BEIRUT: Inspired by a revolutionary literary and architectural movement known as Deconstruction, for the past two years, Antwork has been inviting freelancers, entrepreneurs, investors and all kinds of professionals to deconstruct reality and look at it from a new perspective.
On Thursday, Antwork, a creative workplace, celebrated its second-year anniversary with a program comprised of three-panel discussions that deconstructed a wide range of problems and solutions in the Makers, E-Commerce, and Alternative music industries.
The evening began with the panel discussion on the Makers industry, an “untapped and unspoken” industry in Lebanon. The panelists were Rana Khoury from Phenomenal Women; Sevag Babikian from Mechatronic Design; Bassam Jalgha, from Band Industries; Nadine Tawk, a business advisor; and moderator Halim Choueiry from HBR Creative Platform.
The first part of the discussion started with acknowledging that there is great potential in Lebanon, but with a lack of resources and collaborative support. They shared the obstacles that they faced as they grew their initiatives and what they feel Lebanon lacks, from the trust between local manufacturers and young makers to the infinite proof of success loop between manufacturers and investors.
Choueiry cited that “90% of manufacturers don’t have a research and development division” as one reason why they still lag behind the Makers curve in Lebanon.
The second part followed with an emphasis on this need, while giving pointers on how these Makers were able to succeed despite the lack of support from manufacturers.
The urgent need for manufacturers to trust youth and vice versa was pointed out by Khoury, who addressed the issue and added that beyond these factors, filling in the gaps would be the next step, which can only be found once this distrust is mended.
The second panel was titled “Deconstructing E-Commerce: Can I trust you with my credit?” which began on a more positive note with the announcement of the upcoming first anniversary of HiCart, an online shopping platform in Lebanon.
The board of panelists included: Yusr Sabra, from Wakilni; Louise Doumit, from Lebelik.com; and George Azar, co-founder of HiCart; moderated by Tara Nehme, a business consultant.
Lebanese e-commerce was thoroughly discussed wile shedding light on the rapid growth of these companies and the factors that prompted that growth, such as raising private funds and working with low marketing budgets marked them as strong and unique.
As a starting point, the three e-commerce channels (HiCart, Lebelik, & Wakilini) all noted that they accept payment of cash on delivery, credit on delivery, and online payment. Yet, cash on delivery proved most popular among their customers.
The panels were effective since the speakers shared some of the challenges they faced, as Nehme told Annahar: “If panelists just talk about their achievements without explaining how they got there, the panel becomes ineffective and more like advertisement.”
They further discussed issues like online payment and low online order rates in Lebanon, stressing the importance of building trust and comfort in the E-commerce industry, in which Lebanon has been far behind.
Last but not least, the final panel discussion was titled “Deconstructing Underground Music: From Local Production to International Recognition,” and it revealed and discussed the challenges of local underground artists in the music industry.
The panelists were Fadi Tabbal, from Tunefork Studios/Raptured; Ziad Nawfal, from Irtijal/Raptured studios; Maria Antoun, from Sofar Sounds Beirut; and Etyen, a music producer and artist, along with the moderator Majd Chidiac, events and activities organizer at Antwork.
Nawful discussed the social geography of Beirut, and how it affects the Alternative music industry, where the social relations between people and networks are so small and tight, which plays a huge part in the musicians' approach to their music in good and bad ways.
He first discussed the positive aspect of the social geography of Lebanon, which can easily aid young and upcoming musicians to put something together; he said: “You get your 200 or 300 friends to come, you can talk to your friend who is a producer or a promoter and have a concert, have a CD out, a track out, and then suddenly you feel on top of the world, which is not exactly the case because there’s very little continuity or consistency.”
Moving to the negative aspect of being a young artist in Lebanon; “a lot of musicians feel that having a couple of songs out and having an album or two out has gotten them to a place just like others.”
The panel went on to discuss, dissect, advice, and question the youth of the alternative music scene, financial and recording aspects of the music industry, the problem of not finding easy or affordable accessibility and reach, and various solutions and critical analysis for these points.
“In Lebanon, the economy and businesses are stuck and slow, but life is very fast. We always end up doing things, you don’t have time to stop, think, and contemplate and reflect,” Chidiac told Annahar
As for the concept of Deconstruction, and the reason behind it being the main theme of the discussion; Chidiac said: “I wanted to stop for a second and deconstruct our reality, figure out what is going wrong. Especially right now since we are in a vicious cycle, and if we keep on doing things without reflecting and deconstructing them, we’re doomed.”
The program then ended with an outdoor reception and a toast to the 2nd anniversary of Antwork’s establishment. The night kicked off with a live music performance, with many attendees, staff, and friends enjoying dining and drinking.
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