Creative Communication Group
It has taken a lot of time and investment but Qatar’s Creative Communication Group has grown into an events, production and rental company with an inventory that any would be proud of...
In business, as in music, timing is everything. Getting in early and growing with the market will see you in good stead for years to come. This is the situation that Creative Communication Group (CCG) has been fortunate enough to find itself in. Established in 1998 by two partners Tariq Al Jaidah and Jalal Dudin who had been friends since their school days, CCG is a Qatar-based event management and production company. From a difficult start it has positioned itself as a major player in the Middle East events market.
‘In 1998 we struggled because the events industry in Qatar wasn’t very active,’ says Jalal Dudin, managing partner at CCG. It was an extremely slow process for CCG to get started – during its first four years it didn’t invest in any equipment because ‘the investment wasn’t justifiable at that time’, says Mr Dudin. ‘We started proposing things to the Government’s Cultural and Tourism Authority, and slowly we started to convince government institutions to create some sort of festival or carnival in Doha.’
In many ways this followed the path taken by other countries in the region – there were already successful festivals held regularly in the UAE, Kuwait and Lebanon. ‘Doha was a bit quiet at that time, so the whole idea was to put the country on the map,’ says Mr Dudin. Rather than copy the other festivals in the region, the Qatar Government wanted something that would stand out and give people a reason to visit the country. It chose a celebration of different cultures from around the world. And in 2003, the National Council for Culture Art and Heritage hosted the first Doha Cultural Festival.
It was a 10-day event that gathered pieces from everywhere in the world to show in Doha, and also featured a carnival, fireworks and music from some big Arabic names. The whole event was managed and contracted by CCG. ‘That was the success story for us,’ says Mr Dudin. ‘Not only did we help the governmental body to put Qatar on the map, but we also put ourselves on the map as an events management company.’
From this event, the company started to grow. ‘That was the start of CCG, the four years from 1998 was really educating the private sector and government working hand-in-hand to put something on the ground. For us, we have started as a physical company in 2003.’ The following year saw another successful cultural festival and a summer festival with CCG responsible for managing both.
The end of 2005 marked another step forward for the company as it decided to invest in its inventory. ‘We deemed that if we didn’t make a decision into investing into sound and light it would take us nowhere,’ explains Mr Dudin. ‘The costs were very high for hiring equipment for months at a time, it was beyond us.’
The company took the decision not only to invest in its inventory, but to set up a sound and light rental division. The first stage for this was buying a Lebanese lighting rental company that it had worked with for the first, 2nd & 3rd cultural festivals, and transferring its equipment to Doha. ‘Our idea was to buy something big already, we didn’t want to start from nothing,’ says Mr Dudin.
For the audio side, CCG decided to start from scratch because there were no big players that it could buy out. The first investment it made was in EAW. ‘The idea was to buy a sound system that could manage a stage and maybe hiring a few pieces,’ explains Mr Dudin. But after meeting with UK-based Concert Sound and looking at the EAW inventory they had, this idea changed: ‘It was extremely convincing for us that we cannot start small. It was either to go big and cover all areas or to wait.’ The company decided to go big, purchasing 164 cabinets.
Following this investment, Mr Dudin saw that buying the speakers was only the first step. The company also needed to go out and purchase everything from amps and processors, to cabling and flight cases. ‘This basically doubled our investment.’ The next stage was to look at mixers. ‘We noticed that in the region it was a must to have a Midas, so we decided to make a deal with Midas and instead of having one console, we bought three – the Heritage, Legend and Sienna.’ Following this CCG also purchased digital desks from Yamaha and DiGiCo.
In 2006, the company made its next big sound purchase. Due to technical riders and requests from clients it invested in two lines of speakers from d&b, the E-Series and Q Series. ‘In the sound system world, we can say that d&b can be positioned as the Rolls Royce.’
In terms of amplifiers, the company went with Lab.gruppen. ‘This choice will never change, we are really convinced by the brand. We have worked with it for the past Six years and it is an untouchable brand.’ CCG is one of the largest stockholders in the region with more than 40 Lab.gruppen units at over 10kW each.
For lights, it has the largest inventory of Clay Paky moving lights in the Middle East with more than 480 fixtures in its warehouse. It also carries 120 units of Griven architectural lighting as well as conventional fixtures such as follow spots and LEDs.
Despite its size, CCG’s inventory is constantly being updated: ‘This is an industry that you cannot stay still in – products are re-vamped all the time, there are new products and new requirements from clients as technology changes, we have to keep investing.’
Having a range of equipment is clearly an important thing for the company. ‘We want to be able to serve our clients and agencies the best we can by having different brands according to the requirements and choices of clients. If we are a rental house, we need to have options.’ In terms of numbers, the company currently has 240 cabinets under one roof, with this number set to rise to around 370. ‘Our inventory is going to be a world-class international standard,’ after the last order from LA Acoustics says sound engineer Philip Venter.
To accommodate its expanded inventory, the company has invested in a new 1200-sq-m warehouse and office complex in the Doha Industrial Area. The old 850-sq-m warehouse is also being retained as a place to store all of the rigging.
Despite millions of dollars of investment in its inventory, Mr Dudin still sees the company’s people as its main asset. CCG has a total of 30 staff between technicians and administration staff, and each is described as a pole of the company. Particular mentions go to Michael Khairallah, light technician in charge of the lighting department and sound engineer Philip Venter. ‘He is the sound engineer and an excellent technical director; he is one of the reasons that CCG is where it is today when it comes to sound.’
The number of events and concerts that CCG has managed has been growing every year. And it has been a diverse collection, ranging from ballet and opera, through concerts such as Pavarotti, Enrique Iglesias, Fayrouz, and Lionel Richie, to jazz festivals. ‘Today CCG has really picked up the industry in Qatar,’ says Mr Dudin. ‘Through collaboration with government agencies, we have put everything possible on the ground to make this happen. In the last few years we have seen a lot of people come and go, what makes us solid is that we started a long time ago, we are on the ground, we have the knowledge and the knowhow not only in the equipment and people, but in the logistics of the country.’
The most recent headline event was the Doha Tribeca Film Festival at the end of 2009. For this inaugural event, CCG were the main contractor for the sound and light covering everything from open-air film screenings and orchestral performances to the red carpet. And with a short time frame the company managed to pull off a spectacle worthy of the Tribeca name – an achievement Mr Dudin is rightly proud of. Following this, in January 2010, CCG was the contractor for sound and light for the Qatar Foundation national day celebration tent, High School Musical and Barney Musical that took place at Qatar Foundation Ceremonial Court, where CCG worked under QMDI. The two companies teamed up again for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in February.
But it is not only in Qatar that the company is being approached to manage events, it has handled projects in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Syria and Dubai. ‘We are a player in the region as a whole, we are approached by different clients in different locations and we are always an option on the table.’ To support its regional presence, CCG has opened an office in Lebanon under its Creative Events umbrella. The initial focus from this office has been lighting, but a full line of sound equipment will be sent to Lebanon ready for the summer events. The Lebanon office will be used to serve Jordan, Syria and Egypt, while the headquarters in Qatar will cover the GCC.
With the amount of investment and the variety of events the company has been involved with, Mr Dudin feels that CCG is heading in the right direction. ‘Within a year it will be hard for us not to be a major player in the region in terms of dedication, stock, knowledge and experience.’ And there is the commitment behind this to open more offices in the region – following the Lebanon office will be a second in the Levant region.
To add to this organic growth, there have been mutual approaches with a number of international companies to go into partnership. One such example is staging company Edwin Shirley (ES Group). ‘We went into a full partnership, and are registered now in Doha as the Middle East office which can serve the whole region.’
The two partners have invested a lot of time and effort into the business, and have ‘done everything possible to concentrate into this massive investment,’ says Mr Dudin. This has been back by a prudent financial strategy and avoiding loans. ‘The idea was to work hard, make good profits and invest it back into the company. To reach where we are now my partner and I didn’t have money to enjoy ourselves, everything was concentrated into putting back into the company.’
‘The main issue is we are not here to sell,’ says Mr Dudin. ‘From the vision we have, the name is going to be there and we will only grow. It has taken many years to put something like this together under one roof, and we don’t intend to make the dream vanish.’
Published in PAME March April 2010