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Jan 09 2013

'Just Falafel' boss urges UAE start-up businesses to be bold

Budding brands from the UAE have been encouraged to fly the flag for the country overseas as one of the nation's fastest expanding franchises opened in the UK this week.

Popular food outlet Just Falafel opened its first British outlet in London's upmarket Covent Garden district on Monday - and its boss told 7DAYS yesterday that UAE retailers have nothing to fear from mounting their own foreign campaigns.

Speaking from Morocco - where he has agreed a new franchise deal that will take the number of Just Falafel outlets to more than 650 in 14 countries - Just Falafel CEO Fadi Malas said firms which thrive in the

UAE have the smarts to expand into foreign retail markets.

Referring to a report published last year by real estate consultants CB Richard Ellis, which found that the UAE is home to the second largest number of major international brands after the United Kingdom, Lebanese national Malas said: "I think if you operate in the UAE as an entrepreneur and you have the ability to survive as a business in the UAE then you are fit to go and compete globally because the ecosystem that we enjoy in the UAE is extremely competitive."

He added: "In the UAE alone you are competing globally." Less than six years since the first Just Falafel outlet opened on Abu Dhabi's Hamdan Street, Malas revealed yesterday that the firm's head office in Dubai is now fielding up to 300 franchise enquiries per day.

With its first UK franchise open for business, further outlets are set to launch including one in London's famous Leicester Square and a further 20 by the end of this year, including stores in Cambridge and Exeter. It's all part of a strategy to open 200 outlets in the UK with its partner in the venture, Centurion Holdings.

Malas credits the success of his venture to the humble falafel - saying it was identifying its potential as a snack food that has underpinned the brand's rapid growth.

He urged other Middle East firms to go down the franchise route - and said he could see other popular Middle East foods that could be repackaged for a global audience, including regional staple the shawarma.

"I don't think Subway could have opened 38,000-odd stores across the world had they decided to open them themselves," he said. "So I think this is how we should start thinking as entrepreneurs from the region - streamlining our businesses so we can put them in a box and sell them as franchises."

Just Falafel CEO Fadi Malas believes there are a number of Middle East brands perfectly poised to enjoy success in new foreign markets.

"There are great, great brands - and I think they are a step away from going regional and then global," told 7DAYS on Tuesday. Here are two he is tipping for future success:

S*UCE (fashion retailer) - "I think S*uce is a great retailer. I think they have amazing merchandising abilities. It is a great shopping experience and it reminds me of [fashion brand] Joseph in London and how they innovated in the 1980s."

BATEEL (dates and luxury food) - "I think Bateel is an amazing concept and I think dates are again something that people have not picked up on globally and it has great potential to go global."

© 7Days 2013


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