Like many other successful start-ups, the idea behind Armatai has its roots in the personal and professional development of its founder, Sareh Ameri. Born and raised in the Gulf Region, Sareh traveled the world before coming to Dubai 14 years ago. As her ancestors were the ruling family of the Southern Province of Ahvaz in Iran, it was not hard for Sareh to feel at home in the vibrant city of Dubai and fall in love with its present development and its dynamic history, which is closely linked to her heritage.
During her studies at the American University Dubai Sareh discovered and rapidly developed her passion for charity. Projects such as “language courses for blue color workers”, “building a school in Cameroon” and many other were initiated and implemented by her and gave her a lot of public recognition taking her all the way to Clinton Foundation in USA. Even after her studies she never stopped following her passion and focused on empowering women and helping children. For this she founded the Dubai Chapter of Soroptimists International and actively develops community projects as a member of the Dubai Rotary Club, Jumeirah Chapter.
As mother of two, Sareh also has a great devotion for healthy and nutritious food. Cherishing the culture of hospitality of her home country, Sareh regularly spoils her friends with the best that Iranian and Middle Eastern cuisine has to offer. Being absolutely enchanted by the taste, the different flavors and spices used by Sareh, most of her friends ask for the recipes of the dishes she cooks for them. However, most of her friends live outside Middle East and do not have access to the magical spices she uses which turn her dishes into a culinary experience of the Middle East. Her regular visits to the local Spice Souk in the heart of Historic Old Town of Dubai initiated a thought process on how to make this beautiful and limitless variety of spices accessible to her friends and all other food lovers. While thinking about the packaging, design and other aspects of the apparently small but quite challenging idea, she suddenly recognized the inevitable connection of the city she was living in with her passion for charity and food.
Before becoming a dynamic business hub and a luxurious tourist destination, Dubai was a vibrant hub for spice trading. The herbs and spices brought by traders into Dubai didn’t just create a colorful market, which can still be experienced today, but the exchange of spices was nothing less than an exchange of cultures, of culinary heritage and of values, which are still the base for a rich and multicultural society of Dubai. After all, “braking bread together” is a gesture of friendship and peace in almost every culture on our planet. So creating a solution to let everyone who visits Dubai be part of that important and unique heritage became a core element of Sareh’s idea.
At the same time Sareh started to dive deep into the spice world trying to find out where the spices originally come from, who are the farmers, where do they come from and how do they actually produce the spices. After many trips to different countries she realized that spice trading has a complex structure reaching from large-scale multinational company to small, family owned farmers in different countries. She quickly decided that she will commit to trade spices only by direct collaboration with small farmers. Doing so, she can empower these small farms, which are in many cases run by women and at the same time ensure a high (organic) quality and “fair trade” products for her future solution.
Sareh’s research resulted in an idea to create an appealing and safe solution for Dubai visitors to buy and transport a selection of hand-picked spices that have a direct connection with the history, culture and culinary landscape of Dubai, UAE and the Middle East. Having a degree in design, Sareh started to put her ideas on paper and created the first basic concepts of what she had in mind. She discussed her ideas with friends and people she trusts to get feedback and more input for her concepts. But it was the priceless contribution of her friend Philip, who is the product designers who gave the concept a clear shape and a base which was developed step-by-step into the fantastic product which it is now: Armatai Spice Box!
The box has a unique design, starting with the name of the brand printed on the front of the box. The boxes are wrapped by a band which can be personalized for potential corporate clients and co-branding partners, or different occasions such as religious holidays (Eid, Christmas etc). A very crucial part of the Armatai concept is the production of videos, clips and a sophisticated social media presence, which embeds the boxes in a cultural context. The clients are not only provided with some genuine ideas and recipes on how to use the spices but are also given the opportunity to dive into the culture and heritage of their specific area of origin.
Brand and Design
Once the general direction of the concept was clear, Sareh and her team had to find a suitable name for their project. The search for an adequate and yet unique name that would represent the genuine philosophy of the product and the geographical attributes of its creation took them all the way into the Middle Eastern history, art, culture and mythology. After months of research the inspiration was found in the ancient Persian goddess and protector of the earth Zam Armatay.
Representing the golden color of the desert sand and the turquoise shimmer of the Gulf, the team decided to choose these two colors in combination with art patterns from ancient Middle Eastern Architecture and interior decoration for the first version of the product.