Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise

1 / 3
Simon Leslie, co-founder of INK, with his book ‘There is no F in Sales.’ The group started in Beirut in 1994, where Leslie began publishing an airline magazine for British Mediterranean Airways. (Photo/Supplied)
2 / 3
3 / 3
Updated 26 November 2019

Learning to do business, from London to Beirut: Charting INK Middle East rise

  • INK works with 30 of the biggest airlines in the world, including American Airline

LONDON: The West London base of INK does not feel like a regular media company office.

The vast open space is blanketed by an abundance of sunlight shining through overhead skylights, with budding plants everywhere.

The sales room — the travel media company’s co-founder Simon Leslie’s forte — is very different, with a trampoline sitting in the corner for stress-relief reasons, a bell waiting to be rung at every sale, and pumping, up-beat music bouncing off the walls.

Pacing round are sales executives with Bluetooth headphones speaking to clients.

“It’s about making sure that everybody who works for us has got an opportunity to live out their potential and become who they want to become,” said Leslie. 

INK started in Beirut in 1994, where Leslie began publishing an airline magazine for British Mediterranean Airways, which had only one route at the time — London to Beirut.

“The whole business started in Lebanon and I spent most of the late 90s back and forth across all the countries in the region,” he said. “We now work with 30 of the biggest airlines in the world, including the biggest: American Airlines.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Starting a company in the Middle East gave Simon Leslie a unique experience in the way business is handled in the region.

• Etihad is one of INK’s main Middle Eastern clients now — with the company working on a Grand Prix magazine titled ‘Ignition’ for the Abu Dhabi race.

Starting a company in the Middle East gave Leslie a unique experience in the way business is handled in the region.

“When people owed you money, they invited you for dinner. I love that because it was all about family.”

Etihad is one of INK’s main Middle Eastern clients now — with the company working on a Grand Prix magazine titled “Ignition” for the Abu Dhabi race.

“It’s (got to do) with everything going on in Abu Dhabi that weekend — all about the drivers, all about the city, all about the culture … it’s a great piece of work we do once a year,” he said.

Leslie decided to compact all the experiences, lessons, and ups and downs that he witnessed over the past 33 years on the job to write a book, called “There is no F in Sales,” in which he offers personal advice, motivation and truths about surviving in global business in the twentieth century.

“A lot of the time people write books because they show what they learnt in business school, but it’s not real and raw,” he said. “I talked a lot about how I dealt with personal issues, how I dealt with business issues and how they affect me, and that was really the main theme that’s come out.

“If you want to accelerate your growth in business, if you want to accelerate your growth in human performance then this book is something that you need to read,” he added.

Apart from that, Leslie explained that no matter what, everyone needs a mentor in their life and someone they can look up to for inspiration and motivation in their careers.

“I always say to people ‘if you want to be successful find a successful person and hang around them,’” he said. “If you’re a startup and you’re just starting a new career, read this … I made so many mistakes over the last 33 years, hopefully if you don’t make half of the ones I did you’ll get there a lot quicker than I did.”


Al Jazeera continues to ‘provide a platform to bigoted and violent extremists’

Updated 26 May 2020

Al Jazeera continues to ‘provide a platform to bigoted and violent extremists’

  • Qatar-based media network has a turbulent past when it comes to extremist and anti-Semitic rhetoric

LONDON: Al Jazeera’s recent interview with terrorist-designated group Hamas’ leader Ismail Haniyeh, as well as its podcast glorifying killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, has stirred the ongoing debate surrounding the network’s alleged promotion of terrorism.

The exposure given to the controversial figures has prompted experts into stating that the station and news site continue to provide extremists with a platform to present themselves on.

“The fact that Qatar’s Al Jazeera Arabic continues to provide a platform to bigoted and violent extremists, including terrorists, obviously undermines the Qatari government’s claim to be a steady force for tolerance and coexistence,” Washington director for international affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, David Weinberg, told Arab News.

The station’s interview with Haniyeh served as a stage to threaten Israel with the fact that Hamas was still capable of kidnapping more Israeli soldiers, while the podcast allowed the Soleimani character a free rein to explain his support of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and why he helped Syrian President Bashar Assad massacre his own people.

These were not the only controversies the network found itself embroiled in this month.

Last week, Al Jazeera’s Arabic news site carried a headline reading, “Martyr shot by Occupation forces in the West Bank for being accused of trying to run over soldiers,” to report on a Palestinian man who was shot while attempting to ram into Israeli soldiers with his car.

“Every time Al Jazeera calls somebody — anybody — a martyr, it violates the journalistic ethic of impartiality. What makes it much, much worse is that Al Jazeera consistently uses the term martyr to glorify terrorists, provided the civilians those violent extremists are trying to murder happen to be Israeli Jews,” Weinberg said.

“Encouraging slaughter of this sort does nobody any favors, not Palestinians or Israelis, neither Jews nor Arabs.”

“Al-Qaeda in Syria? Flattered by Al Jazeera. The Taliban? Flattered by Al Jazeera. Iranian proxies like Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Flattered by Al Jazeera. Al-Qaeda financier Muthanna Al-Dhari? Flattered by Al Jazeera. Media practices like these are unacceptable, immoral, and bad for people of all faiths and all nations,” he added.

Al Jazeera has a turbulent past when it comes to extremist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Last year, its youth channel AJ+ Arabic drew widespread condemnation over an alleged Holocaust denial video that claimed Jews exaggerated the scale of the genocide in order to establish Israel.

The chairman of UK nonprofit organization Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, Ghanem Nuseibeh, told Arab News: “Al Jazeera has a direct editorial input from the Diwan in Doha (the sovereign body and administrative office of the Emir of Qatar), with the Arabic channel focused on promoting the extremist ideological discourse. This is their core constituency.

“It is particularly troubling that Al Jazeera Arabic website still to this day continues to host articles and videos of interviews by proscribed groups in the UK such as Al-MuHajjiroun, and freely accessible in the UK,” he added.

Earlier this month, a Shariah expert from the Qatari Ministry of Religious Endowments advocated the beating of women in an interview on the network, stating that they “need to be subdued by muscles.” And this was not the first time.

The station also broadcasts a religious program hosted by extremist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the terrorist-designated Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader. Al-Qaradawi, an outspoken Hamas loyalist who was featured in Arab News’ “Preachers of Hate” series, issues fatwas riddled with comments advocating suicide bomb attacks and praises to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler for “punishing the Jews,” on Al Jazeera’s media platforms.

“Al Jazeera’s motto is, ‘the opinion and the other opinion,’ but when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood’s bigots and violent extremists, Al Jazeera Arabic still just presents one opinion, giving ikhwani (brotherhood) intolerance an unquestioning platform for broadcasting into millions of homes around the world,” Weinberg said.

The media network has also been called a “useful tool” for Qatar’s ruling elite notorious for their sympathies with the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist and extremist groups. In 2017, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar in order to pressure it to halt its alleged terrorism financing and shut down the network.

US Embassy cables acquired by UK newspaper The Guardian in 2009 proved just how interconnected the Qatari government and Al Jazeera are.

“Al Jazeera, the most watched satellite television station in the Middle East, is heavily subsidized by the Qatari government and has proved itself a useful tool for the station’s political masters … Despite (the government of Qatar’s) protestations to the contrary, Al Jazeera remains one of Qatar’s most valuable political and diplomatic tools,” the cable read.

Al Jazeera tangoes with terrorism

Favoring Daesh

• Do you support the Daesh group’s victories in Iraq and Syria?

• More than 54,000 people voted on the official page of ‘Opposite Direction.’ 81.6 percent voted ‘Yes,’ while 18.4 percent voted ‘No.’

Sectarian discourse 

• Al-Qassim said: ‘Why do you blame the regime? I want to ask you. Al-Nubl and Al-Zahraa are Shiite colonies in the heart of Sunni land. Kafarayah and Fu’aa are still living among you. Why don’t you expel them out as they did to you and curse the ones who gave birth to them?’

Party for a terrorist 

• Al Jazeera host: ‘Brother Samir, we would like to celebrate your birthday with you. You deserve even more than this. I think that 11,000 prisoners – if they can see this program now – are celebrating your birthday with you. Happy birthday, brother Samir.’

Al-Julani interview

• Interviewer: ‘What was the strategy of Al-Qaeda’s Sheikh Osama bin Laden?’

• Al-Julani: ‘He wanted to fight the Americans on their own turf, and that way to drag them into Afghanistan – because we were unable to send armies to (the United States). Sheikh Osama bin Laden’s goal in fighting the Americans was not to put an end to the American presence…’

Boosting terrorism

• ’We call upon the Islamic nation to rise up, and not make do with a futile economic boycott, in the face of this affront to our honorable Prophet. We call upon them to drive out the Danish embassies and ambassadors from the lands of the Muslims, and to expel them from the Muslim countries. They should take serious and immediate action to burn down the offices of the newspapers that affronted our Prophet, and to bomb them, so that body parts go flying, and with these body parts, Allah Almighty will quench the believers’ thirst for revenge.’