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My last flight on Kingfisher Airlines April 2, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, India, Marketing, Social Media, Travel, UAE.
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I’m a loyal customer of India’s Kingfisher Airlines. I first flew Kingfisher in Jan 2011 but since then I have flown them 15 times. I fly them as much as possible. I often pay a premium to fly them even when I have cheaper or non-stop flights available. I even recommend it to those who are looking for flights to India. The only time I flew another airline to India instead of Kingfisher I felt like I was cheating on a partner.

What I like the most about Kingfisher is how they make me feel special when I fly with them. Another reason I love to fly them is their social media engagement. I became a loyal Kingfisher customer because of how they engaged with me on social media the first time I flew with them and have been connected to me since then.

(more…)

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Seattle Ahoy on the Emirates Inaugural March 9, 2012

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Travel, UAE.
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So I lost control of my #avgeek senses and flew off to Seattle for a weekend on the inaugural Emirates flight out of Dubai.

I’ve always wanted to go to Seattle, visit Boeing and the Future of Flight Museum, catch up with #avgeek friends in the Puget Sound and most importantly, get on an inaugural flight and experience a water cannon salute. So I HAD to be on the inaugural EK229 on 1 March 2012 and tick off a couple of items on the bucket list.

Seattle is an amazing place and I don’t say that just because it is the home of Boeing. I will be back soon with more stories on Seattle but till then, enjoy these 2 videos!

Click here to read a travelogue of my trip featured on ArabianSupplyChain.com. 

The King of Good Times: A social media surprise from Kingfisher Airlines February 25, 2011

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Branding, Conversations, India, Social Media, Travel.
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As an aviation geek & a social media marketing professional, I keep a close eye out on airlines that are blitzing the social media trail.

On last count, there are over 180 airlines on Twitter. Every airline worth their salt is on Facebook building communities and rewarding loyalty via contests.


What I love most about airlines that are doing social media right is: those who are using social media to listen to their customers and offer them delightful surprises. Such a rare experience happened to me last month, via Kingfisher Airlines.

Kingfisher Airlines, based out of India is one of the world’s seven airlines to be ranked as a 5-star airline by Skytrax. They fly to 63 domestic destinations and 8 international destinations with an Airbus & ATR fleet. Headed by one of India’s most flamboyant tycoons Dr Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher has built a strong brand for itself in service and quality over the years. It wouldn’t be unfair to call Kingfisher the Virgin America of Indian skies.

I have watched Kingfisher’s meteoric rise and often lamented the fact that I have never flown them, primarily because they don’t fly out of Muscat. Anyhow, a great opportunity to try Kingfisher for the first time came up last month and I decided to fly them outbound on Dubai-Bengaluru-Cochin and Chennai-Bengaluru-Dubai on my inbound leg.

Kingfisher is active on Twitter and as always, I tweeted before my departure that I was flying them. I received a reply from them asking me to enjoy their service. Quite the appropriate thing to do on social media, yes?

I arrive at Dubai Airport on the date of my departure, stood in a snaking queue of flustered passengers waiting to check-in. When my turn came, I noticed the check-in agent spend a few extra seconds looking at her screen and then proceeded to consult with her supervisor before handing me a complimentary Lounge Access card. Now, how great is that?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t check out the Lounge as I was running late for my flight, so I boarded the all economy A321 and we were soon wheels up to Bengaluru. After reaching cruising altitude, the cabin crew started meal service. I noticed that they rolled up the cart straight to where I was sitting (somewhere in the middle of the plane) and asked me “Mr Rajagopal, what would you like to have for dinner?”

That was an absolute stunner for me. I know in premium classes it is a practice for crew to know beforehand who they are serving, but moi flying in Y class (or cattle class as one prominent Indian politician once described the back of the bus)? The crew knew my name and that was an absolutely delightful surprise for me. They served me well & I sure got a few envious looks from around the cabin.

The 2 cabin crew members who worked my section would come up to me once in a while and ensure that I was all comfy. Nothing artificial, but a genuine and warm desire to serve well, which is sadly missing from a lot of airlines this day. Believe you me, these are the little, personal touches that make flying such a lovely experience for me.

When I inquired how the crew knew me by name, I was told that they were informed beforehand that I would be flying with them and was asked to take special care of me. Social media at work, yes? 🙂

I felt like the ‘king of good times’ as I thoroughly enjoyed my flight and didn’t forget to compliment Kingfisher in my feedback form (I believe they should look at the paper quality of the form as ball point pens don’t write well on them – minor detail, I know).

I landed early morning at Bengaluru and almost missed my connecting flight to Cochin due to a security snafu. I literally missed my bus to the plane. However, the kind people at Kingfisher got me ferried to the waiting ATR in their car just in time. I hopped on the plane and we were off. Trust me on this; they could have left without me. Will never forget the sight of an ATR waiting on the ground on a misty morning, the crew peeping out of the door and me diving into it with my rucksack pulling me back. Reminded me of how we jump into moving trains. Another big star from me.

Landed in Cochin and I was happy to let Kingfisher know that my flights went well and they DMed back wishing me a great time in India. (Almost sounds like a love affair, hmmm?)

So I spent the next couple of days train hopping across India (I think I spent 7 out of my 9 days sleeping on overnight trains). A week later, I was ready to make the hop back to Dubai. I was flying from Chennai and on my local train ride to the airport, I was wondering if I would have any similar surprises in store.

I was met by this very helpful Kingfisher ground staff who helped me with my bags. And I did make a note of how Kingfisher staff are generally polite, professional and courteous. You begin to feel that these people, whether they are at the low end or the high end of the line, are carefully cherry-picked to live a certain brand vision that leads to delighting customers.

Proceeded to check-in and gladly got my fav seat on an A321 which gives you humongous amounts of legroom. There were no surprises waiting for me at the check-in desk. Must say, I was slightly disappointed after all the pampering a week ago. I traipsed across the terminal towards a Maggi noodle stall and went on to ravenously chomp down a noodle bowl.

As I gulp through my noodles, I spot 2 Kingfisher staff make a beeline for me and I’m like – Uh Oh! Crew: Mr. Rajagopal, we were looking for you… So again, Kingfisher decided to make my day. Minutes later, I was escorted into a lounge at Chennai Airport (at this point was beginning to feel like royalty) and the staff promised to fetch me before boarding. Spent a good 30 minutes in the lounge and then she was back.  Trust me, nothing beats the experience of being chaperoned by a Kingfisher crew on the ground. I did manage to count a few envious looks and did I say I didn’t have to stand in a line for my security check? The lovely crew member hopped with me on the bus and literally dropped me at the door of the plane. My mind was flying at 35k feet by then.

The flight to Bengaluru went without incident. Must say, I liked my seat on the ATR in front of the plane which is the only row facing the rest of the seats. They are comfortable and you get a feeling of flying in a biz jet. Landed at Bengaluru and was at met at the door of the plane by another Kingfisher staffer. I know that at this point this is all sounding like a giant ego-fueled fairy tale. But then this gorgeous staffer walks me from the plane, takes me through immigration and security, mind you, no standing in queues again, you are introduced everywhere as a ‘guest’ and then proceeds to comfortably ensconce me in a premium lounge at the International Terminal.

I tuck into some fine Sauvignon Blanc, Paneer rolls and rum cake as I wait for my ‘Bus to Dubai. My ‘handler’ appeared again before boarding and walked me on the airbridge till my jet, bidding bye and safe travels.

Wheels up to Dubai, great food, much better than on the inbound leg, caught some shuteye and a perfect landing – didn’t even know if we touched ground, just floated in and came to a stop at the airbridge. As we deplaned, the Captain came out to say hello. A great ending to an awesome Kingfisher tale.

So what’s the summary of this whole experience? Just a fluffy piece singing a lot of praise in favor of Kingfisher for making the day of a planegeek? Well, they earned it and yes, a big thank you to them for giving me one of the best flights in my life.

Will Kingfisher roll out the same red carpet treatment to everyone who tweets to them about their journeys? Perhaps not. But have they won a loyal customer and strong brand evangelist in me. Definitely, yes.

To sign off, brands engaging in social media take off to a new level when they are able to consistently and creatively offer value, engagement and delightful surprises to their audience.  It all starts from caring to listen and daring to surprise. Amen!

25 fast facts on the 25th anniversary of Emirates October 25, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Marketing, UAE.
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Emirates, the national airline of Dubai, United Arab Emirates celebrates its 25th anniversary today. With a capital of $10 million (AED 36.7 million) and 2 used Boeing 727-200 aircraft in 1985, Emirates has come a long way to be one of the world’s leading airlines.

Here are 25 fast facts on Emirates.

  1. Emirates operates over 2,400 passenger flights per week from Dubai International Airport Terminal 3, to 105 cities in 62 countries across 6 continents.
  2. Emirates is one of the only nine airlines in the world to operate an all wide-body aircraft fleet. They don’t do small, baby!
  3. Emirates has 151 aircraft in its fleet including 7 freighters and is among the youngest in the skies, with an average age of 69 months.
  4. Emirates is the world’s largest operator of Boeing 777s with 86 aircraft in fleet & 55 on order.
  5. Emirates is the world’s largest operator of Airbus A380s with 13 aircraft in fleet & a whopping 77 on order.
  6. Emirates generates 36.5% of its revenue from Europe & Americas & spends 35.1% of its revenue on fuel.
  7. Emirates operates three of the ten world’s longest non-stop commercial flights from Dubai to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.
  8. Emirates is the largest airline in the Middle East in terms of revenue, fleet size, and passengers carried.
  9. In 2010, Emirates was the sixth-largest airline in the world in terms of international passengers carried and largest  in the world in terms of scheduled international passenger-kilometres flown.
  10. In 2010, Emirates was voted the eighth best airline in the world by Skytrax.
  11. On 8 June 2010, at the Berlin Air show, Emirates ordered 32 A380s worth $11.5 billion. The deal was the biggest single order for the world’s largest passenger aircraft.
  12. Emirates currently flies A380s to 11 cities around the world and resumes its A380 service to New York JFK on 31 October 2010.
  13. Dubai International Airport’s Terminal 3 was built exclusively for the use of Emirates at a cost of $4.5 billion and officially opened 14 October 2008. Terminal 3 is the largest building in the world by floor space, with over 1,500,000 sq. m. (370 acres) of space.
  14. Emirates ranks as the largest airline in the world by international seating capacity, according to the latest annual report by IATA.
  15. Emirates plans to have over 320 aircraft by 2018.
  16. In 2009, Emirates was voted the second best First Class by Skytrax.
  17. Emirates became the first airline in the world to introduce a personal entertainment system on a commercial aircraft after introducing the world’s first seat-back screens in 1992.
  18. ICE (Information, Communication, Entertainment) is the in-flight entertainment system operated by Emirates, and features between 600 and 1000 channels, the largest offering in the world.
  19. Skywards, the frequent flyer programme of Emirates has 5.72 million members.
  20. Emirates has been involved in two of the largest football sponsorship deals ever seen. Its 2004 agreement with Arsenal, which included stadium naming rights, was worth around US $170 million. Its seven year deal with FIFA, signed in 2007, cost a reported US $195 million.
  21. Emirates has only had 3 incidents in its 25 years of history and has never had a casualty. Hope the exemplary record remains.
  22. Emirates employs 10,785 cabin crew from over 120 countries speaking over 80 languages. Their uniforms are designed by Simon Jersey plc.
  23. You can buy an Emirates A380 1:50 Scale Solid Aircraft Model from the official Emirates Online Store for $3300 here.
  24. According to a Wharton article, Maurice Flanagan, the current Executive Vice-Chairman of Emirates so hates the word “marketing” that he essentially banned the use of the term at Emirates. One time when he found that 11 of the firm’s 20,000 employees had the word “marketing” in their job title, he moved them to other positions.
  25. In the year of its 25th anniversary, Emirates announced revenues of US$11.8 billion and net profit up a massive 416% to $964 million.

SkyBuzz: Arabian Gulf Aviation Report, Issue 1 May 1, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Marketing, Travel.
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SkyBuzz: Arabian Gulf Aviation Report
Issue 1 – May 2010

Welcome to the first edition of SkyBuzz – The Arabian Gulf Aviation Report for the month of April 2010. The purpose of this report is to provide a short monthly summary of news, events and developments concerning aviation and airlines in the Arabian Gulf Region.


The Eyjafjallajkull Effect
IATA has said that it will take the global airline industry at least 3 years to recover from the volcanic ash cloud crisis, which started on 14 April 2010 following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajkull volcano in Iceland.

The aviation trade body further estimated that the current crisis, which crippled almost the entire airline industry, cost airlines more than $1.7 billion in lost revenue through Tuesday, 20 April 2010 – six days after the initial eruption.

For a three-day period (April 17-19), when disruptions were greatest, lost revenues for airlines worldwide reached $400 million per day, according to IATA.

“Lost revenues now total more than $1.7 billion for airlines alone. At the worst, the crisis impacted 29 per cent of global aviation and affected 1.2 million passengers a day. The scale of the crisis eclipsed 9/11 when US airspace was closed for three days,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director-General and CEO.

Effect on Arabian Gulf Carriers
All leading Gulf carriers were hit by the spread of the volcanic dust cloud over parts of Europe.

Emirates President Tim Clark said that the airline suffered an income depletion of about $60 million, including 2,000 tons of cargo disrupted, for the 6 days of ash clouds and an additional $5-6 million in accommodating stranded passengers so far due to volcanic ash-related grounding of planes. 270 flights were canceled, 30 Emirates aircraft were grounded, equivalent to one fifth of the fleet, and 120,000 passengers were stranded across the globe from volcanic ash-related groundings.

Meanwhile, the UAE government issued 96-hour visas to airline passengers stranded in Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports.

Etihad Airways recommenced its full scheduled operations on 22 April 2010. More than 22,000 Etihad passengers were affected by flight cancellations and delays as a result of the aircraft closures around the world. Ash groundings cost the airline $30 million. The government-owned airline put up 2,500 passengers stranded in the UAE capital in 16 hotels.

Qatar Airways canceled more than 135 flights to and from 11 destinations in Europe since 15 April 2010 for safety reasons, resulting in disruption to its network. All flights returned to normal operating schedule on 22 April 2010.

Gulf Air canceled over 32 flights from Bahrain to London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris. Besides, as a gesture of goodwill, for those passengers stranded in transit in Bahrain, Gulf Air also offered a free ticket at a credit value equal to their original full ticket for future use.


Emirates: A380 Ahoy, Amsterdam Calling, Kochi Turbulence
In April 2010, Emirates announced the launch of daily A380 flights (517 seats) to Manchester from 1 September 2010. Manchester will become the world’s first regional airport to have a regular A380 service. The airline currently operates 8 A380s to London Heathrow, Toronto, Paris, Jeddah, Bangkok, Seoul, Sydney and Auckland.

On 1 May 2010, Emirates will launch daily flights to Amsterdam, marking its 23rd route into Europe.

On 25 April 2010, Emirates flight EK530, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft carrying 350 passengers from Dubai to Kochi, encountered a weather cloud and a short period of heavy turbulence when cruising at 35,000 feet prior to its descent, injuring 20 passengers and 3 crew members. It dropped about 200 feet in altitude, but landed safely.


Oman Air – 3 new destinations in May
Following back-to-back launches of 5 destinations in 2009, Oman Air is seeking to up the ante by launching 8 new destinations in 2010.

On 1 May 2010, Oman Air will commence its weekly non-stop 4 times service to Kuala Lumpur, its second destination in the Far East after Bangkok. The service will be operated by a new Airbus A330-343 in a three-class configuration.

Oman Air will commence a daily service between Muscat and Ras Al Khaimah from 2 May 2010. Daily flights to Al Ain commence on 3 May 2010. Both routes will be operated by ATR aircraft.

This will be followed by the launch of flights to Lahore (4 times a week) on 10 May 2010 and Islamabad (3 times a week) on 16 May 2010, both destinations served by Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Dar-Es-Salaam (4 times a week) will go live on 1 June 2010 and Kathmandu (4 times a week) on 17 June 2010, and Milan will join the network in the winter schedule.

Oman Air has hiked its capital to $1.3 billion from $779.2 million. Oman Air carried 2.4 million passengers in 2009, up 19 percent from the previous year. Oman Air CEO Peter Hill told Reuters in March 2010 that Oman Air, which posted a loss of $109 million in 2008, planned to return to profit by 2014.


Etihad Airways – Flying high; takes off to Iraq
Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reported 25.4 per cent growth in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) in the first quarter of 2010, far out-pacing the industry average and running ahead of the airline’s available seat kilometers (ASKs) growth of 22 per cent. The improvement, against the first quarter of 2009, was matched by an increase in seat factors, from 73 per cent to 75 per cent. Passenger numbers increased by 11 per cent and premium traffic increased by 5 per cent.

Etihad commenced non-stop flights from its home base in Abu Dhabi to Baghdad, becoming the first airline in the UAE to operate to the Iraqi capital. Etihad operates 5 flights per week to Baghdad, using two-class Airbus A320 aircraft, and will expand its operation with two additional A320 return services to a second Iraq destination – Erbil – from 1 June, subject to government and regulatory approvals.


Qatar Airways – 2 new route launches
Tokyo became Qatar Airways’ 89th destination on 26 April 2010 making it the only Gulf carrier with daily flights to the Japanese capital. Qatar Airways flies an Airbus A330 in a three-class configuration to Tokyo with 12 First, 18 Business and 208 Economy Class seats.

On 5 April 2010, Qatar Airways launched a weekly 4 times service to Ankara from Doha. Qatar Airways is the only Gulf carrier flying to Ankara, operating an Airbus A320 with 12 seats in Business and 132 in Economy Class.


News from Gulf Air
Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air has rolled out a dedicated B2B (Business to Business) internet booking tool – for its corporate customers and travel agents. Gulf Air resumed its flights to Najaf following the reopening of the airport on 27 April 2010.


High 5 for flydubai
flydubai, Dubai’s low cost airline has announced 5 new routes in April 2010 taking its network to 18 destinations.
· Flights to Kabul will commence on 17 May 2010 with a frequency of 5 times per week and are priced from AED725.
· Flights to Luxor in Egypt will be 3 times per week, commence on 19 May 2010 and are priced from AED350.
· Flights to Assiut, the largest town in Upper Egypt, will be 3 times per week, commence on 24 May 2010 and are priced from AED350.
· Flights to Istanbul, European Capital of Culture 2010, will be 5 times per week, commence on 17 June 2010 and are priced from AED450.
· Flights to Latakia, flydubai’s third Syrian destination, after Damascus and Aleppo, will be 4 times per week, commence on 20 June 2010 and are priced from AED350.

All fares are for one way journeys including all taxes and charges and one piece of hand luggage.


Kuwait AirBuzz
Kuwait-based Jazeera Airways will commence its thrice-weekly service to Lahore in Pakistan from 12 May 2010. Meanwhile Kuwait-based Wataniya Airways will launch flights to Rome from 31 May 2010, 3 times weekly. Rome is Wataniya’s 11th destination and will follow the carrier’s thrice weekly Istanbul service set to launch on 5 May 2010.

False start for Iraqi Airways
On 25 April 2010, Iraqi Airways relaunched its service to London from Baghdad after 20 years. Commercial air links were cut after the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iraq for invading Kuwait in 1990. The maiden flight received a nightmare welcome as the chartered aircraft used for the service was impounded and the passport of national airline boss Kifah Hassan accompanying the inaugural flight was seized. As the Iraqi Airways aircraft landed at London Gatwick, lawyers acting for Kuwait Airways, which says it is owed 1.2 billion dollars, served papers.

From DXB Intl.
Dubai International Airport posted an increase of 21.8 per cent in passenger numbers during March 2010, taking the total to a record 3,968,672 in the month compared to 3,259,072 during the same period last year.

World Travel Awards 2010 on the anvil
More than a thousand of the Middle East’s greatest travel companies are battling it out to be winners of the coveted event that takes place at The Address, Dubai Marina on 3 May 2010 just before The Arabian Travel Market.

Established in 1993, The World Travel Awards is regarded as the most comprehensive and prestigious awards programme in the global travel industry, with nominees selected by thousands of professionals from travel and tourism organizations world-wide.

Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as the “travel industry’s equivalent of the Oscars”, it serves to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the world’s travel and tourism industry.This year’s Arabian Travel Market exhibition will be held in Dubai from May 4-7 2010.

Air India’s Cairo Stand Up
And in some crazy news to wind up this report, on 15 April 2010, the harried passengers of an Air India flight bound from Mumbai  to Frankfurt were literally stood up by the crew during a stopover in Cairo, for 16 hours on end – all because the crewmembers wanted to see the great pyramids of Egypt. Read more here.

About Me:
I am a creative supervisor with Wunderman in Muscat, Oman. My interests are aviation, travel and airline marketing. My professional experience includes providing marketing communications expertise for leading airline and travel brands in the region.You can reach me via email at arunjoboy at yahoo dot com. I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Dubai: The Identity Crisis Next Door March 15, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Branding, Marketing.
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Burj Dubai (now Burj Khalifa), originally uploaded by mikecruz216.

I have been thinking more about Identity Crisis since reading Alexander McNabb’s interesting blog post ‘Couples Kiss. Naturally.’ While his post is about the latest Western Expat PDA-scandal to come out of Dubai, it’s also a brilliant account of how life in Dubai is changing with the times. And certainly not for the best.

Identity Crisis
A term coined by 20th century developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, an identity crisis occurs when an individual loses a sense of personal sameness and historical continuity. While Erikson used it mostly to apply to the period of transition from teenage to adulthood, it is now thought that an identity crisis may occur at any time of life, especially in periods of great transition.

Today, Dubai seems to be at the crossroads of an identity crisis.

Dubai was envisioned to be the El Dorado where the best of East and West met. A dream destination where the world came to have a good life and a great time. At least that is how it is still marketed as. After enjoying years of supersonic growth as the land of superlatives, a recession almost brought the wheels of progress to a grinding halt. Dubai suddenly became a hotbed of negative PR. When not covering the debt crisis, global media is gleeful than ever to toast scandals such as ‘sex on the beach’ and ‘kiss-gate’. The way Dubai responds to these issues is certainly not helping.

Dubai is changing and is not what it used to be or is meant to be. The universal values of tolerance, openness and multiculturalism are what made Dubai dazzle. They fitted well with Dubai’s vision to be the world’s city. Unfortunately, these are the very values Dubai is trying to control unsuccessfully in an attempt ‘shape’ or ‘preserve’ national identity.

Brands, companies and even individuals can fall prey to the identity crisis that’s hit Dubai. We may be on a journey of meteoric growth. Or we may have just hit a bedrock of stagnation. Somewhere along the line we give up on the compass that’s meant to guide us and lose control of the rudder that’s meant to steer us in the desired direction.

A mismatch between perception and reality is a sure-shot symptom of an identity crisis at work. The one affected will be the last person to see it though.

Going two steps forward and then three steps backward never gets one anywhere. Few questions to reflect on during an identity crisis.

  • In our personal and professional avatars, are we saying one thing and doing another?
  • Are we really who we think we are and who we want to be?
  • Where are we going and how are we getting there?
  • Do our actions lead to the result we want to achieve?
  • What about our values?
  • Are they the same as when we started off on our journey? Are we compromising them somewhere?

These questions make for interesting soul searching during an identity crisis. After all, the bigger we are, the more we risk to lose.

Chipping for Oman at Dubai Twestival February 17, 2009

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Oman, Social Media, Travel.
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The Dubai Twestival Tee
Dubai
was one of the 175 cities around the world to organize the Twestival on 12 February 2009. Nearly 150 Tweeters gathered at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi’s fab Barasti Bar for the Dubai Twestival @DubaiTwestival.

Dubai PR agency Spot On @spotonpr estimates that out of the 1,500 Twitter users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), over 500 are based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Currently, UAE has the fastest growing Twitter audience in the region with over 20% per month. Considering that Twitter was banned in UAE till August 2008, these numbers are quite impressive.

With not more than 15 active Tweeters based out from Oman, we couldn’t have a Twestival in Muscat, so I decided to join the Twestival crowd at Dubai. Even more exciting for me was the fact that I drove down from Muscat to Dubai and back (my first time ever) – a distance of 800km.

The ride was exciting and before I left I was like I need to take something special for the Twitterati in Dubai. I first thought about postcards that capture Oman’s beautiful imagery, but then I hit upon a better idea.

Arun Rajagopal with PK Gulati at Dubai Twestival
If you live in
Oman, you would have definitely tasted ‘Chips Oman’ which is one of the most popular snacks in this country. It’s like staple food out here along with Mountain Dew. So I took bags of Chips Oman crisps across the border, because they stand for Oman (a chips brand named after a country is just yummy!). You might take a look at the Chips Oman page on Facebook as well.

Yes, so I made it to Barasti with bags of chips in hand. It was great meeting a lot of interesting tweeps at Dubai. There was a clear sense of camaraderie that goes with being a part of a small community. And it’s a community that will go stronger and get better over time.

I particularly enjoyed meeting @PKGulati, @Renroon, @divine_dee, @kangayayaroo, @umarpirzada, @ MaliZomg, @Lhjunkie, @mayG_UTP, @mnystedt, @DaddyBird, @skinnylatte, @esperanca, @DrBaher, @dxbluey @Carringtonm & many others. I didn’t get to say hello to a lot of people & I’m hoping to connect with more at the next outing.

I missed out on my Dubai Twestival Official Tee (actually left it on the couch & found it missing by the time I remembered) – that was a disappointment considering it would have made a lovely souvenir for my trip.

Many, many thanks to the organizers of the Dubai Twestival who made it all happen. It’s no small task to put up an event of this magnitude – and the outcome was simply splendid.

Another highlight of my Dubai trip was getting to meet David Koopmans from Melbourne @koopmans but that is fodder for another post! Tweet on, people…

News on Dubai Twestival (very extensively covered in local media):

Snaps from Dubai Twestival:

Pics credit @bojicas

Speaking at The New Media Event, Dubai December 9, 2008

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Conversations, Digital, Oman, Social Media.
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From 14-18 December 2008, I will be a part of The New Media Event in Dubai, the first and the biggest ever event devoted to social media in this part of the world.

Held at the JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai, The New Media Event features over 20 leading experts from Middle East and around the world who will help attendees understand the growing power of new media in corporate world and identify the key social media tools, challenges, issues and trends that brands and organizations in the region need to be familiar with.

On 15 December 2008, I will be doing a keynote on corporate blogging with Rajiv Ahuja from Muscat who writes the only corporate blog from Oman – Khimji Ramdas Bright Sparks.

Our presentation ‘Getting On The Corporate Blogging Bandwagon’ will attempt to answer the following questions:

  • Should you be on the corporate blogging bandwagon?
  • What are the lessons to learn and the pitfalls to avoid?
  • How to get more value from your corporate blogging endeavors?

A part of our presentation will focus on Rajiv Ahuja sharing his learnings and experience from Khimji Ramdas Bright Sparks, the first corporate blogging initiative from Oman.

If you are attending the event, I look forward to meeting you there and I hope that you derive excellent value from the splendid lineup of presentations and workshops that are focused on ‘you getting social media right’.

I will live-blog about the event so that those of you with an interest in social media in the region but cannot make it to the event can also stay updated.

I think it is an exciting time for social media to take off in the region, with fears of a recession widespread in Dubai and more marketers interested in using social media to create more interactive conversations and effective relationships with their customers.

Based in the Sultanate of Oman, I have seen that interest in social media has been spiking recently especially in the corporate sector. Knowledge Oasis Muscat (KOM), the Muscat-based national ICT park recently organized a Digital Nation Seminar on Blogging on 10 November 2008. This was followed by a couple of stories in local media especially on blogging. (The Week article Blogging Goes Corporate quotes me and Rajiv Ahuja.)

Beginning next year, my effort is to help organize a forum like BarCamp in Muscat so that we can help popularize and familiarize social media among followers. It’s also a long-standing promise I have made to social media guru Connie Reece who is based in Austin.

My perception is that a lot of people in the Middle East know the social media tools, but are yet to get the big picture, the big idea of social media by using the tools in an effective way that delivers value.

I think primary concerns are:

  1. Is social media just a fad I can live without?
  2. I have my corporate website, isn’t that enough?
  3. What do I say and how do I say it?
  4. What will social media do for me?
  5. What are the metrics that will measure success?
  6. Will I lose control of the conversation?
  7. Is there a business model behind blogging?
  8. How much money will I make from my corporate blog?
  9. How will get various stakeholders to buy into my social media engagement?
  10. The fear of the unknown

These are natural concerns and I would recommend that you address them head on. It is by participating in events such as these that you will get the answers to these questions and learn the ropes of social media.

This is my first ever speaking gig and I will go into the event with the message that you can make a mark in social media if you LISTEN, OBSERVE, LEARN, BE HUMAN and TRY TO GIVE VALUE. Like my good friend and marketing champ CK says, social media is an exercise in getting the basics right!

It’s my pleasure to join the following speakers at The New Media Event in Dubai.

  1. Debbie Weil, Author, The Corporate Blogging Book
  2. Robin Hamman, Head of Social Media, Headshift (Former Head of Blogging, BBC)
  3. Marta Kagan, Director of Marketing, Viximo.com
  4. Philippe Borremans, Marketing Director, Blackline / Former Media Lead, IBM
  5. Mohamed El Fatatry, Founder, Muxlim.com
  6. Angel Gambino, Former Global VP Music & Content, BEBO
  7. Dan Healy, CEO, Real-Opinions
  8. Magnus Nystedt, Founder, emiratesmac.com
  9. Omar F. Koudsi, President & Co-founder, jeeran.com
  10. David Skul, CEO, Relativity
  11. Steve Vaile, Founder & CEO, H2O Media
  12. Rama Chakaki, Chief Operations Officer, H2O Media
  13. Scott Monty, Head of Social Media, Ford
  14. Rajiv Ahuja, Head, Corporate Communications, Khimji Ramdas
  15. Bobby Kakar, Head of Marketing – Direct Channels, HSBC
  16. Mohamed Nanabhay, Head of New Media, Al Jazeera
  17. Jonathan Woodier, Director Corporate Communications EMEA Global Consumer Group, Citi Group
  18. Philippe Deltenre, Media Strategist, Microsoft
  19. Duane Nickull, Senior Technological Evangelist ADOBE & Host, Duane’s World TV
  20. Ammar Bakkar, Head of New Media, MBC Group
  21. Catherine Captain, VP Marketing, msnbc.com

More on the The New Media Event to follow. Stay tuned, folks!