Snap. Edit. Post. Wait.
A rinse-and-repeat cycle we’re all too familiar with: capture a photo on a mobile-device, edit it to increase perfection, post, share with friends and strangers, and wait for the measurable “like” approval all under the guise of “telling our stories.”
But what if there was another approach to how people utilized social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter? What if instead of sharing moments, they shared merchandise? Reimagine Instagram as a virtual marketplace, as a viable business platform with built in marketing, consumer appeal, and international reach capabilities all for free. Well, it’s being done…in Kuwait.
Let me clarify: I’m not talking about how major brands like Guess or Mercedes are utilizing Instagram to show off their latest products or change their image to make themselves seem relatable. I’m talking about individual people, with hopes, ambitions, and talents, using Instagram to make their dreams of owning their own business a reality. It’s as simple as taking a photo, sticking a price tag on the image, and including contact information ranging from one’s email, Kik, or even WhatsApp number to arrange payment and delivery. The items that are sold on Instagram accounts range from hand designed dresses and gowns to dried fruits and even sheep. The possibilities are endless. The wife of a friend of mine in Kuwait designs dresses, which you can check out here.
By why did this burst of creativity and entrepreneurship evolve from Kuwait? Kuwait, though small in landmass, sits atop one of the largest, purest crude oil reserves of around 102 billion barrels, making up approximately 6% of the world’s oil reserves. Petroleum accounts for almost half of Kuwait’s GDP, 95% of export revenues and 95% of government income. With end of the Gulf War, Kuwait found itself losing 789 individual oil wells set on fire by the Iraqi military resulting in decades of oil lost and catastrophic irreversible environmental damage to the region. Prior to the invasion, in 1990, Kuwait had controlled roughly 10% of the world’s oil reserves generating billions in export revenues.
After the liberation from Iraq however, some Kuwaitis began to see their world differently. Oil won’t last forever. That’s quite the wakeup call for a country where 95% of their GDP comes from oil. While many in the government still believe in the immortality of the oil Kuwait sits on today, many younger Kuwaitis are making the push for divestment themselves. The next generation is changing the future of Kuwait through digital entrepreneurship. Utilizing what millennials do best, social media platforms.
The popularity of instagram businesses is so great, that in late 2013, The American University of Kuwait (AUK) hosted Kuwait’s very first Instagram Business Expo, establishing a network for Instagram-entrepreneurs to connect with one another.
Having studied abroad in Kuwait, Doha, and Dubai, I was able to get a unique appreciation and perspective for how young people in those regions see their developing country.