions may impact few avid twitter users and keep spammers on the bay. Hope twitter is able to fix these issues at the earliest.

Twitter has experienced several incidences of poor site performance and the site has reported being used above capacity for almost two weeks now.  Click here to read more on the technical glitches that are being fixed by the tech Twitter team.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Twitteratis turn out in force for ‘Tweet up’

We had organized a Tweet up for Doha Twitteratis this week on 06 June. Members of the social networking site Twitter gathered at Café Colombiano earlier this week to discuss the uses of the service and how it could be used to encourage socialising and information sharing in Qatar. We also got reporters from Gulf Times who helped us cover the event followed by an article in their paper.

We had a round of presentations one by Isabelle Carbonell, documentary filmmaker and environmentalist, who presented Story of Stuff followed by short video by Mohammed Al Ibrahim from Doha Film Institute explaining the scope of the institute.

Thanks to @bilalr and @haniarif for getting this Tweetup up and running.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Middle East Leaders on Social Media

The leaders in the Middle East have realized that Web/Social Media are one of the potential mediums to reach their people. Some of the leading personalities in the region are Jordan's Queen Rania, Sheikh Mohammed from UAE.
Recently Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei (231,462 fans) overtook Queen Rania (207,666) on the total number of followers on Facebook as per an article in Jersusalam Post. As per the article ElBaradei is a potential future leader and challenger to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak according to the article.
Some of the other leading political personalities in the region on Facebook are: -

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum - 172,202 fans

Some of the above leaders are active on Twitter, which is more like an Information Network than a Social Network, proving that internet is a very influential form of communication.

Time will tell how the leaders will harness the potential of these websites. The fact that Facebook has more subscribers in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries than the number of newspapers circulated in the region is further encouraging for the leaders to be present on these websites.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Facebook Penetration Rate in Middle East

UAE has the highest Facebook penetration rate followed by Qatar in the Middle East as per the data released by Facebakers. Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Facebook users but the penetration rate is very low.

The users in Qatar are growing rapidly and overall in the Middle East. Users in UAE have grown by 11 % and Qatar by 8% in the last 6 months. This illustrates the Social Media boom in the region.

Iraq also has a decent penetration rate considering its conditions, and this show the willingness of people to communicate with each other.

Male population dominate Facebook in the Middle East with a total of 4.3 million users and Females amount 2.5 million, almost half of the male users.

Interestingly, Iceland has the highest Facebook penetration in the world :)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Qtel vs Vodafone Qatar

Check out the screen shot below, showing online ads from Qtel (Qatar Telecom) and Vodafone Qatar on the same page. Looks like the boys are fighting hard to grab/retain their market share. This is what you call Aggressive Online Marketing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Life Before and After Social Media

A graphical "Balance" Comparison of how has the life changed after Social Media/Networking has entered our lives. The graph may not cover every aspect but highlights some of the important day to day changes impacting people. People continue to communicate but through different medium. The existing tools like mobiles have found themselves for a different use.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sachin – Most Searched Player on Google

Google India announced today the IPL (Indian Premier League) Zeitgeist for 2010. Sachin remains at the top as the most searched player followed by Saurav Ganguly.

Interestingly Deccan Chargers are the most searched team on Google followed by Mumbai Indians. MI was the most searched team in 2009.

MS Dhoni and Sehwag were not able to make it to the top 10 searched players list. Newcomers in this year’s list are Praveen Kumar, Ryan Harris and Bret Lee.
Most searched IPL player

Royal Challengers Bangalore was the least searched team this year, but it proved itself by notching the 3rd slot. Youtube fans were interested in watching the Super Over, as it was the most searched query followed by Chennai Super Kings.

Top 10 Searched IPL Teams

Read the entire post here

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wassup Dubai..? Ban on Alcohol in Food and British Couple Kissing Issue

Lately there has been some unusual events in Dubai, which makes me wonder if there is a trend shift in lifestyle or are the officials changing their ways of addressing issues: -

Example 1 - The overly hyped British Couple lip kissing issue. I believe if they have violated the decency laws of Dubai, ideally they could be warned for the first time rather than dragging them into courts. Yes, they may have crossed the line and violated the laws but a warning may have done the trick.

Check out the Dubai Decency Laws here. A note to all the tourists - it is important that you follow these rules as a respect to the emirate's culture and traditions.

Example 2 - An exclusive report published in Arabian Business states that Dubai Municipality(DM) has issued a letter banning use of alcohol in cooking, which has moved the hotel industry in the emirate. This could potentially harm the food industry as this could affect the food cooked in many five star hotels and impact revenues. However Dubai Municipality is now expected to issue a revised policy after the industry leaders have appealed to DM.

Oh! BTW – then DM should consider ban on food products sold in fuel stations, since the fuel contains alcohol. Petrol contains aliphatic alcohols like methanol, ethanol, propanol, and butanol. Alternatively they may consider a ban on petrol itself. Check out the exclusive report here..

However, I would conclude that Dubai is still the most liberal city in the Middle East where one can enjoy a decent living.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

William Dalrymple at Emirates Literature Festival

This was the only session I managed to attend at this prestigious event, which was utterly entertaining.

The story reciting session with Dalrymple was fun and passed too quickly. The session was about him being a travel writer. He described how modern day India has changed since yester years but continues to maintain its charm.

Speaking about his book, “Nine Lives” he thought the book may not turn out to be as successful as his previous ones. The book has turned out to be the highest selling non-fiction book of all time.

He shared his experiences about staying in India and subsequent effects the country has had on him when he visited the country at the age of 18.

My opinion on authors as being reticent, introvert and in their dreams has changed quite a lot. These people are lot of fun and their one liner are a killer

I happen to meet @ruperbu @moneytmunot @faisalkhatib and the rest of the team who are doing an excellent job covering the event #dxblit

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Threat to Social Media in Middle East

This is the Part 2 of the post Death of Social Media. I decided to name it as above to highlight potential threats to this popular communication medium in the Middle East. Social Media is vibrant and booming in the region but the possibility of its sudden death cannot be overlooked. The political sensitivity and formation of agendas against the existing regimes has provoked many governments in the region to block popular social media sites.

Internet Service Provider (ISP) plays an important role in blocking/filtering these websites. In its role as a licensed ISP and in response to customer requests, ISPs have a clear policy that aims to prevent damage to the values of the community from harmful material on websites.

Interestingly enough, the blocked site message on Etisalat says “If you would like the classification on this site to be reviewed, please fill in and submit the Feed Back Form.” At least an opportunity to appeal, don’t know how many of them may have been heard though.

Below is a country wise summary of blocked social media websites and some figures. The information may vary as countries may decide to block/unblock the websites anytime.


- According to one user of Qatar Living, popular site "Tagged" has been blocked by QTEL in 2009.

- Has got 265,000 Facebook users


- Etisalat banned in 2007 upon orders from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA).

- The UAE also has a ban on a photo sharing website called Flickr ,

- Youtube is filtered and some of the videos are blocked

- Some popular blogs listed on Blogger like Secret Dubai are also blocked

- Rumors of blocking Facebook or Twitter are occasionally discussed on local forums and make rounds in the market. Many users joined a group called “Say no to blocking Facebook” to show their support last year.

- 1.2 million Facebook users


- Twitter, another popular and rapidly growing social-networking tool, also has been filtered out in Iran.

- Blogging websites like Blogger and Wordpress may not be blocked but a particular blog that may offend the officials is blacklisted.

- Iran Internet Service Providers Blocked Facebook in 2009 amid fears of users discussing about the most controversial Iranian Elections.

- Local social networking site is filtered


- They blocked the website of the leading opposition party called Kefaya – Egyptian movement for change, in 2008.

- 2.3 million Facebook users

- Has highest number of Arabic Websites in the region


- Syria has taken the lead in blocking Facebook. The government feared that Israelis are enlisting on the Syrian Networks on the website. This was reported in Lebanese newspaper Al-Safir on 19 November 2007.

- Youtube and Facebook is blocked

Saudi Arabia

- Metacafe Partially Blocked

- Flickr and Orkut blocked

- Access to some of the popular blogs like Saudi Jeans is occasionally restricted

- 1.5 million Face Book users

- 2nd highest country after Egypt to have max. numbers Arabic Websites

- As per a recent survey by IQPC - this is the prime market for Digital Marketing tactics in 2010

Just imagine a hypothetical situation where the ISPs decide to block all the popular Social Networking sites in the region… down goes all the hype about Social Media.

The ad-spend in UAE was approximately 1.46 billion for 2009. Social media would form approximately 15% of this total spend. We know who would take the first financial hit…

-Marketing Agencies would suffer a major blow, as they would have lost a considerable amount of revenue in the form ad-spend.

-Many companies who have diverted funds to Social Media would not take any chances and marketing strategies built around this medium would go down the drain.

- People who interact with their friends/families would be frustrated, as social media has been one of the prime communication medium for them.

Most of the countries in the region block Skype and other VOIP services. As far as freedom of speech and press is considered, United Arab Emirates scores highest marks in the region for being quite liberal but it has a long way to go.

Recent alliance of Facebook with Connect Ads shows the confidence level of the social media sites in this region. I am a great fan of this medium and would like to see this thrive in the region.

Users in Gulf countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia are worried that their authorities could follow suit after some countries have blocked these websites. So much for the political chaos in the countries….that the new medium of communication has to suffer.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

UAE Rains 27th Feb 2010

Come on let it rain, let it rain down on me Let the rain touch my hands - Melissa Etheridge.
Check out the videos of the heavy rains filled with thunder storms.Click here to view the pics.



Friday, February 26, 2010

Death of Social Media in Middle East - Part 1

Social Networking in the Middle East is a completely different living thing, that has some how slithered into our life. The approach to social media from a commercial point of view needs to be fundamentally different from the global trends, which may not work here.

Past few years marketers have been trying to convince the Senior Management of their respective companies to allocate more budgets for Online Marketing, in which they have partially succeeded. The sudden buzz about Social Media has definitely helped the cause but most of the companies in Middle East still feel that sheer presence of their brand on Twitter and Facebook completes the cycle.

Social media" implies a broad range of topics and has several different connotations. Social media may refer to a combination of various elements on the Internet, for example, blogs, forums, vlogs, video sharing sites, dating sites, picture sharing sites etc. Some of the many forms that Social Media can take include instant messengers, blogging, music sharing, wikis, podcasts etc.

Marketers may have actively engaged in one of the above Social Media form at least once. The lack of engagement with the customer in these online forms can lead to severe issues, which is currently a major hurdle for the brands in Middle East. Majority of them manage to create a Facebook group or a Twitter profile, but they don’t have a clue on what to do with them.

Do you listen to your customers online? How many companies have a team monitoring their brand on the internet? Once you are online you need to be there forever; this is a continuous engagement process.

If a customer writes a letter to a newspaper editor, most of the companies in Middle East have a corporate communication department to address the customer complains. If the same customer posts an issue on an internet forum the issue is never seen escalated to the company, but the brand damage stakes are much more higher due to the viral nature of internet. If you need to research on the market trends, monitor the local forums. Customers are giving their feed back on these forums at no cost and there is a huge opportunity to get insights. Most of the companies are busy extracting email of users and then bombarding their accounts with their latest offers. I hate some of the Twitter accounts who fill my twitstream with their latest product offers. Remember once you are online you may fetch compliments but be open to criticism.

I would like to commend @DubaiMallNews on handling the Aquarium Leakage issue yesterday. They were honest enough to post a note on the twitter about the leakage and then inform the customers that the situation has been contained. This was just an example of how can you communicate with your customers on social media.

Continuous threat to shut down some of the popular Social Networking sites in the region can lead to sudden death of this medium. This is a highly discussed issue in Middle East which can have serious business impact and will be covered in Part 2 of this series.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Facebook team’s up with Connect Ads

Trevor Johnson, head of strategy and planning for Facebook EMEA, announced Facebook's recent alliance with Connect Ads, who have been named the site's official representation partner in the region, at a press conference on Wednesday

Facebook hopes that the deal with Connect Ads will give exposure to advertisers in a socially conservative Middle East region where online marketing is in its early stages and social media sites under threat at times from the service providers.

I had an offsite meeting in Marsa Alam, Egypt in 2008 where I met the Connect Ads team. It was a pleasure meeting Mohamed El Sayad GM – MSN Arabia and Amr Al-Masri who is an account executive at Connect Ads. Connect Ads makes an excellent team to work with. They were busy launching MSN Maghreb then and today they have managed to seize control of Facebook in the Middle East.

The Cairo-based advertising booker already handles sales for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN regional portals and other local sites namely MSN Arabia, MSN Maghreb,,,,,,,, Barca Arabia, and

There are about ten million active Facebook users in the Middle East and North Africa region, making up about 2.5% of the social networking site's total base of 400 million active users worldwide. United Arab Emirates has an average of 1.2 million Facebook users with more growth expected from the Middle East as a whole over the coming years.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bollywood goes Tweeting

The Twitter party is on in Bollywood. Many stars are catching up with the social media website to reach out to their fans. @PriyankaChopra takes the lead with 182,548 followers, followed by @iamsrk with 155,919 fans. SRK is still tweeting about the much hyped MNIK while other stars are busy tweeting about their daily chores. I have managed to compile a list of Bollywood Celebrities available on Twitter to my knowledge. Fancy any one of these - click and follow them :)


Twitter Id


Twitter Id

Abhishek Bachchan


Mughdha Godse


Abhay Deol


Neha Dhupia


Ajay Devgan


Neil Mukesh


Akshay Kumar


Pooja Bhatt


Amrita Rao


Preity Zinta


Amitabh Bachchan


Priyanka Chopra


Anupam Kher


R Madhvan


Anurag Kashyap


Rahul Khanna




Ram Gopal Verma


Arjun Rampal


Ranvir Shorey


Ayesha Takia


Ritesh Deshmukh


Deepika Padukone


Sajid Khan


Deepika Padukone


Sameera Reddy


Dino Morea


Shahid Kapoor


Diya Mirza


Shahrukh Khan


Emran Hashmi


Shatrughan Sinha


Fardeen Khan


Shekhar Kapur


Farhan Akhtar


Shraddha Kapoor (Daughter of Shakti Kapoor)


Genelia Desouza


Shreya Ghoshal


Hrithik Roshan


Shruti Haassan


Imran Khan




Karan Johar


Sonam Kapoor


Konkan Sen


Sonakshi Sinha (Daughter of Shatrughan Sinha)


Kunal Kohli


Soniya Mehra (Daughter of Vinod Mehra)


Lara Dutta


Sophie Choudry


Madhur Bhandarkar


Sunidhi Chauhan


Mahesh Bhatt


Vishal Dadlani


Mallika Sherawat


Vivek Oberoi


Minissha Lamba



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