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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

NAKHEEL Chairman Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah

A p r i l 2 018 • M I D D L E E A S T E D I T I O N

FLYING HIGH in procurement LIAZID BENKOUSSA, SVP OF PROCUREMENT AND LOGISTICS AT QATAR AIRWAYS, ON THE CARRIER’S GROUNDBREAKING SUPPLY CHAIN

TOP 10 Middle East companies by revenue


FOREWORD WELCOME TO APRIL’S Middle East

benefits of academia partnerships in

edition of Business Chief magazine.

business – how might partnerships

Construction giant Nakheel is

help your company benefit from top

this month’s opening feature as we

talent and cutting-edge research?

catch up with the Emirati company’s

Meanwhile, looking into business

Chairman, Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah,

sustainability is Armadillo CRM CEO

who answers our questions on

James Ray, who has worked with big

projects past, present and future.

names like Disney and McDonald’s.

“Innovation is key to both Dubai and Nakheel,” he tells us. “The world-famous projects of Palm Jumeirah, The World

We asked him how CRM can help businesses maintain a loyal client base. This month also features

and the upcoming Deira Islands are

interviews with leading figures at

examples of how Nakheel has embraced

Qatar Airways, Qatar Cool, and

innovation in real estate development.”

DAS Holding, among others.

Turning to technology transformation,

Our city in focus this month is

ServisBOT CEO Cathal McGloin offers

Riyadh, and we also detail the 10

insight from his years of experience

biggest companies in the Middle East.

in the AI space and explains why he thinks businesses shouldn’t be afraid

Enjoy the issue!

of AI adoption – indeed, most are already using it without realising. We have also gathered insight from Konfer, Shakespeare Martineau

middleeast.businesschief.com

and York University on the mutual

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OIL & GAS

INFRASTRU


UCTURE

POWER

TELECOMMUNICATIONS


F E AT U R E S L E A D E R S H I P & S T R AT E G Y

INSIDE NAKHEEL

ARCHITECTS OF A BR AVE NEW WORLD

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TECHNOLOGY

TAKING THE FE AR OUT OF AI

28 6

April 2018

PEOPLE

42 The mutual benefit of academia partnerships


S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y

The value of customer retention

54 TOP

CITY FOCUS

RIYADH 64

10

Companies in the Middle East

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C O M PA N Y P R O F I L ES

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Qatar Airways SUPPLY CHAIN

120

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Das Holding SUPPLY CHAIN

April 2018

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Sewa

ENERGY


158 ASWAAQ

TECHNOLOGY

148

Olympus MEA ENERGY

180 Naufar

TECHNOLOGY

168 QATAR COOL ENERGY

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INSIDE NAKHEEL

ARCHITECTS OF A BR AVE NEW WORLD


LEADERSHIP SHOWCASE

THE EMIRATI COMPANY’S CHAIRMAN, ALI RASHID AHMED LOOTAH, ANSWERS QUESTIONS ON PROJECTS PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE Writ ten by ANDRE W WOODS


LEADERSHIP SHOWCASE NAKHEEL WAS INCORPORATED by the Dubai Government of Dubai in 2001, tasked with establishing and developing the real estate sector in the United Arab Emirates. Seventeen years later, and it’s hard to avoid this property development giant’s construction projects, large in both number and size. Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah, Chairman of Nakheel, offers an exclusive insight on this everexpanding construction giant.

Please could you tell me a little about Nakheel and its ethos. Lootah: Nakheel is a world-leading master developer and a key player in realising the vision of Dubai for the 21st century: creating a world class destination for living, business and tourism. Nakheel was incorporated by the Government of Dubai in 2001 to establish and develop the real estate sector in Dubai, the UAE. The now globally-famous Palm Jumeirah, a unique engineering and architectural marvel, was the launchpad for many more real estate projects that have set new standards in engineering design and creativity. Nakheel continues to deliver iconic projects including 14

April 2018

master communities, individual developments and has diversified its assets base across the residential, retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in line with the Government of Dubai’s vision and the business strategy adopted by Nakheel.

The list of future and past developments is certainly extensive… Nakheel’s master developments include Palm Jumeirah, The World, Deira Islands, Jumeirah Islands, Jumeirah Village, Jumeirah Park, Jumeirah Heights, The Gardens, Discovery Gardens, Al Furjan, Warsan Village, Dragon City, International City, Jebel Ali Gardens and Nad Al Sheba Community, and together these span well over 15,000 hectares and provide homes for 270,000 people.

I see you also have a number of different divisions representing various types of developments… Residential real estate development remains our core business, but Nakheel is diversifying in a significant way. The company has hospitality, retail and leasing businesses, all of which are growing rapidly and playing a key role in


“NAKHEEL IS SET TO BECOME THE BIGGEST RETAIL DEVELOPER IN THE MIDDLE EAST THROUGH A $4.3BN EXPANSION THAT WILL ADD ANOTHER 12.5MN SQ FT OF LEASABLE RETAIL SPACE TO THE 4.6MN SQ FT CURRENTLY IN OPER ATION” Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah Chairman, Nakheel

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LEADERSHIP SHOWCASE our ongoing business success. Nakheel is set to become the biggest retail developer in the Middle East through a $4.3bn expansion that will add another 12.5mn sq ft of leasable retail space to the 4.6mn sq ft currently in operation. Meanwhile, our $1.3bn hospitality expansion will see the delivery of 6,000 hotel rooms and hotel apartments across 17 resorts and hotels in Dubai. Two are already

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open, with the rest at various stages of construction and development. Residential leasing is also a significant business for Nakheel. The current strategy is to double the existing number of units to more than 35,000.

What do you think Nakheel does differently to its competitors? Nakheel is a trusted master developer and is key to the development of local real estate sector. The most


“PROJECTS SPAN WELL OVER 15,000 HECTARES AND PROVIDE HOMES FOR 270,000 PEOPLE” Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah Chairman, Nakheel distinguishing feature for Nakheel is that the business has the expertise to cover all stages of a project from initial planning to interior design, through to operational management. Nakheel has created spectacular landmarks, distinctive residential communities and unique retail and tourism-related destinations,

which have helped put Dubai firmly on the map as a city of the future. Nakheel has added some 300km of coastline to Dubai, delivering globally-recognised developments in the process. Our project locations – waterfront or inland – all continue to play a major part in our success. Nakheel remains firmly committed 17


“NAKHEEL CONTINUES TO DELIVER ICONIC PROJECTS INCLUDING MASTER COMMUNITIES, INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENTS AND HAS DIVERSIFIED ITS ASSETS BASE ACROSS THE RESIDENTIAL, RETAIL, HOSPITALITY AND LEISURE SECTORS IN LINE WITH THE GOVERNMENT OF DUBAI’S VISION” Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah Chairman, Nakheel

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April 2018


LEADERSHIP SHOWCASE to being an integral part of the Emirate’s ambitious expansion plans, launching an exciting range of new projects that will enhance our existing communities and attract residents, tourists and investors to the fastest-growing city in the world.

Do you work with any partners at all? If so, what is the nature of those collaborations? Nakheel has strategic alliances with business partners who share the vision of Dubai and Nakheel. For example, we have joint ventures with some of the world’s leading names in hospitality, including RIU Hotels & Resorts and Centara Hotels & Resorts, as well as hotel management agreements with major hospitality management companies such as Marriott, AccorHotels, Hilton, Minor Hotel Group, Whitbread and many more under consideration.

embraced innovation in real estate development. Innvovation has also taken centre stage in Dubai where there is a strong emphasis on adoption of technology in day-to-day governance, and Dubai is leading the initiative in adoption of newer technology for the general wellbeing of its citizens and residents alike.

What initiatives have you brought in to boost profits or cut costs? We have strengthened corporate governance and enforced stricter financial discipline, which, together, have assisted in robust financial performance to date. In addition, rigourous planning, close monitoring and periodic review of the business strategy and increasing use of technology have all contributed to the financial and operational success of the business.

How important is innovation to your market and business?

Could you tell me about your team – number of employees, expertise, and training opportunities offered?

Innovation is key to both Dubai and Nakheel. The world-famous projects of Palm Jumeirah, The World and the upcoming Deira Islands are examples of how Nakheel has

Nakheel currently employees 1,300 staff who together make one successful team. The management team is led by the CEO who is assisted by various divisional heads 19


LEADERSHIP SHOWCASE that all are supported by the CFO, the CTO and a General Counsel. The HR division is involved in all aspects of staff development including training, ensuring that employees have the opportunity to improve their skills and experience throughout their career with Nakheel.

drive and ability to deliver – into senior postitions in which they can take a greater responsibility within the leadership team in the future.

What importance do you place on people?

Dubai is growing. Its population is expected to double by 2030; it is the host city for Expo 2020 and has an ambitious but achievable tourism target of welcoming 20mn visitors a year by 2020. All this creates a need for more houses, hotels, schools and

Employees are the greatest asset for any business. Nakheel places particular emphasis on developing young, talented UAE nationals – who continue to prove their commitment,

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April 2018

How healthy is the construction industry in the ME at the moment? We can see lots of projects and investment…


PALM 360 is an iconic two tower development on Palm Jumeirah’s Boardwalk, comprising of a luxury hotel, branded residences and the world’s largest sky pool

other real estate related assets. In addition, the core economic sectors of trade, travel and tourism are doing incredibly well. This is good news for the construction industry in Dubai. Nakheel itself has $14bn of projects under way and awarded construction contracts worth over $2bn in 2017. And, just a few weeks into 2018, we have awarded signed a construction contract for $1.1bn for Deira Mall, the biggest mall in the Middle East in terms of leasable space, and a $105mn contract for an 800-room beach resort being developed in a joint venture with RIU Hotels & Resorts.

Obviously, Dubai is making massive inroads in establishing itself as a centre of tech excellence… Dubai is very much geared to using smart technology to enhance services, making processes userfriendly and facilitating more business opportunities, and we fully endorse and support the government’s quest to transform Dubai into the world’s smartest city. Dubai has always taken the initiative of leading a change in the region and, in particular the GCC. The smart city initiative is a game changer for Dubai as it will showcase its ability to adapt 21


LEADERSHIP SHOWCASE

“PROJECTS SPAN WELL OVER 15,000 HECTARES AND PROVIDE HOMES FOR 270,000 PEOPLE” Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah Chairman, Nakheel


to new technology and be extremely beneficial for the people of Dubai. A number of projects are already underway and most government services are now based on use of technology, reducing the human interface and contributing to increased productivity and efficiency in governance. The Dubai government has appointed a young, talented and an aspiring Emirati to the post of the Federal Minister for Artifical Intelligence. These steps are reflective of the vision of the UAE leaders who are keen to take bold steps to lead the way in adopting technology in day-to-day life. The next three to five years will be very interesting and beneficial for the UAE and Dubai, as the nation once again demonstrates its ‘can do’ attitude.

Which project are you most proud of? I am immensely proud of all of our projects, but Palm Jumeirah stands out as the one not only recognised the world over, but which has also set new standards in innovative engineering. We are now building on the success of Palm Jumeirah to create Deira Islands, another waterfront city that is set to become Dubai’s newest tourism, leisure and entertainment hub. When it comes to individual projects, our forthcoming PALM 360 is already witnessing keen interest from investors and customers. It is a 260m tall twin tower comprising a Raffles hotel and Raffles branded residences, including penthouses spanning more than 1,100 sqm. Its highlight is the world’s largest rooftop infinity 23


LEADERSHIP SHOWCASE pool – three times the length of an Olympic pool, 170m above ground. As the name suggests, PALM360 will offer all-round views of Dubai and going by the interest expressed so far by various customers, it is likely to be the most sought-after locations to live and visit in Dubai.

Quality control is clearly important to your operations. How do you maintain your high standards throughout your operations and your supply chain? In our business, the supply chain

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April 2018

is contractor-driven, but we keep a very close watch on all of our operational activities, from inception to delivery. Many factors, including energy conservation, green building policies and best practices are taken into account.

I see from your website that there is a plethora of CSR initiatives‌ CSR is an important DNA of Nakheel. These activities are essential and a means of giving something back to the people of the UAE, improving


the socio-economic prosperity of the nation and contributing to the welfare of the region and the world as a whole. The CSR activities range from essentials schemes like blood donation drives to supporting government initiatives that promote health, wellbeing and education. The latest example is Nakheel’s sponsorship of a new government e-learning scheme to translate maths and science material from 5,000 English videos and 11mn words into Arabic in order

to provide free online educational material to over 50mn young Arab students by the end of 2018.

Do you have expansion plans in place and if so, what form do they take? Nakheel continues to expand into the hospitality and retail sectors. The investment in these sectors currently stands at around $6bn. Geographically, the focus continues to be in Dubai, although Nakheel is presently exploring advisory and project management opportunities overseas.

“THE LATEST EX AMPLE IS NAKHEEL’S SPONSORSHIP OF A NEW GOVERNMENT E-LEARNING SCHEME TO TR ANSLATE MATHS AND SCIENCE MATERIAL FROM 5,000 ENGLISH VIDEOS AND 11MN WORDS INTO AR ABIC IN ORDER TO PROVIDE FREE ONLINE EDUCATIONAL MATERIAL TO OVER 50MN YOUNG AR AB STUDENTS BY THE END OF 2018” Ali Rashid Ahmed Lootah Chairman, Nakheel

Photo: (Left to right) Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Secretary-General of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives Foundation Ali Rashid Lootah, Nakheel’s Chairman

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TECHNOLOGY

TAKING THE FEAR OUT OF AI Business Chief speaks to ServisBOT Founder and CEO Cathal McGloin about AI adoption and why businesses shouldn’t be afraid of it Writ ten by OLIVIA MINNOCK


TECHNOLOGY “NO TECHNOLOGY WINS because it’s a piece of technology: it wins because somebody figures out how to apply it to solve a particular business problem in a unique way.” Cathal McGloin, CEO of artificial intelligence and automationbased customer service provider, ServisBOT, enthuses about the potential of AI, but warns businesses must apply it properly to their needs or risk being left in the dust. McGloin, a self-confessed “software-addicted entrepreneur”, recently founded his fourth startup which utilises the latest in AI and automated technology to help businesses more easily manage their customer service needs. He’s passionate about making AI more accessible to a variety of businesses. Certain elements of AI are nothing new, as McGloin is quick to clarify. The idea for ServisBOT came about from experiences within the contact centre space, in which McGloin had co-founded Performix Technologies in 1998. “We created this idea of employee performance back in the late 1990s, with the rationale that if you give people a view of what their targets are and 30

April 2018

“AI will become table stakes in software going forward – anybody who doesn’t have it won’t even be in the race” Cathal McGloin, CEO, ServisBOT

how they are doing in real-time, they perform much better. We created, patented, and still own that, and every contact centre has employee performance software today.” It’s clear our demands on technology are changing, and AI is key in both promoting and fulfilling that expectation.


“One of the big changes is we’ve moved away from a big screen onto mobile which is now a combination of touch and voice,” McGloin says. “My 16-year-old daughter will sometimes voice-text her friends, and won’t bother typing into Google… they can now just activate Siri, for example, to ask a question. The

interface is part of the conversation… that’s what’s interesting to me. “One of the few areas that has not been impacted by digital transformation is customer service,” McGloin argues. “We’re still very much voice centric, waiting on hold. With live chat – which is 20 years old and has resurged in the past five years – you still have to have staffing, and 31


TECHNOLOGY so can only have your live chat work between, say, 8am and 8pm, often with a live chat agent handling several queries at once. That’s what gave rise to ServisBOT: the idea there had to be a better way of handling customer service with a conversational interface in a digital world that’s mobile-centric.” The evolution of AI “AI has been around for 40 or 50 years now,” McGloin explains, “but a few things have changed. One is the abundance of data to create an AI system – because these are learning systems, you need large amounts of data for machines to know what to do. That’s fulfilled today by the data

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April 2018


overload we have.” Another element, according to McGloin, is the major processing power required for AI. “You needed a lot of processing power to crunch that data and come up with the answers – the Android device we now carry in our pocket has more power than anything in the 1990s.” In addition, open sourcing has made essential knowledge and skills available. “Amazon’s been using AI for 10 years for book preferences… they open sourced it and made it available,” he explains, saying that these tech giants are releasing APIs to carry out machine learning and as such making AI easier to use so that “ordinary developers are able

to get up to speed very quickly”. These factors are set to make AI as much a part of life as the computer. “As Andreessen Horowitz talks about, AI will become a feature of all software going forward. Software will have to have some self-learning capability, and some artificial intelligence. So, AI will become table stakes in software going forward – anybody who doesn’t have it won’t even be in the race.” The application of AI McGloin is clear that “the difference between the winners and the losers is who knows how to apply AI. At ServisBOT, we’re trying to change the customer service experience

ServisBOT – changing the customer service conversation ServisBOT was founded in 2016 by brothers Cathal and Ray McGloin along with Chris Doyle. The company aims to transform customer service for businesses using technologies like AI and automation. An army of “bots”, including Chat Bots and Service Bots, provide automated solutions giving customers “the service they want, any time they want”. In this way, the Massachusetts-based software company makes it easier and cheaper for businesses to implement AI.

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TECHNOLOGY

“The onus will be on application providers and vendors like ourselves to make it easy: we’ll build a solution that has an AI engine under the hood” Cathal McGloin CEO, ServisBOT

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by heeding trends. For example, millennials don’t like phone calls – they want to send off a text and hear back. People are impatient and want instant answers. Applying AI and chat bots means we can respond immediately. In addition, the way we’ve built it, a company can get this system up and running within hours and days.” “Automation is key to what we’re trying to do,” McGloin emphasises. “It’s not AI for AI’s sake… while chat bots can be used to hold a conversation, we then have service bots which perform a particular task. It could print your banking statement or help you manage a journey… and because we use serverless technology, you can scale up to millions of transactions in an instant. Service bots aren’t just about chatting, but about performing a task, and our platform allows a company to orchestrate

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TECHNOLOGY an army of service bots across different areas of their business.” Why aren’t all businesses implementing AI? Recently, software giant Red Hat commissioned Vanson Bourne to survey IT decision-makers on the adoption of technologies like AI. Respondents expected to increase technology investment by 25% from 2017-18. However, only 24% stated they currently implement AI, with an additional 30% planning to implement the tech in 2018. What threats, real or perceived, have stopped businesses already adopting AI in a flash? First, McGloin mentions fear of AI replacing jobs. “This was the same argument with computers in the 1980s, but you’re always going to need human involvement. For example, customer complaints can’t be handled

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by bots as they can’t empathise. With certain transactions, people will always want to talk to someone, especially those to do with money. What will happen is we’ll provide better service, automate mundane tasks, and take the repetition out for folks.” He also argues that most businesses are already using AI even if they haven’t made a disruptive song and dance about it. “Even things like preference selection on websites, there’s AI technology behind it. I think there’s this fear: ‘I don’t have a data scientist, it’s hard to get these people, it’s too expensive for my budget, I can do without it…’ You’ve got the issue of barriers like skills, availability, costs and so on that are stopping people from trying it out. The onus will be on application providers and vendors like ourselves to make it easy: we’ll build a solution that has


an AI engine under the hood. As we make it more about the application and less about the technology, I think we’ll find it easier to embark on.” So, is AI just the latest buzzword? “It’s the bees and the honey: everyone swarms to the latest thing, but AI is just a piece of technology. If you don’t

apply it in a different way you don’t get anything out of it. Companies like ServisBOT are coming out and saying ‘don’t worry about the AI, we’ll solve that – this is about its application. Here are some easy tools to create a new work flow, or a new bot, to complete a new task… don’t worry what’s under the hood’. We’re selling it as a service.” What’s next for AI? Customer service and AI, then, go hand in hand – but where else can businesses easily utilise the tech? “Customer service is across all industries,” McGloin clarifies, “so it’s a horizontal layer. Where I see 37


TECHNOLOGY

“People are scared of AI, but if you just make it easy for them to embark on it, they will” Cathal McGloin, CEO, ServisBOT

AI going next is into back-office, becoming the new business process management and elevating back-end tasks. It’s a useful area to apply AI because it can learn about things as it goes, it can change and adapt…” In terms of ServisBOT, McGloin adds: “We’re at a really exciting stage, the product-market fit phase. We think we’ve hit something really big. People are scared of AI, but if you just make it 38

April 2018

easy for them to embark on it, they will. We see a huge opportunity in actually taking the fear out of it and making it easy and low-cost to get started.” One can’t help but wonder whether the serial entrepreneur will stick with his business, but McGloin is focused on creating a solution that lasts. “The thing I am most proud of is the fact that every company I’ve been involved with on this whole journey, including


the first one, Performix, all the technology is still available and in use today for companies to benefit from. What drives me is the idea of creating something new that has a purpose and is useful. That to me is success: regardless of how much revenue it’s generating, there’s somebody getting use out of it. It’s creating something out of nothing and having it live beyond when you’re involved.”


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PEOPLE

The mutual benefit of academia partnerships How can businesses and academic institutions work together to boost productivity? Business Chief investigates Edited by OLIVIA MINNOCK


PEOPLE

ACCESS TO TOP experts for R&D will benefit any company, and now more than ever recruiting bright minds is top priority for business. In addition, higher education institutes are constantly looking to offer their students and academics the chance to build relationships with top players in the business world. Business Chief gathered some insight on how these partnerships can be developed and who stands to benefit. 44

April 2018

Collaboration for a brighter future in the UK

Gary Davie, Partner and Head of Independent Providers at law firm Shakespeare Martineau, feels that in the UK, collaboration is the way forward to benefit those in education as well as potential employers. “Whilst competition may in many ways fuels creativity and innovation, for the education sector, closer collaboration between further education,


“For employers, a more streamlined education sector could be vital in helping solve the UK’s productivity crisis” – Gary Davie, Head of Independent Providers, Shakespeare Martineau

higher education and private providers could be just what UK students and learners need. People looking to take up a place in education would be able to see a demonstrable path towards a job and career progression, and businesses would have access to a talent pool which is equipped across the full breadth of the skills gap. “HE policy in recent years has centred on competition, but that approach is starting to be questioned. A recent

report by the Higher Education Commission, titled One Size Doesn’t Fit All, put the themes of collaboration and competition under the spotlight, suggesting that a culture within the education sector, which encourages both equally, would bring greater benefits for students and the wider business community. “Learners navigating UK education are likely to encounter a variety of different providers; the linear model 45


PEOPLE “There’s significant untapped potential for businesses to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with universities” – David Docherty, Chief Executive, National Centre for Universities and Business

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April 2018


of traditional study is still popular, but by no means works for everyone. For those students whose educational outcomes are best delivered through different learning settings, for instance both vocational courses and academic qualifications, closer collaboration could be integral to their success. “Educational institutions have been working together for a number of years in some form. For instance, colleges, universities and private providers have long collaborated to deliver foundation programmes, franchised or validated provision. However, there is the potential for much more. “Greater collaboration would be beneficial in two main ways: access to courses offered by further education and private providers would increase, equipping learners with a more diverse skillset for the workplace; and universities would benefit from more streamlined progression to higher education and the more extensive talent pool it would bring. “Particularly for those learners who may not have considered higher education as an option, this clear progression through a range of learning environments would be a confidence booster, with an end goal in sight from

the start. This could be a particular career or qualification, even up to Masters or PhD level. “To achieve this, though, all providers must accept that they cannot do everything on their own and realise that working together while drawing on individual strengths is key. “For employers, a more streamlined education sector could be vital in helping solve the UK’s productivity crisis. Jobseekers in the market currently tend to have a range of qualifications and with different roles requiring various accreditations, they may have to engage separately with a number of different providers. If a consortium model was set up which could support learners through the different stages of education or employment, the benefits to employers looking for candidates across the range of qualification levels would be great. “As the world changes and Brexit looms on the horizon, students in the UK will no doubt be considering employment and education options overseas. With more educational institutions setting up foreign campuses and forging links with multinational companies, the options 47


PEOPLE are there for learners and facilitation within the industry to support outward mobility will certainly be beneficial. “The solution to the productivity puzzle has collaborative education at its heart. If learners have better access to the courses and qualifications of their choice which will get them the right jobs, and if employers can tap into the best possible pool of talent, the benefits will be felt by all.”

Partnerships to foster innovation and success

Meanwhile, Professor Elena RodriguezFalcon, Provost Chief Academic Officer of new STEM-focussed university, NMiTE (New Model in Technology & Engineering), offers an academic perspective on this kind of collaboration. She also has some advice on how we can make these important relationships work. “Having partnerships between universities and businesses is not new; there is now a long and evolving history of collaboration and innovation. “Whilst there has always been a keen interest in developing partnerships that enable universities to understand the challenges being faced by industry in order to inform the creation of knowledge, or from companies to 48

April 2018

identify the next generation of capable employees, in more recent times the trend is for businesses to increasingly become co-creators of knowledge. Businesses are increasingly active participants in the development and delivery of the student learning experience. “This provides a huge win-win for businesses, students and academics, and the benefits such partnerships deliver to industry are now even more valuable in our age of tightening


“The trend is for businesses to increasingly become co-creators of knowledge. Businesses are increasingly active participants in the development and delivery of the student learning experience” – Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, New Model in Technology & Engineering R&D budgets and, seemingly, an everincreasing speed of innovation. “For instance, a study by IBM in the US found that a majority of tech industry and academic leaders felt partnerships are essential to provide students with skills for these jobs. It noted that when comparing the past five years to the next, those involved expect such partnerships will help bring significant improvements in meeting industry demands and ensuring the employability of students.

“Certainly, I have seen from my own experience how having students work closely with businesses has had a positive and inspirational effect. One such example from Sheffield University, where I taught previously, a group of students started their own company Handy Fasteners after having input that included local manufacturing businesses such as Gripple and Kingkraft. In another, a collaboration with Crown and Sheffield Hallam University resulted in the development of easy-open packaging. “Ensuring tomorrow’s graduates have the skills your business needs is one benefit from such partnerships. Another, very sizeable one is that they enable companies to make breakthroughs through accessing the leading-edge research and analytical skills universities have and, of course, lots of bright and inquisitive minds. “However, businesses and universities are very different beasts, and making such partnerships work so successfully is not always easy. I have been personally involved with very many, and from the start it’s important to create a joint vision that identifies clear purposes and goals for the collaboration. It’s also important to mention the 49


PEOPLE importance of them being viewed as long-term at the highest level of all involved. Ultimately, there also needs to be a clear strategic “what is in it for me” for both parties if it is to survive competing calls on time and budget over the ensuing years. “There are lots of basics that need to be in place early on: in particular, agreements regarding intellectual property must be agreed upon and transparent, without putting undue risk on either party. In my experience the partnerships that work the best do so because expectations from both parties are managed right from the start; this is because there is a clear benefit for all involved, but mainly because partners really want to make it work. “My institution, NMiTE (the new engineering university being created in Hereford in the UK), is taking these principles up a level by boldly forgoing set textbooks, lectures and exams. Instead we are focussing entirely on a curriculum based around teams of students solving practical challenges actually designed in association with engineering companies to reflect the technical and commercial challenges they currently face. 50

April 2018

“We are currently working with a range of engineering and manufacturing companies to help tackle the current shortage of suitable graduates that such businesses regularly report, and I am inviting all others that are interested to get involved.”

Academia for R&D — finding the perfect match

How might these businesses create the mutually beneficial partnerships they require in this day and age? One platform that’s helping them to do so is Konfer. With a “trusted user group” that includes leading business groups and companies representing bioscience, commercial chemistry, cybersecurity, digital media, energy, food production, intelligent mobility and transport, land management, technology and textiles, Konfer aims to accelerate research partnerships with UK universities. Founding members include Capgemini, National Tryst, and Unilever, and total members represent a collective turnover/income of over £48.6bn ($68.69bn). Konfer takes the form of a free online match-making tool, which connects businesses with research expertise and funding opportunities. It is backed by 132 universities in the


“The benefits partnerships deliver to industry are now even more valuable in our age of tightening R&D budgets and an ever-increasing speed of innovation” – Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, New Model in Technology & Engineering UK and includes profiles of over 130,000 academics available for collaborative research. As a not-for-profit resource, Konfer has been funded and developed by the National Centre for Universities and Business (NCUB), Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Research Councils UK and Innovate UK. Since its beta launch in November 2017, Konfer has already helped big names like Jaguar Land Rover conduct vital R&D.

David Docherty, Chief Executive at NCUB, told Business Chief: “There’s significant untapped potential for businesses to establish mutually beneficial partnerships with universities… we were inspired by business leaders who said they would be better equipped to grow and exploit opportunities in the UK and internationally if they had better access and insight to academic research partners and innovation funding.” 51


VISIT OUR WEBSITE

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The value of customer retention Armadillo CRM helps major global brands manage customer relationships. We speak to CEO James Ray about the value of retaining customers and how technology like AI and machine learning can help Writ ten by STUART HODGE


S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y


S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y AS LEGENDARY MANAGEMENT theorist Peter Drucker once remarked: “The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer”. Indeed, the art of creating new customers, as per the maxim, has been welldocumented by many business publications, but the challenge of keeping customers is not always given quite as much mainstream attention. Research from Econsultancy a few years ago demonstrated that seven out of 10 businesses reckon it easier to retain a customer than acquire one. If this is the case, why is more attention is not devoted to this topic? In recent years, customer relationship marketing (CRM) has emerged as a key means by which businesses can tap into their existing customer base to generate easy profit. To find out a bit more about the potential benefits of CRM, Business Chief spoke to James Ray, CEO of Armadillo CRM, a big player in the space which underwent a management buyout earlier this year. Ray was part of the three-man team responsible for the buy-out, and has been with the company since 1996, previously serving as Armadillo’s Client Services Director, 56

April 2018

Armadillo CEO James Ray

Chairman and MD prior to the buyout. We asked him exactly how CRM works. “Data is our raw material,” Ray explains. “In our case our clients tend to be businessto-consumer (B2C) brands so we are usually working with consumer data, purchases, clicks, logins, browsing and so on. We mine the data for insights – analysing patterns, trends and signals. That insight feeds a strategy to engage, influence or change the customer’s behavior in line with our client’s objectives – usually with KPIs and a business case attached. Then we bring that strategy to life with the right mix of data, creativity and technology to change the customer


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S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y experience and deliver the behavior change our clients are seeking. That might be to get the customer to spend more, become more loyal, or even to feel more positively toward the brand. To complete the loop, we analyze the resulting data and optimize the strategy.” Armadillo, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, lists McDonald’s, the BBC and Disney amongst its clients. The company claims to have run a number of CRM strategies as part of integrated

campaigns for clients which have driven double-digit uplifts in performance from the CRM channel alone. Impressive – but as companies embark on digital transformation and become more tech-aware, has CRM become more popular? “Yes,” says Ray. “The diversity of our client base points to this – digitally native brands like Hotels.com, where CRM is baked in to their DNA, as well as more traditional businesses like McDonald’s and Disney, where what started as a specialist channel is now core to their future plans. “We often start working with businesses when they are consciously at a turning point in their approach to managing and using customer data. We help them build the strategy for managing their customer relationships, which helps define the associated requirements for technology within the business. I think there’s a shift in client expectations going on, not only in CRM but in marketing services more generally, too. With the

“With the accessibility of powerful marketing technology and the empowerment it brings, clients’ needs are more fluid and varied than ever before” – James Ray, CEO of Armadillo CRM 58

April 2018


Armadillo CRM: data insight creative The launch of a new brand

accessibility of powerful marketing technology and the empowerment it brings, clients’ needs are more fluid and varied than ever before. Tailoring solutions and services to specific needs used to be a nice option to have – and a quirk of Armadillo – but now it’s an expectation.” Armadillo is ambitious, and upon completion of the recent buyout, the new leadership announced the company now aims to double in size over the next five years. Integral to that is how it retains some of its

bigger clients, while ensuring it enables its clients do the same. “We’ve been the retained CRM agency partner for McDonald’s in the UK since 2011, helping them develop a CRM capability, originally from a standing start, with a full service that includes analysis, strategy, data management, creative and campaign delivery,” says Ray. “We’ve been working with Hotels.com since 2015, supporting their in-house team on strategy, analysis and creative projects 59


“Where machines can automate and do tasks better than humans, it leaves more time for humans to do the creative and lateral things that create resilient and loyal connection between customers and brands” – James Ray, CEO of Armadillo CRM

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S U S TA I N A B I L I T Y that are tested in the North American market, and then rolled out globally. And we’ve been working with The Walt Disney Company since 2007, currently helping them deliver eCRM campaigns across five key European markets. “What I love about what we do is that every client is different. For McDonald’s in the UK, who’ve had 48 quarters of consecutive growth, market share and sales are not a problem for them – the priority is building and sustaining customer affinity, so our approach is tailored to do that. That means eCRM programs that connect customers to new products and tastes according to their favorites and preferences, and driving them to use new convenience platforms like mobile ordering and delivery. For Hotels.com, who operate in a fiercely competitive and highly-commoditized market, it’s very different. Here, we work with the client to identify trends and patterns in customer behavior, and develop multi-channel CRM strategies to intervene with offers and messages in order to restore and

retain customer booking behavior.” According to Ray, the key to Armadillo’s success has been “fundamentally about finding the right people” and the fact the team has an “obsession with service”. That, alongside the company’s capacity to change and evolve, has helped it navigate any choppy financial waters caused by major events such as the global financial crash. The CEO recognises that you always need to have an idea of where the next major disruption or industry innovation may be coming from, and Ray has already identified the key areas Armadillo will be keeping an eye on over the coming months and years. 61


“We mine the data for insights – analysing patterns, trends and signals. That insight feeds a strategy, to engage, influence or change the customer’s behavior in line with our client’s objectives” – James Ray, CEO of Armadillo CRM

“For a while now, the big players in the marketing tech space have been sweeping all before them,” he adds. “We’re seeing quite a few frustrations on the client side as expectations have fallen a bit short. Our tech teams are increasingly called on to develop additional tech to plug some of these gaps. I can see this growing: the creation of mini bits of bespoke tech as a service 62

April 2018

rather than an off-the-shelf product. “As well as artificial intelligence and machine learning, in Europe there’s the new GDPR legislation. Brands need to re-permission some or all of their customers ahead of the May deadline. We’re helping brands to make a virtue out of the opportunity for customers to keep their investment in the data they give and what benefits they receive in return. Although it’s


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been a long process for brands, it will also bring positive change in the long term, encouraging companies to talk to customers more openly about the value their data provides them. “I think we’re still in the foothills of the potential for AI and machine learning, but it’s already changing the landscape. I think it’s a great opportunity not only for brands but for agencies like us – where machines

can automate and do tasks better than humans, it leaves more time for humans to do the creative and lateral things that create resilient and loyal connections between customers and brands.” 63


RIYA CITY FOCUS


ADH AS SAUDI ARABIA TAKES STEPS TOWARD A LESS OIL-RELIANT ECONOMY, COULD THE CAPITAL CITY BE KEY TO A MORE SUSTAINABLE FUTURE?

Writ ten by HARRY MENE AR

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CITY FOCUS

THE FACTS

RIYADH IS SAUDI ARABIA’s capital and most populous city, with over 6.5mn inhabitants in 2016. This year, the city announced plans to decrease its long-standing synonymity with the oil and gas industry, tapping Saudi energy company ACWA to undertake a multibillion-dollar investment into 66

April 2018

the renewable energy sector. Saudi Arabia, estimated to control 16% of the world’s petroleum reserves, according to Forbes, will turn to another abundant natural resource: sunlight. Saudi Arabia is a leading player in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the


CITY FOCUS world’s leading exporter of petroleum, which accounts for 87% of the country’s budget revenues, 42% of GDP, and 90% of export earnings, according to Forbes. The diminishing oil market has prompted the Saudi government to promote the privatisation and diversification of its economy. The recent

awarding of large construction projects to private companies ACWA Power, Strukton, and Wagner Solar is part of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s initiative to both create jobs for Saudi nationals, and “reshape its energy mix at home but also to emerge as a global force in clean power”, the New York Times reports.

30mn

6.5mn

POPULATION OF SAUDI ARABIA

POPULATION OF RIYADH

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A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE?

THE KINGDOM’S ANNOUNCEMENT to pursue renewable energy futures has raised eyebrows in the international community. Saudi Arabia is known as a wealthy petroleum exporter and heavily subsidises the production of domestic oil and gas, and petro-fueled electricity. The Saudi government prices domestic 68

April 2018

gasoline at around 50 cents per gallon, and electricity at one cent per kilowatt, keeping prices significantly lower than the lowest prices in the US and Europe. The Kingdom is home to only 30mn people, and yet is the sixthlargest consumer of oil worldwide. The country consumes around 25% of the oil it produces, with domestic


consumption rising by 7% per year, according to Chatham House, a British think tank. This trend, if continued, is expected to render the Kingdom a net oil importer by 2038. As the Atlantic puts it: “Now, Saudi rulers say, things must change. Their motivation isn’t concern about global warming; the last thing they want is an end to the fossil-fuel

era. Quite the contrary: they see investing in solar energy as a way to remain a global oil power.” Riyadh is leading the charge to meet the Saudi government’s clean energy targets with two major projects: the construction of a solar farm targeted to generate power for domestic residences, and a municipal project to provide solar power facilities for a Riyadh Metro depot. 69


CITY FOCUS

ACWA SOLAR FARM

THE SOLAR FARM under development by ACWA is intended to produce power for 40,000 homes in Riyadh. Projected costs amount to approximately $300mn and the project is expected to create hundreds of jobs, the New York Times reports. The solar farm will be the Kingdom’s first utility-scale solar photovoltaic 70

April 2018

plant. Paddy Padmanathan, CEO of ACWA, said it had won the bid for the 300MW project at Sakaka, in the northern Al Jouf area at “a new world record tariff” of US Cents 2.3417/kWh, according to a report by The National. The success of ACWA’s bid has contributed to the company’s consideration of listing on the


‘Now, Saudi rulers say, things must change. Their motivation isn’t concern about global warming; the last thing they want is an end to the fossil-fuel era. Quite the contrary: they see investing in solar energy as a way to remain a global oil power’

40,000 THE NUMBER OF HOMES THAT ACWA’S SOLAR FARM WILL POWER

$300mn THE TOTAL COST OF THE ACWA’S SOLAR FARM PROJECT

domestic capital markets as well as an international exchange in 2018. In an interview in December 2017, Padmanathan claimed the company has an “adequate enough operating portfolio that can generate that dividend stream” as it prepared to file for listing.

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STRUKTON RAIL AND WAGNER SOLAR

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THE SECOND MAJOR solar project underway in Riyadh this year concerns a partnership established between Strukton Rail and Wagner Solar. The companies will collaborate on a $3.8mn contract to install almost 4,300 solar panels on a Riyadh Metro depot serving the rail

system’s lines 4 and 6, Arab News reports. The panels are predicted to produce 2,452 MWh per year, and the project is part of a larger initiative by the Riyadh government to utilise renewable energy to power the more than 80 stations along the six rail lines spanning more than 176km.

4,300

$3.8bn

THE NUMBER OF SOLAR PANELS THAT THE STRUKTON RAIL/ WAGNER SOLAR PROJECT WILL INVOLVE

THE TOTAL COST OF THE STRUKTON RAIL/ WAGNER SOLAR PROJECT 73


CITY FOCUS

LEADING THE WAY‌

THROUGH DOMESTIC, COMMERCIAL, and municipal projects, Riyadh is expected to lead the Kingdom in the adoption of the government’s clean energy targets, with the country setting its sights on increasing its negligible 74

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renewable presence to be able to provide as much as 10% of its power generation by the end of 2023. To this end, the Saudi government intends to invest over $7bn in 2018 to develop seven new solar plants and an industry-scale wind farm.


30mn THE NUMBER OF SOLAR PANELS THAT THE STRUKTON RAIL/ WAGNER SOLAR PROJECT WILL INVOLVE

6.5mn THE TOTAL COST OF THE STRUKTON RAIL/ WAGNER SOLAR PROJECT

ACWA CEO, Paddy Padmanathan, when asked about the future of the Kingdom’s energy sector said: “Most of what [Saudi energy authorities] will procure going forward, I am convinced, will be renewables.”

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TOP 10

Companies in the Middle East The top 10 Middle Eastern companies by reported revenue in 2017, according to Forbes Middle East


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Emaar Properties

Country: UAE URL: www.emaar.com Dubai-based real estate developer, Emaar Properties, reported a net revenue of $4.32bn in 2017, representing a more than $300mn increase in sales over the previous year. The company’s real estate development portfolio includes master-planned communities, shopping malls, hostels and resorts, entertainment, commercial leasing, and industries and investment, according to Forbes. Emaar Properties’ portfolio has experienced a sixyear period of continuous growth, amounting to an overall expansion of assets worth over $9.5bn.

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Al Rajhi Bank

Saudi Arabia 09 Country: URL: www.alrajhibank.com Saudi Arabian banking house Al Rajhi Bank, which provides local, regional, and international banking, financing, and investment services, reported a net revenue of $4.51bn in 2017, according to Forbes. This represents a revenue increase of more than $500mn over the previous financial year, continuing an upward trend that has seen net sales increase by over $1.7bn in the past decade. Similarly, Al Rajhi’s asset portfolio has seen a ten-year period of continuous growth, reaching an all-time high of $90.5bn last year. 81


TOP 10

Emirates NBD

UAE 08 Country: URL: www.emiratesnbd.com Based in Dubai, Emirates NBD provides financial services to the Middle East, including retail banking, wealth management, wholesale banking, Islamic banking, and information technology and operations, according to Forbes. The company reported a net revenue of $5.53bn in 2017, an increase of over $300mn over the 2016 financial year. The bank opened its first branch in India in 2017, with plans to expand further into Turkey and Egypt. Emirates chairman, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, told Forbes: “As a leading bank in the region and a front-runner in digital banking innovation with a strong balance sheet, we are well placed to take advantage of growth opportunities in our preferred markets.� 82

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National Commercial Bank

Country: Saudi Arabia URL: www.alahli.com Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank (NCB) reported a net revenue of $6.14bn for the 2017 financial year. This represents a 13% increase in top-line earnings over the 2016 fiscal period, continuing a five-year trend of continuous growth. The National Commercial Bank operates through six subsidiary units: Retail Banking, Corporate Banking, Treasury, Capital Market and International Banking, according to Forbes. NCB recently acquired AerCap Holdings’ $800mn aircraft portfolio, stating: “Aircraft leasing is a fast-growing industry that offers a unique and attractive diversification opportunity.”

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Ooredoo

Qatar 06 Country: URL: www.ooredoo.com Qatari communications service provider Ooredoo Telecom is based in Doha and reported a net revenue of $8.93bn in 2017. This represents a revenue decrease of 1%, although profits rose by 3%, reaching a three-year high-point. The company operates through five subsidiary business units: Ooredoo Qatar, Asiacell, NMTC, Indosat, and Ooredoo Oman. Ooredoo Oman added over 750 new 4G locations to its coverage portfolio in 2017, expecting to provide the service to over 90% of Oman’s population by the end of the first quarter of 2018.

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Qatar National Bank

Qatar 05 Country: URL: www.qnb.com

The Qatar National Bank provides commercial and Islamic banking services to the region, including corporate and consumer banking, asset and wealth management, and international banking. QNB, the largest Qatari company in the top ten, reported a net revenue of $11.69bn in 2017. This represents an increase in of 45% ($5.3bn) over the 2016 financial year, the largest increase of any company in the top 10. This is also the largest revenue growth experienced by QNB in a ten-year period of continuous growth. 85


TOP 10

Saudi Electricity Company

Saudi Arabia 04 Country: URL: www.se.com.sa

The Saudi Electricity Company (SEC) oversees the production and distribution of electric and power services in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The company reported a net revenue of $13.28bn in 2017, representing a 16% revenue growth in comparison to the previous financial year and is expected to grow again in 2018 in the wake of a deal between SEC and Tokyo Electricity Holding Company, Nissan Auto Company and Takawaka Toco Energy Solutions. The company issued a statement in January 2018, claiming: “…the project is a key step to transfer new technologies in using electric energy, in general, and electric car technology, in particular,” Arab News reports. 86

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T O P 1 0 C O M PA N I E S I N T H E M I D D L E E A S T

Saudi Telecom Company

Saudi Arabia 03 Country: URL: www.stc.com.sa

Based in Riyadh, the Saudi Telecom Company (STC) provides telecommunications services to the Saudi Kingdom. The company reported a net revenue of $13.82bn, an increase of over $250mn in comparison to 2016. STC experienced a decrease in profits of over $200mn. In response, the company has increased data pack prices by up to 50% in January 2018.

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02

Etisalat

Country: UAE URL: www.etisalat.ae The largest telecommunications provider (by both revenue and asset value) in the Middle East, Etisalat, reported a net revenue of $14.26bn in 2017. This represents the continuation of a tenyear trend of revenue expansion. The company’s asset portfolio shrank by over $2bn in 2017, compared to the ten-year high point of $34.9bn in 2016. In 2017, according to the Fortune Global 500, Etisalat dethroned previous regional leaders Etihad and Emirates to become the Middle East’s most valuable brand.

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01

Saudi Basic Industries

Country: Saudi Arabia URL: www.sabic.com Saudi Basic Industries specialises in the manufacture of petrochemicals, including plastics, agri-nutrients, metals, resins, specialty film and sheet, polymershapes, glazing solutions, and specialty additives and intermediates. The corporation reported a net revenue of $35.41bn in 2017, representing an 11% decrease in sales in comparison to 2016, putting the company at a seven-year low. This trend has been further exemplified by “a 19% slide in its fourth-quarter net income due to reduced output and fewer products sold,� according to The National. 89


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Procurement amidst a blockade: Qatar Airways is in it for the long-haul Written by Laura Mullan Produced by Heykel Ouni


e:

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Against the backdrop of the blockade, Qatar Airways’ trailblazing procurement strategy is helping to deliver a flight experience like no other

T

aking off from runways across all six continents, the burgundy logo of Qatar Airways has become synonymous with luxury, excellence and customer service. The Doha-based firm has tirelessly earned its stripes as a five-star airline, gaining accolades for its service time and time again, but perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the Qatari airline is the pride its staff reserve for the company. “Before being a buyer, we are an ambassador of our brand,” says Mr. Liazid Benkoussa, Senior Vice President of Procurement and Logistics – and perhaps it is this belief which is helping the company raise the bar in procurement. Today, procurement is a pressurised discipline to be in, with departments

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under ever-increasing pressure to reduce costs and sustain genuine supplier relationships. However, the pressure is perhaps tenfold for the team at Qatar Airways. Overcoming the blockade It’s been nine months since four of its Gulf neighbours – Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – imposed a blockade on Qatar, posing a challenge quite like no other for businesses across the country.


S U P P LY C H A I N

“Before being a buyer, we are an ambassador of our brand� Liazid Benkoussa, Senior Vice President of Procurement and Logistics

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S U P P LY C H A I N

Despite this, Qatar Airways has deftly tackled the upheaval and, in doing so, it has demonstrated the talent, expertise, and resolve of its staff. “The blockade has definitely had an impact on us,” notes Benkoussa candidly. “It currently prevents people from having the luxury and the freedom to choose the airline they want to travel with. We would like to enable any kind of client to experience Qatar Airways no matter where they are living. “The blockade not only affects our clientele, it also has a huge impact on procurement activity because we had some key suppliers based in those countries,” he continues. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to work with our suppliers to mitigate this. “We were proactive. We asked our suppliers to change their company registration or asked their sister companies, based elsewhere, to procure the product and this was done very efficiently.” The airline also closely monitored its inventory to ensure that all

Qatar Airways in one of the only airlines worldwide to have earned a 5-star rating by Skytrax

the equipment needed for its economy class, business class and first-class operations was available and it is this proactive approach which has shielded the company from major disruptions. “It was very challenging but it’s with great pride that I can tell you that none of our flights departed without the original Qatar Airways products that we requested,” Benkoussa adds. In the dynamic city of Doha, the blockade may have seen an insurmountable challenge to

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“The blockade not only affects our clientele, it also has a huge impact on procurement activity because we have some key suppliers based in those countries. Fortunately, we’ve been able to work with our suppliers to mitigate this” Liazid Benkoussa, Senior Vice President of Procurement and Logistics


Q ATA R A I R WAY S

Voted Airline of the Year by Skytrax in 2011, 2012, 2015 and most recently in 2017 overcome, but it is possible, and Qatar Airways made it happen. Procurement: A critical function In fact, the firm actually used this event as a catalyst to accelerate its existing five-year plan. Where it may have taken other airlines a few weeks or months to recognise the urgent need to adapt, Qatar Airways wasted no time in launching new and far-reaching routes to Turkey, Russia, Oman, Thailand and the Czech Republic, amongst others. After overcoming such mammoth hurdles, it’s clear that the importance of the company’s procurement

function cannot be underestimated. “It’s really linked to the vision of our Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker,” Benkoussa explains. “He has the drive to innovate and evolve our products, but he is also a businessman. “Therefore, he asked himself, ‘how can I upgrade my product, whilst also maintaining cost-efficiency for both the airline and its board members?’ “There’s only one department that can do that, and that’s group procurement. That’s why it’s so important.” Accelerating growth    As the national carrier of the State of Qatar, the firm has undergone rapid expansion in recent years, proudly standing as one of the world’s fastest-growing airlines. “I work for an airline that is one of the rarest in the world as it has consistently grown in the market,” says Benkoussa proudly, and it’s clear to see why. The national airline has consistently strengthened its fleet with new


Video: Qatar Airways Airbus A350-1000 delivery from Toulouse to Doha

acquisitions and it was the launch customer for the coveted Airbus A350-900 and most recently A3501000. Qatar Airways was the first airline to operate the Boeing 787 in the Middle East, is a launch customer for the 777X, and has twenty 737 MAX airplanes on order. In 2016 the airline placed a record $11.7 billion order with Boeing for 30 B787-9 Dreamliners and 10 777-300ERs. This is not only indicative of the company’s growth, but also of its reputation and standing within the aviation community. “Qatar Airways is not only growing in terms of aircraft acquisition,”

adds Benkoussa, “it is also growing in terms of network.” Consolidated, digital procurement As you would expect, this accelerated growth has also had a knock-on effect on the company’s procurement strategy. Today, the Qatari airline has consolidated all its entities and subsidiaries into one procurement group which allowed it to order mass volumes of product and secure competitive prices for the organisation. What’s more, it is also leveraging modern technologies

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to prepare its procurement function for the digital age. “We are in the process of migrating to SAP Ariba,” Benkoussa says. “This procurement system will give endusers within Qatar Airways access to their contracts, their data, and the volume of product they need to target on a monthly or yearly basis. It’s a fully-automated and innovative procurement tool which will definitely enhance our process.

“Qatar Airways is not only growing in terms of aircraft acquisition, it is also growing in terms of networking” Liazid Benkoussa, Senior Vice President of Procurement and Logistics “It’s also important to bear in mind that we are the only airline that will introduce such consolidated IT tools in the aviation industry,” he adds. “How do I know that? Because SAP Ariba is conducting this exercise for the first time with Qatar Airways.” Close supplier relationships However, aside from this, the key to the company’s procurement transformation perhaps lies in the way it creates sincere and genuine relationships with its suppliers. Ensuring consistent communication and setting ambitious KPIs for


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Qatar Airways services all six continents and connects more than 150 destinations on the map every day


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its vendors, sustaining supplier connections is definitely high on the agenda for the Qatari airline. When customer experience is at the cornerstone of its operations, it’s clear that Qatar Airways can’t accept anything less than the best for its customers. “We are meeting the clientele’s demand and supporting group procurement by interacting with our suppliers in a much deeper and professional way,” says Benkoussa. “But it’s important that, when we’re developing these relationships, we clearly present and reflect

what a dynamic and innovative company Qatar Airways is. “It’s not possible to secure our cost-efficiency if you are unable to show the supplier the exact type of airline we represent,” he adds. “We need to be the sellers of Qatar Airways before being the buyer.” Fair, ethical practice Benkoussa also highlights how the national airline takes a fair but thorough approach to ensure that suppliers share the company’s ethical practices. As such, Qatar Airways takes a zero-tolerance approach

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to vendors who are associated with major issues such as child labour, environmental concerns, bribery and discrimination. “We wholly reject these kinds of unethical practices,” says Benkoussa. “We are very fair when we tender a supplier and don’t discriminate based on its location. We make sure we give suppliers the chance to introduce the best offer and best practices that they can for Qatar Airways.” Qatar Airways’ suppliers also recognise its underlying desire to innovate. By meeting its demands and developing new and exciting products, it is these relationships which are helping to propel the company forward, distinguishing it as a customerfocused, customer driven-airline. Q-Suite innovation None of the company’s products exemplifies this more so than its highly-anticipated Business Class Q-Suite. Debuting a year ago at the ITB travel trade show in Berlin, the

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pod-like suites promise more privacy, choice and personalisation to travellers. Benkoussa says that it’s products like the company’s Q-Suite which are helping to up the ante in the travel sector. “Although it’s in business-class, it is very much a first-class product,” he notes. “Qatar Airways is always enhancing and innovating the latest trends in the aviation industry and that is thanks to the relationship we have with the suppliers as well as the entire team at Qatar Airways.” Consistently trying to deliver high-quality whilst balancing a healthy finance book, Qatar Airways also ensures that its economy fliers also receive its renowned five-star treatment. Benkoussa says that this is clearly illustrated by the company’s new and improved economy class menu, which is going the extra mile for its customers.   “We introduced cost-saving measures but we also upgraded the product itself,” explains Benkoussa. “The quantity will be upgraded and


“We’re successful because the clients evolve, the clients demand more and Qatar Airways always listens” Liazid Benkoussa, Senior Vice President of Procurement and Logistics


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there will be 30% more food than any other airline in the world. “It will have more expensive items such as salmon and asparagus which is quite rare for economy class,” he continues. “We decided to dedicate a little bit more effort on our economy clients who decide to fly often with us and value our product. We respect them and so we decided to enhance the product for them.”    When upholding positive

procurement practices or maintaining supplier relationships, all roads lead back to the customer, says Benkoussa. By putting customer service at the forefront of its vision, Qatar Airways has reinvented its procurement strategy and carved out a path as one of the leading airlines in the sector. Customer-focused, customer-driven Gaining countless awards for its cabin service and more, it is clear that the airline’s sincere, hands-on approach to its customers is what

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Hamad International Airport, Doha

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gives it a competitive edge. “You can see that the relationship between Qatar Airways and its own clientele is quite focused and attentive,” Benkoussa explains. “That’s the reason why we like to be innovative in order to gain our customers’ attention and make sure that Qatar Airways always exceeds their expectations.” Guaranteeing that it is meeting these high standards, Qatar Airways takes on internal and external audits to ensure there is no degradation of service and also consistently collects feedback from its customers. By evolving and adapting, the Qatari airline has side-stepped the series of hurdles in its path and cemented itself as a major player in the fiercely competitive airline sector. The latest chapter in Qatar Airways history is one which has been defined by the national blockade, but looking ahead to 2018, Benkoussa is optimistic about the company’s prosperous, dynamic future. “It would be very difficult for me to even consider working for another

airline after working for Qatar Airways,” says Benkoussa. “The demands and the expectations at the company are so high that I think it would be unsatisfying to work for another entity. “Qatar Airways will always have a prosperous future because this company truly understands the needs of the client,” he adds. “We evolve because we want to attract a wide demographic of customers – whether it’s economy, business or first-class travellers. No matter their profile, they are most welcome on the Qatar Airways to experience our five-star product. We’re successful because the clients evolve, the clients demand more and Qatar Airways always listens.” Against the backdrop of the blockade, the state of Qatar has proved that business is open as ever. The national airline has handled the situation with grit, innovation and dignity, and although the challenges are far from over, it seems that Qatar Airways is in it for the long haul.

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Generating procurement power in the Middle East Das Holding is building and developing its procurement proficiency, at the same time growing the profile of the industry in the region

Written by DALE BENTON Produced by HEYKEL OUNI


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ROCU REMENT AS AN industry in the Middle East is growing at an exponential rate. Historically, as a function, procurement across the region has significantly lagged behind many of the leading industries across the world but, as Sam Achampong, Regional Head – Middle East and North Africa (MENA), The Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) believes, the tide is beginning to turn. “A larger number of experienced professionals are being put at the top of procurement functions to start

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filtering down and embedding best practice across all their staff and all their functions and the way they do things,” he says. “That’s what’s happening exponentially across the Middle East and if it continues to happen then I firmly believe that the region will become the centre of excellence for procurement.” One such example of this is Das Holding. In 2014, as part of the DAS Group of Companies, it embarked on a journey of centralising its procurement function and services within the Middle East. This journey was driven by one clear vision – to become the leading UAE holding company and the preferred partner of choice for institutional investors, governments and multinational corporations. Overseeing this journey is Christopher Bentley, Head of Procurement at Das Holding. “I have a procurement mission,” he says, “to support Das Holding’ business vision by delivering a preferred, dynamic and strategically aligned procurement service. One that will work closely with the company’s business units to


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optimise cost space and provide a sustainable, competitive advantage in every aspect of its local business.” As the company looks to build a mature, leading edge procurement function, doing so in a market that is still growing in its proficiency and capabilities is not without its challenges. Bentley recognises this and looks to break down the overarching vision to be the leading holdings company across the UAE, recognising and extracting just how procurement can support this. This saw the forming of a procurement

department charter, designed to analyse the market to find best practice in order to deliver sustainable, competitive advantage through a process of continuous improvement. But how does this translate into the day to day operation? “We adopt an adherence to a one team, no barriers policy,” says Bentley. “One that will practically involve a global supply base and be based on leading edge technology, coordination of supply decisions and the application of global supply chain processes.”

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LEADING GLOBAL EXCELLENCE IN PROCUREMENT AND SUPPLY CIPS, THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF PROCUREMENT & SUPPLY, IS…

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THE PROFESSIONAL BODY A not-for-profit organisation that exists for the public good, promoting and developing high standards of skill, ability and integrity among procurement and supply chain professionals.

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All of which, of course, while ensuring right there with them in the trenches.” the ongoing support of Das Holding’s An organisation can only thrive and business units. succeed through its workforce. Das Holding as an organisation is a firm This is where Bentley feels his believer in empowering its employees, particular way of working can truly generate added value along this journey. empowered employees that will contribute to the exponential growth “It would be easy to sit in a position of the company. at the top and bark out procedures Bentley is a firm believer in this, and policies,” he says. “But I don’t work that way. I like to open myself up ensuring that all members of his team feel a part of the process by asking to our staff and I want procurement them simple questions. Where are we to work in a way that is able to look going? How are we going to get there? at key objectives, analyse our What part will you play? How can you performance and understand where make a difference? we can improve and grow. And I’m 126

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“I have a procurement mission to The value of this approach, for Bentley, support Das Holding’ business is second to none. vision by delivering a preferred, “Das Holding promotes a selfdynamic and strategically aligned rewarding mentality, so that when an procurement service. One that will employee gets paid at the end of the work closely with the company’s month they can really see where they business units to optimised cost earned that and how they played space and to provide a sustainable, a key part in our growth,” he says. competitive advantage in every “My door is always open, but I aspect of its local business”

encourage them to push themselves, – Christopher Bentley, Head of Procurement, and if there is an issue then we work DAS Holding collaboratively to locate and remove that pain point, and to me the results both ways – as Bentley was exposed of this mentality and approach speak to more and more opportunities to for themselves.” grow, Das Holding has been recognised This approach is one that Bentley practices, and does not just preach. In as a reputable, market leader in the procurement space. 2017, he was awarded fellowship from In supply and procurement, you are CIPS, being fast-tracked as a result of only as good as your suppliers and the work he has done to grow the vendors and the partners that you procurement profession. “Receiving fellowship not only pushed me to develop my own capabilities, it exposed my procurement team to much more,” he says. “A whole new skills cabinet, one that has enabled us to grow and develop our staff far beyond what we ever could achieve without it.” This was a process that worked middleeast.businesschief.com

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work with. For Das Holding, this was one of the very first things it looked to ensure in creating a reputable procurement function. The company rates its suppliers through five different categories: Alliance Partner, Preferred, Approved, Conditional and Eliminate. This is decided through conversations with the procurement arm that discusses

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the business relationship, the value and the capabilities and efficiencies that partner can bring. “So, you look at the business relationship this supplier has with me and DAS,� says Bentley, “and then you break it down further. That supplier has to be the first choice for new business, so what can we do to enable that? This model allows us as


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a business to be wholly central, to have full control where possible in order to create an efficient procurement supplier model.” For Bentley, this model “revolutionised” the way DAS operates through procurement overnight. It improved relationships and generated cost savings and truly enhanced the reputation that DAS was already establishing.

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“Das Holding promotes a self-rewarding mentality, so that when an employee gets paid at the end of the month they can really see where they earned that and how they played a key part in our growth” – Christopher Bentley, Head of Procurement, DAS Holding

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In the four years since Das Holding embarked on this journey, the company has already come a long way in its quest to be a procurement partner of choice. Through the way it engages with its suppliers, Das Holding has played in a key role not only in the development of its own procurement, but supporting the development of the procurement industry across the region. Das Holding works with suppliers through open, transparent communication. “We invite them into the office and we talk about a number of things,” says Bentley. “What’s going on in the market? What’s happening to the local economy? How are you using that to shape how you work as our partner? “Increasing that transparency makes a better relationship. We are recognising their achievements, their attitudes and their capabilities as they grow our business and the wider market.” It is this approach to suppliers, and to the procurement industry, that makes Das Holding a key player in the maturing market as recognised by Achampong of CIPS.

“As a procurement player, Das Holding really are an example of what procurement in this region can be,” he says. “In Chris, the company has hired an experienced and professional to setup a function, professionalise and grow the competency of that function and then instil best practice across the organisation.” Achampong feels that it’s an exciting time for procurement across the Middle East. “Expand that across the region and that’s exactly what’s happening,” he continues. “Experienced leaders are working at the top of procurement functions and filtering down and embedding best practice across the industry. “That’s really what’s happening exponentially across that region and if it continues to happen, it really will be a procurement centre of excellence in no time at all.”

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Securing Sharjah’s

SUSTAINABLE FUTURE Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by Robert Gray


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Chief Efficienology Officer Eng Afra Alowais discusses SEWA’s commitment to meeting the utilities needs of its citizens and businesses population of just 2,000 in 1950, Sharjah has witnessed unprecedented growth. Now the third largest city in the United Arab Emirates, its population exceeded 900,000 in 2010, and is set to surpass 1.5mn by 2020. To cater to such increased demands on its utility services, Sharjah is increasingly implementing new projects, technologies and partnerships to attract and retain talent in the region and further boost its economy. One such area of focus is the demand for electricity, particularly within peak hours. This is in addition to the growing need for reliable gas and water supplies to accommodate the city’s expansion. Responsible for regulating the power industry in Sharjah, the Sharjah Electricity & Water Authority (SEWA) has undergone a significant change. The first utility provider in the Emirates to secure ISO50001:2011 certification in Energy Management Systems, SEWA

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“By regularly hosting customers in the Majlis of the Happiness Centres, SEWA is committed to understanding its customers’ needs”

harnesses renewable resources and has undertaken a number of strategic projects to support the green growth of the city. Whilst its power capacity has been increased and indeed stabilised, the business remains determined to provide the best value and services, exploring new business models and processes to cater to the increasing expectations of its customers. Appointed as Chief Efficienology Officer in 2016, Eng Afra Alowais explains that SEWA is developing ‘green growth’, alongside a strong sustainability approach across all of its operations. Responsible for driving the initiatives relating to efficiency and technology, Eng Alowais will thus contribute to the sustained adoption of best practices in the entire UAE power sector, spanning generation, transmission and distribution.

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Chief Efficienology Officer Eng Afra Alowais

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SEWA employees at a company innovation event

INCREASED DEMAND Overhauling its water lines in Sharjah has been the first step of SEWA’s sustainability strategy. “After careful analysis, we determined it was more cost-efficient to retrofit the old water lines. These are expected to last more than 30 years and continue to meet the highest environmental regulations,” Eng Alowais says. “SEWA is one of the main supporters of the national agenda for demand side management endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Energy. This is also a policy to ensure water security and is the cornerstone of SEWA’s Strategic Plan.” The projects will also seek to ease any water shortages experienced, and increase

“SEWA is one of the main supporters of the national agenda for demand side management endorsed by the Federal Ministry of Energy” Afra Alowais, Chief Efficienology Officer, SEWA

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the capacity of traditional water lines. In 2017, the company installed over 80,000m of new water lines, which will deliver over 100mn gallons of water per day. Its projects will also utilise new materials and technologies to increase water conservation, such as digital tools to detect, and help to alleviate potential water leaks. Fostering or establishing strategic relationships with more than 35 international companies has enabled SEWA to participate SEWA recognises in knowledge sharing to innovative staff guarantee best practices. The company has also recently been in talks with GE to further reduce its emissions as part of its 2020 Vision, promoting clean energy and advancing Sharjah as a City of Conservation. “SEWA has started an Energy Efficiency Program in line with the vision of H.H. Sheikh Sultan Al

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Qasimi for Sharjah to become the Sharjah City of Conservation, with the aim to save 30% of energy through energy efficiency initiatives,” explains Eng Alowais. “Recently, we have launched an ambitious retrofit programme under the mandate of the Energy Efficiency Program. We also aspire to create a sustainable shift in consumer behaviour and their energy consumption practices. This will achieve a consequent reduction in energy and water resources used and provide financial savings for the participating companies. “Furthermore, The Clean Energy Business Council have supported our endeavours.”

“Our customers are prosumers who want to have a voice in how their utilities are managed and operated” Afra Alowais, Chief Efficienology Officer, SEWA

CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT By regularly hosting customers in the Majlis of the many Happiness Centres in the emirate, SEWA is committed to understanding their needs and works to extend this dialogue with them through social media and ad hoc projects.

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Interview with Sky News arabia, Emarat TV

“We held some productive focus groups during the innovation projects and will sustain these interactions,” adds Eng Alowais. “Our customers are prosumers who want to have a voice in how their utilities are managed and operated. We have introduced a channel for customers to communicate directly with the SEWA Chairman and the new insights this has enabled are invaluable.”

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Utilising the FORTH Innovation Method, SEWA recognised that customers were behaving differently in the way that they had historically interacted with utility providers. “Customers were becoming ‘time-poor’ and welcomed the chance to perform business online,” notes Eng Alowais. “We gained a far deeper insight into customer needs through a series of customer focus groups.


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We received excellent co-operation from a number of our business customers who participated and helped us understand how to enhance our services and to investigate future opportunities. “Several new business cases were presented, at the conclusion of each innovation project, and SEWA was the first organisation in the Middle East to use this new innovation method,” adds Eng Alowais. Listening to customers’ concerns surrounding sustainability, and their desire to access and pay bills online, has prompted SEWA to implement Green Billing. “Green Bill has been optimised for use on a mobile app and customers have the flexibility to use a variety of channels to scrutinise their bill. It was a ‘no-brainer’ for us to adopt this because

it reduces our overheads and immediately contributes to our global sustainability goals,” says Eng Alowais. Through the Green Bill campaign, SEWA reduces emissions by eliminating the need to print invoices, and which additionally improves security of customer data. Invoices can be delivered monthly through a number of digital platforms, and grants over 400,000 subscribers the ability to pay their utility bills securely online.

Dr Rashid Alleem middleeast.businesschief.com

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NEXT STEPS SEWA has received unwavering support from H.H. Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, who has placed increased value on the learning and development of human capital and the quality of life of inhabitants in the emirate, which is coupled with the vision and sustainability leadership of SEWA Chairman Dr Rashid Al Leem. Beyond this, SEWA will continue to partner with external stakeholders to enable long-term success and strong employee engagement. “SEWA is an approachable company with a willingness to embrace new ideas, transform and grow,” concludes Eng Alowais. “Over the next year, we will align our stakeholders and drive the focus towards preparedness for achieving planned energy efficiency. “We will be on track to achieve a 30% reduction in consumption patterns in Sharjah emirate by 2020. The business of our customers will be able to continue to grow but energy waste will be reduced considerably as awareness of the processes spreads.”

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ENERGY

Afra Alowais and the team at SEWA open a new project

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Closer to the market, closer to the customer Written by Dale Benton Produced by Robert Gray


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OLYMPUS MEA has established a regional office in Dubai as it moves closer to the market and closer to the customer

As a company we recognised that you cannot manage the customers in a region like Africa and the Middle East from a few thousand kilometres away, you have to be within the region,” says Maurice Faber, Regional Managing Director, Middle East Africa, Olympus MEA FZ-LLC, a subsidiary of Olympus Europa SE & CO. KG. For any company, particularly one with customers, end-users and clients all over the world, the importance of having a base in the regions it serves cannot be understated. Being closer to the market makes a company closer to the customer and being closer to the customer enables a far greater level of service delivery. This was certainly the driving force behind Olympus’ decision to open up a new base of operation in Dubai in 2017, one that would cover the company’s operations across the Middle East, Africa and

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Turkey. The regional headquarters also includes a training centre and a high-tech repair workshop. “This allows us to be close to our distributors and our end users,” says Faber. “But it also allows us to have our own sales force within the region and have specialists all over the region.” As an international company supplying reliable, economical technology systems including innovative test, measurement, and imaging instruments to markets all over the world, being closer to the customer and end user proves crucial in delivering unrivalled service and solutions. This becomes no more apparent than in the supply of technological equipment. “You really need to be close to the end customer to really support them and you have to be able to supply after sale service


ENERGY

“You can’t just supply high technology equipment to a remote area. It has to be calibrated at least once a year. As we are now in the local region, we can do that in a much shorter timeframe as opposed to sending it back to Europe” MAURICE FABER Managing Director, Olympus MEA

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in each country,” says Faber. “You can’t just supply high technology equipment to a remote area. It has to be calibrated at least once a year. As we are now in the local region, we can do that in a much shorter timeframe as opposed to sending it back to Europe.” Olympus MEA has a vision, one that extends beyond providing innovative technology solutions and enabling efficiencies to its client base. The company is a firm believer in being more than just a company and becoming a key contributor and driving force of economic growth of a region. This role as a contributor to economic growth is something

that Faber is extremely passionate about and it’s a passion that radiates across the company’s staff. Heading up the new regional headquarters as General Manager is Albert Altjerman, who shares that vision and drive not only of Faber, but Olympus MEA. “We are all aligned to the same vision,” says Alterjman. “It’s about supporting and building a strong and solid region and I feel we don’t see challenges or hurdles, we see opportunities. “Part of our vision is to grow the business, but, we can only achieve that by being closer to customers through providing the best training,

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transferring technologies and knowledge to all of our regions.” Everything that Olympus MEA does is geared towards, ultimately, better serving the customer and end-user. But, in order to do so, it must first ensure that it can better serve its staff, its distributors and its partners. In moving closer to the market, Faber believes that this will only enable greater communication and greater relationships. “The message is, we are here,” says Faber. “Whereas before when we wanted to communicate with our people on the ground

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and in the regions, it would be phone calls, emails and in some cases flights out to see them. “So now we have as much face to face contact as we can, regular meetings and catch ups. But where it’s still not viable, we work with conference calls to ensure that we are all aligned to the same vision, the same goal and the same strategy for Olympus MEA.” As with many companies that provide solutions to a wide number of industries across the world, Olympus MEA’s business model centres around a strong distributor


“Part of our vision is to grow the business, but, we can only achieve that by being closer to customers through providing the best training, transferring technologies and knowledge to all of our regions” ALBERT ALTERJMAN General Manager, Olympus MEA

network and strategic partnerships. Being an international business, Olympus MEA already had a footprint in the region with a number of local distributors, but for Faber it wasn’t enough. “There were several areas where we did not have the level of market coverage that we wanted and with the level of variety of equipment that we provide, each piece needs its own partner specialist,” he says. “And so that means we must look and partner with the right partners and that’s not always easy. But we have some really good people on

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the ground, we’ve partnered with some really strong partners but we continue to look out for more.” Working across relatively large markets and smaller markets, having the right partner is important not only in the delivery of market leading solutions, but important in pushing the company beyond its capabilities and driving growth and true value. “Where we concentrate is getting the right partner, with the right visions, the same mentality and the same goals as Olympus MEA,” says Faber, “and that boils down to innovation, integrity and market coverage.” Being closer to the customer is one thing, understanding the customer is another and as Olympus MEA serves customers in industries such as aviation, health and oil and gas, understanding the specific needs of each sector is crucial. “With so many customers, it’s very difficult to understand and realise their needs here when you’re sitting in Europe,” says Faber. “Each customer works in a complicated environment, one that you need to see up close and only then can you get the full picture.

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“Where we concentrate is getting the right partner, with the right visions, the same mentality and the same goals as Olympus MEA, and that boils down to innovation, integrity and market coverage.” MAURICE FABER Managing Director, Olympus MEA


ENERGY

Only then can you provide complete solutions to your end customer. This is what we are doing at Olympus MEA.” With the inauguration of the regional headquarters finalising in early 2017, Olympus’s journey of expansion and move closer to the market is still ongoing. As the company looks to the future and explores future growth opportunities, strip it all down and Faber is keen to stress that it has been and always will be the customer that drives the company forward. “My perfect vision is for every end-user and customer considers us as preferred partner,” says

Faber. “No matter what industry, we want to serve those end users in the best possible way and that they can trust us as partners.” This is a feeling shared by Alterjman. “It’s about working with the key decision makers in our industries and collaborating to fit their needs,” he says. “To support them with our technologies, support their operations and their visions. I’m very proud to be a part of this great organisation I’m very proud that I have an opportunity to serve my region, to serve my people and to serve the customers.”

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How aswaaq brings technology to the forefront of retail Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by Craig Daniels


Understanding the needs of its customers, aswaaq aims to guarantee an exceptional shopping experience every time through the use of innovative technologies

D

edicated to the customer experience both online and instore, aswaaq has undergone a significant digital revolution across its entire service portfolio. Grasping that the traditional ‘weekly’ shop has become a somewhat outdated concept, shoppers are now shifting towards purchasing goods on the go, driven by the adoption of increasingly busy lifestyles and transforming expectations surrounding not only the quality of perishable goods, but the way in which such products can be accessed, bought and stored. Established 10 years ago, aswaaq has won a number of awards surrounding the quality of its products and ongoing focus on personalised services. “Our concept is really to provide services in communities

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around the city of Dubai. The city is growing, and it’s difficult for people living on the outskirts to get the essential services that they otherwise require,” observes Deputy CEO, Affan Al-Khoori. Joining aswaaq back in the mid-2000s, Al-Khoori has seen the company grow exponentially, seeking ways to gain an edge over the competition by catering to the changes in consumer preferences and evolving pace of the retail market. “We don’t aim to become a destination store like much of our competitors,” adds Al-Khoori. “We’re more convenient. In a way, we’re trying to make customers comfortable so they come more frequently. We try to make the shopping experience as fast as possible, which is the opposite strategy of what big stores are


TECHNOLOGY

doing by increasing the amount of time the customers spend in their store.”

Personalised shopping Guaranteeing convenience through utilising digital tools, aswaaq provides a complete interactive shopping experience for its customers, both online and in-store. The company’s new unmanned store particularly highlights how customers are continuing to embrace new digital services, such as fingerprint technology. Customers are able to enter the store through this technology, purchase products and check out without using cash or credit card, as all services are linked to the customer’s mobile phone, explains aswaaq’s

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Affan Al Khoori Deputy CEO

Graduated from the University Of Colorado in 1999, Mr. Affan Al Khoori started his professional career as an Area Manager with Emirates National Oil Company Group; a petroleum retailer with a chain of convenient stores across the UAE. This has given him the opportunity to interact with a large customer base in a diversified market environment, be part of a development team and introduce new concepts to the local market. In 2006, Mr. Affan Al Khoori joined aswaaq L.L.C, one of the subsidiaries to the Investment Corporation of Dubai (the Investment Aram of Dubai Government) as a Category Manager. His experience in the retail market and acquired knowledge supported him in securing the Director position of Merchandizing and Buying Department. Soon, His professionalism and knowledge appetite led him to an Executive Director Level. By the end of 2012, Mr. Affan assumed the position of Chief Operating Officer followed by his current position as The Deputy Chief Executive Officer to continue his journey of developing aswaaq and bringing it to the forefront of retail market.

Innovation and Future Director, Manoj Vijayan. Additionally, the company’s collaboration with LS Retail, Philips, Aisle411, GBM and Valuelabshas seen not only the development of its mobile app, named aswaaq Reach, but has enabled customers to gain the ability to build personalised shopping lists. Once complete, the use of Philips’ Visible Light Communication provides customers with a mobile navigation system (or mobile map) of the store, suggesting the quickest routes for customers to locate items and whether they are available.

“We’re trying to take the concept of convenience to a new level,” says Al-Khoori. “We want the customer to have a positive shopping experience. We’ve created this unmanned environment that is within communities. The product range will be designed and will accommodate the needs of that specific community.” Through machine learning, regular items on a user’s shopping list will also be suggested, prompting items that may have been forgotten, as well as further information surrounding potential deals or discounts on items that may be of interest that day.

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Customer loyalty Nonetheless, customer engagement remains vital for aswaaq. Discarding its physical loyalty card five years ago, the company’s digital loyalty program, named Wafa, has become fully integrated with a customer’s mobile number, where all services can be now accessed. “We have almost 80,000 customers on this app. We don’t have a card, it is now completely mobile,” notes Vijayan. “Our loyalty card is something we started 10 years ago. However, most loyalty cards focus very much on members being UAE nationals,” observes Al-Khoori. “So, we took that idea and built it up, so that we are now able to include everybody who’s living in Dubai and cater for up to 200 nationalities, for the people who are living in the heart of Dubai.” Through the use of this digital platform, aswaaq is able to track the popularity of its products and the frequency in which its customers visit its brick and mortar stores, where they can gain and redeem traditional loyalty points. All items on offer also have a unique QR code, which is utilised by customers at aswaaq’s self-checkout services, creating a completely seamless customer experience across the board. “This loyalty program applies to everybody. It is free to join and can pay up to 10% cash within the next month,” explains Al-Khoori. “So, it focuses a lot on the loyalty of our customers, where they will be eligible to gain points leading up to 10% in

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“We try to make the shopping experience as fast as possible, which is the opposite strategy of what big stores are doing by increasing the amount of time the customers spend in their store” – Deputy CEO, Affan Al-Khoori

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Manoj Vijayan

Director Innovation & Future

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terms of savings they can earn.” Additionally, aswaaq’s commitment to its customers has also been strengthened through a partnership with Noor Bank. The launch of the Noor Credit Card has provided a multitude of advantages to its customers. “Our loyalty programme is built on a one-step format, which is 1% return on any purchase below AED 1,500 during the period of a month, a 5% return on any purchase below AED 3,000 a month and 10% return on any purchase above AED 3,000 in a month,” continues Al-Khoori.

Growth potential With such focus on providing an exceptional customer experience, aswaaq is continuing to look at areas of further growth. With plans to build four new community centres in 2018, the company is also behind the construction of a new distribution centre. “The distribution centre will be 300,000 sq ft and is expected to

open by the end of 2019,” reflects Vijayan. Placed in the centre of Dubai, the facility will seek to service aswaaq’s operations, such as its supermarkets, online centres and trading businesses, enabling it to further cater to the rising demands of its customers for years to come. “Looking at how things are moving, especially here in the UAE, people’s lives are becoming busier. The hypermarket concept is still strong, but people are turning more towards convenience and even online, although not much right now. But, we see the times moving more and more towards online and having the convenience of getting things done faster,” concludes Al-Khoori. “Time is expensive and is something our customers are acutely aware of. This was one of the first things that we stacked on when we gauged the look of our store to become something friendlier in terms of something that will hold your customers in place now and in the future.”

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A WO LEADE SUSTAI DISTR ENER

Written by Leila Hawkins


ORLD ER IN INABLE RICT RGY

s Produced by Rob Gray


Q ATA R C O O L

“We reduce electrical consumption by almost half. Air conditioning is at its peak 75% of overall electricity consumption during the summer months, so that’s huge” Yasser Salah Al Jaidah Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Cool 170

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Qatar Cool demonstrates how it’s possible to be a world-leading, wholly sustainable district cooling provider in a region with scarce water and soaring temperatures

Q

atar boasts temperatures that rarely drop below 23 degrees, something which, along with its many shopping opportunities and luxury hotels, makes the country hugely appealing to tourists wishing to escape cold winter months. However, the climate comes with its challenges: water is a precious resource, and air conditioning, an energy-intensive system, is required almost all year round. A far more sustainable system is district cooling. Rather than use electricity to cool the air like conventional air conditioning does, it employs chilled water that is transported through underground pipes, and can be recycled from a number of sources like seawater. Qatar Cool, a global leader in district cooling, uses Treated Sewage Effluent

(TSE) in two of its cooling plants, which is essentially wastewater that has been filtered of contaminants. Sustainable cool Chief Executive Officer Yasser Salah Al Jaidah explains that its main benefits are energy efficiency and savings in both operational and capital expenditure. “We reduce electrical consumption by almost half. Air conditioning is at its peak 75% of overall electricity consumption during the summer months, so that’s huge. Obviously as a consequence we reduce CO2 emissions, by reducing the demand for electricity.” A recent study they completed found that over the last eight years they have saved over a billion tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 1.9bn kilowatt hours of electricity. The cooling system

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ENERGY

also reduces maintenance costs, as the company employs an economic scale principle whereby each client maintains their own system. Another benefit is aesthetic. “If you see high rise buildings you don’t see these big cooling towers sticking out at the top” Al Jaidah says, as internal piping means there is no need for the traditional condenser units on the roof. Al Jaidah says these efforts make Qatar Cool “a very sustainable company, more so than any conventional cooling company out there”. Its experience of using TSE has led to an ongoing 25 R&D projects with non-government entities and universities. “We’re trying to push the envelope to make this business even more sustainable. An example is trying to look at the oxidisation of TSE, looking at evaporation, how we can capture that, and condensation recovery systems.” Its drive to be as sustainable as possible has won several recognitions from international institutions, and it is in fact part of their mission statement. “We’re a safe, reliable energy efficient and responsible provider of district

“We’re committed to supporting the environment, and the development of Qatar, and to create shared value for the customers, communities and shareholders” Yasser Salah Al Jaidah Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Cool

cooling services,” Al Jaidah says. “We’re committed to supporting the environment, and the development of Qatar, and to create shared value for the customers, communities and shareholders. Our vision is to be recognised as the best in class provider of district cooling services.” Qatar Cool currently operates two major districts, including the world’s largest district cooling plant at The Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island in Doha. A fourth cooling

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YASSER SALAH AL JAIDAH - CEO Yasser Salah Al Jaidah joined Qatar Cool on the 18 January 2015, as the Chief Executive Officer. Al Jaidah is primarily accountability for the planning, management and direction of the day-to-day aspects of the business of the company subject to such policies and directives as the Board may adopt. Al Jaidah has the responsibility from legal compliance, mission and vision, policy and planning, governance, financing and community relations. His main objectives for the organisation will focus on three main themes operational excellence, customer management and aggressive growth through development. Before joining Qatar Cool, Al Jaidah was the General Manager and Director of South Hook LNG in the United Kingdom, the largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal of Western Europe and provider of 20% of the United Kingdom’s LNG consumption. He completed a bachelor of science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Missouri in the United States, he is also certified as a Project Management Professional (PMPŽ) from the Project Management Institute (PMI) and has an Executive MBA from HEC-Paris in Shanghai, China. He has over a decade of energy experience and has held positions throughout the field which include maintenance, operations engineering, project management, marketing and venture projects.

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plant is under commissioning in the West Bay district of the city, which is being built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications. Once completed, it will have a cooling capacity of 40,000 tonnes of refrigeration and, in contrast to the other cooling plants in West Bay, will use reverse osmosis. As a whole, Al Jaidah says Qatar Cool is “one of the five largest district cooling companies in the world. With that comes a lot of

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responsibility with making sure that we have the best standards, and the best trademarks in place, because we’re a leader of the pack.” Benchmarking He explains that the biggest challenge is not having benchmarks for comparison. “There’s nobody out there that is doing what we’re doing to learn from. With that there’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of learning over time, what to do and what not


ENERGY

do to, because not only are we one of the biggest, but we’ve probably got one of the most complex grids of any district cooling facility out there.” To address this, Qatar Cool uses consultants to ensure that tariffs, costs and energy efficiency are in line with those of its competitors. “That’s how we gauge ourselves,” Al Jaidah says. The other challenge is operating in a new, unregulated market, which gives rise to misconceptions on the part of the public. “People perceive that

we’re taking advantage of our position and our size. We’re not because we’re continuously benchmarking ourselves and our tariffs against the other players in the region. If regulations were put in place, I think that would settle minds about the industry, especially the tariffs perspective.” Working with Tarsheed, a national programme that promotes efficient use of energy and water, has helped with this. Tarsheed works with government agencies to promote

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“There’s nobody out there that is doing what we’re doing to learn from. With that there’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of learning over time” Yasser Salah Al Jaidah Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Cool

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district cooling, and Qatar Cool has a MoU with the organisation, in addition to a Tarsheed award for energy conservation. There are also key partnerships with Tabreed, a fellow district cooling company, and a number of academic and energy institutions that can assist with technical issues. Social responsibility is another important part of the company’s culture. It runs annual events such as Conservation Week and Water Week with Tarsheed, Earth Day with local schools, and school awareness activities on the theme of energy conservation. Last year it won the CSR Leadership Award from Qatar University. New technology already plays a huge role in all of Qatar Cool’s processes, as everything is digitised, from controlling the water flow to chemical balancing. In the near future, it is looking further into the advantages that implementing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning can bring to district cooling. There’s certainly plenty of development ahead. The country is undergoing dramatic construction because of the upcoming World Cup in 2022, with new shopping malls, hotels, train stations, homes and restaurants springing up. These present myriad new opportunities for Qatar Cool. In the next five years Al Jaidah sees the company expanding not just within Qatar, but potentially beyond its borders too.

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Naufar: Leveraging new technology to support those in need Written by Catherine Sturman Produced by Craig Daniels


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IT Director Fady Saad discusses how the use of technology is leading the development of bespoke healthcare solutions, supporting Naufar’s work to reintegrate those with addiction back into society

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n the last five years, the population in Qatar has grown exponentially, attracting expatriates on a global scale. The healthcare landscape has shifted in alignment with such a changing demographic, attracting new talent and medical expertise, leading Qatar’s health system to be ranked 13th best in the world globally. The country’s vision to deliver exceptional patient-centred care, as set down by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) and National Health Strategy 2011-2016, has also led Qatar to establish new projects, initiatives and services to cater to the health of its citizens. One such area of focus is the global need for rehabilitation

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services for those suffering from addiction. In the US, misuse of opioids and addiction remains the lead cause of accidental death in the country, with alcohol misuse following closely behind. The use of opioids includes heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, as well as prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and others, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). However, the US is not alone. Addiction has impacted health services globally, leading countries to increasingly innovate and disrupt outdated healthcare models and implement new, personalised


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“We tailor a programme for each Guest Client and lead them on a recovery journey” Fady Saad, Information Technology Director

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TECHNOLOGY

healthcare tools and solutions. With an estimated population of 2.69mn, Qatar’s population has tripled in a decade. Whilst Qatari nationals equate to less than 15% of the country’s total population, its growing expat figures have led to an emerging need for wellness and recovery services. “Within the whole GCC and the Middle East there’s a significant demand for these services,” reflected Information Technology Director Fady Saad. “However, the stigma around addiction as a whole is a challenge. We exist in a culture that does not quite understand addiction and does not really appreciate that it is a disease rather than a lack of good behaviour.” Connected care The establishment of Qatar’s Public Health Strategy 2017-2022 is set to improve the health and wellbeing of the country’s population and promote understanding of a number of healthcare conditions.

The country’s bid to provide exceptional, connected patient care has also led to the development of a new, digital infrastructure as part of its growing e-health strategy, which will lead to the overhaul of traditional treatment models, the launch of bespoke, tailored solutions, and will grant patients increased choice and control over how they are treated. However, this will not be without its challenges. “The healthcare sector is facing major challenges, not just in Qatar. This is even from my experience in the US,” observes Saad. “There are challenges around integration and being able to communicate data. There are a lot of issues around privacy and confidentiality of data. This also links to safety issues which come with patients. “Nevertheless, the more you know about patients when they show up in an emergency room, the more you’re able to treat the patient. I think that has been one of the biggest IT targets in the healthcare industry over the last several years.”

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Introducing Naufar With a goal to provide a healing environment to assist those with behavioural disorders, Naufar has been established to treat substance use disorders as its primary focus and drive Qatar’s vision to provide exceptional, bespoke healthcare solutions to Guest Clients. By adopting a five-star hospitality and wellness approach, Naufar works to look at our patients, who it terms Guest Clients, from a holistic

“The main goal of the organisation is to reintegrate addicts back with their families, into society and be productive” Fady Saad, Information Technology Director


TECHNOLOGY

The team at Naufar approach, rather than simply an addiction or rehabilitation candidate. “We are quite unique. We have a top end spa and recreation facilities, better than any other healthcare facility which I can think of. There’s quite a bit which we can offer that I think will contribute to meet Qatar’s national vision,” says Saad. Looking at each Guest Client from multiple perspectives, Naufar works to tailor programmes that

help them on their recovery journey, reintegrating into society and living healthier lives. Individual and group treatment, alongside outstanding personalised services with a multidisciplinary approach has led Naufar to significantly improve Qatar’s traditional treatment models. “In addition to providing psychotherapy and physical therapy services, Naufar offers residential and outpatient treatment

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programmes, daycare, recovery and engagement (Matrix Model) programmes.” adds Saad. “We are showing people in society how people have changed. We have some success stories where people have come to Naufar and they have successfully completed our programme and reintegrated into society. They have also courageously spoken about their issues and their addiction and how they’ve overcome it. Reintegrating Guest Client’s been one of the biggest successes and advocates for meeting some of the challenges around stigma.” “We’re not just focusing upon one thing, we’re covering people’s wellness as a whole,” he continues. “We’re making sure that they are well

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‘The GCC healthcare market is projected to grow at a 12.1% CAGR from an estimated $ 40.3 bn in 2015 to $ 71.3 bn in 2020’ Alpen GCC Healthcare Report 2016

as a human being not just focusing on the addiction. We see ourselves as being recognised as a centre of excellence in the region.” Bespoke solutions Naufar has designed a facility that emphasises providing comfort and hospitality. Guest Clients are able to obtain services which are top end, with visual aids, audio equipment and bookable rooms all on offer. As part of the country’s vision, Naufar’s implementation of Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) has seen the

organisation build both an exceptional IT team and clinical team. Working together, its partnership with EMR provider Mindlinc has seen Naufar tailor its systems towards the needs of its Guest Clients, giving it an edge over other service providers. “Qatar is in the process of implementing its e-health platform to share data and integrate all stakeholders in healthcare. We’ve tailored a lot of things in order to standardise how care is delivered to patients and collect discrete and consistent data,” says Saad.

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“The more you know about patients when they show up in an emergency room, the more you’re able to treat the patient. I think that has been one of the biggest IT targets in the healthcare industry over the last several years” Fady Saad, Information Technology Director

“It’s typical that people invested in a product, rather than the efforts required for customisation of that product. We had limitations in terms of how we select an application, but we have tailored a number of things to support how care is delivered to Guest Clients at Naufar and built forms in the EMR to try and capture a number of disciplines.” Personalised tools By collaborating with Gartner, Naufar has strengthened its capabilities surrounding the treatment of addiction

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and the utilisation of personalised tools. “Gartner gave us suggestions, articles, connected us to expert analysts where we can get into more detail about a topic that we needed to make a decision on,” says Saad. “They also helped in contracts review and negotiation tactics.” Its partnership with VAMED has also enabled Naufar to carry out key IT upgrade projects in under two years, which in turn ensures the delivery of consistent positive Guest Client outcomes. “For 18 months, employees from VAMED were basically my IT


TECHNOLOGY

team, flying in resources whenever needed in order to make sure that we succeeded,” added Saad. “We engaged with VAMED for a number of reasons. Number one is their healthcare expertise. Number two is that they build hospitals and rehabilitation centres around the world, so were able to inject the resources and expertise quickly. They have been an instrumental partner in achieving what we have done and what we’ve achieved as of yet. Such improvements have been further developed through Naufar’s

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Partnering with Cisco has seen Naufar implement the Medical Grade Network SAP has been instrumental to Naufar’s IT transformation

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partnership with KAAR Technologies, where the organisation has adopted digital tools from SAP to optimise its business processes. “Since we have S4 HANA, which is the in-memory database of SAP, it enables us to initiate the BI/analytics components which will see us gain the building blocks for Naufar to contribute to the bigger picture of addiction through research outcomes and enable the delivery of exceptional services,” says Saad. Lastly, Naufar’s partnerships have been strengthened through its data centre and managed services provider, MEEZA, who have injected technical expertise to develop

its infrastructure foundation and provide Naufar with the proactive monitoring services to protect Naufar’s digital investments. Clinical approach Similarly to any other chronic disease across the healthcare sector, Saad explains that addiction requires the use of advanced data and technology to make informed decisions in order for the organisation to provide exceptional support and treatment. In its drive to stitch together a complete view of a Guest Client, Naufar’s multidisciplinary approach sees it utilise data and analytics to create a bespoke plan for each Guest Client. Capturing data from each clinical discipline, all findings are documented within each Guest Client’s personalised multidisciplinary report (MDT). The report seeks to consolidate all essential information on the progress of each Guest Client and highlights how Naufar can work to support each client’s wellness goals to place them on the road to recovery. “We do things differently. We’re

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not standard rehabilitation – we make it unique, less stigmatising and more rounded, rather than the focus on the addiction,” stresses Saad. “A lot of clinical staffers are interested in moving away from this stigma of addiction in order to address the actual needs of our Guest Clients this way.” Data sharing capabilities With this in mind, Naufar has focused heavily on recruiting exceptional staff to drive its vision to fully embrace IT and technology to develop personalised care within the treatment of addiction. Saad credits Naufar’s success of the organisation to the commitment and hard work of its team. He highlighted the competence, attitude and approach of his IT team and their ability to integrate within the business as partners has been a major contributor to the success. “Most importantly, our Guest Clients, our dedicated staff, the families of our Guest Clients and our national stakeholders are all instrumental partners in making

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Naufar a success,” he adds. To further promote its reliable, transparent and secure communication capabilities, Naufar’s readiness to the country’s e-health strategy for a joined-up care model has seen it look at new ways to share data and support different sectors of healthcare, now and in the future. Its collaboration with Cisco has seen the organisation implement the company’s Medical Grade Network, which also details a framework for the organisation to meet specific Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance requirements and

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connects with the need to promote the sharing of health data in Qatar. “This has made sure the foundation block for our IT is driven by top end technology to secure our data and leverage communication. This then enabled us to build applications on a strong backbone,” explains Saad. Changing attitudes Through its bid to leverage technology to create exceptional, patient-focused solutions to treat addiction, Naufar will increasingly work to increasingly share data to further its knowledge sharing capabilities. The organisation will also gain the ability to provide

localised statistics relating to its niche area surrounding the treatment of addiction going forward. “I think on a national level we will then be able to inform, change policy to treat addiction a bit differently,” concludes Saad. “We want to establish ourselves as a centre of excellence to mark our footprint and show the community that we’re moving people from a vulnerable state and reintegrating them back in society. The push is there, and the initiative is there to show people we are unique and can make a change in the treatment of addiction.”

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Business Chief Middle East - April 2018  
Business Chief Middle East - April 2018