To assist the development and growth of the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Qatar Development Bank (QDB) has launched the fifth edition of its National Business Competition, Al Fikra, for Qatari-led start-ups. The programme targets entrepreneurs and newly-emerged local organisations, and aims to support them in successfully developing their business concepts. Prizes for the top five winners include incubation time, integrated consultancy programme coupons, and access to finance. The competition is scheduled to run a period of three months, from August to December, this year.

This year’s Al Fikra competition is open to university students, entrepreneurs and working professionals. The teams will be enrolled into a special educational and coaching program, enabling the participants to learn the necessary skills to develop their business ideas into successful private value-adding businesses. They will then propose their business plans that may be developed into operating entities in Qatar.

In an effort to assist candidates in developing their ideas and transforming them into real projects, QDB has collaborated with a group of preeminent supporters and strategic partners to organise Al Fikra this year. The competition is sponsored by SASOL and Qatar National Bank (QNB) as official sponsors, and ExxonMobil as the platinum sponsor. Moreover, QDB is collaborating with its two subsidiaries, Qatar Business Incubation Center and Bedaya Center for Entrepreneurship and Career Development, as well as several academic partners from various universities in Qatar, who provide candidates with the required academic support.

Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al Khalifa, CEO of QDB, said:

Every great company starts with an idea, which needs nurturing and support to flourish. This is why we, at QDB, are highly keen on fostering creative ideas and enabling individuals to turn their ambitions into real projects. We hope that these start-ups grow into major companies and achieve great accomplishments across the global market.’

Further elaborating upon the stages through which QDB supports entrepreneurs, Abdulaziz bin Nasser Al Khalifa added:

QDB extends its support to entrepreneurs through their business journey, from the idea stage until they reach a global level. Typically, this means going through the following five stages: development of the initial concept, market entry, full launch and growth, and finally maturity and expansion. We are delighted with the reception of Al Fikra over the past four editions, which is a testament to the success it has achieved in filling a big void in the field of entrepreneurship and encouraging new businesses. It also highlights the abilities of Qatari youth to be innovative, hardworking, and successful.’

Commenting on his organization’s role, Alistair Routledge, President and General Manager of ExxonMobil Qatar, said:

Together with our partners at QBD, we are very excited to see the 2016 edition of Al Fikra Competition. Al Fikra has become a remarkable platform for Qatar’s next generation of business leaders to cope with a highly competitive and innovation-focused future.’

Routledge continued:

It is our goal to meaningfully contribute to the Qatar National Vision 2030. Through this partnership, we re-emphasise our commitment towards unlocking the country’s human potential by supporting initiatives that help Qataris enhance their leadership skills and develop their unique abilities to build a brighter future for themselves as individuals and the society as a whole. Al Fikra is a great example of initiatives that enhance the process of building a knowledge-based economy in Qatar. We are very proud to be part of such an endeavour.’

Khalid Majid Al Nuaimi, Deputy General Manager of SMEs at QNB, said:

Our official sponsorship of Al Fikra Competition aims at promoting the ideas of Qatari entrepreneurs by highlighting their innovative work, which contributes to diversifying the economy and reinvigorating the creative spirit among business owners.’

Khalid Majid Al Nuaimi further explained:

QNB’s participation in such significant events promotes the culture of entrepreneurship in Qatar. This is a major part of our strategy and vision, which will bear its fruit once these young companies start pouring their contribution into the Qatari economy.’

Benda Vilakazi, Director of Gas to Liquid Ventures at SASOL, said:

SASOL is very pleased to be an official sponsor of Al Fikra, participating in this leading initiative for the fourth year in a row. Being a firm believer in innovation and groundbreaking ideas, SASOL has supported several institutions and organisations over the past few years, with the aim of contributing to the development of the SME sector in Qatar. As envisioned in the Qatar National Vision 2030, we are confident that the private sector will play a pivotal role in the country’s future growth.’

Vilakazi added:

Al Fikra is an ideal platform to nurture and inspire the new generations of Qatar’s business leaders. There are countless ideas out there that need fostering and development, and more often than not, innovative young leaders need a supportive environment to allow them to get their initial break. We are positive that the 2016 edition of Al Fikra will be an opportunity to present several brilliant ideas which we are excitedly waiting for.’

Al Fikra helps to enrich the economic system with new projects and business plans that can be developed into actual companies. Furthermore, the competition’s outcome enlarges the talent pool available in the economy, and provides government and semi-government agencies with a range of start-ups that can offer solutions to new challenges.

Al Fikra also enables project owners to identify their goals, evaluate their performances and communicate with the owners of well-established business entities to present their own projects.

A committee of eight evaluators from the local business community, QDB and its official competition partners will evaluate the business ideas and select the qualifying teams. The finalists will then be presented to a panel of judges during the final ceremony to be evaluated on their idea creativity, innovation, scalability and feasibility.

Qualifying teams will proceed along a two-round track to reach the finals. The first round takes place in the early stages of the competition to make sure the application is valid and meets the requirements, while the second round takes off after the team attends the training courses and presents a modified work plan. The Qatari partner must be the team’s official representative throughout the competition’s major rounds, activities and presentations.

Registration deadline for the competition is 17 September 2016. Interested aspirants may register for this competition by accessing the Al Fikra website, filling the application online and submitting it at The training workshops for the entrants will be held during September and October, and the final business plans are due on 22 October 2016. Winners will be announced at the final ceremony, scheduled on 13 December 2016.