"My dream car is a Rolls-Royce Cullinan".
Undoubtedly, the rules of celebrity have been rewritten. Where once only Hollywood stars, singers, rappers, or maybe high-end Western fashion models would fit in this classification, social media influencers are now literally pulling the rug out from beneath their feet! Younger generations are now looking to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, most recently, Snapchat, searching for their idols. Qatar’s most renowned influencer Abdullah Al-Ghafri is a prime example of how an entrepreneur can establish himself outside of the standard channels, using platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
The businessman who owns cafés, restaurants, fashion studios, and many other companies—under the “QQQ” trademark—has granted Dunes Magazine an in-depth interview, where he speaks about how he became one of the most affluent and renowned influencers in Qatar and the GCC countries. He also reveals more secrets about the online success story that eventually led to him becoming a business tycoon in Qatar.
· Tell us a bit about your background
Since I was a kid, my ambition was to be famous: an actor, singer, or broadcaster. At the age of 20 I was living in Lincolnshire, England. I studied Business and Management at Lincoln University. I was lucky to study abroad as I learned how to deal with people from different nationalities and backgrounds. Studying in the UK was the best thing I ever did in my life. I believe in the idea that if a person works hard enough to reach their goals, everything is possible. Back then, no one knew me. When I returned to Qatar, I decided to enter the realm of social media. I think it was in 2015; I was obsessed with Snapchat. At first, I talked seriously about many topics like people’s bad habits, and so on. A few videos went viral, and I became famous overnight. It kind of all happened by accident. People started stopping me on the street to take pictures with me.
· Why Snapchat?
Snapchat allowed many people a share of the spotlight. Unlike other social media platforms, Snapchat allows users to send messages, photos, and videos directly to their friends or to everyone who follows their account. Its one-person-with-a-cellphone setup makes it easier to do everything on your own, unlike on YouTube, for example, where you might need people in production or videography to assist you. Also, in real life, there are bullies all around us, but on Snapchat, there are no bullies as comments don’t appear in public. That is one thing I really like about Snapchat.
· What is the one piece of advice that you would give to people who want to follow in your footsteps?
My advice is to be natural and do what you love. On social media, consistency is very important. For the last six years, I have had to show up every day on Snapchat. That was very hard, but I had to do it, even when I was tired or sick.
· What is the story behind the QQQ nickname?
Well, I wanted to put my copywrite name on my videos. My real name is long, and I just wanted a 3-same-letter name that would be simple to memorize, catchy, and easy. A thought suddenly came to mind and I shared the idea with friends: what about the QQQ nickname? In fact, any 3-same-letter nickname on Snapchat is hard to find. But I found someone who owns the QQQ nickname in Dubai, and I had to pay a fortune to get it from him. After digging around on Instagram, I found out that a Saudi guy owns the QQQ nickname. Again, I bought his account. Now, my goal is to have the QQQ nickname on Twitter, but it is very hard.
· Tell us more about how you managed to be a top business tycoon in Qatar
A smart entrepreneur knows where to invest and doesn’t put all his eggs in one basket. To be honest, one day, a thought struck me: What would happen if Snapchat closed, or became but a distant memory like Nokia and Blackberry? I said to myself, “I have to invest in other things.” I managed to explore different businesses in different categories, like cafés, restaurants, and fashion studios. My piece of advice to my fellow influencers is to go viral with businesses, as social media has helped my businesses grow and reach out to a larger audience. One more thing, I am fortunate to be a Qatari citizen, as the government is very supportive, and I hope to return the favor one day.
· We know that you have a fondness for luxury cars, so tell us about your first car and your dream vehicles?
My first car ever was a six-cylinder Mitsubishi Magna. Then, I got a Toyota Land Cruiser VXR. That was before entering the realm of social media. Back then, my dream car was a Lexus. After having a Lexus, I wanted to have a Range Rover. Now, my dream car is a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. When I buy a Cullinan one day, my mother will be the first person I take for a ride.
· What will be the next step in your personal and business life?
I would certainly love to get married and have a family. On a professional level, I won’t bother myself about the number of followers I have on social media. Some people keep asking me, “why don’t you break into acting?” My answer is no. Many TV channels have approached me to get into acting, locally, I mean. But I still see social media as more powerful than TV. The same goes for standup comedy; I won’t do it right now. As for becoming a YouTuber, I won’t start on YouTube either. Not before having a production team to assist me. Again, Snapchat and Instagram are on fire right now, so why would I go to other platforms?
· What are the bright and dark sides of social media?
Social media is a double-edged sword. People can use it for good or bad. I choose to use it for good and raise donations, for example. During the Nepal crisis, I managed to collect donations of 200,000 QR in 20 minutes. That was a good example of how to use social media. On the other hand, there is a dark side to social media—digital drama and negative online user behaviors, such as cyberbullying and trolling. In the beginning, I used to reply to every question and comment by myself, now I am very busy. A few people might consider that arrogant, but in fact, I have a life to live, just as they do. Others are obsessed with fabricating stories about me, like I am disrespecting women, which is a blatant lie.
· How did you manage to create content during the COVID-19 quarantine?
I used to create about 90% of my social media content while I was in my car. That was before the COVID-19 outbreak. During the pandemic, the situation didn’t change drastically. I used to go to my car; sit behind the wheel; go live on Instagram, and run contests and giveaways. Better yet, I used to make jokes about the quarantine!
· What would be your last message to the readers?
Be honest, try to love what you are doing, and believe in yourself.