A top Viacom executive also presents research on the millennial generation in the Arab world that shows similar optimism and digital media usage as in other regions.
ABU DHABI – Start-up companies from the Persian Gulf region and discussions about attitudes of young Arabs and how to address their concerns voiced in the Arab Spring were in the spotlight on the third and final day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit on Thursday.
Antonio Campo Dall’Orto, executive vp, Viacom International Media Networks, presented some highlights from Viacom’s latest research report on the millennial generation, which comprises nearly 2.5 billion, or 34 percent of the world population. It covers people born in 1981 or later, the first digital generation.
Viacom’s biggest ever, the report covered 24 countries, he said.
In the Middle East, millennials make up 48 percent of the population, compared with 19 percent-20 percent in Germany and Italy and 25 percent-26 percent in the U.S. and U.K.
Compared to Generation X, millennials are better educated, more tech savvy, more demanding and more ambitious than previous generations, Campo Dall’Orto said. And even though they are digital natives, they value family ties and want to reform the world rather than rebel against it, he said.
While there is much concern about unemployment, he said overall, this is themost positive generation of the past decades. “Life is amazing and full of choices. I want to make the most of it an make my parents proud,” he read a quote from a 17-year-old that he said represents the generation.
Access to the web and digital media is normal to them. The statement that being connected to the Internet is as much a part of everyday life as eating and sleeping found approval from 78 percent of millennials in Egypt and 70 in Saudi Arabia, the Viacom survey found.
Campo Dall’Orto described their attitude as “super-now” – they are multi-tasking and seek instant gratification.
That is in line with a report about “Arab Digital Natives,” unveiled a day earlier by Booz & Co.
Campo Dall’Orto also said that for milllennials “there’s a new F word. Failure is not an option.” Worldwide, 91 percent of millennials say better to try new things and sometimes make mistakes than not try.
In Egypt that percentage lies at 88 percent, and in Saudi Arabia at 85 percent.
The study also found that 62 percent try not to use the word “failure.” The data in Egypt is in sync with the 62 percent average, while even 65 percent of Saudi millennials agree with that statement.
Opening the day with similar themes was Fadi Ghandour, CEO of logistics firm Aramex and a founding partner of Maktoob.com, the largest Arab online community that Yahoo acquired in 2010, who discussed surveys about current concerns of the Arab youth.
“It is about having a good job, because having a good job is about independence” and empowerment, he said in explaining what has driven the Arab Spring uprising. “The overwhelming majority of Arab youths cite being paid a fair wage as their highest priority.”
His suggestion: “We have to declare a national emergency, and we will call it the War on Jobs.”
He also said that a 2010 poll showed that the entrepreneurial spirit in the region is more widespread than generally assumed. It found that 26 percent of young people in the Arab world were planning to open their own business in the next 12 months, compared with four percent in the U.S., he said.
But he also emphasized that plans alone don’t make entrepreneurs as the infrastructure in the Middle East often holds them back rather than support them. Arab countries, for example, should make it easier and quicker for people to register a new company. Also, access to capital for entrepreneurs should be easier. “You have to bring your mother to the bank” to guarantee for an entrepreneur, while lending to well-known names is a tradition in the region, he said.
The Summit on Thursday also featured a range of young entrepreneurs from the region who talked about their media, entertainment and tech start-ups.
Wael Attili, co-founder of Kharabeesh, aJordan-based company that produces Arabic-language animated shorts, music videos and talk shows that often tackle political issues, was among the young entrepreneurs. He told the Summit audience that he launched the company “because I thought why wait for opportunity and not create opportunity myself.”
Karabeesh, which means “scribbles” in Arabic, has gained much attention since the Arab Spring with its videos that are available on YouTube. “We want to redefine how media businesses are doing” in the region, he told the Summit.
Digital entertainment firm Vinelab, which works with media and entertainment companies and advertisers on mobile and second-screen experiences, also presented at the Summit. The company with a staff of six creates apps for such popular shows as Arab Idol for broadcaster MBC, networks like CNBC and such music companies as EMI. As of Wednesday, the company had 3.5 million users in the Middle East North Africa region.
Sami Mubarak, co-founder of Taghreedat,a regional and international Arabic digital content community, told the audience that his team is trying to grow the reach of their content beyond the Gulf region.
Taghreedat wants to build “an active Arabic digital content creation community that contributes directly and significantly to increasing the quality and quantity of Arabic content on the web, through the implementation of the concept of crowd-sourcing to increase Arab users’ contribution to enriching Arabic content on the web through both original content projects, as well as projects geared towards localization and Arabization,” the company’s web site says.
Taghreedat has worked with the likes of Twitter, where it has more than 100,000 followers, and Storify.
“We believe we have disrupted a lot of things,” said Mubarak. For example, the firm feels it has shown that “social media users can do more than socializing.”
Canada-born Ravi Bhusari, founder of Duplays.com, represented foreign entrepreneurs who come to the United Arab Emirates and end up launching businesses. “We moved here and stopped playing organized sports,” he explained the reason for launching his network that allows people to find partners for sports. “As you get older in life, your sports networks diminish.” The site now has almost 40,000 members in the UAE, he said.