An interview with Benedetta Paravia, Italian entrepreneur in Dubai
I recently met with Benedetta at the Venice Film Festival and was curious about her life and achievements. So I asked her if I could interview her about her life and business, and she said yes! Her questions and answers below – enjoy!
What do you/does your business do?
My business is varied: it goes from consultancy to production in music and TV content.
I was very young when in 2005 I organized the U.A.E. – Italy Economic Partnership Forum in Fiera Milano Congressi where Her Highness Shaikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qassimi, at that time U.A.E. Minister of Economy, opened the event.
Now Her Highness is the U.A.E. Minister of State for Tolerance leading the first Ministry of Tolerance in the world. I began my career as advisor for new business start-up in the U.A.E. with a company called Al Wasata (the bridge) Marketing Consultancy.
In the same year I started an educational program with the U.A.E. Ministry of Higher Education called “The Intercultural Project” and with my father who is the founder of an Italian institution which trains post-university students to enter in the job world. It’s a family vocation and involves me and my brothers. We guest more than 250 students coming from the U.A.E. Universities, while my father gave more than 3000 jobs to young people after they attended our Masters.
I was collaborating with Governments so soon in my career, and maybe this is why I felt an urge to care also for my childhood passions: art, music and finally production.
How many staff do you employ?
It depends on the project. We are now working on the production of “Hi Dubai” TV program, a docu-fiction which tells about Dubai, its people, events and opportunities. It will be 8 episodes in its first season, and then we will move to Abu Dhabi, the capital city, and tell people about it. We are planning to cover a period of time until the Expo2020 Dubai, and every season we will change the format for better surprises. At the moment we are 15 people and several institutions are supporting us.
Which of your collaborators/partners/team members would you say has been key to your success and why?
My partner is one of the Shaikhas in Abu Dhabi, she has been a good advisor to me in term of acknowledgment regarding the Emirates culture. We are blessed with full trust of each other; she was introduced to me by her husband, who is one of the brothers of H.H. King Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The reason is that she is a very international lady, her taste in every aspect of life is elegant and farsighted. It is a privilege to work with someone is like a sister to me.
What is the most stressful thing about your work?
The unwanted attention of men. I know it is funny but it is the truth: don’t you think can be stressful when you are in a business meeting and the man in front of you try to move the conversation somewhere else? For my type of personality it is! In Italy this happens frequently.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned since being in Dubai?
Dubai is a wonderful land, full of hope and opportunities. It is one of the few places is the world in a never ending evolution, I see Dubai like a young talented woman. At the same time Dubai is for strong people: you can touch the sky with a finger one day and the day after feeling so lonely and vice versa. I am quite addicted to this rollercoaster of emotions which makes you stay humble, for this reason I had chosen it as my second home. Dubai teaches me to be stronger and stronger and to be focused of my vision. But now that I become a woman I like Dubai for different reasons: the 24h services, the unusual and variegate offer for the free time, the gym and every other facilities and kind of shops in my building and the multicultural society.
What are the opportunities you have seen working in Dubai?
Dubai is like USA was years ago: everything is possible for very motivated people and women there have a prominent role in the social, cultural and business society.
What projects are you most proud of?
Having created a not for profit charity organization: A.N.G.E.L.S. www.loveangels.it, which takes care of sick children coming from war-afflicted areas. Sometimes I don’t see the value of my mission but then I realize that not many people in the world can say to have literally saved human lives.
What is your next focus?
Definitely make “Hi Dubai” and “Hi Abu Dhabi” production and give another contribution to a country which adopted me so gently. I just produced a pilot of the format which you can watch here:
I am also working to produce my first movie.
What marketing do you currently do for your business (eg Website/blog/LinkedIn/Twitter/PR/Events/Networking)
Again it depends of the project but definitely the social networks can help a lot and I use them.
What do you find works best in terms of marketing for you?
It’s about a good budget and a creative and smart plan. But are also very useful the positive opinions of top people around the world. What I have noted is that I am very much supported by talented, outstanding or famous people regarding my work and my skills. These people truly admire me and support me. Recently I was officially nominated to be Ambassador of UNESCO for Italy. My only one “competitor” is the tenor Andrea Bocelli; well, the Italian Commission of UNESCO received hundreds of letter from Ministers and personalities in my support. I felt so grateful even if the decision is not yet taken. One of the qualities that works best in terms of marketing for me is the fact that nobody can discourage me: the more someone try to shoot me down the more I grow motivated, like a seed when you try to buried and it grows a tree.
Working in Dubai and being from Italy, have there been any surprises about the culture difference, or adaptations you have had to make?
I was born in Salerno, a city in the beautiful Campania Region, so I am from the South and there has been hundreds of years of Arab influence. I found many things in common like the family values, the generous hospitality and the jealousy of men for their wives. As well regarding the dress code, despite in Dubai there is freedom in this regard, I use the same as in Italy: smart casual and always covered arms in business or public functions.
What do you like most about the film industry? What do you dislike?
I like the creativity stage and the construction of an idea which has to become action and so reality. I like to be around unconventional and particular people as I am not motivated between average people. What I dislike is to see actors depressed for moments of misfortune. I also don’t like to see so many talents completely ignored and some untalented actors and stupid movies on screen!
I believe the film industry is one of the most difficult sectors of business where a producer should be always keep his productions in an equilibrium between inspiration and profits. What I can say is that in anything you do you need motivation and passion keeping your eyes high in the sky.