In the Middle East our appetite for cooking videos is big, but our attention span is often much smaller. Kamal Saleh, Founder and Director of Chi Tayeb TV, has created a series of one minute cooking videos that offers a satisfying light bite of content.

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The perfect pairing Fish and lemon, tomato and basil, hummus and pita: classic combinations that always hit the spot. How about cooking videos and Facebook? Arabic food and social media: what two things does the Middle East possibly love more? It’s a killer combination. “We believe that the secret of success in life is to eat what you enjoy,” smiles Kamal Saleh, Founder and Director of Chi Tayeb TV.

“If you crave rich, tasty food then you’ve come to right place with Chi Tayeb TV,” he continues. Saleh is no chef, but he knows what works. With some videos racking up more than a million views in 48 hours, his videos are being eaten up like hot cakes. The ex-MBC Executive Producer set up Chi Tayeb TV, part of Real Vision Media Services, this February in partnership with two international chefs.

A self-funded enterprise, the platform is now monetized through advertising and product placement. Since its creation, the channel has produced hundreds of 60 second videos, delivering the speediest of cooking lessons in a bite-sized chunk. All your Arabic favourites are covered, as well as some more unusual options, including a lotus leaf and pineapple salad. Launched with the tagline, ‘good for all the family’, Saleh is passionate that Chi Tayeb TV offers something for everyone. “The idea of showing the method behind a whole dish in one minute appeals to all – men, women, old people and young people. It’s encouraging everyone to enjoy the cooking process,” the entrepreneur explains. But it isn’t just giving inspiration for tonight’s dinner, Saleh wants to educate his audience how to eat too. Chitayeb.tv, the channel’s website, has a dedicated page for health hacks, from tips for staying trim to the bountiful benefits of eating broccoli. With the UAE’s obesity rate doubling that of the rest of the world, many Chi Tayeb devotees could do with skipping dessert and paying the page a visit instead. Moving forwards, Saleh’s plan is to build upon this instructive element of the channel. “I’m looking to make our programmes more specialised, with episodes targeted at pregnant women, children and sufferers of diabetes,” he reels off. These customised videos will feature on Chi Tayeb’s very own TV channel, scheduled to launch on a – as yet undisclosed – UAE network in mid-2017.

A slice of social media

To treat traditional TV as an afterthought is unusual, like eating dessert before your entree. But for Saleh it was entirely intentional. “The digital platform had to come first,” he states. The founder spent five months studying what an Arab audience wants to see and how they want to see it. “My project manager, Rana Mahmoud, collaborated with a team of professional researchers to investigate viewing preferences from country to country,” the entrepreneur explains. The results? Social media is king, particularly in the UAE and KSA where smartphone penetration is amongst the highest in the world. Guided by the findings, Saleh rolled out Chi Tayeb on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. It was a smart move. “Online media has made significant inroads into the daily lives of people,” says Steve Hamilton-Clark, CEO of TNS Media, a leading market research company. “The amount of time spent on online media is more than double that spent on traditional media, such as TV,” he continues. His claims are supported by a 2015 Deloitte study that found that 57 per cent of millennials – the sweet-spot demographic companies are keenest to court – watch TV programmes on smartphones, tablets and computers rather than a traditional television. Like the popular prawn cocktail starter of the 60s, ‘the box’ has become passé. With Chi Tayeb enjoying 11 million views in the 45 days post-launch, one wonders if Saleh needs a TV programme at all? “We’re launching it because of a large gap in the Arab market for cooking shows. The next step is to open a full TV channel solely dedicated to food,” Saleh explains. His commitment to traditional television is touching, but perhaps misplaced.

A national TV channel cannot compete with the reach of social media, a fluid, expansive platform facilitating cross-continental sharing. When was the last time something went ‘viral’ on TV? Saleh’s new channel may strengthen his presence in the UAE, but Facebook is already building him a fan-base further afield. “We’ve been surprised by the intense interest in Chi Tayeb from places like Maghreb and Iraq – they’re watching videos and interacting with us via social media,” the founder enthuses.

On the boil

Saleh’s decision to weight his service in favour of online has paid off: in the months since it launched Chi Tayeb has amassed 600,500 Facebook followers, with more people ‘liking’ the page every day. Courting clicks hasn’t been too tricky, but keeping to time has. “The biggest problem is that filming the chefs cooking one dish takes over two hours, but we have to edit it down to about a minute whilst ensuring that people can still understand and follow it,” Saleh explains. Easier said than done, particularly with fancier recipes. The entrepreneur is conscious of keeping his followers waiting for new videos too. “With this type of programme we’ve got to be in constant contact with viewers, providing them with new dishes on a daily basis.” When it comes to social media, immediacy is everything. Something else may soon call on Saleh’s time and resources: what about an investor? “So far the project has been based on the efforts of partners. We have received different investment offers, but we are looking for someone who not only understands the project, but has a passion for it and enjoys working with us,” explains the CEO. It seems that Saleh will sit tight until he finds the right investor to act as the perfect seasoning for his already sizzling product. Even without external support, the entrepreneur has had a strong start as a new SME. He has built a cross-channel and continental platform with a budding online following.

Combining the essence of a cooking channel with the reach of social media, Saleh has created a tasty little offering that promises to grow in popularity in years to come. Fish and lemon, tomato and basil, hummus and pita: we’re adding Saleh and Chi Tayeb TV to the list. You heard it here first.

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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