The rise to fame of the Presidents of the People’s Republic of Wild Peeta, Mohammad (37) and Peyman (35), began with a shawarma and a dream. If pizzas and burgers could have their names up in lights, it was only natural that the humble but brilliant shawarma got its due.
Armed with international and regional experience from some of the best brands and corporate houses in the world, the brothers decided that it was time they put it to good use. “During university, our only intention was to develop our skills, bring it back home and put in par with the world,” says Peyman. True to their word, the brothers returned to ‘swim with the sharks’, gaining invaluable experience in the public and private sector. “We were sponges, absorbing everything from branding and strategy to planning and management; and when it all came together, our idea for Wild Peeta began to take shape,” adds Peyman.
By then, they had spent close to eight years drafting their plans for Wild Peeta. “There was no major brand for shawarmas, and we wanted to create the first globally viable and leading brand right here in the UAE,” says Peyman. By 2007, the business plan for the iconic brand had gained enough momentum and found its purpose when a meeting with the Sheikh Mohammad Establishment for Young Business Leaders for a completely different project gave way to a discussion about their passion. “What followed were a series of high-level meetings where we presented our business plan; which resulted in the establishment agreeing to fund 70 per cent of our project. The rest is history,” says Mohammad smiling.
Two years into the launch, Wild Peeta has gone from a gourmet, organic and fresh shawarma brand to a food movement. Harnessing the power of social media, the brothers have built up a substantial fan base that plays an active part in their business decisions. “From beta-testing new recipes, to what works and what doesn’t, we’re very open to what our social community has to say,” says Peyman. “We have a live Twitter wall at our World Trade Centre branch streaming the good and bad feedback; it’s invaluable and helps us address issues in real-time.”
“Social media has played a massive role in our business. We embraced the ‘open-source’ philosophy which allowed our followers to influence decisions related to Wild Peeta, and that allowed us to evolve in three months what traditional businesses do in a year,” says Mohammad.
Wild Peeta has evolved beyond the food dynamic, providing a social platform and space for active communities looking to meet and exchange ideas, mindsets and conversations. “Just two years in with two outlets, Wild Peeta is valued at Dh15 million — based on an estimate of opening just seven outlets by 2012. The valuation resulted in 15 per cent being sold to an investor; with plans to open eight more outlets in the UAE before the end of 2012, and 100 outlets in the GCC by 2015 though franchises,” Peyman says.
What’s next for the dynamic duo? “We’ve got our latest venture — Qabeela New Media, off the ground. It’s an exciting new business that has spun out of the active social community we have with Wild Peeta,” says Mohammad. “We’ve secured funding from twofour54 and are in the process of harnessing the world’s largest conversation into a cutting edge video series with live social media at its core. While that’s cooking, we’re focused on making Wild Peeta the number one shawarma brand in the world!”
30-year-old Marwan Parham Al Awadhi is driven by a will to follow his dreams. He broke away from the family mould and decided to focus on a career in an industry he was passionate about — music.
After ten years of working in the music industry, he has become the hottest Emirati DJ and a household name, having won numerous accolades, including the Middle East Regional ‘Palme DJ of the Year Award’ in 2004. Known to most as ‘DJ Bliss’, Marwan is a celebrity who has conquered the airwaves and is now also looking to take over the silver screen as he prepares to launch his third TV show, That’s Entertainment, on the back of the success of his previous shows, Twenty Something and Emirati.
Looking back, music has always been Marwan’s calling. According to Marwan, being a local, made it difficult to crack the expat-driven music industry because he was one of a handful of Emiratis in the English-language media industry, but fuelled with a determination to succeed, he propelled to stardom.
Marwan says it is hard to label his music, and whilst he started out playing hip hop and R&B, his genre has evolved over the years into an eclectic blend of rock and pop, often borrowing elements from latin and electro to create a “feel-good party vibe style of music”. His hip hop roots earned him the honour of being a guest on BET’s definitive show, 106 & Park shot in New York City. DJ Bliss frequently spins at Dubai’s most exclusive clubs including Prive at the Armani Hotel, and at launch parties and charity events.
His summer tour titled Catch me if you can was an international triumph, and allowed the young Emirati to showcase his talent in several countries including Spain, Morocco and Germany. Bliss has supported international superstars like Prince, Jamiroquai and Aerosmith by warming up the stage at the 2009 and 2010 Formula One concerts at Abu Dhabi, and also toured with Shaggy in Australia.
With countless awards under his belt, star-studded collaborations and successful tours, this multi-talented entertainer is looking to explode onto the international scene after having established himself in the UAE.