One of Qatar’s most popular virtual community meet ups is the #bigbmeetup, bringing together the country’s most successful personalities in one platform to talk about their successes, achievements and the impacts they have made in Qatar and the local community.

Held under a different theme every week, #bigbmeetup is a community initiative founded in 2018 by Indian photographer, photojournalist and communications specialist Bosco Menezes. According to Menezes, the initiative aims to inspire, inform, educate, and spread the news of good deeds performed by people in their everyday lives for the betterment of humankind.

I was working for a magazine and I was attending a lot of events, social events and even meet ups. I found that there’s a need for something more powerful and in-depth. So I said, ‘let’s have a meet up’. Let’s get people who are your average Joes but have achieved something in their lives, and let them speak and inspire us all through that medium,’ says Menezes.

They are people of different nationalities with different achievements. What I like to do is, I always plug-in an NGO at every meet up. That’s part of the DNA of #bigbmeetup.

Prior to the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the #bigbmeetup took place at different venues every month. ‘I chose the first four themes because they are very close to my heart being Esteedama, which is the Arabic word for sustainability, artists, thisability, which is a word I coined for disability, celebrating people who are differently abled, and sports and wellness‘, Menezes explained.

The first #bigbmeetup took place in April 2018 at The Torch-Doha, under the theme wellness, with the attendance of well-known Qatari and expat socialites such as beIN TV presenter and sports analyst Mohammed Saadon Al Kuwari and Vishnu Swasthi of Vishnu Swasthi Yoga Studio.

Virtual #bigbmeetup

Menezes already hosted six #bigbmeetups since April 2018. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Menezes’ #bigbmeetup went online on 18 April 2020, and became a weekly event. To date, Menezes has hosted at least 18 virtual meet ups.

Virtual #bigbmeetup came to be because of COVID-19. The main topic of the virtual #bigbmeetup was how people are coping with COVID-19, so ‘Coping with COVID’ was my theme.

But now since we are in the fourth or fifth month of COVID-19, I want to open again because people want to move back to their normal lives, so I incorporated many other topics such as sustainability, environment, etc,’ he explained.

I’m a bit IT-challenged but it came very naturally to me. I was interviewed by another podcaster and that gave me the idea of why not continue with #bigbmeetup virtually? At the same time, the Ministry of Sports and Culture also interviewed me on what I was doing in the first month of quarantine, so I said let me go back to bigbmeetup on a virtual platform.

I have speakers lined up until October. I’m doing one on mental health on World Mental Health Day [10 October], he said.

I’m a bit surprised that the virtual #bigbmeetup has put #bigbmeetup on the world stage. I’ve had people from across the world tuning in. I will continue with the virtual #bigbmeetup, but maybe by November or December, I’ll make it bi-weekly, or two or three per month.

The man behind #bigbmeetup

Hailing from Goa, India, Menezes grew up in Qatar and has over 20 years of experience in marketing and media fields, and a professional eye for photography. Now a freelance photographer and photojournalist, Menezes has launched his own brand, BigBFotografi. ‘BigBFotografi started many, many years ago but it actually came into prominence and existence in August 2017 – that’s when I actually penned/sketched my own logo of BigBFotografi. I’m an artist myself,’ said Menezes.

In addition to hosting the popular #bigbmeetup, under the new brand, BigBFotografi, the avid photographer also holds and participates in many photo exhibitions in the country. He has exhibited at Sheikh Faisal Bin Qasim Al Thani Museum (FBQ Museum), The Torch-Doha and Fraser Suites Doha. He is one of the first photojournalists to interview Ahmed Al Maadheed, the Qatari artist who created the renowned unity icon, Tamim Al Majd, a black and white image of The Amir, HH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. In addition, Menezes has covered major sporting events over the past 10 years, from the 2006 Doha Asian Games and the 2010 IAAF Doha Indoor Athletics to the AFC Cup and more.

I don’t know when things are going back to normal but this is the new normal, said Menezes. However, he plans to go offline again with #bigbmeetup in October 2020, revisiting the theme, ‘Esteedama‘ or ‘Sustainability’.

Menezes will be organising more meet ups in the near future. Find him on social media as @bigbfotografi.