How Kuwaitis are Instagramming a business revolution

A recent trip to Kuwait has proven to me that there is an act of defiance towards entrepreneurial trends by Kuwaiti youths. I last visited Kuwait three years ago, at a time when the country was plagued with cupcake start-ups relying on Blackberry Messenger (BBM) and word of mouth to break into the market. As with BBM, the cupcake trend has died out, and Kuwait has now erupted into a country saturated with entrepreneurs making their names known using Instagram.

Mentorship programs replacing tradition

Government and public programs for support of businesses in the country are scarce, yet young people have turned to independent support to mentor and fund their ideas. One of the major hurdles that Kuwaiti start-ups face is rent. With property prices soaring across the region, and with malls occupied almost exclusively by franchised brands, it has become increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs to find an affordable location to establish their brands.

It’s not just rent that’s soaring – mentorship programs are too. Programs like Sirdab-lab (underground lab), The Protégés, and Startup Weekend have taken on the responsibility of mentoring young entrepreneurs, and giving them access to training, working space, and networking events.

A quick flick through the Instagram accounts tells a story of a nation full of self-proclaimed makeup artists and stylists, very few of whom are actually certified in their profession

Yara al-Wazir

Kuwait has never been shy of entrepreneurs; after all, family businesses are what the country was built on. Yet these locally grown mentorship programs are slowly replacing the tradition of taking over the family business. Instead, they’re allowing young people to discover and fulfil their potentials independently. Speaking to local certified makeup artist Khadijah Hamzeh, who uses Instagram to promote her makeup services in Kuwait, I understood that “there’s a collective understanding that ‘Instagram entrepreneurs’ still intend to take over the family business eventually, but that we (they) want to make a name for themselves first.”

If anything, these mentorship programs don’t just teach the entrepreneurial flair required for an Instagram-based business, but also crucial skills required to sustain family businesses in the future.

A risky trend – but when will the bubble burst?

Two major things are risked with the Instagram-based business model sweeping Kuwait: credibility and sustainability.

The genuine authenticity of the products and services purchased is at jeopardy. Authenticity is not just an issue exclusive to fashion-branded products bought on Instagram, but also the services. A quick flick through the Instagram accounts tells a story of a nation full of self-proclaimed makeup artists and stylists, very few of whom are actually certified in their professions.

Success stories do exist. Dubai-based makeup artist Huda Kattan started her blog and Instagram account to teach basic make-up skills, and now uses them to promote and market both her makeup-services, and her line of eyelashes.

As proud as I was of the entrepreneurial shakeup in Kuwait, I struggle to forget the cupcake craze that lasted for months and is now relatively non-existent. I can’t help but wonder how long the Instagram-business phase will last. Like any business, drive, commitment, and perseverance are required to sustain success.

Kuwait’s once popular sheep-selling Instagram account has been dormant for the past year, despite having 2000+ followers. Social media is not yet ready to replace traditional forms of retail, especially when the current success of it is dependent on external factors such as low fuel prices and labour-costs of drivers. Having said that, it is an excellent stepping-stone for entrepreneurs, start-ups, makeup artists, stylists, and foodies alike.


Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 13:53 - GMT 10:53
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