Ayman Fakoussa and Dipesh Depala, co-founders of The Qode. Image Credit: Rudolf Azzi/Third Line Gallery

It all started in 2008 with an idea to change the way luxury brands handled their image—an idea that many thought was quite risky at the time. It was 2008, and the global financial crisis was plunging the world into dire uncertainty. Dubai had been riding a boom, and then suddenly, the markets crashed. At the time, Fakoussa was an industry insider, working in marketing for L’Oréal and Villa Moda, the former shopping haven selling high-end international fashion brands. He played a major role in introducing global luxury brands to the Middle East region. Depala, on the other hand, was working in trade, distribution and retail, and had become somewhat of a local celebrity for his work and was featured regularly in local magazines. The pair had never met until one day, their paths crossed via a mutual friend, and they decided to collaborate. They both loved people, staging events, creativity and luxury.

While the world’s biggest brands were setting up shop in Dubai, Depala and Fakoussa noticed that 'something was missing.'

"There was a lack of agencies that understood how luxury brands needed to communicate—specifically within the Middle East region," says Fakoussa. "They did not understand luxury and they did not understand what brands wanted."

Local agencies were focused just on advertising rather than an in-depth approach to communication and brand experience. Just like in other markets, Dubai premium luxury consumers needed more, the pair believed. They needed to understand the heart and depth of a brand through specialised events and tailored content not just advertising.

Due to the challenging market environment pre-2010, brands cut their advertising revenue but needed to still find a way to promote themselves around the region. That’s were Fakoussa and Depala came in—working with high-end brands around the Middle East and India to establish themselves, build their identity and gain new clients.

They launched in 2010 with a team of four, a lot of passion, motivation and clear vision for what they wanted to do. A lot of that centered around people.

“We love bringing people together,” says Depala. “There is nothing like introducing a great group of people to a beautiful brand in a creative way.”

And it was exactly in this way that The Qode thrived. It quickly became known as one of the top public relations firms in Dubai. Everyone was eager to get invited to ‘The Qode’ parties and brand events. The network, brands themselves, creativity of the events and the charm of Fakoussa and Depala relaying to all the sheer love and passion for what they do.

The pair quickly became known in Dubai for their creative events and incredible network of guests, working with brands within some of the world’s leading luxury groups, including Starwood, L’Oréal, LVMH, Richemont and Estée Lauder as well as local luxury conglomerates, Emaar, Al Tayer and Chalhoub and a variety of homegrown Middle Eastern and Indian brands.

The Qode grew in parallel with Dubai’s rapid growth over the past 15 years—from a bustling regional metropolis into a global cosmopolitan city. “To understand any market, you need to understand its people,” says Dipesh, noting the particularity of Dubai’s demographic: one that brings people together from across the world, but which is rapidly changing, transient and growing, like the city itself.

“Fostering relationships is fundamental to long-term partnerships both as an employee and as a business owner,” the pair emphasised. Relationships Fakoussa and Depala have built over the years and maintained are one of the key drivers for the agency’s long-term success.

“Being able to build and maintain relationships is regularly the pivotal difference between success and failure,” the pair added. Now nearly 15 years later, The Qode is headquartered in Dubai Design District (d3), with an office in Riyadh, with Jeddah hot on it’s heels, and other locations in the Middle East on the horizon. It offers brands a specialised approach to public relations, digital marketing, event management, social media and content creation. The Qode is now part of global creative agency, The Independents Group. As part of the group, Ayman and Dipesh are working with the other global agencies to develop their specialised services to brands in the MENA region and India, specialising in fashion, design, beauty and arts.

Depala and Fakoussa are constantly dreaming up new ideas and bringing on board new clients. While they are currently expanding their client portfolio in Saudi Arabia, a market that is rapidly expanding under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, The Qode is also eagerly engaging more with the Indian market.

It’s a natural fit also due to Depala’s Indian heritage and the country’s proximity to the UAE. India is also one of the -world’s fastest growing economies. Its large youth population (65 percent of Indians are under the age of 35) in a consumer driven economy is making it fertile ground for economic growth and a key place for both local and international brands to grow.

The Qode has already tapped into the market’s potential. The agency worked on the launch of the Chanel boutique in New Delhi as well as has done events for IWC in India, among other local Indian and international brands.

“The importance of India is really quite prominent for us in the sense that India is undoubtedly the next strongest growth -market globally for the foreseeable future,” says Depala. “There’s a lot of investment in brands and international brands are investing in India itself. From international fashion and luxury brands to hotel and wellness destinations, the focus now is really to target the Indian market because it is the strongest and we want to obviously capitalise on it.”

Once again, the agency’s multicultural and cosmopolitan makeup gives it a cutting-edge advantage and a unique creative offering. “The synergy between the Middle East and India already exists,” adds Depala. “There is so much that we can contribute to in the rising Indian market.”

Once again, there is no limit for The Qode. Its celebration of life, beauty and creative know-how knows no end. “We believe in cultivating a culture of trust, creativity and long-term relationships,” adds Fakoussa. “That’s how we move forward.”