By Rasha Owais
Mustafa Mohamed, founder of Wasta online radio, believes partnerships and connections are the bread and butter for the success of his project and tells Rasha Owais how the radio will be an ideal platform for the new generations
It was 2015 when Mohamed, the 29-year-old Egyptian American, returned to Dubai from the US with the idea of establishing an online radio station that does not only introduce high quality non-genre specific music, but serves as an ideal platform for unknown youths to be seen and heard.
“In Arabic Wasta means a person who has a connection. So you are the connection and we have the network and resources of high-end music that nobody has because we handpick the top music weekly based on music blogs. It also stands for We All Stand To Accomplish,” he explains.
“The reason I started with the sentence as the tagline is because we started a segment of the business called Wasta Talks. Our first live podcast of the talk was held at Café Rider in Dubai where we hosted Nina Stone, capoeira instructor and motivational speaker from Los Angeles, who addressed the Wasta community on her experiences and best practices. That is the whole point of Wasta Talks…to organise live events to introduce undiscovered people and give them a platform to be seen and heard.”
As a firm believer of strong partnerships, Mohamed plans to partner with a number of companies who expressed interest in his online radio programme during its first event. “Along with selling air space, we plan to focus on live podcasts and send them through with sponsorship packages to interested parties,” he says.
”We focus on our events and content marketing and we want to bring in change in the way people market things because we have been in a digital age for a while, but it has grown faster now. No one keeps up with the speed. We feel we can be a one-stop destination for a brand that wants to approach a specific demographic. Our demographic is between 16 to 35 and every single nationality within that age bracket. No specific race.”
Mohamed goes on to explain how he invested in Wasta by buying AED6,000-worth of equipment. “We worked hard and with the money we saved we bought the equipment. Thanks to the fantastic clients, the money I received from MC jobs I put into the equipment. I did a lot of research and I figured out all the pieces I needed for establishing an online mobile station.
“Having had sales experience, I did content marketing for clients, took pictures for them and put them on Instagram and Snapchat and got them sales. I used connections and built relationships so that they know I am not an individual who would buy something and go, but I put my resources into it .”
Once the project grows, Mohamed plans to extend the radio format to other languages along with English currently. “We would love to have it in every other language. Being raised in Dubai since 1987, I have gone to see Indians, Filipinos, Australians, British and South Africans. Not to incorporate that into my business would be unfair. My business needs to be in every single language available here until we start our full global campaign.”
At the moment, Mohamed is in the process of joining an accelator programme at Dubai Media City that will help him get to grips with setting up a successful start-up. “This helps us accelerate our business to get really established as a start-up, helps us get the infrastructure done and to be completely corporate. We already launched the radio on Mixcloud, the website, and on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat.”
Ever since he launched his social media platforms, Mohamed has established a loyal and dedicated fan base that heavily Snapchats their music and live podcasts.
Wasta’s first two podcasts proved successful, with its second, 23-minute podcast making it to four different charts - The Alternative Top 40, The Pop Top 40, Indie Top 30 and the Hip Hop Top 100 Chart on Mixcloud.
“We had a mix of music, but we were not really excited when we saw it making it to the Top 100 and not straight to the Top 20 like the first one,” Mohamed says about their second podcast. “We were kind of disappointed and said we might have done something wrong. But, in fact, we have done something really right and fantastic as we noticed that over the course of that week, that second mix started charting and boosting itself up in the chart organically without us having to do any marketing or distribution of any shares on any social media.”
Mohamed stresses that Wasta’s music is handpicked. “We have the newest music and we base it on two to four music blogs. We read the reviews, listen to the music, and we choose what is trending and new. Everybody wants to listen to the latest music accredited by the music world and the charts. We created our own chart and charted everything together based on those factors and this helped us put sleek and seamless charts.”
Mohamed and his partners, Sydney Miranda (20) from India, and Firas Al Bakry (23) from Oman, have big plans. “We plan to increase the time of podcasts depending on the topic,” Mohamed says. “If it is a live podcast, it is going to be between 40 minutes to an hour. We will incorporate weekly charts, so it will include our weekly episodes and a little bit of live ambience.
“For example, if we were to have a segment on street nights, you will hear people walking, kids jumping around, atmosphere of a bazaar and our music. We will interview people to give you the experience as a listener.”
What a disaster, couldn't you have come up with a better idea? Seems like you are still stuck in the 80s my friend.
The beauty of online radio is that it doesn't need to be local. Unless you want to compete with the DJ's at Beats1 or other notable and followed DJ's around the world, I don't see how you can possibly expect this to scale.
Dubai seems to be filled with these "me-too" startups. How about some real innovation?