Meet Mohammed, CEO of a Fast-Growing Iraqi Marketing Company
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the world resulting in nationwide lockdowns and deteriorating economic conditions. Small and medium enterprises were primarily affected by this as they faced staffing shortages and financial uncertainty. Meraki Ventures is one of the businesses that was hit hard by these unpredictable challenges.
Founded by CEO Mohammed Salam in late 2019, Meraki Ventures is an advertising enterprise based in Iraq. The idea for the company began when Mohammed noticed the somehow outdated advertising system in Iraq. As he explained,
“I wanted to bring a new form of advertising to the region.”
This was when the idea came to him: table advertising. According to him, people are growing weary of seeing ads in magazines. Instead, this form of marketing places branded devices on the tables of restaurants, shopping malls and hotels which display advertisements for clients as images or videos. These places would only need to offer a free spot on their tables, while the marketers would pay to place their advertisements on the devices.
When Mohammed founded Meraki, he had no idea that his startup would have to survive a global pandemic soon after its launch. Indeed, his business model was entirely dependent on other businesses remaining open, such as restaurants, which were all forced to shut down due to COVID-19. Mohammed soon realised the changing needs of the clients and the need to adapt to this new market.
“We had to come up with a creative way to survive,” Mohammed said.
Thus, under SPARK’s Jobs and Perspectives Programme funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Mohammed and his team started developing new services and investing in new devices to ensure economic resilience.
“SPARK supported us with knowledge in the form of mentors and experts who helped us throughout this process (of adapting to the pandemic). They also provided us with funding, which enabled us to purchase more devices.”
Today, Meraki Ventures is slowly expanding in federal Iraq and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI). Aside from their first office in Erbil, they have opened offices in Suli and Baghdad and aim to grow internationally. They are also growing in terms of sales; Meraki Ventures now receive 7000 orders a week compared to the 100 they first started with. The company also has a strong client base.
“Now, Mercedes don’t advertise on billboards in Erbil anymore. They focus on our devices,” Mohammed pointed out.
As Meraki Ventures continues to grow, Mohammed is adamant that young entrepreneurs should always look at the bright side of every hardship in order to find solutions for emerging problems. His final message to budding entrepreneurs is: “There’s a lot of opportunity in adversity.”