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Issue no 8. Spring 2016

WEARABLES IN THE WORKPLACE Supercharging Enterprise Effectiveness

THE ROADMAP TO DIGITIZING CLASSROOMS IN MENA

LUXURY DIGITAL MARKETING High-End Positioning through Digital

WHAT STARTUPS NEED TO GO GLOBAL Best Practices and Tips


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

IT'S HARD TO SAY GOODBYE Here it is—my last issue as Managing Editor. And, even though saying goodbye is hard, I part ways with even greater enthusiasm for The Quarterly and its potential than when I started working on the first edition back in March 2014.

Lara Chaaya Managing Editor

@ChaayaLara

The magazine, of course, would not have been possible without the hard work of our team. We've had our fair share of bumps in the road, but the journey was also filled with the most rewarding experiences. I am grateful to every member who contributed in making our magazine thrive. I want to thank our Features Editor for burning the midnight oil. Alexis, you're a rockstar! I want to thank our energetic design team for their great work despite incredibly tight deadlines and last-minute submissions. I also want to thank Miled for his relentless efforts to ease tension when we are under pressure, Mohammad for his patience, and Racha for her valuable support. I particularly want to thank our CEO, Omar Christidis, for being an amazing mentor and an inspirational leader. The Quarterly wouldn't be what it is without his guidance, vision, and mentorship. And to you: our readers! Thank you for your thirst for premium content. If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have toiled over every article to make sure it is forward thinking and has real added value. We hope you enjoyed the insights we provided. Over the past two years, The Quarterly has explored how digital technology has changed the way different industries operate. We have seen the impact of mobile on the retail business and how traditional businesses—like newspapers and brick-and-mortar stores—migrated to the online space. We discussed the automation of advertising and the disruptive power of fintech solutions. In the last issue, we investigated how industrial businesses are using big data for optimization. And, in this issue, we talk about the digitization of the classrooms. It is quite incredible to witness the traditional methods of teaching, which have been resistant to change for over a century, slowly dissolving under the influence of technology. Flip to pages 34 and 39 for more on the topic. Enjoy the Spring issue.


CONTENT ISSUE 8 USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA INDUSTRY STORIES

4

Industry News

24

The Mobile Games Landscape in Saudi Arabia Huge Opportunities that the Top App Analytics Aren’t Telling You about

TECHNOLOGY

BUSINESS

10

Wearables in the Workplace

What Business Leaders Need to Know about This New Changing Force

14

Will SME’s Drive Wearables’ Adoption and Success throughout Regional Enterprise Business?

16

28

34

2

Government Initiatives Pave the Way for the New Entrepreneurs

Effective Strategies to Future-Proof Educational Institutions

Educational Apps from the MENA

40

20

Saudi Arabia Strides into a Knowledge Economy

Tips for Building a Successful Web Strategy in 2016

THE QUARTERLY Spring 2016

How MENA Schools Are Going Digital

Early Success Stories from Private and Public Schools


ENTREPRENEURSHIP

DIGITAL MEDIA

44

46

Digital Media Marketing Finally Reaches Luxury Brands

Great Tips from Leaders in the Industry

52 What MENA Startups Need to Go Global

Interview with Haitham Saab, Managing Director at TechGenies Middle East

What Is Your Favorite Social Media Campaign from 2015?

We Ask the Experts

54

New Middle East Startups that Should Be on Your Radar

Spring 2016 THE QUARTERLY

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INDUSTRY STORIES

USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION

INDUSTRY NEWS

A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

Souq.com Sells Online Payment Arm CashU The regional e-commerce site Souq.com has sold CashU for an undisclosed amount to CashU’s General Manager Thaer Suleiman, and the Dubai-based investment firm Genero Capital. Tamer Bazzari, CEO of Genero Capital, said: “This is the first ‘management buyout’ deal in MENA supported by a financial sponsor and should encourage more entrepreneurs to consider such a structure.” CashU was founded in 2003 by the ecommerce site Maktoob, which was later bought by Yahoo!. The company is a MENA-focused online payment business operating in Arabic and English. The company’s customizable in-house solutions are considered an important conversion tool for e-commerce. “With CashU’s 12 years of experience in MENA, we understand how to build products and offer services that best suit the buying behaviors of the end users residing in the Arabic speaking markets,” he said. Suleiman, who joined CashU in 2010, said their plans are consistent with most of the region’s Central Banks’ visions of developing a cashless society. This is the second fintech addition to Genero’s portfolio, following the acquisition of the mobile payment business Bolero earlier. According to The National this acquisition will be followed by up to three deals in 2016. In 2015, e-commerce transactions in the MEA made up close to 50% of total transactions, and the sector has generated a lot of interest by big players such as Payfort, who acquired the UAE-based White Payments last year, and Telr, who merged with Innovate Payments in 2014 and also secured an investment from Hatcher (Singapore) and iMENA. Network International, a leading payment solutions provider in the region also signed an agreement with Quisk Middle East to deploy a cashless, cardless, and mobile-free payment method in the UAE.

Bedaya Launches New $17M Fund for Egyptian Startups The Bedaya Fund, owned by Egypt’s General Authority For Investment (GAFI), has announced a new fund worth $17 million to support SMEs from various sectors. Investments could reach $6.3 million and will target startups with a minimum valuation of $2 million – except in the case of environmental projects, which currently make up around 15% of Bedaya’s investments (particularly renewable energy ventures). Furthermore, 60% of the fund’s total investments go to ventures in remote areas to increase the scope of entrepreneurial opportunities. The fund was initiated by Bedaya’s Startup Academy, which has been helping entrepreneurs since 2013 through a 3-month program that assists them with essential steps like company registration, business model development, managing the marketing, financial and legal affairs, and sustainable tools for business, in exchange for equity. The program’s support lasts three to five years, after which SMEs typically find an exit, mainly through the Nile Stock Exchange (NILEX)”. Bedaya’s success stories include EGY GLOVE, a medical glove manufacturing startup, and BznsBuilder, a cloud-based tool that allows entrepreneurs to create investor-ready business plans and track their progress, with insights on their marketing and financial plans. Bedaya also plans to partner with the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT) in Cairo and raise $800,000 to help startups develop minimum viable products, through Bedaya.

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THE QUARTERLY Spring 2016


INDUSTRY STORIES

USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

Online Property Space Heats Up: Contender Bayut.com Raises $29M for MENA Expansion... Arzan VC Invests in a Silicon Valley Startup, Launches “Office Hours” As part of its goal to become a global VC (both sector and country-agnostic), the Kuwait-based Arzan VC is eyeing startups abroad. Their latest undisclosed global seed coinvestment was in the Silicon Valley startup CoContest, a crowdsourcing platform for interior designers. 500 Startups was also an investor in that round. Previously, Arzan VC had invested in the Russian real estate portal Idinaidi.ru and other MENA startups with a ticket size between $500,000 and $1 million dollars. The firm has been co-investing with other investors such as Wamda Capital, 500 Startups, Hatcher, Silicon Badia, and Oasis500, and is now seeking to take a more prominent role and actually lead on future investments. Arzan VC will also start holding regular meeting times for entrepreneurs, allowing them to book an appointment with Arzan’s team of experts. These “office hours” will dispense help and advice to entrepreneurs, but will not be a platform for pitching ideas or raising funds.

Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG), the owners of Bayut.com, one of the UAE’s biggest real estate portals, closed a $20 million Series C round – only four months after closing a $9 million Series B round! The group did not disclose the names of the investors, but said the capital will be used to strengthen its platform’s brand visibility and market share in Pakistan and the UAE primarily, where other players like Propertyfinder are also established. EMPG is a leader in the regional property portal industry, with a total of 3.4 million monthly visits to its websites, a field presence across 30 cities, and over 9,000 real estate agencies on board. The group’s founder and CEO of Bayut.com, Imran Ali Khan, said their aim is to “completely own the real estate space in both of these markets, so it was very important for us to go in with the right strategy and ample funds to do that quickly and efficiently.” He said they will use part of the investments to further develop their technology platforms and make acquisitions. According a statement released by the group, EMPG also plans to launch operations in Bangladesh and some Middle Eastern countries.

… and Propertyfinder Strengthens Its Base with $20M Investment The Dubai-based Propertyfinder has sold 10% of its shares in a primary investment round to the Swedish investment firm Vostok New Ventures, for $20 million. This sets the overall value of the company at $200 million. Founder and CEO Michael Lahyani said the investment will be used to expand sales and marketing operations in the MENA, and develop the company’s proprietary technology. The investment comes despite bearish forecasts for Dubai’s real estate sector, Propertyfinder’s home market. According to CBRE consultants, property sales prices dropped by double-digit percentile points in 2015, and further drops are expected in 2016. But Lahyani said Propertyfinder hasn’t seen any significant slowdown in traffic. Founded in 2005, the company employs more than 150 people, and operates real estate classifieds platforms in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, Lebanon, and the UAE. It is the fourth MENA company in Vostok New Ventures’ investment portfolio, after a recent $1.7 million investment in the Egyptian recruitment site Wuzzuf, and a combined $15.5 million in two Pakistani companies.

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THE QUARTERLY Spring 2016


KSA Launches $133M Fund for ICT Startups Taqnia, a Saudi firm investing in tech innovation, and the investment bank Riyad Capital have launched the “Riyadh Taqnia Capital” fund worth SAR500 million (around $133 million) targeting ICT startups. The new fund was unveiled at ArabNet Riyadh in December 2015, and announced it will seek to make investments that are of strategic interest to Saudi Arabia in Silicon Valley, Europe, and Japan. The aim of the fund is to grow the Kingdom’s innovation ecosystem and venture capital sector in an effort to shift from an oil and gas economy to a knowledge-based one. It will also explore investments in energy, advanced materials, and sustainability. The fund will be headquartered in Riyadh but will operate its international unit from California in the US.

Fintech Startup Dopay Raises $2.4M to Conquer Egypt, Ghana

Mumzworld Closes Multi-Million Dollar Investment Round

Dopay, a cloud-based electronic payroll service for “unbanked” employees, has raised $2.4 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by Techstars Ventures and Force Over Mass Capital. This brings the total investments in the London-based startup to $4.6 million. Dopay said it will use the investment to expand its existing services in the opportunity-rich Egyptian market, where around 65% of the population do not have bank accounts. Since 2014, Dopay provides Egyptian companies with a convenient system to pay their staff electronically. Through partnerships with Barclays and Visa, Dopay provides company employees with bank accounts for salary domiciliation, as well as debit cards they can use online. In addition, it also provides them with an app to manage their money. Founded by Frans Van Eersel, the company is headquartered in London but operates mainly in Egypt. It now counts approximately 20,000 people in its payroll system, which include employees of Vodafone, Wadi Degla, and several embassies in the country. Dopay also plans to launch in Ghana by mid-2016. Beyond that, it is considering new markets where its partners already operate.

Mumzworld, the award-winning UAE-based mother, baby, and child e-commerce website has closed a multi-million dollar Series B funding round led by Wamda Capital, twofour54, and Endeavor Catalyst. Additional investors include Precinct Partners and WSB Holding among others, as well as several pre-existing investors who increased their stake in the company. Co-founded by Mona Ataya in 2011, Mumzworld has seen considerable growth in the region. It has the largest online inventory in the GCC, covering more than 100,000 products (including 15,000 products with exclusivity) across its segments. The service is available in English and Arabic, and has a customer base of over 650,000 mothers, of which 45% are repeat customers, returning 5-6 times a year. Mumzworld plans on using the investment to initiate its m-commerce business line in 2016. It will also seek to expand its presence and product range in the MENA, in addition to launching launch new customer-focused initiatives. The new partnerships will bring important strategic contributions for the e-commerce site, enabling it to optimize technology and logistics operations for an enhanced consumer experience.

Spring 2016 THE QUARTERLY

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INDUSTRY STORIES

USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION JWT Acquires Majority Stake in Cleartag

A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

J. Walter Thompson ( JWT), the global marketing communications agency, has acquired a majority stake in Cleartag, a leading independent full service digital marketing consultancy in Lebanon and the UAE. The amount of the deal was undisclosed, but Cleartag’s unaudited revenues for 2014 totaled $3.6 million, with gross assets of approximately $1.5 million. Founded in 2000 by Tarek Dajani, Cleartag offers a broad range of digital consulting, user experience, advertising, and campaign services. The agency employs around 65 people in Beirut and Dubai. The agency will continue to trade as Cleartag, and will strengthen JWT’s digital offering in the MENA. Meanwhile Dajani will remain Chairman and CEO of its parent company DNY Group.

CedarBridge Investment Firm Acquires SAE Institute - UAE CedarBridge, an investment firm based in Cairo with offices in Dubai, has acquired the UAE business of the SAE Institute (formerly known as the School of Audio Engineering) for an undisclosed amount. The SAE Institute is the world’s largest network of media training academies, offering diplomas and bachelor’s degrees in audio production, film production, interactive 3D animation, web development, and games programming. With over 30 years’ experience in the field, the institute has trained more than 800 students to compete in an increasingly competitive market. In 2011, the UAE branch of the institute had received an undisclosed investment by twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s media and entertainment hub, to reinforce its training capabilities and strengthen the Arab talent pool across the region. This marked twofou54’s second exit in 2015, following the acquisition of twofour54’s playout and broadcast services by Ericsson earlier in the year. Ericsson Broadcast & Media Services now deliver an array of services, enabling the distribution of media across virtually all platforms and screens. CedarBridge plans on strengthening the capabilities of the current campus and its ties to the evolving media sector in UAE. The firm focuses on investing amounts ranging between $1 million and $15 million in promising businesses across the MENA region and Turkey.

Netflix Has Landed in the MENA and Everywhere! Netflix now simultaneously brings its SVOD digital offering to virtually the entire world (excepting China, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea, due to restrictions on US companies). The internet television network currently has over 70 million subscribers worldwide, and is expected to surpass the 100 million mark in 2018, according to a recent report released by IHS Technology. In addition to being largely available in English in the MENA and in most new countries, Netflix also added Arabic, Korean, and both simplified and traditional Chinese to the 17 languages it already supports. Previously, Netflix could be viewed in some parts of the MENA, including the UAE, but only with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The online community is already discussing likely scenarios where the channel will have to obey censorship rules in countries where it is streaming, and proposing “legitimate” ways of going around this, such as using a VPN or DNS unblocker. Netflix is not the first to venture in the MENA. The presence of other channels such as Shahid, IcFlix, Telly, and OSN Play indicate that the market is ripe and ready. The two top subscription services in the region are Starz Play and IcFlix.

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THE QUARTERLY Spring 2016


Cardless, Mobile-Free POS Payments Across the UAE in 2016

Speed@BDD Graduates 6 Startups, Next Stop: Silicon Valley

Quisk Middle East FZ LLC, a global payments technology company specializing in digitizing cash, has signed an agreement with Network International, the leading payment solutions provider in the Middle East and Africa, to deploy an innovative new cashless, cardless and mobilefree payment method. The next generation solution, led by Dubai Smart Government (DSG) and developed by Quisk, will be deployed by Network International across its points of sale (POS) merchant network in the UAE in 2016. The payment service is part of DSG’s mission to create innovative solutions that will boost Dubai’s overall economic welfare and global competitiveness, while contributing to social progress, according to H.E. Wesam Al Abbas Lootah, CEO of DSG. The cloud-based Quisk solution utilizes mobile phone numbers and a secured PIN to create and access a new type of digital cash account. The solution does not require smart phones or mobile operator services and can be used for physical and online payments for a wide variety of transactions including retail, government services and bill payments.

The first batch of 6 startups has graduated from Speed@BDD. “We had the privilege of working with some of the best entrepreneurs and we are thrilled to experience Lebanon’s transformation into a regional hub for global innovation,” said Sami Abou Saab, CEO of Speed@ BDD. The graduates included: Blitz, a platform for gamin challenges; Carpolo, a reward-based carpooling app; Modeo, a modular furniture design app with augmented reality and a Do-It-Yourself building kit; Next Automated Robots (NAR), a design and development company for integrating drones in various industries for different applications; Rafiqi, a social platform where users can suggest or participate in events and activities that interest them; and RationalPixels, a patentpending software technology that allows the automatic placement of products in existing video content. NAR and RationalPixels were selected for the 2-week program LebNet Ignite acceleration and mentorship program in Silicon Valley, powered by the Blackbox Connect accelerator. The success of the accelerator’s first cycle has set the bar high for the next round, but Abou Saab said they are up to the challenge. “Lebanon needs more accelerators to cater to the world-class startups that it is producing,” he added. The accelerator’s second round will start in April 2016.

MENA Is Breeding the Next Comics Franchise The Egypt and the UAE-based Noongam was named Startup of the Year 2015 by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority. Since its launch in 2013, it has gone from publishing a couple of webcomic series to launching “Magnoon” the first comic magazine app in the Arab world. Noongam is aiming to be a hybrid of the Behance e-publication solutions and the more traditional print and TV model of Marvel comics, said Hani Ghaith, Noongam co-founder and Managing Director. The startup also published “Magnoon”, a print comic, and was approached by the animation company Toon Studios to license some of its stories and characters to create short animation videos for YouTube. The founders wanted to address two market gaps: “On the one hand we’re faced with a lack of high quality Arabic digital content and comics. And on the other hand, there is a huge untapped pool of comic art talent in the MENA region,” said Ghaith. The focus lies on digital, high quality art and relevance to the Arab and Arab-speaking audiences. In addition to the core team, the company includes over 50 artists and contributors. The operation has been entirely bootstrapped thus far. Income has been secured via ad sales, licensing of characters as well as royalties of characters and stories. Spring 2016 THE QUARTERLY

9


TECHNOLOGY

BRACE YOURSELVES, USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA THE WEARABLES ARE COMING Original Applications Will Supercharge Enterprise Efficiency By Alexis Baghdadi | @GuerrillaWriter

T

ech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Sony have bred a wide, loyal and tech-hungry customer base for smart and connected consumer electronics. This constitutes an ideal – and growing – market for innovative products that are constantly being developed, upgraded, and enhanced. Right now, wearables are monopolizing early adopters’ wish lists. Like personal computers, MP3 players, and smartphones before them, wearables accompany users

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THE QUARTERLY Spring 2016

all the time, and they too have made their way into the workplace. But it is in fact enterprises – not consumers – who will drive the mass adoption of wearables. As they did with earlier devices, enterprises have recognized the potential of wearables to create value for them, and they are gradually integrating them into their core processes and operations. No company wants to be the last to adopt a new technology, especially if it carries with it

such big promises of efficiency and quality improvement – not to mention billions of dollars in savings on expenditures. Let’s say it like it is: wearables will change the way enterprises do business forever.

Why Wearables Are Winning

Wearable shipments tripled in the third quarter 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, totaling 21 million units shipped, according to International data Corporation (IDC). Juniper Research,


reported that the global retail revenue from smart wearable devices exceeded $4.5 billion in 2015. Furthermore, it projected this figure will triple by end-2016, before reaching $53.2 billion by 2019. There are clear reasons why wearables have conquered consumers’ hearts. Their “blend-in” design, function, and hands-free operation are undeniably strong selling points. But wearables go beyond this “gimmick” formula that has dominated fads over the past decades. Their capacity for integration and physical advantage open the door to original uses and applications.

TIMELINE: THE EXPECTED EVOLUTION OF WEARABLES IN ENTERPRISES

· 2015-2016: Early adoption begins

in enterprises Wearables make their way into healthcare, public safety, and other verticals with numerous field workers.

· 2017-2019: Wearable integration

goes mainstream Developer ecosystems supporting wearables (apps, back-end software, support services) come into maturity.

1. They can be synced to existing smart devices Wearables still fall under the category of “companions” (ranked a little above accessories), and will continue to do so, according to Juniper Research. Rather than replace existing standalone devices, they work with smartphones, connected objects, apps, and each other, complementing their functionality in a non-intrusive and non-competing way. For example, Lebanon’s Bank Audi introduced wearables (bracelets and watches) in its near field communication (NFC) payment solutions (Tap2Pay) which are linked to a mobile banking app. Likewise, the sensors on Instabeat’s smart goggles are linked to a mobile app and allow swimmers to measure their performance (a functionality that could be extended to other sports). This two-way device communication constitutes a major value proposition for customers, since they run no risk of seeing their device outdated or outclassed. On the enterprise level, this means adoption would occur seamlessly, without any expensive infrastructure or software upgrades.

connectivity to their products. These may still be early days, but no one wants a repeat of Kodak’s epic fail when it rejected the first digital camera in 1975 – invented by one of its own engineers! Moreover, a wide and motley crew of new developers and manufacturers are constantly swelling the ranks of the wearables industry. As supply continues to grow, wearables will go into mass production, becoming more accessible, more versatile, and more affordable.

2. They will soon be mass-produced, growing better and more affordable The promising outlook for the wearable market has prompted more players – even those not traditionally associated with smart devices and wearables – to follow in this trend. Google, the search-engine-turned-tech-innovator, is the most prominent example. Camera manufacturers like Nikon, Canon, and newcomer GoPro have also rushed to introduce smart features and

3. They are disrupting industries Wearables have taken the m-Health and personal safety verticals by storm, starting with heart and fitness monitors. LifeSense, developed by the Lebanese startup CardioDiagnostics, is an app-supported wrist-worn heart rate monitor capable of detecting cardiac complications, alerting medical response teams, and guiding them to the patient in case of emergency. Pathfinder, also from Lebanon, is another good example of a

· 2020-2024: Wearables become

commonplace Consumer adoption peaks after prices drop and issues of privacy and security are resolved.

· 2024 Full enterprise adoption is

reached The next technological evolution is underway!

Compiled from different industry reports and sites

disruptive wearable device. It consists of a sensor-equipped belt linked to an app and capable of detecting obstacles to help visually impaired people navigate more effectively and avoid various obstacles. In this case, the choice of a belt prevailed over a phone, wrist or forehead because it is naturally located on the body’s most stable area, and therefore can read its surroundings most accurately. 4. They can save enterprises billions of dollars The first product deployments have already begun last fall, mostly in healthcare, and new sectors are already standing by for disruption. In addition to their low cost of implementation (as mentioned above), these technologies present much bigger opportunities when it comes to employee efficiency, including improved field performance, safety, and customer service. According to a report by Salesforce Research, 79% of companies (early adopters) agreed that wearables are or will be strategic to their company’s future success. 76% reported improvements in business performance since implementing wearable devices in the enterprise. For now smart watches are leading the wearables race. Juniper Research expects the market to be driven by an increase in sales of premium smart watches and smart glasses over the next five years.

Adoption and Applications Will Triple by 2017

Adoption of wearables in enterprises is expected to increase dramatically over the next 2 years. Salesforce Research found that users in the enterprises they surveyed saw huge value in their wearables programs. 86% of surveyed users said they planned to increase wearable technology spend over the next 12 months. The business application of wearables technologies can be categorized into two main groups: Employees and Customers. A. Customer-centric technologies These are projected to have the lion’s share of overall growth, as enterprises begin to rely on them to access customer data in real time, view business analytics, create immersive customer experiences, and more. At this early stage, wearables

Spring 2016 THE QUARTERLY

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TECHNOLOGY

USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION revolving around customer functions concern mostly traditional touchpoints such as loyalty and reward programs, integrated shopping experiences (such as the use of augmented reality), and point of sales experiences. However, as customers become more comfortable sharing wearables data with enterprises, this will trigger bolder, more innovative applications. The largest growth is expected around personalized customer experiences (immersion, targeted offers, etc.) using technologies such as location-sensing.

Figure 1: Wearables with the Highest Impact on Enterprises

Source: Salesforce Research A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

B. Employee-centric technologies When it comes to day-to-day employee functions, companies are initially focusing on basic use cases such as workplace security access, employee time management, and real-time employee communication. Even in this category growth will also be primarily centered on enhancing the customer experience. The applications with the highest projected growth revolve around accessing customer data and business analytics in real time, as well as remote coaching and service help.

How Enterprises Can Benefit

Let us count the ways: 1. More efficiency across the board In addition to the basic “passive� applications mentioned above (monitoring and access), wearables can boost employee efficiency by giving them access to data in real time, while keeping their hands free to handle tools or equipment. For example, wearables like smart glasses can enable video-assisted collaboration between co-workers in different departments or locations. This allows affordable and accurate real-time coaching, resulting in economies of time, transportation, and logistics. Such an application could also be extended to customers who have their own wearables, to provide them with more efficient aftersales services such as installation, troubleshooting, and upgrading instructions. On the implementation level, enterprises will need to develop certain strategies to ensure the right devices are used for the right purposes. This involves prioritizing and extending Wi-Fi network coverage to ensure connectivity for remote workers.

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THE QUARTERLY Spring 2016

49

Smart watches

40 37

Digital badges or lanyards

25 36

Smart glasses

26 33

Fitness bands

21 33

Smart cameras

19 32

Next generation earbuds or headsets Embedded apparel or accessories

20 21 20

Other wrist-based devices

8 18

Other clip-on-devices Other headgear

Percent of enterprises forecasting the biggest business impact

7

Percent of enterprises anticipating the quickest adoption rates

7 14 6

Figure 2: Customer-Focused Applications of Wearables in Enterprises Source: Salesforce Research

Device integrations

13

29

Loyalty and rewards programs

15

27

15

25

13

27

Location sensing technology

13

27

Targeted advertising and offers

13

28

Integrated shopping experiences

14

23

Points of sale Immersive experiences

Currently using wearables

Piloting or planning to use wearables within the next 2 years

Figure 3: Employee-Focused Applications of Wearables in Enterprises Source: Salesforce Research

Tracking workplace productivity

15

36

Real-time access to customer data

14

35

Hands-free instructions or guides to field practices

14

33

Access to business analytics and alerts

16

31

Coaching with live remote trainer

11

33

Hands-free instructions to field employees

14

29

Augmented reality to guide workers more efficiently

13

29

Employee biometric vitals

13

28

Clinical trial monitoring

7

32

Currently using wearables

Piloting or planning to use wearables within the next 2 years


The other side of the coin is that employees might have privacy concerns when it comes to being monitored through devices, which might dampen their enthusiasm. This issue needs to be addressed early on and transparently to ensure a smooth implementation and buy-in. 2. Wearables-generated data The universe of customer data – whether it comes from marketing, sales, customer service interactions, or web/app analytics – is expanding minute by minute. With the coming of wearables, available data will increase exponentially and constantly. Wearables-generated data will have a high impact in helping enterprises make informed decisions in real time. Forward-thinking companies believe that the influx of information will reshape the business world by creating new technologies, services, and even entirely new industries. For now, the use of wearable tech data is still in its infancy. According to the Salesforce report, only 8% of early adopters say they are fully ready to gain actionable insights from employee and customer data generated from wearables. With the next generation of wearables like Apple Watch hitting the market, there will be another layer of data to the table, making it more important than ever for businesses to develop action-oriented strategies. 3. A supporting app ecosystem As the app ecosystem matures, there will be more business applications and more sophisticated multitasking devices. Many of the recent developments in the sector have come from startups and smaller companies. But they are not alone anymore. Adopters of wearables – both individuals and corporations – are venturing into this territory on their own. In fact, key players have begun focusing on platforms such as Google’s Android Wear, Samsung’s SAMI data architecture, or Intel’s Edison design platform, providing the right environment for more potential stakeholders to populate the sector with apps. As wearables and their apps flood markets, it will become easier, and more affordable for companies to adopt and customize wearables for their needs.n

Figure 4: Examples of Applications and Benefits of Wearables in Specific Sectors Source: Accenture Technology Labs

Sector

Applications of Wearables

Oil & Gas

Drilling engineers: Enable real-time video feedback to/from the control room and an understanding of execution against drill plans. All staff: Complement safety measures to notify employees about emergencies/hazardous working conditions.

Manufacturing

Floor technicians: Provide machine tool information (status, running processes/programs, alarms, messages, etc.). Stream realtime video footage of machines to experts, communicate with engineers, and record and share notes.

Process engineers: Enable remote troubleshooting and instruction for urgent needs and specialty maintenance repairs through collaboration with technicians and others. Retail

Floor salespeople: Provide a quick visual reference for how a retail display should be arranged and updated instructions regarding tasks. Guide customers and instruct them on product operation. Retail managers: Provide direct and efficient communication without intruding on or hindering employees’ tasks.

Delivery & Logistics

Package deliverers: Scan packages, confirm delivery information, and update shipping status hands-free.

Healthcare

Surgeons, doctors, nurses: Help prepare for surgery for incoming patients by receiving live updates (e.g., voice/text/video notes, patient vitals) from paramedics. View patient vitals and relevant information during surgery through voice commands without looking away. Help doctors look up patient records and dosing guides.

Construction

Construction staff: Allow access to the work plan in real time without having to put down tools. Enable machine operations to accurately measure and cut materials or direct equipment along specified GPS coordinates.

Warehouse staff: Keep hands free while using equipment, inventorying and sorting packages, and updating shipping status.

All field engineers: Enable employees working in high-risk work environments to reference work orders while using tools. Real Estate

Brokers: Allow quick reference to historical sales information, share property details with clients, and provide virtual tours.

Emergency Personnel

Police: Enable access to criminal histories, license plate readers, and location of backups during pursuit. Scan suspects’ face and reference a database for matches when making an arrest. Support full documentation of dispute resolution, which can prevent false accusations and fraudulent law suits, and help ensure proper law enforcement.

Firefighters: Display building schematics or blueprints, automatically monitor oxygen levels, and help coordinate efforts of team and evacuation routes. Provide forest firefighters with access to topography maps.

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TECHNOLOGY

USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION A Round-Up WILL of SME’S Taxi-Booking DRIVEApps WEARABLES’ for Residents ADOPTION in MENA

AND

SUCCESS THROUGHOUT REGIONAL

ENTERPRISE BUSINESS? By Abdo Chlala

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egionally, SMEs are the driving force of business and employment. SMEs account for over 80% of enterprises and 71% of the employment in the MENA region alone, according to a recent study by SalesForce.com. More importantly, these businesses account for almost a

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third of the region’s GDP. Due to their large market uptake, SMEs form a natural environment for competition. Their size, their need to adapt to changing environments and market forces, and their agility have driven the many organizational and

business innovations that improve operational efficiency. As SMEs integrate new technologies in their operations, will they opt to integrate wearable solutions and drive the adoption of wearable technologies throughout the MENA? And if so, what


roles does the content industry have to play to support this adoption? Wearables in the Workplace Today, compelling opportunities for the deployment of wearable technology across SMEs exist. Wearable technology can lower costs, improve workflows, and potentially reach every enterprise vertical. In fact, according to the study by Salesforce.com, 76% of surveyed respondents who had implemented wearable technology in their business reported improved performance in the subsequent months. Interestingly, the same study indicates that success with wearables motivates 86% of adopters to increase spending on enterprise wearables initiatives. The adoption of wearables spans the entire range of the technology, including fitness bands like the Samsung Gear Fit, Google Glass smart augmented reality (AR) glasses, Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headsets, wearable cameras, smart watches, voice controlled headsets, and body sensors. However, the wearable tech that is expected to drastically change the business landscape is the smart watch, followed by digital badges and smart glasses. And according to the study, it is these three technology types that are anticipated to have the fastest adoption rates. A More Mobile Business The nature of the business in SMEs highly depends on mobility and connectivity. The fact that this region has some of the highest smartphone adoption rates, according to research by the GSMA, coupled with the proliferation of wearables designed with business in mind can spur SMEs to integrate wearables into their operational strategies. According to a report from Accenture Technology Labs, wearables such as smart watches and smart displays can dramatically raise the productivity level of “deskless” employees by delivering access to real-time data, facilitating handsfree collaboration and data sharing, and furnishing visual feedback about the working environment to facilitate faster and more informed decision making. For example, employees who rely on information sensitive data could receive

consumers shop and how companies inform, engage, manage inventory, and drive sales. In a recent omni-channel logistics study, wearables increased efficiency of identifying and picking orders by 25%, enabling data driven operations for employees who work with their hands. As more wearable products are designed with business applications in mind, companies will work to integrate wearables into their mobile strategies. Over time, wearables and corresponding wearables apps will evolve too.

Abdo Chlala is Regional Head of IT & Mobile Division at Samsung Electronics MENA. He is responsible for mobile, tablet, and wearable portfolio, retail, channel, operator and enterprise sales, marketing, content development and product launch activities across the region. Before joining Samsung, Chlala was Marketing Director at Procter & Gamble (P&G) NearEast. Chlala holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the American University of Beirut (AUB). real-time information critical to closing a deal and receive these notifications in an unobtrusive way. Likewise, salespeople could receive real-time instructions on the next sales call location and objective. As such, weaving wearables into specific vertical industry workflows has great potential for transforming businesses. The Industries that Benefit Most Key industries destined to benefit from widespread deployment of wearables include healthcare, logistics, retail, and hospitality, among others. Healthcare professionals will be able to tap into capabilities like voice activation to create, share, and monitor patient updates with agility and speed, as well as improve accuracy of information at the point of patient care, aiding in diagnosis and patient management. Throughout the retail and logistics sectors, wearables can change the way

Creating Platforms The integration of wearable technology and the region’s SME sector is still in its nascent stages; however, it opens doors for innovation and collaboration in the content industry, in terms of both app development and the drive to create specific industry solutions. Companies, like Samsung, are not only releasing affordable wearable technology, but they are also working in tandem with regional SMEs to develop enterprise wearable technologies and drive improved business from both ends of the spectrum. Samsung Open Source, for example, recognizes that software is a vital aspect of any business and as such maximizes the benefits from Open Source Communities to develop high quality software by accessing the required tools and codes for developing wearable business processes, thus enabling opportunities for wearable app development. These opportunities can be facilitated and enhanced by the active collaboration of SMEs, technology vendors, and app developers. Arabnet events offer a great example of such contexts where interaction and knowledge exchange between entrepreneurs and technology vendors can lead to new and innovative wearable solutions. As partner ecosystems evolve into a hotbed of innovation for purposebuilt applications and vertical industry solutions, SMEs are positioned to be the game changers in wearable technologies adoption across the Middle East, transforming the way in which their employees work and creating competitive business advantages.n

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A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

EDUCATIONAL APPS

FROM

MENA that Are Changing Classrooms and Education By ArabNet Team

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T

he children of Generation Z are growing up with apps and digital media as a critical component of their lives alongside television, Internet, and smartphones. Exploring the potential of educational apps represents a huge opportunity that companies, big and small, international and local, are jumping at. So what does our region have in store for our kids? Here is a list that covers different types of apps from various Arab countries. It is impossible to cover all successful apps in one list, so make sure to visit our website www. arabnet.me for more.

Lamsa is an iOS and Android Arabic interactive educational app launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012 by Badr Ward. Over the course of three years, Lamsa has evolved into a sustainable platform with more than 100 e-books and regularly updated educational content featuring animated stories, rhymes, interactive games, and captivating videos in Arabic for children under 6 years old. The app has a free trial period, after which users get access to limited content items and have the option to subscribe and enjoy unlimited access. Lamsa’s success has been supported by the funds it was able to secure. A year after its launch, Lamsa received $500,000 from MEVP. Two years later, it closed a second round of investment, also from MEVP. In 2014, Lamsa announced a strategic partnership with Abu Dhabi's Twofour54 and relocated there. Country of origin: Saudi Arabia Date of launch: 2012 Developer: Ertiqa

Competing head to head with Lamsa is Rawy Kids, an app that offers a comprehensive library of interactive, entertaining Arabic stories for children. Mahmoud Ghoz, CEO of Rawy, was initially able to fund the development of the app with the support of Flat6Labs and funds personally collected from family and friends. Rawy’s differentiation is allowing writers and artists alike to access the platform and use animation, comics, interaction, and narration to create rich and engaging stories. The company maintains a mutually beneficial relationship with its artists by sharing revenue and allowing them to maintain ownership of their work. As such, Rawy ensures its content is continuously enriched while creating revenue for the artists. The app follows a freemium model and is compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. Country of origin: Egypt Developer: Rawy Date of launch: April 2013

Kitabi is an interactive freemium mobile application launched in 2013 by EduLab, an e-learning software company in Lebanon established by Dani Awad and Elie Shaaya. Kitabi allows Lebanese students to purchase e-versions of school textbooks, which would cost around $14—somehow similar to the prices of hard copies. Users interact with their digital books by highlighting texts, adding notes, and searching for keywords, thus making learning more practical.

The platform can also enrich books by embedding animations, videos, and interactivities. Edulab launched the app in collaboration with the Syndicate of Scholar Publishers Union in Lebanon, and has partnered with several local publishers to make their books available on the Kitabi app reader, including World Heritage Publishers, Al Ahliya, and Dar Al Banan, among others. Country of origin: Lebanon Date of launch: November 2013 Developer: EduLab

In the much-crowded free language teaching applications for children, Zee’s Alphabet is a very interesting free app launched in 2014 in Dubai by Growl Media to teach the Arabic alphabet. The iOS- and Android-compatible app is the latest in a series of applications created by the company, founded by its CEO Dinesh Lalvani. Prior to launching Growl Media, Dinesh founded and sold Flip Media, one of the leading branding agencies in the UAE. Zee’s Alphanet helps children aged 3 to 5 years learn the fundamental writing and reading skills of the Arabic language in an exciting and interactive 3-step way: Observe, imitate, and demonstrate. It has been downloaded 1 million times across the MENA region so far. Even though Zee’s alphabet has many rivalries—think My Arabic Letters by Beelabs and Huroofi by Barmajiyyat—with the easy interface and great graphics, you should keep an eye on it. Country of origin: UAE Date of launch: June 2014 Developer: Growl Media

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one of UAE’s leading telecom operators,

and the Dubai Autism Center are A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

Keefak is an app that teaches users the Lebanese dialect of Arabic. It is the brainchild of Hadi El Khoury, a 10+ year information security expert and consultant living in France. The app doesn’t teach users how to read or write Arabic. It only teaches them to speak and understand Lebanese Arabic through 20 courses available in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. To ensure their pedagogical relevance, all the courses are prepared by Antoine Fleyfel, author of several books for learning Lebanese. The app first introduces users to the basics of the language with vocabulary lessons, then exposes them to a number of texts, followed by grammar rules, and finally assesses their knowledge acquisition with application exercises. According to Hadi, there are “15 million reasons” why a product with such a narrow offering makes sense, referring to the huge Lebanese population scattered worldwide. Keefak is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile. Users can download the free version of the app and upgrade to pro for $4.99. Keefak Junior has been recently released following the high demand of Lebanese diaspora struggling to teach their children their mother tongue. Country of origin: Lebanon Date of launch: March 2012 Developer: Dash Tag

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Sho’lah is the first Arabic personal brain trainer released very recently by Kuwaiti serial entrepreneur Abdul Rahman El Sayed, who has founded Yabila! (Yabila.com), Nabd (NabdApp.com), Waveline Media, and Elektron Games. Sho’lah helps users train their memory, attention, and problem solving skills over 15+ educational games covering five major cognitive areas. It also allows users to compare their performance with others. Sho’lah is free to use, but users can upgrade to a premium training program to expand on their mental training and gain more insights on their brain’s performance. The app faces fierce international competition, with Lumosity, Eidetic, and many others gaining increasing traction from users worldwide. However, with its smart and Arabic-only interface, Sho’lah might actually succeed in tapping into a massive user base. Country of origin: UAE Date of launch: December 2015 Developer: Elektron Games

BabNoor is an Arabic language cloudbased prototype app for children with autism, hearing and speech difficulties, Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and similar conditions to help them communicate. The app eventually intends to replace the traditional reference cards for children with special needs and reduce dependency on therapy. All content on the app has been validated by speech therapists and follows the global standards of the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Du,

partnering with the award winning creative solutions provider, Flagship Projects, to promote the app. The Dubai Autism Center will receive an initial batch of tablets preloaded with the app throughout the academic year 2015/2016. The app can be customized for institutional and personal needs. Once public, the Babnoor app will initially only be available on iOS. Country of origin: UAE Date of launch: Limited launch, October 2015 Developer: Flagship Projects

Focused on children aged from 5 to 9 years old, Loujee is a smart toy that assimilates and responds in Arabic in a fun and interactive way based on Arabic speech recognition technology. Loujee has two main parts: the plush toy that you can order online through the official website, and the compatible iOS app. Once the iPhone or iPad is inserted inside the plush toy, Loujee comes to life and responds to kids’ touch and actions, talks to them, listens, and plays. The app can understand almost all Arabic dialects with 92% accuracy, according to the toy’s official website, and is programmed with a wide variety of educational facts, stories, and games that stimulates children’s brains. The toy’s price ranges between $50 and $80 approximately, depending on the device users want to insert in it. Country of origin: Syria/ UAE Date of launch: 2015 Developer: Votek


TECHNOLOGY

USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

10 CONSIDERATIONS FOR A SUCCESSFUL

WEB STRATEGY IN 2016 By Fadi Sabbagha | @fadisabbagha

D

esigning a successful web strategy is one of the most complex yet most exciting challenges for any business anywhere today. The complexity lies in achieving simplicity and relevance amidst evolving web technologies and consumer demands. As for the excitement, it lies in the infinite creative and targeted

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conversion possibilities of responsive design and web analytics. Content is becoming a key differentiator for creating brand equity and authority. And mobile – as reflected in the widespread adoption of smartphone, tablet, and phablet usage by consumers and businesses – is becoming the standard

browsing mode. Add to that the need to integrate your web strategy within your marketing ‘big picture’ and to translate website metrics into meaningful action, and designing a successful web strategy becomes even more crucial. Here are 10 considerations for a successful web strategy in 2016:


1. Objectives and Strategic Considerations What you want to achieve with your website – brand awareness, relaying information, interaction, communication, transaction and commerce, or engagement and gamification – determines what your website should do for the user. Since your website – the main owned component where earned, paid, and other owned media intersect – is at the base of the digital landscape of converged media, establishing clear website purpose can keep your other digital media strategies on track. As marketers realize that social media is a channel rather than a strategy, websites remain the central axis for digital branding and marketing. After determining the objective of your website, it is crucial that you identify your audience. Even though websites can cross geographical and user group frontiers, you cannot avoid doing proper audience segmentation, which will help you cater to each segment’s needs. This is why it’s recommended to identify personas (client profiles), and then define their distinct needs and how your website can fulfill them. 2. Responsiveness and Mobile-First Mindset More than 90% of media consumption is now on interactive screens. In 2015, 43% of the mobile phone population in the Middle East and Africa accessed internet from their mobile device, a figure expected to grow to 51% in 2019. These numbers reflect the importance of building a mobile-optimized website. One way to do so is through responsive web design (RWD), an approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing and interaction experience through easy reading and navigation with a minimum need to resize, pan, and scroll across desktop monitors, tablets, and mobile phones. 3. Content and Content Marketing Your website’s success is highly determined by clear, concise, and relevant content that delivers the right message and compels action. Content remains king, but it’s becoming more of a differentiator. It comes in many forms: text, video, photos, virtual tours,

whitepapers, and others. Choosing the right form of content is highly dependent on the consumers’ preferences. Brands are striving to create pertinent and engaging content to cater to rising demand. There is a noticeable shift in budgets from paid promotions to content that audiences want to consume. Global content marketing revenue is set to become a $313 billion industry in 2019, according to PQ Media’s Global Content Marketing Forecast 2015-19. The content you create should fit your content marketing strategy, and once it is published, you should monitor your audience’s engagement level and act accordingly. 4. Storytelling Hey Grandpa…can you tell me a story? Remember how this story would resonate with you? Remember how personal it was? And it still is. Just like Grandpa, brands are keen to approach their audiences in ways that will enhance the emotional bond, which drives persuasion and conversion. And your website is the perfect place to host your stories. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools your website can use to personify your brand. The moment you give your offering a persona and start sharing stories that relate to it, you capture your audience’s attention and embark together on an experiential journey that speaks to them personally and brings them back for more. Consumers long for personal connections. Storytelling builds emotional bonds, as long as the stories you create are authentic, creative and inspirational. People connect with people. The closer your website can get to your consumer, the more successful it can be. Instead of just saying it, tell it with a story! 5. Conversion Oriented To drive conversions, websites should be designed to build readiness for action. Your website remains your key conversion and fulfillment platform. One indicator of its success is its Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), the process of optimizing content, user experience and user interface design to raise conversion rate. Since websites’ success metrics differ, you must define your conversion goals to measure

your website’s success. These can be increasing your overall website traffic, growing your community of social media fans, increasing email marketing opt-ins and sales, or lead generation via form completions. Your goal should be achieved through clear, accessible calls-to-action. It should be properly tagged to be measurable, and should be easily adjustable to correct any flaw in your users’ journey. Conversion can take the shape of a sale or purchase; form completed or leads generated; phone call; signup to a service or appointment made; or information downloaded. 6. Calls-to-Action, Interactions, Micro-Interactions For your website to convert, it requires a call-to-action – a button or link inviting people to take action through customizable copy and responsive positioning. Changing the button’s color can have an impact of up to 35% on conversion. Since optical areas are no longer the single parameter and one screen is no longer the main focus, button positioning should consider parameters other than left or right and top or bottom, depending on whether you need to educate your user first or quickly ask for action. Positioning factors include closeness to thumb, index finger, other design elements, or the side of the mobile screen or the position relevant to the fold. Your call-to-action copy remains a key driver for Click-throughs (CTR). “Submit” versus “Download your free copy” can result in different CTR rates. Call-toaction copy can be optimized: “your” can be the actual user name, and “Register” can become “Register from Beirut”. There is no single recipe for call-to-action success, but tracking and measuring can optimize and improve performance. From small interactive components to data capture forms to gamification, interactions and micro-interactions within a website will amuse and please. This trend – encompassing funny images, expressions, hidden functionality and smart personalized data – will be particularly useful for companies who want to give their website users an element of fun.

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7. Personalization Your website’s user experience (UX) should be personalized, as that’s what today’s consumers expect, not just aesthetically but also on the functional level. Personalization can take the form of thoughtful content suggestions in which ecommerce sites suggest products based on individual user interest, navigation history, and social interactions. It can also take the form of personalized notifications and actions, facilitated by in-depth analytics and big data. Instead of adapting everything to massive segments, content will be redesigned to fit every individual. Fastlearning artificial intelligence will know our preferences and goals better than ever. Even the aesthetic will be led by the functional: One website UX trend on the rise is split screens that allow visitors to choose their own experience. The better your website can personalize targeting and customization, the better it can reach intended users. Today’s kids – tomorrow’s consumers – expect everything to be super-fast, accessible and personal, on their schedule and in the format they prefer. This is why website messages and audiences should attempt to target not just segments but individual consumers.

is flat design with a realistic feel, which

shows layers, divides space, and indicates A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

8. Rich Media and Video Video is a must-have on your website, especially if you want to engage with younger generations who prefer discovery and entertainment on-demand. Digital video is more popular than ever, and its spread is in part due to the wider availability of high-speed broadband. Brands will be competing to produce high-impact videos to achieve broad objectives from awareness to persuasion. Globally, according to Cisco, consumer internet video traffic will be 80% of all consumer Internet traffic in 2019. According to a 2015 Invodo report, if you can convince a shopper to watch your video, he or she is 70% more likely to buy. Video content, engaging and immersive, brings products and services to life. Videos also help build trust between the visitor and brand and are an excellent means of introducing complex products or services.

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Fadi Sabbagha is the Founder and CEO of Born Interactive, one of the leading Middle East digital agencies operating out of Beirut, Riyadh, Dubai and Doha.

“Instead of adapting everything to massive segments, content will be redesigned to fit every individual.” 9. Design Trends Web design trends are developing at an exceptional pace. With the expansion of mobile use and social media that provide endless content streams, scrolling with our thumbs has become second nature. This gives web designers the opportunity to do what magazines have been doing: full-screen images, and image titles with no text/links visible until one scrolls down – the days of focusing on the fold are gone. Other mobile-inspired trends are burger menus and card design. Burger menus are the little three-bar icons you see in the corner of many websites, which trigger a sliding menu. Card design (also referred to as tiles) is dominating design due to its ease of use and familiarity. Burger menus and card design have great compatibility with mobile screens and are aesthetically pleasing for mobile users. As for principles of design, Google introduced Material Design, which makes more liberal use of grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows. Material Design

moving parts. Features include deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography, and intentional white space to create a bold graphic interface that immerses the user. Another web design trend becoming popular alongside considerable improvement in internet speeds is GIF’s and animations. Since a flat design can look monotonous, animation can help a website stand out and pack more information into a small space. The primary goal of using animation is to help users absorb and process information more efficiently. 10. Measurability: Analytics and Big Data Website marketing analytics have made marketing guesswork a thing of the past. Clients demand data before, during, and after marketing campaigns to validate return on investment. Since data proves results, you cannot have results without analytics. Big data, once the focus of IT departments, is now at the core of what marketers do because it can unlock growth opportunities. Numerous tools make it easy to mine and manage data. Website metrics include conversion metrics, which help determine how visitors are interacting with your site and from which pages they act on your callto-action. Engagement metrics measure how engaged users are with your website content, and acquisition metrics measure awareness about your organization and community support. In conclusion, amidst digital transformation, maintaining online agility and relevance in your web strategy in 2016 is as important as maintaining purpose. Your website is the core of your successful web strategy, but it can’t stand on its own and should support your larger digital marketing strategy to attract targeted traffic. You also need to optimize your earned and paid media to maximize conversion. Web design is evolving towards performing result-generating, richer, dynamic and personalized digital experiences. We’ll be seeing smarter solutions that simplify the way we work, connect, discover, learn, and play online.n


TECHNOLOGY

USEFUL APPS THE SAUDI FOR TRANSPORTATION MOBILE A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

GAME LANDSCAPE By Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh

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owadays, game developers increasingly ask about the nitty-gritty details on Saudi Arabia’s mobile gaming industry. It’s easy to see why. Recently, I ran a survey to elicit insights about mobile players who pay between SAR 50 and SAR 500 ($13-$133 approximately) per month on in-game purchases. These are the gems that pay us back, and pay us well in terms of lifetime value if they stick around. But finding solid data on this demographic is not as easy or straightforward as we’d think. Most professionals will immediately cite App Annie as the top authority for the latest stats on mobile app markets. But in Saudi Arabia’s case it is a grave mistake. The app analytics tool only tracks countryspecific stores. In Saudi Arabia, those only account for a partial share of total app store revenues because a significant portion of Saudis prefer to use US app 24

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stores. To get a sense of what the Saudi market is like, I collected and collated secondary research - which is shockingly scarce - from SuperData and Newzoo. According to Newzoo the 2015 revenue of the total games market in Saudi Arabia was $203 million. Based on the global average mobile share of this revenue (30%-35%) I estimated Saudi Arabia’s mobile slice at $70 million. By comparison, App Annie clocked total annual revenue to somewhere in the vicinity of $25 million. Both SuperData and Newzoo confirmed that the App Annie figure didn’t make sense, and that my figure was more or less a reasonable estimate. The two research firms apply different bottom-up methodologies, so it looks like App Annie has a blind spot here. “If just 10% of the population played mobile games and spent just $1 per month, that would already surpass the

App Annie figure,” said Sam Barberie, VP Product and Business Development at SuperData Research, Inc. I checked in with one of my developer pals who currently has a top 20‐ranked game on the Saudi iOS game charts, and he said that their Arabic‐only title receives 60% of its revenue from the US App Store, of which 90% are from Saudi Arabia, based on their IP/location - not on the country store. The moral of the story is that App Annie falls very short in tracking emerging markets like Saudi Arabia. It also reveals a striking challenge that app stores face: the localized editorial teams at Apple and Google are engaging a segment of users that contribute only one-third of total Saudi revenues. Check out this infographic for a summarized overview of my research results on the Saudi mobile games landscape.


MARKET SIZE The Global mobile games market: Saudi mobile games market:

Breakdown of total games revenue in Saudi Arabia

PROFILE OF SAUDI MOBILE GAMERS How long they play per day

25%

play mobile games 3+ hours per day

How much they spend per month

13%

pay more than SAR 500 every month

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A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

How often they pay to download games

The themes and genres they play

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Their preferred language settings

What influences them to download mobile games

Age group breakdown of Saudi mobile gamers

Android Vs iOS

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SAUDI ARABIA STRIDES TOWARDS THE KNOWLEDGE ECONOMY

A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

Prosperity Will Rest on Innovation, Not Oil By Alexis Baghdadi | @GuerrillaWriter

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S

audi Arabia is ripe for an economic transformation from an oil-driven economy to a more sustainable and progressive one based in knowledge and innovation by the 2020 horizon. Growth in such an economy would be driven by the access to quality information, as opposed to a resource-based economy where it is driven by the means of production. If successful, the scope of this transformation would be much wider and would have farther-reaching implications beyond the national level. Saudi Arabia would evolve from a technology importer to a technology producer for the region and perhaps the world. Innovation itself will become a currency, broken down into different components: research, infrastructure, products, services, and human capital. Already the Kingdom has launched several institutions, initiatives, and funds to set the stage for the coming of the knowledge economy. Now all it needs is for inventors and entrepreneurs to emerge from this setup and take their rightful place. This was the topic of an exclusive panel at ArabNet Riyadh 2015 last December, which gathered HH Prince Dr. Turki Bin Saud Al Saud, President of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), HH Dr. Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, and HE Dr. Mufrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani, Minister of Labor.

Bye Bye, Oil? According to Tarek Elmasry, Managing Director of the Middle East Office of McKinsey & Company, Saudi Arabia has been one of the most profitable markets for investors over the last 15 years, with an annual dividend yield of 3.8% for international investments, compared to a 1.8% average yield in emerging markets. The problem is that this growth has been largely state- and oil-driven, and now this historic model is no longer sustainable. The current collapse of oil prices does not mark the beginning of the end of oil, but it is the beginning of the end of total reliance on oil revenues. More significantly, it is symptomatic of the need for an economic transformation.

According to the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) the current drop in the price of oil to below $30 a barrel is due to a recent spike in oil supply from new “unconventional” producers (non-OPEC), which exceeded demand by almost 3 million barrels. Even before the price of oil fell below $30 per barrel, global analysts had already been exploring alternative economic growth models. Published in December 2015, the McKinsey Global Institute’s report Saudi Arabia Beyond Oil: The Investment and Productivity Transformation has gone viral and sent ripples among several oil economies. In essence, the report predicted that even with oil prices at $50 a barrel, an emerging market like Saudi Arabia would face severe economic challenges and get the short end of the stick – unless it implements drastic changes. Modest adjustments, and even more than modest adjustments, actually have very bad economic outcomes for the Kingdom, said Elmasry. For instance, freezing labor rates and spending, or reducing expat labor will still cause a drop in household income, over 22% unemployment, and over 120% debt-toGDP, among other problems. Despite the “optimistic” outlook of Saudi Aramco that oil prices will go up again once the market adjusts, it is generally clear that growth and prosperity will have to come from another source. The ICT Sector Is the Backbone of Transformation As online and mobile penetration rates increase in Saudi Arabia, the accompanying growth in web – or, perhaps more accurately, mobile – commercial, educational, governmental, healthcare, and other services will rest on the shoulders of information and communications technologies (ICT). Localizing the sector is the first prerequisite for this to be a sustainable model. In 2014, Saudi Arabia’s ICT market was valued at SAR 42 billion (around $11.1 billion). However, nonSaudi providers and suppliers take up the lion’s share of this market (accounting for around 80% of total expenditure), in terms of devices mainly (60%), as well as programs and services. Ideally, for a true knowledge economy to exist, this

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share should be reversed to only 20%. At ArabNet Riyadh 2015, HH Dr. AlSuwaiyel, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, said ICT development will create the need for around 40,000 new jobs by 2020. Again, for the Kingdom to truly qualify as a knowledge economy, he said that around 80% of these jobs should be held by Saudi nationals. The McKinsey report outlined other sectors of the Saudi economy where investment and growth could reduce the reliance on direct oil revenues. All economic sectors have one thing in common: They rely on innovation, which is where the ICT sector comes in. “The ICT sector is itself an enabler for other economic sectors,” said HH Dr. Al-Suwaiyel. One obvious way in which it can achieve this is through increasing broadband coverage. According to the World Bank, a 10% increase in broadband coverage would result in a 1.5% growth in GDP. More tangibly, it would encourage more entrepreneurs to consider opportunities in the digital sector. For this reason, Saudi Arabia’s telecommunication regulator, the Communications and Information Technology Commission, launched the “Universal Service” project. The initiative is co-financed by telecom operators who pay 1% of their revenue into a dedicated fund in exchange for support

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Saud, President KACST, cited “The sign of a successful knowledge economy is of the evolution when tech innovation begins to think beyond achieved in the research and national borders and addresses new markets.” development field. Previously, the state in providing mobile voice and broadband financed research Internet access to unserved or underserved projects and only began looking into its communities. Eventually, the Universal commercial or industrial applications Service plans to cover about 80% of the after it was completed. “Today, the state country. is only funding research with guaranteed economic feasibility that is led by a In parallel, the Ministry of Trade and company or a university. This means Industry in Saudi Arabia is seeking to that instead of funding 400 random classify programming and development as research projects annually, we would make an industry, which would allow owners of the shift towards funding 400 actual digital businesses to apply for loans and companies,” said HH Prince Dr. Al Saud. earn more recognition as economic players. “One of the problems we faced before was that financial and business institutions Initiating Proactive Policies were operating completely separately. Towards Economic Prosperity Economic feasibility wasn’t even in Since 2008, the King Abdulaziz City for universities’ vocabulary where academic Science and Technology (KACST) has doctors only engaged in research to been entrusted with the implementation publish papers,” echoed Khalid Suleimani, of the National Science Technology and Head of Venture Capital Funds at Innovation Plan (NSTIP) approved by Alkhabeer Capital. Non-commercial the Saudi Cabinet. The first phase of research projects will take up a reduced the plan was completed in 2014, and share of only 15% of total research funds, established the infrastructure for science and will include high-quality valueand technology innovation, as well as creating projects only. KACST is also a supporting ecosystem for knowledge working closely with the Ministry of entrepreneurship. At ArabNet Riyadh Trade and Industry and the Ministry of 2015, HH Prince Dr. Turki Bin Saud Al


Labor to bridge the gap between research and application. HH Prince Dr Al Saud explained that KACST supports the early phases of a project: idea and economic feasibility, as well as the development of a minimum viable product (MVP). After that, the role of the Saudi Industrial Development Fund and the Ministry of Labor is to invest in the production line and commercialization. The current 5-year phase of the NSTIP seeks to establish Saudi Arabia as a leader in the Middle East, after which it will seek a global leading position. Changing Mentalities: From Conservative to Competitive Having the right infrastructure and support ecosystem in place is not a guarantee of success; all stakeholders agree that Saudi Arabia needs to operate a radical shift that would bring about a true entrepreneurial mentality. HH Prince Dr. Al Saud clarified that having an idea – no matter how great – does not automatically qualify one as an entrepreneur. As Suleimani put it, this distinction should be obvious: “It is not the likes of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates who invented things like the graphical user interface (GUI) system – inventors of such technologies are forgotten and probably died penniless – but they are the ones responsible for their commercial success. So inventors

should settle for a minority share in the company built around their invention, rather than lose everything.” Another issue is venture capital (VC). This form of funding is essential to the growth and propagation of digital and technological innovation, but Saudi Arabia is still very much risk-averse. However, at ArabNet Riyadh 2015, HH Prince Dr. Al Saud announced Riyadh Taqnia Capital, a fund worth SAR 500 million (around $133 million) targeting ICT startups specifically. He said the fund will seek to make investments that are of strategic interest to Saudi Arabia’s growing innovation and VC ecosystem, both within the Kingdom and in Silicon Valley, Europe, and Japan. The fund will be headquartered in Riyadh but will operate its international unit from California in the US. The Ministry of Trade and Industry is also working on launching a SAR 4 billion (over $1 billion) VC fund, with more details to be announced soon. The Bottom Line Is Individual Enterprise All the solutions and initiatives mentioned above are vital milestones on the roadmap to a knowledge economy. However, they cannot drive themselves up that road. When we talk about an innovation ecosystem,

we are talking about the sum of all its parts in equal measure, not simply the whole. Putting a person in the right supportive setting is not enough to make them an entrepreneur – not by a long shot. At a panel during the recent Global Competitiveness Forum (GCF) 2016 in Riyadh, Mark Crowell, Vice President for Innovation and Economic Development at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) projected that the digital era could witness the rise of a new class of “scientist entrepreneurs”, young men and women who are technically proficient in the digital economy, but also aware of sound business practices and markets. Of course, moving to such a market-driven knowledge economy entails openness to new ideas and people, he said. Individuals, startups, and SMEs themselves are what will make the difference ultimately. In high income countries, SMEs contribute to nearly 64% of the GDP and 62% of employment. By contrast, SMEs in Saudi Arabia contribute to only 33% of the country’s GDP, according to Capitas Group International (only 22% of GDP according to A.T. Kearney). They also contribute to around 50% of total employment - with Saudi nationals constituting less than 10% of SME employment, as per A.T. Kearney. The panelists at ArabNet stated that around two thirds of Saudi workers are currently employed (directly or indirectly) by the government, and that growth is government-sponsored using a top-down approach. Such a heavy dependence on government intervention leaves little room for individual initiative. That is not to say that SMEs alone can create a prosperous economy. These small enterprises can only flourish side by side with prosperous large corporations like SABIC and Saudi Aramco – but in diverse fields – that define overall demand. At the GCF 2016, Alaa M. Naseif, Project Manager of Knowledge Family at Al Aghar Group, said it is not enough that Saudi-bred talents are able to find state-sponsored job opportunities in Saudi Arabia: “They should be able to find opportunities internationally.” The sign of a successful knowledge economy is when tech innovation begins to think beyond national borders and addresses new markets.n

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CLASSROOMS

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ARE GOING DIGITAL Digitizing Schools Is the New Frontline in the MENA's Digital Evolution By Alexis Baghdadi | @GuerrillaWriter

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he outlook for the MENA’s digital and tech scene is promising, and with backing from the right supportive ecosystem, it could very well compete and affirm itself on the global scene. Incubators, accelerators, and investors have taken up all the attention in this ecosystem so far, but it may now be time to go back to school - literally. A common problem that many MENA startups and innovative companies face is the insufficient supply of local talent or its inadequate skill set. Clearly, the solution should start in universities – in schools even. This is where the developers, programmers, and strategists of tomorrow will come from before they venture into the digital and tech scene. “Today’s learners are growing up in a world where technology is second nature to them. They are not as phased by its use

“Digitization can give schools an edge when it comes to scaling and standardizing.”

in education as we may be; quite the contrary, they expect it to be a part of their school life,” said Serge Bakhos, Board Member and Group Vice President, Information Technology, Creative Designs and Book Publishing at SABIS, a global network of academic institutions originated in Lebanon. Almost every school uses software or technological devices in one form or another, but that does not qualify them as “digitally normal”. “If there is a consensus on anything between academics in this field, it is that throwing technology at a traditional learning model has little impact,” said Phil Redhead, Senior Manager Digital Strategy at GEMS Education, an international education company based in Dubai. The focus should be on making sure that tech and digital solutions introduced in schools truly

add value and make students’ learning more efficient and more enjoyable. Only then can schools maximize outcomes and prepare students for a life of work, self-actualization, and continuous learning in a digital, global society. “The GEMS Digital Strategy focuses more on building new models of learning than it does on technology – and I firmly believe this is how it should be,” said Redhead.

The Roadmap to Digitization

SABIS dates back to 1866 when the International School of Choueifat was founded in Lebanon. It has been using technology since the late 1960s, said Bakhos, adding that this has been a dynamic and ongoing process. As new technologies kept arising, all the school’s operations were gradually integrated with student tablets, teacher tablets, IWBs, wireless connectivity, etc. There are over 300 individuals working in the research and development center at the SABIS headquarters in Adma (Lebanon) to evaluate, test, and integrate the various academic and technology solutions into the system. The school starts by measuring a new project’s potential impact on the learning and teaching processes: “We’re not just using technology for the sake of it,” he said. It then launches a pilot to determine the needed resources. If successful, it initiates full implementation. The IT staff at each school ensures that the infrastructure is always adequate to deploy new solutions (network, security, back-up, hardware, software configuration), and is responsible for training users, with the support of a specialist team at headquarters (who set correct compliance standards). Technology has infiltrated virtually every aspect of the SABIS educational system. The school started digitizing its curriculum by breaking it into small components, which helped identify students’ learning gaps. The main outcome of this is the SABIS Integrated Learning System, which combines interactive whiteboards (IWBs) and interactive e-books (the digitized version of all the school’s proprietary textbooks in 7 languages). This has helped standardize lesson delivery and improved

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the efficiency of the teaching process through engaging students more and supplying teachers with better feedback. The Student Learning Platform enhances students’ learning both at school and at home, providing them with on-demand videos, customized individual learning support per student, and comprehensive information about their progress, averages, attendance, and other academic items. A web and mobile app has also digitized school-parent communication, keeping parents updated on all school matters related to their children. The Dubai-based GEMS is almost 100 years younger than SABIS, and was founded around the time its older counterpart began implementing technology in its curriculum. Its approach is similar, with a somewhat more pragmatic philosophy. For example, the group’s Kindergarten Starters was the first to make the move to constantly updated digital textbooks, providing an effective blueprint for its sister schools. In that case, the school’s original intention was not to launch into a program of digitization, but to improve the curriculum in order to secure better learning outcomes. While rewriting the curriculum, it became clear that digitization would be a key requirement for development. “The school found that it simply could not deliver the desired outcomes without moving to a digital operating base,” said Redhead, reaffirming that digitization is not about specific technologies, but the desired learning outcomes. “Starting with the goals of digitization and the provision of specific technologies is not a ‘smart’ thing to do,” he said. As part of the dynamic Online Learning Ecosystem, all GEMS schools provide a secure and high-speed wireless connection, as well as interactive display technologies and a range of online resources and software. In addition, applied learning facilities dedicated to technology, such as media creation suites, Maker Spaces, Lego Studios, and 3D printing labs are also flourishing. Furthermore, Redhead said that smart data systems are increasingly ensuring that all students’ progress, achievement, and needs are monitored and addressed.

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Phil Redhead, Senior Manager - Digital Strategy at GEMS Education

Serge Bakhos, Board Member and Group Vice President, Information Technology, Creative Designs and Book Publishing at SABIS

The Importance of a Bottom-Up Approach

negotiable. Moreover, there is no real global consensus in the academic field when it comes to best practices. Different pedagogic approaches and teaching styles – even on the level of individual teachers – account for a different dynamic in the digital evolution of schools than in other industries. “We are already seeing elements of the GEMS Digital Strategy, written primarily for our UAE schools, being adopted by our global network,” said Redhead, illustrating the organic bottom-up path that digitization is taking within the institution. Coincidentally, GEMS currently has a 5-year Digital Strategy in place, which he said is closely aligned to the aims of the UAE’s Vision 2021 and the new National Inspection Framework. This does not contradict the bottom-up approach; in fact, the Smart Dubai roadmap is largely dependent on private sector initiatives, as the main players in the smart government strategy reaffirmed last May at the ArabNet Digital Summit.

In the transition to digitization, privately owned schools have an important role to play since they have sufficient resources to design their own curriculum, and more control over its updating. This gives them an edge in the digitization race and guarantees better implementation and results – if done right. In public education, governments have also started digitization initiatives. In Lebanon, for example, the Ministry of Education had provided 15,000 low-cost tablets to students in public schools in 2012. More recently, in July 2015, the US government also announced it would support Lebanese public schools to incorporate technology into the teaching and learning processes under the D-RASATI 2 project. The first steps in this initiative have included the purchase and distribution of laptops, tablets, and mobile carts. Another initiative, the CoderMaker program, is seeking to equip public schools with programming tools to encourage innovation (see page 37). “Students’ learning is the most important element of digitization. However, it needs to be part of a comprehensive plan that ensures an overall impact on their performance,” said Bakhos. “Top-down strategies simply aren’t sustainable in education,” said Redhead, explaining that the problem with these solutions is that they are instantly scaled and non-

Strategies to Achieve a Successful Transformation

Digitization carries with it many benefits for schools. In addition to enhancing their reputation as centers for innovation and excellence, it can be a great asset when it comes to scalability and standardization. Bakhos explained that it was technology that enabled SABIS to manage and monitor the performance of over 60


TOWARDS A NATIONAL PUBLIC EDUCATION STRATEGY An Interview with HE Nicolas Sehnaoui, former Minister of Telecommunications 1. Tell us about the Coder-Maker program you launched in Lebanese public schools. The program is a joint initiative launched by the Mouna Bustros Foundation (FMB) and the International Association for Education (IAE) to provide 10 public schools with 10 Raspberry Pi’s and additional tools, as well as the necessary training for using them. The purpose is to help school students become makers and coders. 2. Why did you launch the program? Why is it important? This is a pilot project that aims at showcasing the tremendous potential of our youth. This program started in 2012 at the Dhour el Choueir public school, where an entire class was equipped with the aforementioned tools. The teams proved to be very ingenious with their final products and ideas: one of these teams offered the municipality a system to manage the town’s traffic lights. I expect the new team to surprise us even more. It will send a great signal to the digital eco-system that says “digital starts in schools, there lies a huge potential.” 3. What is the government’s role and responsibility with regards to Coder-Maker education? I think the government should introduce coding classes in schools. The sooner the better. It is the only way we can keep up with the rest of the world. Let’s not forget that we are in competition with the whole world. Our digital sector has huge key success factors like creativity, languages, entrepreneurship, and the Central Bank (BDL) initiatives, but other digital hubs are rapidly advancing. Today’s job market is in need of programmers. Even in the US 71% of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, and only 8% of graduates are in computer science. Plus, computer science graduates receive in average 40% higher salaries. 4. Many believe that technology will enlarge the gap in quality between public and private education. Do you agree? How can public schools keep up, what do they need? What we need is a national strategy. Today both public and private schools are lagging behind. Lebanese authorities at the highest level should recognize that the digital sector is one of the main pillars that can sustain growth and reverse the country’s “brain drain”. A few measures such as bolstering internet speed and introducing coding classes in public schools can make a huge difference. Let’s hope we can see such measures adopted and implemented soon. In the meantime NGOs and private initiatives will continue trying their best to fill the gap on the micro level.

schools in 17 countries. The digitization of education involves the transformation of an entire industry and profession on a global scale. The disruptive impact of technology in this sector is felt in very much the same way as in banking, media, and other industries. This can be challenging, especially in “legacy” institutions – both private and public. “There is no educational ‘ATM’ as we saw in the retail banking industry,” said Redhead. Here are a few learnings from SABIS and GEMS for schools to keep in mind on their path to digitization: 1. Make sure all stakeholders are aligned: In education, as in other sectors, the key to success lies in ensuring that any initiative is part of a comprehensive plan, and that all users (students, teachers, parents, school staff ) are aligned with the objectives and properly trained to adapt to the new digitized environment. “The mindset of all stakeholders must be digital if a school is said to have become digitally normal. This is really about attitudes to learning, culture and the acceptance by all staff, students and parents that the change is necessary, welcome and beneficial to children’s life chances,” said Redhead. The GEMS Digital Strategy team’s role is to support the group’s schools on their journeys to digital normalization. This task is made easier thanks to the presence of the flexible and customizable GEMS Online Learning Ecosystem, as well as a reliable infrastructure, professional learning programs and networks for school leaders and educators, and a comprehensive program of parent education and engagement, among other factors. 2. Focus on the prize of learning: “Of course, we need cohesion and direction, and it is incumbent on school principals to create, communicate and consistently model an inclusive, shared vision for their school communities, always starting with the desired learning outcomes,” said Redhead. Fortunately, he said parents are now actually shifting to a “Fear Of Missing Out” (FOMO) mindset and accepting that digitization is necessary to provide students with the knowledge and skills they will need

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USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION for their future life in the digital world. “Meeting all stakeholders at the level of what they really care about is critical and the more we focus on learning, the less resistance we see when digital solutions are floated,” he said. He cited the example of the Common Sense Media’s K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum implemented in GEMS schools, which has engaged whole families and contributed to reinforcing the message that digitization improves learning.

environment (VLE) and established a

pressure that is reflected in rising tuition

very much a ‘pincushion’ solution, rather than the traditional ‘bubble’ VLE and we are constantly adapting the system to meet the changing needs of our schools.” Redhead stressed that it is vital not to cut corners on implementation costs. BYOT schemes have been growing organically in GEMS schools but are not meant as a cost-cutting tactic. Leveraging these existing resources makes sense both pedagogically and financially, he said: “There are sound, educational reasons for students owning and managing their own devices and having these available in and out of school.”

number of enrolled students and the school’s market and income). In addition to relying on permanent on-site IT engineers and the support of a central IT function, the GEMS network found it financially and logistically viable to build strong partnerships with trusted partners such as Microsoft, Lego (Atlab), and the My Learning UK team, among others. “The key factor is always the potential benefit for our students. One of the reasons we selected My Learning UK as the spine of our Online Learning Ecosystem was that they were relatively small and could provide a level of customer responsiveness, bespoke development and adaptability that was simply unavailable with the larger, more established companies in the field,” explained Redhead. This is where educational startups from the MENA can play a more effective role. According to a report by ArabNet Business Intelligence, education has among the highest opportunities for app developers in the region. A number of startups already propose educational products, but those are mostly designed for home use or extracurricular learning. But some of these startups are starting to understand the importance of partnering with academic institutions and are shifting to a B2C model. This is the case of the Alwasaet e-learning platform in Saudi Arabia which is partnering with schools in the Kingdom and the GCC, with an eye on global expansion. Another example from Saudi Arabia is the Acadox coursework management solution. One thing is clear, in order to make their way into schools, these startups need to be more than just suppliers. The Lebanese startup Kamkalima has designed a flexible platform with self-paced learning modules and teacher tools to promote Arabic literacy among its partner schools. “One of the key considerations is continuous support from our partners – and not just technical support. We expect technology providers to demonstrate that they truly understand and care about learning and our students,” said Redhead.n

partnership withfor the provider: “This is fees (which could eventually reduce the A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps Residents in MENA

3. Future-proof your institution: As always, when technology is involved, adopters have to contend with the short lifetime of software and devices. New technologies run the risk of becoming obsolete very quickly, which could drain a school’s financial resources without proper planning. “Future-proofing” an institution against this requires rapid adaptability to new technologies and new environment. In SABIS’s case, the school digitized its curriculum and administrative processes in-house, which made it easier to manage and update. “It should be stressed that digital normalization is not about doing everything digitally,” said Redhead, “We are now seeing a far more pragmatic vision of effective technology integration, focused on situational fitness-for-purpose in terms of learning outcomes.” GEMS schools also launched Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) schemes as part of its strategy to future-proof students’ access to learning. “Consumers are far more agile in adapting to changing trends than large organizations, where procurement cycles can see technology rendered obsolete before it has been embedded,” said Redhead. 4. Make smart investments: The size of investment depends on the scope of each project or phase. “The best approach is to identify the overall digitization scope and then define smaller projects to implement with their respective impact, budget and key performance indicators,” said Bakhos. Before adopting any new technology, the flexibility and adaptability of the proposed solution should be carefully evaluated to justify the cost. For example, Redhead mentioned they adopted the My Learning cloud-based visual learning

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“The education sector presents huge opportunities for app development startups.” 5. Start early on: The transformation of schools is already in place. Redhead cites a study in 2015 by Mal Lee and Roger Broadie, which argued that schools must go digital to survive in a consumer-driven market. “Given that this research also indicates an average 5 year journey, any school that doesn’t already at least have a plan is likely to be failing its students come 2021,” he said.

A World of Opportunity for Startups

For schools like SABIS, developing all intellectual property (content and software) in-house makes integrating different parts of the system (curriculum, questions, exams, software, e-books, etc.) more effective to the learner. This strategy is evidently dictated by financial considerations. It also makes sense operations-wise, since schools are mainly content-driven businesses that require regular updating of both their content and delivery channels. But staffing an in-house team of developers and programmers still comes at a cost. This creates an additional financial


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HOW TODAY’S TRENDS WILL IMPACT

DIGITIZATION IN EDUCATION Strategies to Future-Proof Your Institution By Shawn Nason

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ver the past several years the hype in education (from K-12 to higher education) has been technology, technology, technology. According to CB Insights, EdTech funding increased by 55% in 2014, and it is not showing any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Global Industry Analysts (GIA) estimated the value of the global e-learning market at around $107 billion in 2015. Multiple sources indicate that funding for EdTech will surpass $2 billion in 2016, and become one of the hottest markets for venture capitalists (VCs).   Artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are the two main hot trends that will disrupt education. According to several analysts, these will be responsible for the biggest disruptions and market changes in the sector as well as in every industry. If we want to break it down in education specifically, drivers of change include wearables, 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and smart devices. All of these trends focus on robotics and AI – particularly IBM’s Watson. These technologies of tomorrow are already being tested in select classrooms today, and are paving the way for the future of learning. Can education evolve fast enough to keep up with the rapidly changing environment? I would say, Yes! But only if there is a willingness to have a shift in thinking and get politics out of the way. Educational leaders must be willing to change – to shift how they think and strategize around their institution’s educational delivery and be open to new challenges. In other words, they must be future-proofed.

learning and gamified learning are set to be the two most influential in education over the next five years. Let’s take a deeper dive into the two main trends I have mentioned, and see what they mean to the future of digitization in education. A. Virtual Reality makes the impossible possible In 2014, Forbes had asked: “Could virtual reality be the next big thing in education?” This might well be the case. Although there hasn’t been a lot of statistics gathered at this point, newcomers like zSpace and Immersive VR Education are focusing on supplementing school curricula with visual content (such as Mars and space exploration, human anatomy, civilization history, etc.) as well as training courses. Let’s look at some of the benefits of VR and how it enables a gamified learning process in the classroom and beyond. First, it increases engagement in the classroom and with course work; for example by providing real-time feedback to students and allowing them

to stay on track. It helps develop a sense of community and collaboration. VR motivates students to engage at higher levels and thereby produce their best work. Lastly, virtual reality can help increase overall retention, even in higher education institutes, by delivering a gamified learning experience and rewards. Some of the leading global organizations in this arena include Toolwire, which has developed puzzle-based games to teach writing, psychology, and environmental science, among others. Other examples include Muzzy Lane, Neolms, and Second Avenue. Not to mention it saves time (for example when setting up or cleaning up a lab) and resources (making the impossible in reality possible in virtual reality). Much of the VR applications so far have revolved around the sciences but there is a movement to integrate virtual reality in all aspects of education. B. Artificial Intelligence caters to different types of learners AI has been talked about for years in

AI and VR at the Heart of EdTech Disruption

In November 2015, I was honored to speak at the EdTech Seminar in Dubai on Technology in Education. In this presentation, I shared the five trends I believe will impact education in the future: competency-based learning, alternative credit, online program management, data-driven intervention, and gamified learning. I shared the benefits of each of the trends and the companies or organizations that are doing this well. I believe that competency-based

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education. AI can benefit education in different roles, such as grading, tutoring, meeting the needs of students, promoting trial-and-error learning, and using “smart data” to find, teach, and support students. AI-supported programs are already teaching students basic skills, and as these programs grow more advanced, they could offer a much wider range of services. Benefits from AI focus on trends such as datadriven intervention, competency-based learning, and alternative credit. One of the AI data-driven intervention benefits is helping to identify students who are at the greatest risk of dropping out. AI can allow retention resources to be allocated more efficiently and effectively, and provide academic advisors and campus administrators with a platform for managing student interventions to ensure completion. This will create the opportunity to generate significant revenue otherwise lost when students drop out. Organizations that are leading in this arena are Starfish Retention Solutions and Civitas Learning. Further benefits of AI competency-based learning are: Increased engagement by providing projects and activities that students find meaningful; streamlining the degree path by eliminating wasted credit hours; enabling the measurement of student learning with higher accuracy; allowing students to study and learn at their individual pace – particularly in special education curricula or in treating learning disabilities like autism; and shifting the role of faculty from that of “a sage on the stage” to one of a “guide on

the side.” Leading innovators in this

3. Experiment and evolve:

Ellucian. AI alternative credit benefits include enabling millions of students who have stopped short of a degree to complete their education. It increases the application and delivery of more authentic and student-centered forms of assessment and can offer a college degree that is more affordable and accessible to non-traditional students. AI increases graduation rates through improved persistence and shorter time from start to degree. Leaders like edX, Coursera, and StraighterLine are moving this trend forward.

well-oiled machine it needs to be, make sure to leave room for innovation. You also need to allow for a bit of “messiness” to happen. Don’t break the machine, but enable it to evolve when it needs to be.

Once you get everything working like the arena are Flatworld and A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps forKnowledge Residents in MENA

How to Make School Cool with Technology

Finally, how does an institution, whether it be K-12 or higher education, futureproof when it comes to technology? Here are 4 things you can do: 1. Hire tech-aware faculty members: Leaders and staff members should have the understanding of where technology, innovation, and education need to intersect for the greatest impact. Although this can be a challenging role, it is a must for any institution or organization if they want to move forward and ensure their future. There will be numerous hurdles, challenges, and internal politics to overcome in this process – after all, the institution of education has seen little change or innovation in the past century. 2. Invest in integration: Take your institution’s technology from a slow-moving, outdated machine to a cutting-edge, well-oiled “smart” one.

4. Build a culture of innovation: Culture is where I feel there is the need for the most significant change required to future-proof your institution. Ask yourself the following questions: i) Is your organization willing to take small, yet calculated risks? You will need to tear down and rebuild – and tear down again. You will be investing with uncertainty. Change is required, but the rewards are significant. ii) Is your institution ready and prepared to test different technologies? iii) The future of education requires partnerships with students, faculty, and alumni. Do you engage meaningfully with your campus? I highly encourage you to not only listen to the needs of faculty and students but more importantly, respond to the needs of faculty and student. iv) Is your institution willing to seek outside partnerships with startups? Engaging your students and educators with the innovators in your community is vital to creating a future forward synergy for your institution and increasing the value of your degrees. If you did not answer yes to a majority of these questions, then you are not yet future-proofed for the road ahead. But most importantly, you are not yet ready to become a leader in innovation within education.n

Shawn Nason is the CEO & Innovation Evangelist at Nason Group where creating the right experience for each and every consumer. Prior to that, he was Chief Innovation Officer at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. During this time, he had the honor to lead, create, and develop the Xavier Center for Innovation team. Additionally, Shawn worked three years at Humana leading a team focused on strategic and consumer innovation with a focus on design and consumer experience. Shawn also spent six years at The Walt Disney Company in various capacities within Walt Disney Imagineering and Disney Cruise Line. An inspirational thought leader, Shawn has a proven record of gaining confidence from key executives, stakeholders, peers, and employees at all levels. Shawn has a BS in Business Management and Finance and an MBA in International Business and Finance. He is currently working on his DBA in Organizational Leadership & Change.

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DIGITAL MEDIA

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WHEN LUXURY FINALLY MET DIGITAL MARKETING

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A Late-Blooming Love Affair with New Consumer Trends By Alejandro Fischer

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uxury brand owners and their digital planners have for a long time been hesitant about setting foot in the digital arena. The argument they held was their lack of confidence that the “new” digital space could accurately translate their product’s image and cachet. A recurring topic of conversation that I have encountered

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over the past few years with luxury and aspirational brands is their focus on the allure and successful role that print media had historically played in positioning the values of their highend brands, regardless of the reach opportunity. They believed the tangible experience of print could not be replicated through digital media.

Whether the reason was the quality of the digital environments (too cluttered), or the type of inventory available (lack of exclusivity), these limitations outweighed the benefits of running digital campaigns in the eyes of brand marketers. Today, thankfully, the dominance of digital devices and media across the Middle East have forced the hand of brands to adapt,


and the influence of digital is starting to take hold.

Dethroning the All-Powerful Print Media

The influence of the ’old world’ in setting brand direction and creating materials meant that marketers viewed channel effectiveness based on those markets. France, for example, still has strong print penetration, and the medium’s role is key on the consumer’s path to purchase. By contrast, luxury brands were slow to adapt to the nuances in behavior of consumers in the Middle East (and the Gulf in particular) where technology users have been quick to embrace video content and now lead the world in smartphone usage. These brands ignored the new headturner and firmly kept digital initiatives at arm’s length, preferring to prolong their dependency on print media instead. However, the need to remain relevant in an increasingly digital world is gradually winning out against any lingering lust for print media. Brands began exploring quasicompromises that they felt would mirror print strategies, provided they could dominate share of voice (100% was the only acceptable share). For example, Homepage Takeovers in digital publications became the equivalent of outside back cover ads in print magazines. Brands felt these large, impactful, and creative formats were better suited to their image. Of course, these formats carried a price premium compared to other means of digital advertising. The advent of millennials (people born between the years 1980 and 2000) reignited the debate. This market segment was perceived as an active consumer of luxury (lower spending per purchase but more frequently), and came from a world that is fully immersed in digital experiences as a primary means of contact. This was an audience that basically never knew a time without the internet. While it might have been intuitive for luxury brands to reach this demographic by pouring more money into web ads (rich media, more pre roll and especially more mobile and social ads), this would have had an adverse effect. Exclusivity remained essential when it came to the perception of luxury;

Alejandro Fischer is the Strategy Director at Havas Digital UAE, overseeing the Media Luxury & Fashion portfolio. Alongside his team, he has launched many new initiatives for the likes of CHANEL, Kenzo, Carolina Herrera Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Paul Smith, Longchamp, Ralph Lauren, and Net-A-Porter. com in addition to home-grown retail. Fisher was born in Uruguay and has worked around the globe for major international agencies such as Universal McCann and Zenith Optimedia, with clients including Sony Pictures and L’Oreal, Maybelline, and Garnier, whom he helped launch their regional social media channels. His experience and track record of success in the luxury vertical makes him instrumental in providing innovative digitallydriven media campaigns in terms of planning, buying, optimization, trafficking, and reporting. according to a study conducted by Hearst, 54% of millennials feel that when a luxury brand becomes accessible, it loses its appeal (compared to 32% of Baby Boomers).  

Brands Find Themselves Digitally with Storytelling

We recently witnessed a behavioral shift from brands in Europe that embraced the benefits of digital marketing in new ways. These brands started creating assets designed for digital consumption,

which served a different purpose than solely fostering brand image. Notable examples included long-form videos that pulled their new millennial audience into the mystique and allure of the brands’ heritage (such as the Inside Chanel site), or introduced them to new worlds through online teasers that became integrated campaigns (such as Dior’s Secret Garden campaign). We started hearing the word “storytelling” to describe these types of digital initiatives. We also saw a different take on social. Brands began embracing new channels earlier and understanding their idiosyncrasies faster, although they remained detached in their communication (most luxury brands still won’t interact with consumers directly as part of their aspirational nature). While it took years for brands to expand from Facebook to Instagram (some having a built-in following of millions by the time they posted for the first time), it took them significantly less time to make the jump to Snapchat or Tumblr. More importantly they started to create content tailored to each channel as opposed to repurposing existing assets.  Today, the need to give consumers unique experiences across all channels has resulted in an even greater focus on content. Whether it involves launching a collaboration, announcing a new fragrance, or communicating or extending the life of Runway shows via behind the scenes videos, teasing and eventizing through social media has become the norm. We have also seen more brands become publishers and build their own content platforms outside of their traditional digital destinations, like Mr. Porter, LVMH’s Nowness video platform for art and culture, and Gucci’s sartorial learnings to name a few. The rise of tablets and HTML5 also had an impact on improving the UX of their own digital platforms, making them more responsive, faster to load, and easier to navigate, no longer acting solely as a repository of more “traditional” content.

Organic Marketing Makes Audiences the New Media

Yet brands have been slow in adapting to how they use paid digital media, limiting themselves to tactical awareness

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campaigns such as perfume or collection launches. To this day, the majority of their digital advertising spends is split between Spring-Summer (SS) and Fall-Winter (FW) seasons, with almost no brands taking an always-on approach. Brands have evolved with what we at Havas Media call “Organic Marketing”, based on the understanding that in today’s interconnected world the audience has become the media. This involves a shift in brand behavior from a historical heavy reliance on paid media (almost entirely dedicated to tactical awareness, such as the launch of new collections) to an approach that puts a brand’s digital ecosystems (websites, social channels) and partnerships (shared media) at the center. The communication in this approach is designed to fuel earned media (publicity from nonadvertising sources) as consumers organically embrace and share the brand’s content. The role of paid media (publicity from advertising) in this scenario is to ensure that earned media gets amplified in order to maximize reach. Organic marketing’s wide-reaching implications for the luxury sector include the prominent role that shared media now plays through influencer and celebrity endorsers who distribute content around their owned ecosystems. Balmain, for example, succeeded in raising its global brand awareness through its partnership with the “insta-famous” designer, Oliver Rousteing. The “army” of influencers around Rousteing, including such celebrities as the Kardashians and Rihanna, aggregates close to 50 million followers – a much bigger scope than the 1.2 million Instagram followers of the official Balmain account. This global approach has local implications. The Middle East, for instance, has its own set of fashion celebrities that are now regular fixtures at the major global fashion weeks, and some of these could be potential new influencers that would be instrumental in promoting luxury brands.

A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

Welcoming a New Brand Order Robust partner ecosystems are key for luxury brands, even if we exclude e-commerce; research shows that around 40% of offline luxury sales are directly impacted by digital content and owned

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platforms. Organic marketing is even more of a necessity, since most millennials are tuning out digital advertising; 31% of millennials in the Middle East already use ad-blocking software, and that percentage is increasing. The key is discoverability when it comes to these consumers. It is a no-brainer that the now ubiquitous #hashtag has become a common sight on all luxury communication to ensure all the conversations that are generated are linked across channels (earned, shared, and paid media). Brand storytelling is also extremely important to them as it justifies their purchase. As a result, luxury brands have gone from digitally timid to embracing elements of organic marketing. They were able to leverage their superb name recognition and catapult a rise of creative content combined with excellent channel management that has drawn consumers into the story without compromising the dream. This achievement remains out of reach of other brands that still rely on paid media alone.  

1. Localize brand platforms: Platforms that address Middle East consumers – particularly millennials – are still few and far apart. Speaking in the luxury consumer’s language is key, bearing in mind that the brand’s website has the biggest impact on purchase after the boutique experience.

While not all brands have the passionate audiences or best-in-class content that luxury brands enjoy, we can all learn from their organic marketing approach in a digital world dominated by millennial consumers:

5. Ride the wave of luxury content explosion: To take advantage of the luxury content explosion, we still need to see best in class examples of native advertising (to maximize discoverability).n

Strategies for MENA Brands to Succeed in Digital Marketing

2. Offer more than in-store options: With e-commerce at the brand level looming on the horizon, luxury marketers need to ensure that they address Middle East luxury shoppers’ priorities, giving them the tools to customize and access unique pieces, not available on ground. 3. Capitalize on data: Capturing data across channels should also be a priority, allowing granular audience targeting through programmatic advertising. 4. Be always-on: Always-on campaigns, particularly search engine marketing, are rare. By not defending their territory, brands are losing their hard-earned brand equity and effectively allowing third parties to benefit at their expense.


We Ask the Experts

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What Is Your Favorite Social Media Campaign for 2015?

A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

Tracy Bou Gebrayel from COM FU

Elie Bassil from Cleartag

Christmas is one of those periods where all brands rush to grab some of that beautiful holiday exposure, yet very few succeed to stand out and shine! One campaign that definitely left its traces is by Agha Sarkissian, who, for the first time in Lebanon, launched an official online public casting for the role of...SANTA! Everyone has this one friend who looks a lot like Mr Claus. Some are young hipsters with a cute belly while others are old with white hair and beard. “AghaSarkissian is recruiting A SANTA CLAUS!” In reply to these teasing visuals, users had to tag a friend who would fit the profile. Candidates were shortlisted to 4 finalists and a final voting crowned one winner as Lebanon’s very own Santa Claus, winning him an iPhone 6s and a day at the brand’s main branch with the team and the fans! With literally thousands of nominations, the activation was a big hit holding high engagement and lots of positive emotions on the page.

I would choose the interception campaign that occurred during the 2015 Superbowl. The Superbowl is one of the most expensive advertising spots nowadays, where a second sometimes costs around $100,000. Brands compete for airtime, bringing out the most expensive and creative productions. Volvo had a genius marketing campaign: viewers were asked to tweet #VolvoContest for a chance to win a car every time a car commercial was shown on TV. This not only generated around 2,000 tweets per minute according to public case studies, it also allowed the brand to attract viewers’ attention to the brand and steal/shift conversations. Volvo used the millions spent by other brands to promote itself and monopolize the conversations.

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Zaid Barrishi from Starcom

Jennifer Wartabedian from Carat Beirut

In January 2015, Snapchat launched its new Discover feature, which allows publishers to push out a bundle of native content optimized for Snapchat, and with a lifespan of one day. At the time, the move was hailed as a great opportunity for publishers to reach a younger audience. CNN took the opportunity and partnered with Snapchat, giving users a daily dose of its news, information, articles, photos, and video. Through its channel, CNN delivers a new Discover edition every 24 hours. Each edition features five or more global news stories, hand-curated and published by its editorial and design teams, specifically for the Snapchat community. Each story will be headlined by a top Snap – a 10-second video or animated teaser. CNN officials said they expect new consumers will discover what the channel is covering through Snapchat, then seek more information through its TV and web channels. In my opinion, the execution was great because it allowed CNN to reach a young audience (people in their 20s and younger) that they could not easily reach anywhere else. A smart use of the channel.

Thumbs up for the “Love Has No Labels” campaign’s beautiful reminder that we are all human regardless of gender, nationality, race, creed, or sexual orientation. The campaign exposes how people can be judgmental without realizing it. Rather than lecture people, it launched a Facebook video on Valentine’s Day to condemn bias and celebrate love in all its forms. The video showed different people dancing and embracing behind an X-ray screen. At first, all you saw were pairs of skeletons kissing, hugging, playing, and dancing; but as they stepped out from behind the screen, they turned out to be couples of difference races and abilities, or same gender, all showing love and unity. The viral video rallied to its cause rivals like Coke and Pepsi who removed their own labels on their Facebook pages and changed their profile picture to Love Has No Labels. The video exceeded 100 million views with international TV networks, newspapers, websites, blogs, and celebrities talking about it. Even Michelle Obama re-tweeted the campaign! I am sure such a powerful campaign could get rid of discrimination and racism we face in our region. Spring 2016 THE QUARTERLY 49


DIGITAL MEDIA

USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA Karim Refaat and Sofia Sacre from MEC Global

Ahmed El-Sadek from Digital Republic

With consumerism becoming the heart of social media today, campaigns which promote a cause over sales are uncommon – although philanthropy may have just as much, if not more, of a positive and long lasting effect on your brand health. With that being said, we chose #WithoutShoes by Toms. This Instagram only campaign was built around the power that a hashtag can go global by asking people to upload a picture of their bare feet in order for Toms to donate a pair of shoes. The simplicity of the user journey, and the global scale of the campaign (since no purchase is required) played a big part in generating over 300,000 posts, and donating a total of 296,243 shoes. In our opinion, this campaign was one of the very few Instagramled campaigns that were effectively executed. The campaign, launched in May for 15 days, is still to-date receiving user generated images – hence continuing, months after the end of the campaign, to build brand loyalty and awareness. The hashtag has not only united people from around the world to do good but is likely to self-sustain until the refresher in May 2016 when the brand will jump back on.

On March 21st, Egyptians’ Mother’s day, UN Women launched a video entitled: Give Mom Back Her Name. The video featured Egyptian men of different ages being asked a simple question: “What is your mother’s name?” The question was met with awkward reactions followed by a flat refusal; a reaction stemming from the cultural belief that disclosing a mother’s name in public is a taboo. The video showcased how, due to this belief, women get their names forgotten over time and are referred to as the mothers of their eldest sons. The video ended with a simple call for action: use the hashtag #MyMothersNameIs to give your mother back her name. What makes this one of the most successful campaigns in 2015 is its authenticity, bravery, and strong relevance to its intended audience. UN Women managed to successfully establish a powerful emotional connection with the audience by fearlessly addressing, and tapping into one of the deeply-rooted beliefs in the Egyptian society, turning it into a call for gender equality without being preachy. Additionally, the campaign’s call for action was direct and simple, yet meaningful and relevant enough to encourage a massive response from the audience, including celebrities and public figures.

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP

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WHAT A Round-Up of MENA Taxi-Booking STARTUPS Apps for Residents in MENA NEED TO GO GLOBAL An Interview with Haitham Saab, Managing Director at TechGenies Middle East By Alexis Baghdadi | @GuerrillaWriter

S

oftware and mobile solutions developer TechGenies has been around for 10 years - this may be old in startup years, but its spirit is as young as ever. Based in Houston, Texas, it is the brainchild of veteran serial entrepreneur Maan Hamdan. Its team of technology professionals - "Genies" - write new software or customize existing software for a global network of clients. The company has recently opened a new office in Mexico, from which it will offer its software and mobile solutions development services to serve businesses there as well as in the emerging markets of Central and South America. The TechGenies story began in 2006 when Hamdan established it as a software service provider to support HRsmart, a talent management software technology and services company he had founded in 1999. As the partnership expanded, so did its resources. During its first year of operations, the company grew to 20 employees, and within 3 years, that number had more than doubled. In February 2015, Hamdan sold HRsmart (which

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served over 32 countries) to Deltek for an undisclosed amount, and TechGenies continued its journey. In addition to its recent Mexican venture, the company has software factories in the Philippines, India, and the Middle East, as well as in Canada. Haitham Saab, Managing Director at TechGenies Middle East, shared with us what it took for this MENA startup to go global: In your opinion, what does a startup in the Middle East need to go global? At what point of its life should the founders/CEOs consider this step? Business planning is key to the success of any business. Entrepreneurs will then need the right partners who are able to contribute funding and guidance in the early stages. Furthermore, I believe that selecting the right leadership team is key. Founders/ CEOs need to understand that they can multiply their efforts by delegating. As the business starts gaining momentum, scalability becomes a key focus area.


Choosing to go global depends on the nature of the company. Some businesses may never need to go global, while others would only succeed if their market was global in nature. Global expansion should be explored and evaluated during the early stages and while building the initial business plan. Deciding when to actually start expanding beyond the original market depends on the product readiness, the company readiness (systems, team, understanding, etc.) and on the global competitiveness of the product or service. In other words, you need to be capable of creating and leading an entry strategy for new markets, which would require local knowledge, serious research, and a SWOT analysis of these markets. Having a great product is not enough for a startup to succeed. It should be scalable. How would you define scalability? Scalability for us is the ability of the company to grow and meet increased demand on its resources, while maintaining high quality performance, and remaining profitable. Every startup needs to understand which parts of their business will feel the most pressure once the company starts expanding, and make sure they are prepared to meet those demands. In the case of TechGenies, scalability is dependent on many factors: our processes, procedures, systems, recruiting, and training. We rethought our processes and procedures many times over as we experienced growth to continue providing clients with quality service and stay profitable. Another important factor is the right system of software and hosting infrastructure. Lastly, the recruiting and training processes are very important to ensure the availability of the right talent as client demand increases. Tell us about TechGenies' growth journey. Early on, our scope expanded to include professional services, in the form of implementation of the HRsmart solutions for clients in the Middle East and Europe, then globally. In order to diversify its client base and expand, TechGenies created a new structure to extend its offerings to other global clients, and created sales offices in the US and Canada, as well as software and support locations in other countries. Today, we are known as a global development company with wide knowledge and experience in delivering software solutions, mobile application development, quality assurance, and professional services to a wide range of verticals and industries. Initially, the founders injected sufficient capital in the company to enable it to grow its revenue fast and become self-sustainable in its first year of operation. Our revenues have historically grown at the rate of 20% annually, and exceeded 30% in 2015. Our recent fast growth and expansion to newer markets, however, is putting more demands on the company's cash flow. The founders are currently providing the needed funding, but we are considering exploring an expanded investor base. What would you say was the main growth driver for you? Our “Genies” jointly have over 400 man-years of combined experience in Enterprise Software Development. They work either alongside clients’ staff, or remotely from the home office. At the beginning, our aim was to support one of our strategic global clients HRsmart by providing programmers to help write the company's Cloud-based software. As the partnership evolved, the Lebanon team proved to be so successful and resourceful

Haitham Saab, Managing Director at TechGenies Middle East

that HRsmart selected it to take global leadership in software development, quality assurance, and professional services. The team was eventually contributing effectively in building the core application, supporting global clients, as well as training and managing HRsmart’s teams at several overseas locations. Partnering with our people has also made a huge difference for us. What were the challenges that you faced? How did you overcome them? The biggest challenge we faced was finding the right skill set of employees that are qualified, fit our culture, and are able to take us to the next level. The demand for technology resources is increasing globally, and the number of potential candidates that are highly skilled and able to support this demand is limited. The universities in Lebanon have not kept up with the fast pace of technology evolution, and graduates are not well equipped to meet the demands of today's businesses without significant training. Because the market supply of skilled talent is not strong, we had to invest in training and developing resources to meet our clients' needs over time. We built, trained, and invested in a great team, and they built our business and helped us grow and succeed. We have been able to retain and grow with our key employees since 2007! Although we have had a relatively low employee turnover rate, over the years we hired and trained hundreds of employees, and most of them are now in leading positions with companies in Lebanon and the region. Being creative in recruiting, working with partners, and introducing an employee referral program helped us in the talent acquisition process as well. What are the future plans for TechGenies? Our business is running well in the Americas, so we are targeting the MENA region and Europe in 2016. Our short-term plan is to increase our market share in our industry reasonably this year, and to add at least a hundred employees to our team by next year. On the long term, TechGenies will continue its growth and investment in the Lebanese digital ecosystem and knowledge economy, and will keep helping startups build their products and services. We are taking part in some acceleration programs happening in March 2016, and we will be representing TechGenies in Montreal and Paris at major business development events to bring new projects to our team in Beirut.n

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USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION This Article is Sponsored by

A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

By Wael Nabbout | @FulMtlColumnist

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I

n every issue, we bring you a list of startups from the MENA region that you should keep an eye on. This winter, our selection of startups covers everything from hydroponics to media enhancement platforms.

An address system for the digital age, Eddress was thought up by Lebanese computer engineer Ronny Shebly while he was trying to order food online. Shebly grew increasingly frustrated as he had to repeatedly enter his address to get his order through. Shebly happened to work at Interact, a development company run by serial entrepreneur Karim Khoury, known best for his work on Symba, an electronic bill presentment platform. Together, the two men concocted Eddress, an online service that simplifies addresses by turning them into six character codes, which can then be shared with friends and delivery services or can be integrated with shippers, billers, e-commerce platforms, and services like Uber. The company, which secured $215,000 on May 1st, 2015, also sees huge potential in scaling globally with about 150 countries lacking proper postal codes. And with a number of global and local competitors already available - think Locname and Enwani - scaling fast is paramount for its success and survival. Eddress was also selected by the WebSummit in Dublin, one of the largest web conferences in the world, to participate in the ALPHA program of 2015. Country of origin: Lebanon Date of launch: late 2015 Category: Electronic address system

if we focus on Dubai first. We first want to capture this market and obtain a strong foothold, and then we will take this model to other Gulf countries,” says Kathuria. Country of origin: UAE Date of launch: 2015 Category: Real estate / crowd investment EstateUp is a UAE-based crowdinvesting platform connecting real estate developers to investors by offering them equity investments into upcoming projects. As such, the service opens the door for smaller investors to enter into the real estate development game. Every project is open for 90 days. If the target is reached within that period, the project goes to execution. Once the target is reached, investors have the ability to track the status of the project while an independent fiduciary, along with the project manager, will overlook the completion of the project and the sales of the inventory. Once the sale is complete, the investors receive their returns. What’s more, users can follow experienced investors on the platform to learn about the real estate sector, minimize their risk, and collectively invest in the most financially feasible projects. Prior to EstateUp, the founders, Aakarshan Kathuria and Nilesh Jadhav, had closed 35 deals in 5 years, raising funds for development projects and po oling in a group of investors for property purchase in the UAE, Mumbai, and London. In order to diversify further and target a larger pool of investors, EstateUp was brought to life in 2015. The concept might be new to the region, but there are extremely successful crowd investing real estate platforms worldwide, including Fundrise, RealtyMogul, and CrowdStreet. With over 180 projects in the pipeline for Expo 2020 Dubai, the opportunity for growth is huge. According to Kathuria, EstateUp might be more attractive to developers than banks, who are more selective when it comes to providing financing for development. “In terms of investors in the UAE alone, our target market is the B&C sector (21.5%) and the high net worth individuals (4.7%). In total, that puts the market size at 2.17 million investors.  It would also be easier to track the progress of different projects

From Palestine comes GraviLog, a free Arabic healthcare app focused on pregnant women. It is the most recent app developed by MobiStine, a company that develops Arabic medical and health applications. MobiStine is the only Arab company to date to make it to the finals of MassChallenge 2013 in Boston. MobiStine is the brainchild of Husni Abu Samrah, who already has about 30 apps in his portfolio that have collectively generated 1.5 million downloads. So what does GraviLog do? Upon installation, users are asked a few simple questions to create their Electronic Medical Record (EMR). Based on their ERM, the app can provide health tips and instructions that help avoid pregnancy complications. The app also includes trackers to monitor the users’ health as well as that of the baby. Additionally, it includes automated reminders for all required pregnancy tests, routine doctor’s visits, and medication schedules, among many other things. The app is also available to doctors. The system allows them to create EMRs for their patients to better keep track of their health status, medical test results, and ultrasounds. The system is fully secured using SSL and all transactions are encrypted to ensure security and user privacy. GraviLog was designed under the full supervision of doctors working at Harvard University hospitals in the USA; the development itself took place in Palestine. Country of origin: Palestine Date of launch: 2015 Category: Healthcare

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USEFUL APPS FOR TRANSPORTATION indoor farms, completely automated and climate controlled. Unaffected by seasonal change, these farms are capable of producing crops all year long. What’s more interesting is that they are resistant to pests and disease infestations, and are highly efficient regarding their energy requirements using 95% less water than traditional farms. The technology has been completely developed locally, and with local talent, using over 90% locallysourced components. Lifelab also runs a 6,000 sqm model farm, which serves as a showcase for the technology and production techniques, and also as a profitable revenue source for the company. In November 2015, the company won first place at the Hyundai Startup Competition. Country of origin: Lebanon Date of launch: 2011 Category: Agriculture and IT

other to be the winning bidder. This

business model is not new in foreign A Round-Up of Taxi-Booking Apps for Residents in MENA

Lumlim is a video engagement and enhancement platform based in Yemen and founded by Mohammed Abdulbaqi. The service uses mobile and web solutions to enhance the engagement with video content. It empowers brands, advertisers and media content creators with innovative online services and tools that they can use to create a two way engagement with viewers in real-time. Its companion-screen application empowers smart devices with a unique Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology that enables fans to identify their favorite online video content and adds the possibility to discover related content and tag content for later use. The ACR is based on a sound fingerprinting algorithm that can identify any media content by recognizing a few seconds of any audio stream. Lumlim unleashes the powers of media by turning digital content from simply being audio-visual to being part of an interactive medium of engagement. This, in turn, translates into more monetization streams to brands, media creators, and aggregators. Country of origin: Yemen Date of launch: 2015 Category: Media

An agriculture company based in Lebanon, Lifelab is dedicated to designing and building intelligent selfoperating vertical hydroponic farms that multiply the yield of any given farm plot by 10 to 15 times. Those are

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From Jeddah comes Vanoman, an online platform used to book heavy goods transport services in KSA. There are over half a million authorized transport vehicles in Saudi Arabia, 30% of which are not utilized. And while abundant, it is still time consuming to find one. What›s more, it is impossible to predict the quality of its service as very little is usually known about them. Using Vanoman, customers simply create an order, free of charge, and receive quotes in return from a number of verified transport service providers from all over the Kingdom. The customer then gets to check the profile of each bidder and see previous customer reviews before accepting any quotes. Vanoman hopes to save customers up to 50% in costs as service providers compete against each

markets, think Texas-based UShip which is valued at over $20 million dollars. Country of origin: KSA Date of launch: 2015 Category: Transportation

Noon Edu is a Saudi-based online social learning company that combines gamification with adaptive and personalized test preparation programs. The company, which was the winner of the ArabNet Startup Demo Competition in 2015, focuses on students in Saudi Arabia and helps prepare them for the Qiyas, the standardized exams for high school students in the kingdom. In 2013, the company won the ArabNet Ideathon competition, and has so far over 330,000 people using its platform. The reason it made it to our list is because in 2015, the company launched Non Game, an online multiplayer test prep game that offers interactive play for people studying for the same test. The game integrates elements of artificial intelligence to adapt to students’ unique needs. Through the platform, students can rate questions and answers and share them on Facebook or Twitter to engage their own social networks. Once a question gets highly ranked, a professional instructor will jump in to solve it. Country of origin: Saudi Arabia Date of launch: 2013 Category: Edutainment


ArabNet The Quarterly Issue 8 | Spring 2016  

If wearables will shape the future of technological innovation, then it is enterprises that will drive adoption. The spring issue of The Qua...

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