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D e c e mb e r 2016



Driven To Distraction with anki Overdrive Robots

The Rise of Digital Currency

Q&A with Blackberry’s Nader Henein



Smart Building & Design Technologies

Construction Tools & Building Materials

Building Envelope & Special Construction

Building Interiors & Finishes

MEP Services


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Retail revolution HELLO AND WELCOME to December’s Business Review Middle East, the last edition of 2016. We dive into the world of retail this month with a lead interview with Home Group. With vast experience in the retail industry, working for brands such as Marks & Spencer PLC and Kingfisher PLC, Chief Executive Offer Médéric Payne is passionate about the home and discusses how he is leading the expansion, growth and development of Home Centre through a number of exciting new markets and technologies. Tamer Group is another Middle Eastern company embarking on transformation, this time with a huge focus on IT and migration to a hybrid cloud model to support vital business operations. The company has even set up a brand new enterprise, Tamer Innovate, to pass on its learnings to other companies looking to make the cloud leap. Also featured this month is a Q&A with Blackberry’s Nader Henein, along with a look at 10 of the best restaurant groups in the region. I hope you find this issue an interesting one; get in touch with us @BusinessRevME to continue the debates.

Enjoy the issue! Tom Wadlow Senior Editor 3




The rise of


anki 12 Q&A with


December 2016



TOP 10

Middle Eastern

restaurant chains



Hyatt Hotels Dubai

Madfooatcom Technology



Tamer Group

Supply Chain



Home Centre (Landmark Group)


IFA Hotels & Resorts

Supply Chain




Supply Chain

Zurich Insurance Company Technology


The rise of


Blackberry’s Nader Henein talks to Business Review Middle East about the growth of digital payments and fintech in the region W r i t t e n b y : A L I C E YO U N G


December 2016


WHAT IS THE general attitude and frequency of use for digital currency in the Middle East and how does that differ from the rest of the world? Digital payments are very much in their early phase in the region. Technological advances and the UAE’s own move towards Smart City and digitisation is prompting the adoption of new age solutions that can simplify the consumer purchasing experience. At present, there are several players dabbling with the concept of digital internationally, but few have been able to generate wide adoption among vendors. There are many providers but no clear leader, and even then, the overall market penetration is quite low. For instance, the E-Dirham initiative has been around for close to a decade but it is yet to achieve popularity. Globally, there have been some illustrations of successful adoption of digital payments. Presently, the largest market with penetration of mobile money is Kenya where M-Pesa rules supreme. M-Pesa lets people transfer money using their phones and

remains one of the most successful examples of digital currency usage globally. In the US, the growth of digital currency from 2015 to 2016 has been in excess of 200 percent, primarily because players like Apple and Samsung heavily invested in developing an ecosystem. Although, Apple and Samsung have yet to really push outside of their market with their digital payment products - Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. What are the benefits for consumers in alternative currency adoption? The strength of digital currencies come in at the day-to-day transactional level, replacing cash (not cards as most believe) transactions and providing a safer alternative to cash that can’t be lost, doesn’t require you to carry change or walk up to an ATM. As mobile penetration increases and consumers look for more convenient and safer payment options, we expect that the appetite for digital currencies and digital payments will only grow.



Digital payments broadly encompass Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies – which are a subset of digital currencies. Many banks today are offering digital payments as an alternative to card payments with no incentive and nothing additional for the consumer. Banks need to create awareness about the real strength of digital currency – which lies in replacing small cash transactions and removing the need for carrying money. The customer naturally relies on the vendor for complying with the required safety and security norms when it comes to digital currency. The appropriate vendor and the regulator need to ensure that they have the right security framework in place. Bitcoin eliminates the risk of fraud for merchants, making it easier

to facilitate global transactions. What are the main drawbacks? As some Bitcoin exchanges have discovered the hard way, when money becomes digital it exposes the individual to a much larger and sophisticated “pick pocket” risk. But the technology is moving to counter these concerns quite aggressively and by limiting the transaction amount, in the same way that contactless payment has, the drawbacks are minimal when compared with the benefits. BlackBerry’s Advanced Assurance division works with multiple banks, cryptocurrency providers and payment engine developers to ensure that their products are developed on a solid, scalable and most of all secure foundation against international

“Digital currency and mobile wallets have a very bright future in the Middle East” – Blackberry’s Nader Henein, Regional Director, Advanced Security Assurance Advisory


December 2016


payment standards. In many cases the payment providers are startups with a great idea but no in-depth awareness of the existing threats, we ensure they are prepared and so their clients are protected. What do you see as the main challenges in expanding mobile wallets and digital currency usage? E-commerce is driving the adoption of new technologies around the

world but several countries in the developed and developing economies are still slow to adopt mobile wallets and digital currency usage. Driving adoption needs to come off the back of a value add. Currently, the early adopters – for instance the banks, are offering to replace cards with a mobile device. There is no added value for the customer. However, if using the device allows a customer to track their spend, file expenses with digital receipts and



PayExpo MENA Nader Henein is Regional Director, Advanced Security Assurance at Blackberry. Henein is to deliver a session Digital Currency Strengths and Pitfalls at PayExpo MENA, taking place 5-7 December 2016 at the Intercontinental Festival City, Dubai. Click HERE for more information.


December 2016


“As the banking and financial services sector in the Middle East grows, the opportunity for wider adoption of digital currency is ripe” – Blackberry’s Nader Henein, Regional Director, Advanced Security Assurance Advisory

offers the best currency transfer rates wherever they travel, the likelihood to adopt mobile wallets and digital currency is much higher. Banks need to realise that real adoption is a win-win situation for both sides because managing cards is a huge cost that any financial institution could well do without. How do you see the future of digital currency in the Middle East, with particular regards to mobile? Digital currency and mobile wallets have a very bright future in the Middle East. The population demographic - a young, upwardly mobile consumer base with a great propensity to adopt technology in their everyday lives – we believe, is a great start for the adoption of digital currencies. The Middle East also has a sizeable population

of expatriates who contribute to the volume of global remittances. The adoption of digital currencies over traditional money transfers could significantly reduce the burden on the consumer – making it cheaper, faster and more efficient. Consumers could send money to their families directly using their mobile phones – thus eliminating any incurred fees. Wider adoption of bitcoin by bank transfers – that still currently take a few days – could be carried out swiftly and more safely. As the banking and financial services sector in the Middle East, particularly retail banking grows, the opportunity for wider adoption of digital currency is ripe. Once standardized, we believe that digital currencies will help boost economic growth and development in the Middle East. 11

anki Q&A with

Writ ten by: ALI C E YO U N G


December 2016


Robotics innovation Anki OVERDRIVE has recently launched in the UAE. Business Review Middle East talks to Anki’s Stuart Collingwood to find out more about the region’s games and technology sector 13

TECHNOLOGY What is Anki OVERDRIVE? Anki OVERDRIVE features stateof-the-art modular tracks, physical robotic supercars and innovations in battle-racing gameplay. It merges toys, videogames and robotics technology. Players can build their own battle-race courses and pit their real-life robotic supercars against their friends or step up against enemy AI opponents in the game’s campaign mode. And with continuous software updates with new features and functionalities, the gameplay always stays fresh.


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Since 2010, our mission has been to harness robotics and AI technology to bring to life consumer products with unprecedented level of intellect and interactive capabilities. The entertainment space has always been a great entry point for us as it’s one that hasn’t evolved much in decades, meaning there’s opportunities for great innovation. Anki OVERDRIVE launched in UAE in May 2016, and is currently available at select stores across Dubai and


Abu Dhabi including Harvey Nichols, Virgin Megastore outlets, Dubai Duty Free, Hub Zero, and Why did you chose the UAE for your next launch after Europe? The UAE market appealed to us for several reasons. A recent Euromonitor report suggested that the retail value for UAE’s toys and games industry will reach $1.06 billion by 2019. Globally, UAE has emerged as one of the most attractive destinations for retailers, largely spurred by a growing middle class with disposable incomes and, widespread adoption of smartphones. Key events like the UAE AI & Robotics Award for Good and World

Drone Prix were strong indicators of consumer interest and confidence in robotics and AI technologies, which make up the core of the Anki OVERDRIVE experience. How does the toy/gaming industry differ in the UAE from Europe/US? The widespread adoption of smartphones in the UAE, and the propensity that consumers here have to use their smartphone as a gaming device are characteristics that make the UAE standout. Also, with a thriving middle class, the UAE is becoming a premier shopping destination with thousands of square meter of retail space being added every year. There’s no other company in the world which offers similar state-of-the-art technology,

“A recent Euromonitor report suggested that the retail value for UAE’s toys and games industry will reach $1.06 billion by 2019” – Stuart Collingwood, GM EMEA at Anki, Inc.



December 2016


which translates to one-of-a kind battle-racing experience. Did you work with any local partners for the launch? We are working with Virgin Megastore and Harvey Nichols, both which have set up Anki OVERDRIVE demo stations in their retail locations across Dubai and Abu Dhabi. How important do you think local knowledge is for a launch like this? As the toys and games space becomes increasingly crowded (and thus more competitive), it was paramount that we understood UAE’s market trends; marketing and advertising best practices; and, most importantly, consumer preferences, before we entered the market with Anki OVERDRIVE. With the UAE, we were confident that Anki OVERDRIVE

“Anki is proud to introduce a product to the UAE market that uses robotics and AI” – Stuart Collingwood, GM EMEA at Anki, Inc.

would resonate with consumers, and are thrilled by the positive reception we’ve received to date. How have you been able to contribute to Dubai’s ‘smart city’ agenda? Whilst many may see Anki Overdrive as a radio-control toy car, it is in fact much more than that. Players are able to bring virtual battle-races to real life at the intersection of games, toys and robotics. All of this is possible due to the underlying robotics and artificial intelligence, which hasn’t been seen in a mass consumer product. Anki is proud to introduce a product to the UAE market that uses robotics and AI that resonates with UAE’s vision to embrace advanced technology to create new experiences. 17

TOP 10

Top 10 Middle Eastern restaurant chains

Business Review Middle East uncovers the best restaurants serving amazing food at more than one location in the region W r i t t e n b y : P O L LY C O L E M A N

TOP 10



Semsom is a Lebanese food chain that was founded in 2008 by Lebanese entrepreneurs Christine Sfeir (who also opened Lebanon’s first Dunkin Donuts franchise in 1998 at the age of 22) and Carine Sfeir. The restaurant already has a dozen locations in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Oman and is planning to open two more locations in New York City. Semsom has a variety of seasoned hummuses home-made using exotic herbs and spices like sumac, thyme and rosemary. It also sells Tabbouleh by using Christine and Carine Sfeir’s grandmother’s recipe of parsley, tomatoes and onions. The restaurant tops its signature rosewater ice-cream (Ghazel bel wareid) with all-natural cotton candy. Semsoms CEO ranked number 19 in the most powerful Women in Family businesses in the MENA region by Forbes. The restaurant chain is quickly growing in social media popularity with over 100,000 likes on Facebook and more than 13,000 followers on Instagram.

Bosporus Restaurant specialises in Turkish and Halal cuisine. It is a child and group/party friendly restaurant that offers both indoor and outdoor seating and delivery and takeout options. The interior contains bright twinkling lights and intricately designed tiles, all shipped over from Turkey. The restaurant serves a variety of different foods such as its Bosporus Breakfast, Menemen, Yayla (yoghurt soup), Mercimek (lentil soup), Stuffed Eggplant, Sigara Boregi, Babaganoush, Acili Ezme, Kisir, Tebbouleh and many more options. There are also Bosporus Express stores coming soon to Jumeirah and Marina.


December 2016



8 Al Fanar is the local name for the kerosene lamp that was used to light houses in Dubai in the past. The restaurant caters to authentic Emirati cuisine and the interior is styled in a 1960’s style. There are six Al Fanar Restaurant & Café locations; Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Al AIN, Town Centre in Jumeirah, Ritz Carlton in Abu Dhabi and in the Dubai Festival City. The restaurant serves all day breakfasts, soups and salads, appetizers, main courses and sweets.

Wafi Gourmet restaurant specialises in authentic Lebanese cuisine. The restaurant offers catering and banqueting options and has many branches; two in Dubai (inside the Wafi Mall and the Dubai Mall), Abu Dhabi (Nation Towers), Bahrain (City Centre – Manama) and one in Qatar (in the Landmark Mall). Wafi Gourmet serves a wide variety of dishes such as Arabic Sweets, Bakery and pastry, Cold Mezzeh, Cookies, Fatayar, Hot Food, Ice Creams, Olives, Saj Bread, Seafood, Sandwiches and BBQ options.



TOP 10


Dishdash is a Middle Eastern Grill which specialises in ‘Fresh & Simple Middle Eastern Food’. The name of the restaurant is based on the traditional item of clothing that symbolises warmth, comfort and relaxation that can be seen displayed in each location. The restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes such as Rihan and Yalanji from its starters menu, salads such as Chicken Shawarma and Fattoush (mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, roasted bell peppers, grilled eggplant, lemon oregano vinaigrette) and entrees such as Sambusak Dajaj (diced chicken, mushrooms, almonds, onions in filo dough, spinach sauce, salata) and Sultan Ibrahim (grilled filet of fish, roasted tomatoes, onions, lemon, garlic, spinach). The restaurant also offers gift cards and catering options for a minimum of 16 people. The restaurants ingredients are all sustainably sourced. It only uses locally sourced produce, sustainably harvested seafood, free-range chicken, certified Angus Beef and fresh, natural, domestic lamb. 22

December 2016

HATAM RESTAURANT Hatam Restaurant draws its inspiration from the traditional ethnic food of Iran. The restaurant serves a variety of Persian dishes ranging from Kabobs (filet mignon, shish kabobs, ground beef skewers), Khoresht (stew that is served with rice), Polo (white rice alone or with addition of meat and/or vegetables and herbs) and a variety of different soups, salads, pastries, and specialty drinks all available for home delivery. Some of the restaurants most popular dishes include Chelo Kabob (white rice and beef) and its Lamb Shank dish.




4 AL ARRAB Al Arrab serves a wide variety of food centred around authentic traditional Lebanese cuisine. It has many different locations; Al Arrab Branch, Arabian Ranches, Ibn Battuta Mall, La Forneria Branch, City Centre – Sharjah, Sahara Centre, Al Bustan Centre and Spring Complex. The restaurant serves a wide variety of steaks, soups (such as Lentil, Crème and Vegetable), seafood (such as Grilled Lobster, Hammor Escalope and Fried Sultan Ibrahim), hot and cold appetizers, salads, pastas (such as Spaghetti Bolognese, Lasagne and Labneh Manakesh), birds and poultry, grills and shawarma (such as Chicken Arabic Shawarma on Saj Bread and Meat Arabic Shawarma on Saj Bread) all available for home delivery. The bread used in the restaurants dishes is all freshly baked. The restaurant also offers an open buffet on Fridays.

Times of Arabia is a restaurant that takes its inspiration from the authentic flavours of the Middle East and Arabian Cuisine. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and drinks and is good for big groups of people, parties and children. Dishes include Vegetable and Onion from its soups menu, Special Mixed Grill and Toshka from its main course grill menu, Grilled Fillet Hammour and Grilled Lobster from its seafood menu and a variety of hot and cold Mezza. “Our passion is to serve you with our best authentic dishes which include lavish selections of Hot and Cold Mezze and grilled savoury meats that suit your taste buds with choices of authentic desserts,” the company says. Times of Arabia has restaurants in the Dubai Mall and the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Each of its locations includes indoor and outdoor dining options, handcrafted furniture and a calm environment. The restaurant was also a nominee in the 2017 World Luxury Restaurant Awards. 23

TOP 10


MILAS RESTAURANT Milas Restaurant serves local, traditional Emirati style food that helps you “step back in time and enjoy nostalgic Arabia in a new and artful form”. The company has restaurants in the Dubai Mall and the Abu Dhabi Mall. Milas Restaurant serves a diverse range of dishes. From its Sunny Side Up Eggs and


December 2016

Vegetable Omelette from its Breakfast menu, to its Milas Bread and Chicken Halloumi from its Appetizer menu. The restaurants main courses include Mbahar Tuna and Mbahar Deyay and it also serves a range of pizzas, barbeque, soups, salads and desserts. “Food is Pleasure, enjoying it is an Art. A good meal is an experience of the pleasures in life, moments taken to truly enjoy life and all the luxuries it has to offer.”



Al Hallab has a series of restaurants including one in The Dubai Mall, Garhoud and Mall of the Emirates. The restaurant in the Dubai Mall can hold up to 250 guests, is on the second floor and is the only restaurant at The Dubai Mall with a view of both the water fall and the Dubai fountain. The restaurant in Garhoud also seats 250 guests and faces Dubai Creek Golf Club. It is spread over two floors with the ground floor offering a sweet counter and a takeaway option and the first floor showcasing a fine dining area. The restaurant situated inside the Mall of the Emirates is on the second floor and seats 200 guests. The restaurant can also be hired

out for parties and functions with space for up to 150 guests and areas available for both exclusive and non-exclusive hire. The restaurant specialises in Lebanese cuisine and serves a variety of hot and cold Lebanese starters such as Bab Ghanouj (roasted eggplant, tomatoes, green pepper, lemon, olive oil), soups such as Lentil and Vegetable and pastries like their popular Meat Sambousek (five pieces of fried pastry filled with minced meat). It also serves international dishes such as Chicken Escalope (served with sautĂŠed vegetables and French fries) and Meat Dijon (slices of beef tenderloin with mushroom and mustard creamy sauce served with sautĂŠed vegetables and baked potato).


The future of

hospitality in Dubai






T and technology are together transforming how modern hoteliers do business — at every level. In recent years, Hyatt Hotels has streamlined its IT operations in a number of innovative ways, including virtualisation, restructuring and by working closely with its technology vendors and partners. Business Review Middle East speaks to Roy Verrips —Director of Information Systems for Hyatt Hotels in Dubai — to learn how one of the world’s top hotel operators is adapting to these changes and turning rapidly advancing technology to its advantage.

OPERATIONS With a network of over 600 fully-owned hotels, Hyatt’s brands are renowned for a high-quality, holistic customer experience across the world. Heading up the company’s six hotels in Dubai – a city where scores of local and global hotel chains vie for potential guests’ attention – Verrips is in a


December 2016



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somewhat enviable position. Past IT investments are paying off, he says: “What we have been seeing in the last two years are the fruits of these technologies such as SaaS and Virtualisation.” But that is not to say that Verrips and his teams have been resting on their laurels. Check-in for guests is now a process that involves the careful coordination of a number of different systems, seamlessly working in the background. Even something as simple as internet access has been planned to the minutest detail. Verrips explains: “In the next three to four months you will be able to check into the Grand Hyatt Dubai, and when logging into the internet give us minimal information, and then in the back end our systems would match your device ID so that you never have to go through the wireless login process again. “We have to try and meet what our guests have at home and then exceed it. Particularly when it comes to technology; the home is where your Wi-Fi connects automatically — there’s no username or password or anything on that. That is the experience we’re trying to create for our guests.”

STRATEGY Eager to crest the wave of the latest technological advances, Verrips has embarked on a systemswide streamlining strategy that consists of

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“Working closely with vendors has also proved to be an ongoing source of innovation for Hyatt’s technology operations�

reduce operational challenges drive business increase guest satisfaction |


December 2016


centralisation, virtualisation and even switching vendors to achieve the perfect operational fit. It is a transformation that has involved both internal administrative infrastructure, as well as the customer-facing technology. “What we’ve done in the last two years in Dubai is streamlined operations,” he says “We have centralised as much as possible into a Centre of Excellence; rather than having a manager on each property with a team to back them up, we have centralised management and allowed for a more ‘boots-on-the-ground’ IT coordinator role on the property level”. “For each of the six properties in Dubai, we only have one IT coordinator on each. They will be very much helping people fix things and the direct contact with all the employees on property. On a city-wide level we can support the coordinators and also manage and vision-cast together. “We also drive new projects and innovation available to us from Corporate into our city as a whole. It further allows for a more managed approach in terms of the owning company for the six Hyatt’s in Dubai (Wasl Hospitality) who receive a single technology investment vision and request for funding. “More people feel like they’re in charge of the property,” Verrips adds. He explains that

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this move has resulted in coordinators feeling empowered as the ‘go-to’ person for each property and, as a result, become a lot more motivated. Furthermore, this additional responsibility prepares coordinators for future management roles within the company. “It actually creates an environment where we’ve got more opportunities to transfer within the company to corporate positions — we’ve had two people already transfer from Dubai properties to our corporate office in Chicago.” Working closely with vendors has also proved to be an ongoing source of innovation for Hyatt’s technology operations. Verrips explains. “In the past each vendor would add a different flavour to the services they provide for the guests to interact with. Reivernet has been really good at helping us with moving our guest internet to the next level, while planning ahead to make the experience more standard across our chain, yet also differentiated amongst our brands. “Reivernet and Cisco have been really good at coming up with the next generation of technologies, most prominently introducing beacon technology. Cisco comes with their solution of being able to track how many devices are connected on a particular location and creating heat maps of what it looks like. Reivernet are now in the process of matching and integrating with our other systems

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and will soon be able to provide that data to us in a way we can use it to make business decisions.” The other big area of opportunity for Hyatt in Dubai has been around the tightly regulated area of Payment Card Industry standards (PCI). Moving credit card payments to cloudbased vendors like 3C payments and utilising tokenisation has led to high levels of efficiency and security in this area. “It’s just easier for me to make PCI compliance an issue my vendors need to handle,” says Verrips. Having placed technological innovation at the core of its operations in Dubai, Hyatt Hotels has cemented its place in a particularly competitive market for years to come. With a lean, fit for purpose IT and technology strategy, the company has ensured that benefits to its internal operations have always resulted in a positive change to its guests’ experiences.


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TO BECOME A MARKET LEADER Written by Catherine Rowell Produced by Dennis Morales


With vast experience in the retail industry, working for brands such as Marks & Spencer PLC and Kingfisher PLC, Chief Executive Offer for Home Centre Médéric Payne is passionate about the home and discusses how he is leading the expansion, growth and development of Home Centre through a number of exciting new markets and technologies


ince joining Home Centre in 2014, Chief Executive Officer Médéric Payne has injected passion, energy and vision into the retail market in the Middle East. He has done this by providing a clear strategy, incorporating areas from business development and the management of day to day operations, to encompassing full endto-end accountability of running and leading the business, ensuring that Home Centre’s continual expansion


December 2016

delivers consistent results. Payne has worked for a number of large retailers which house a range of cultural environments. However, his international outlook has enabled him to work successfully with a number of key nationalities, with over 40 based within Home Centre alone. Operating under the Landmark Group umbrella, the company has come a long way, which Payne explains: “My job is more within the wider business to lead the expansion and the growth


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and development of the company in the markets we are in now and the new markets we are entering.” By joining such a successful company, Payne has streamlined and refocused the values within Home Centre’s vision in order to drive the business forward. Passion has become a core value, where Home Centre is keen to recruit individuals who exhibit enthusiasm: “When we recruit, we are looking for people with passion, which comes across in interviews. The passion and attitude is important,” comments Payne. Individuals have to provide accountability and ownership, show entrepreneurial experience and continually strive to achieve key results. “It’s not just about the work: it’s about effective results, whether it’s in supply chain, finance or commercial areas,” explains Payne. “Are you effective at your job and can you deliver the results that you’re being asked at any level in the business?” Although Payne acknowledges that “retail is like a journey - there is no end”, he is insistent that continuous improvement is vital for all teams and ways of working at Home Centre. The company aims to remain a market leader within the region, bringing new ideas and fresh thinking into the industry. An example of this would be the introduction of mobile POS into company stores, at which Home Centre has become the first market leading home retailer and company at Landmark to undertake the pilot scheme. This will enable the gradual phasing out of tills in stores and allow sales assistants to showcase products in

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store, but also have access to the full catalogue and increased knowledge of products in the warehouse. This transformation will enable an improved service for customers, which Payne explains: “We can process the order for the individual right there in store, right by the product, rather than dragging the customer away to a till in the corner of the store and take payment. That’s quite a technological revolution in the home industry.” This new process also will enable the company to align its supply chain so the employee can ascertain the type of customer, reduce customer waiting time and ensure a positive outcome. Employee morale is also heightened. Following on from these technological investments, Home Centre is driving its online business and retail site, utilising Hybris and

Oracle to ensure it operates correctly and safely, with efficient reporting. Data is vital to the company’s continual growth, which is supported through the use of the Shrukran Rewards Loyalty Programme, the largest loyalty programme in the region. With over 15 million members, the programme covers all of the GCC and delivers a number of key benefits to customers. However, the loyalty programme also allows Home Centre to understand what customers are buying. Payne explains: “If they buy a bed, do they buy the bed linen with it? Do they buy pillows, or are they just buying the bed? We can do real data analytics. For me that is a goldmine, the real data that we have from the back-end of our programme.” This enables the company to understand its customer profiles and therefore

“If they buy a bed, do they buy the bed linen with it? Do they buy pillows, or are they just buying the bed? We can do real data analytics. For me, that is a goldmine”


December 2016


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The number of match requirements living space. Payne Home Centre staff explains that such with what the company can source, whether investment has it is colours, styles, been increasingly or designs in order to valuable for both the cater to customers. “It’s customer and Home all about value in the industry. Centre: “It solves a lot of We are a mass market retailer offering problems for people - they can buy very good value that is very focused on furniture that will fit their apartment. local taste and styles”, Payne adds. Technology is helping us be more In gaining access to such valuable productive and providing better information, Home Centre is looking interactive services to the customer, to improve productivity, getting but data is the key to a lot of this.” products to market quicker, being However, with customers gaining an more accurate in terms of inventory increased awareness and access to management, understanding how to information on where to buy products get the right dosage of product in the which are priced more attractively, right place, and sourcing from a variety the market has become increasingly of countries and bringing products in competitive. Payne explains: “When on time and at the right cost. “Those customers shop online, they are also things are more important today, looking at other countries and how particularly as the customer has more much products might cost them. accurate information,” says Payne. They are comparing prices for goods In order to support customers in other markets, so you have to be further, Home Centre is now utilising competitive in getting your pricing and 3D rendering technology. This provides costs aligned, which starts to affect visuals of customer apartments with where our sourcing decisions come products so they can see how buying from. How much more local sourcing particular products will impact their can we do to reduce transportation


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“If they buy a bed, do they buy the bed linen with it? Do they buy pillows, or are they just buying the bed? We can do real data analytics. For me, that is a goldmine�

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Home Centre costs, reduce lead item, and it saves time was founded in times - it’s amazing and money in the long what effect that’s having run,” explains Payne. on the thinking and Alongside strategic sourcing.” technological To improve inventory investment, the management, which would then company’s logistics have positively affect areas such as cash been overhauled as a result of flow and shrinkage, Payne believes a company growth. Home Centre is number of new technologies will be aiming to build more cost effective, adopted within the retail market, such safe and productive warehouses and as Radio Frequency Identification upgrade their logistics systems. “In (RFID), currently utilised by a number the UAE we have a couple of sites of clothing companies, such as Marks that we are constantly tweaking to and Spencer, Decathlon and Zara. improve our productivity,” comments Replacing current barcodes, Payne Payne. However, it is vital to ensure the explains: “This is the chip in every quality of Home Centre’s products, product that has a unique number, in addition to ensuring employee so the idea is rather than knowing safety due to regional temperatures. that I’ve got 10 of an existing product The company is unlike many major in stock, in future it will show exactly retail stores, where Payne explains: which 10 they are and where they are, “a product goes from the warehouse, so you start having more traceability.” into stores, then into the customer’s This technology will ensure home. At Home Centre, we often have stock figures are correct, but customers ordering in store, then more importantly, it will support receive their delivery straight from the manufacturing errors which can occur warehouse. So, we aim to constantly with suppliers. “You will be able to trace improve our warehousing capabilities.” exactly which customer has had which Home Centre manages a vast


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P.O. Box 10310, Dubai, United Arab Emirates T +971 4 3474474 F +971 4 3478844 •

number of its services in house, such as a logistics team, as well as having a fleet of in house delivery trucks and ability to assemble furniture through its carpenters. Payne explains how the company is unique. “We are different to European markets where the deliveries you have to pay for. Here, there is an expectation that if someone orders a bedroom suite, we will come deliver it and assemble it.” Payne reflects: “The one thing that Home Centre and a lot of retailers have to get right today is their supply chain. If you can embrace technology


December 2016

in the supply chain in this new world that’s been changing in the last six years, then your future looks bright.” Although based in a number of different countries, Home Centre continually works as one multicultural unit, which can incorporate some challenges in working towards the same values, operations and policies. Through treating the GCC as one large network, rather than different countries, Home Centre has ensured consistent and successful communication through a mixture of channels such as email and tech video conferencing.


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Payne ensures he is close to all teams, flying to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Qatar and Bahrain to spend time with store teams and personnel, before flying back to the head office in Dubai. To ensure he is regularly in touch with consumers, Payne admits he even visits customers’ homes every quarter to gain insightful feedback. “Communicating those types of things back into the business helps us to learn,” he adds. Home Centre has undergone significant growth and expansion, with an increased number of stores built within existing markets, alongside the remodeling of current stores. The company is also looking at new markets and product categories. It has embarked on a transformational change, to deliver a new range of products and services, which has now come into fruition with the launch of their new concept flagship store, based at the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. Payne comments: “If you ignore developments and the importance of managing stocks and inventories correctly, then it doesn’t matter how good you are, you will let your customers down and they will go and shop elsewhere. For me, supply chain is the key to unlocking the potential in the market.”


December 2016


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Financing hospitality Written by Nell Walker Produced by Jordan Platten


I FA H O T E L S & R E S O R T S

CEO of IFA Hotel Investments, Joe Sita, describes the company’s innovative ventures and plans for expansion


FA Hotel Investments (IFA HI) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the publically-listed IFA Hotels and Resorts (IFAHR), and Joe Sita is its CEO. He has 37 years of hotel experience, beginning with Southern Pacific Hotel Corporation before moving onto Accor Asia Pacific, where his expansion strategy caused the business to become the largest hotel group in Australasia at the time. Sita then became Executive Vice President of Development at Carlson Hotels Asia Pacific, and prior to joining IFA HR he was founding CEO of Istithmar Hotels, which garnered a huge worldwide portfolio of hotel assets under his four years of leadership. Now, Sita is based in Dubai along with the majority of IFA Hotel Investments’ team. Having led the establishment of the various business arms of IFA HI, his position involves overseeing the business’s various services including a client advisory business, facilities management, staff housing, and joint ventures such as, vitally, its partnership with Bespoke Hotels International. “We have a 51/49 venture with Bespoke in the Middle East & Africa,” Sita explains. “They have about 200 hotels under their umbrella and


December 2016

Joe Sita - CEO

An accomplished CEO, Sita brings more than 30 years’ experience to his position as Chief Executive Officer of IFA Hotel Investments. In this role, Sita drives the strategic direction of IFA Hotels & Resorts’ operational asset portfolio, currently valued at approximately USD$1billion. The portfolio includes a number of five-star hotels, resorts and luxury residential developments across the Middle East and Africa operated by Fairmont, Mövenpick, Four Seasons, Kempinski and Legend Lodges. Infusing its luxury experience into ingenious space-saving design, IFA Hotel Investments has also been expanding its portfolio across North America, Europe and Asia through its ownership of the YOTEL brand.

I FA H O T E L S & R E S O R T S

the purpose of our partnership is really to exploit and expand that business here in the Middle East and Africa, and take advantage of the recently introduced legislation on holiday homes, which now legalises and regulates short-term rental of residential apartments. Now we’re the first branded holiday homes operator here in Dubai with Bespoke Residences. “In the hotel management space,


December 2016

in some cases, we’re competing head-to-head with the big players like Starwood or Marriott, in part because our clients are looking for brands that are not already represented and systems that are not overloaded with the number of properties they’ve got. Big brands are extremely saturated; there’s a Marriott, a Starwood or a Hilton on every street corner, but we can offer something different and more flexible.”

“when our members buy our product, they’ll have access to a global network of properties”

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December 2016


IFA HI’s staff housing business, too, has proven an essential asset. Named Domus, the venture has identified a gap in the market for highquality and cost-effective worker accommodation, and IFA is close to finalising its first project which will house 6,500 staff in Dubai, to be expanded over the next few years. “In Dubai, 85 percent of the population is expat,” Sita says, “and a large percentage of those people are blue collar workers that need to be accommodated, fed, and transported. Nobody else is offering that at the level of quality Domus will.” In the company’s client advisory business, an experienced group of consulting and operational professionals looks after IFA HR’s global portfolio, managing $1 billion worth of assets and overseeing pre-development, pre-opening, and operational services. “We carved this service out based on the asset management of our own hotels,” says Sita. “Obviously we own a number of hotels both in the region and globally, and so my client advisory team

looks after the day-to-day asset management of those properties. That’s our core business, and in the seven years I’ve been here, we’ve grown that business.”

Supply chain Logistics and procurement can be complicated in the hotel industry. Sita’s colleagues in IFA Hotels & Resorts Middle East has a team responsible for the delivery of hotel & residential projects, which is undertaken with the operators’ input through third party procurement companies that specialise in very large contracts. “In our business, procurement covers a number of different areas,” says Sita. “For example, in our facilities management business – which involves various flexible B2B and B2C services – we are procuring parts for all of the buildings we operate. That’s a big network. We have a team to look after procurement; it’s not a very large part of our business, but it’s very important. We pay a lot of attention to it and we certainly try

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I FA H O T E L S & R E S O R T S

to adapt best practices in terms of processes and procedures. “We want to provide the best product at the best price and tend to it as best we can, and we rely on the procurement team and operators for that. We rely on them to make sure they’re procuring at the best possible price and quality. The owners of the hotels don’t get deeply involved in that – we just make sure the team


December 2016

is doing things the right way.”

IFA’s future IFA Hotel Investments is entirely focussed on values and growing the various branches of its business, some regionally and some globally. For example, outside of Dubai IFA will be expanding Aria, its vacation ownership business, regionally, moving into Saudi


Arabia and specifically Mecca, because the market is always looking for accommodation there. “We also want to move east, to Asia,” Sita says. “Indonesia and Malaysia are targets for us, and then west into Europe. The GCC market loves Europe, especially the UK, France, Spain, and Italy – they’re targets for us. Lastly, the United

States, which is a very saturated vacation ownership market so it will be a little bit more difficult, so we’re leaving that until last. This is my vision of growing Aria into a global vacation ownership business, so that when our members buy our product, they’ll have access to a global network of properties.” Most of IFAs businesses are

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I FA H O T E L S & R E S O R T S

regional in nature, besides its vacation club, Aria, so many future plans are Dubaicentric. Bespoke is aimed entirely at the Middle East and Africa, where the company is especially keen to grow, and there are fresh opportunities beyond Sita’s ventures. “We might expand to the rest of the UAE: Abu Dhabi, because they have many of the same requirements we do, and further afield to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman, where there is a huge demand for this kind of accommodation,” Sita explains. “Ultimately, as the parent company for these various businesses and the company that I lead, we want to continue to grow this assetlight real estate services platform because that is what we are. We try to provide the intellectual property and expertise we have within all of our various businesses to partner organisations and clients. We’re not scared of joint ventures, and we’re typically the ones that initiate, conceive, and manage them. That’s our strength and we see that continuing as we move forward.”


December 2016

Bill payment made simple Written by Jennifer Johnson Produced by Jonathan Bradley


MadfooatCom has revolutionized the way that Jordanians pay their bills. Now, it has its sights set on the world’s emerging cashless economies


n 2008, Nasser Saleh – Founder and CEO of MadfooatCom – relocated to his native Jordan after a stint living abroad. And one of the things that greeted him on his return to the country was a long wait to pay his utility bills. “It was not a pleasant experience,” he recalls. “I had to stand in a long queue and then the cashier didn’t accept my credit card, so I had to find an ATM, withdraw the money and then go back to pay the bill.” Saleh immediately started thinking of ways that he could disrupt the prevalent cash-payment system in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. From 2008 to 2011, Saleh spent time researching how to start a business and develop a platform that connects banks with billers and merchants to bring the payment process online. With this initial idea in mind, he was offered a place at Jordan’s Oasis500, a leading startup accelerator and seed investment company that has been pivotal in advancing innovation across the Middle East.


December 2016

Nasser Saleh

Founder and CEO

CEO & Founder of MadfooatCom company with more than 20 years of experience in IT, banking and consultancy. Prior to MadfooatCom, Nasser was a Consulting CIO to the Director General of ISTD – DAI Jordan Fiscal Reform II USAID project. Nasser worked on managing the e-Channels at AlRajhi Bank in Saudi Arabia, the eBusiness Program that covered retail e-Banking, e-Corporate, e-Trading, and ePayments. Nasser also worked as a Senior Consultant at Accenture, Saudi Arabia and as a Senior Test Engineer at Microsoft – USA. His diversified experienced in the financial industry gives him deep insight’ into the EBPP industry; its challenges and its criteria for success allowing him to develop the company’s vision. w w w. m a d f o o a t . c o m



When you pay with cash, the money cycle is very slow. When you pay online today, the billers are taking their money on the spot, which enhances the economy ” modern technology can be challenging we enjoy it and we simplify it


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December 2016


“We are lucky in Jordan that we have a good startup ecosystem,” Saleh says. “Maybe it’s not Silicon Valley, but it’s really very good.” During the development stage, Saleh rewrote an existing application from scratch in order to ensure that he had full control of the end result. Once the product, MadfooatCom, was ready for market, the true legwork began for Saleh and his team. The task was not simply to get the platform up and running, but to convince investors and financial institutions that using the platform would provide value to their own organizations. “Some banks liked the idea,” he explains. “Only two banks signed a memorandum of understanding. One telecom company liked the idea also. But this was a slow process. I thought that if I continued in the same rhythm, it would take me tens of years to connect my dream.” Not content to wait a decade to see his vision brought to life, Saleh decided to approach the Central Bank of Jordan. He explained to the bank’s high-ranking officials that installing and implementing electronic

payment systems – like the one he developed – can have numerous benefits for a country’s economy. As luck would have it, the Central Bank of Jordan already had plans to issue a tender to build and operate an Electronic Bill Presentment and Payment Service gateway (EBPPS) in the country. In 2014, MadfooatCom won the tender competition, and the service launched to the public the following year. “If you convince the central bank, then it will convince the other banks and this is what happened,” Saleh explains. “Next, we went to the telecom companies and we told them: we have a service that is connected to all banks and instead of you connecting to many banks, you can connect with us and we can offer you the electronic payment service.” According to Saleh, public and private Technology billers were immediately responsive to the notion that they could collect their money anywhere, and from any bank, with just one connection. Needless to say, customers also enjoyed the convenience of being able to pay

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their bills from their computer or mobile phone. And when Saleh designed MadfooatCom, he also wanted to make sure that the rural unbanked also had access to a ‘one stop shop’ payment option. Therefore, he made the service available in post offices in Jordan’s more remote regions. Customers can simply visit the post office nearest to them to enquire about banking and pay their bills in cash. However, an integral part of Saleh’s mission is to facilitate Jordan’s transition to a cashless society – for the benefit of its economy. “When you pay with cash, the money cycle is very slow,” he explains. “When you pay online today, the billers are taking their money on the spot, which enhances the economy. Plus, it reduces fraud resulting from fake currency, lost money or corruption.” Two and a half years after its launch, MadfooatCom now processes between 7,000 and 8,000 bills from 3,000 to 4,000 individual customers each day. Saleh and his team have successfully connected almost all of Jordan’s existing banks, every utility provider, all of its telecoms companies, as well as many government agencies and universities – and the company’s list of connected partners is still growing. “Today, from my home or office, I can open my Internet banking and pay almost everything in one place: my utilities bills, my university fees, my traffic tickets,” Saleh says. With success at home fully secured, Saleh insists that the next step for MadfooatCom is to


December 2016

50 The number of employees at Madfooatcom

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We want to dominate the market. We want more than 90 percent of people to pay electronically �


establish operations abroad in other emerging economies. While the company is primarily eyeing the MENA region, it also set its sights further afield on the African continent. The company is currently in the early stages of preparing to open in Kenya and is in the initial set-up phase in Palestine. It has already established a presence in Algeria. Ultimately, Saleh’s goals are simple: “We want to dominate the market,” he says. As a result, the company is seeking venture capital investments from abroad to help finance growth. “We want more than 90 percent of people to pay electronically.” Now, with expansion on the horizon, MadfooatCom is anticipating the challenges ahead, and reflecting on its achievements thus far. “We are lucky that we started in Jordan. It’s a tough market: it’s a tough business market, tough on regulation,” Saleh said. “We think there will be fewer challenges in other countries, it will be about getting to know the culture of the individual nations.”

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the great enabler Written by Tom Wadlow Produced by Craig Daniels


Tamer Group has undergone a physical and cultural technology transformation over the past three years, helping to drive operational efficiency and excellence. This has led to the establishment of Tamer Innovate, a new company dedicated to passing on knowledge gained from its own experiences in embracing hybrid cloud solutions


n overhaul of IT and innovation culture at a company with interests spanning healthcare, food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics appears a daunting challenge. Since 1922 Tamer Group has been providing crucial pharmaceutical services to Saudi Arabia and beyond, its industry portfolio expanding through the century and elevating the company to the position of regional leader in many fields. Core activities include import, distribution, promotion, marketing and manufacturing. As the business naturally took on more complex supply chains


December 2016

and distribution demands in order to maintain levels of excellence for clients, it came to the point in 2013 when a fresh approach to IT and technology was required. Ihab Abdelrahman is Tamer Group’s Chief Innovation Officer and General Manager of the newlyestablished Tamer Innovate, an IT services provider to external clients, mainly in Saudi Arabia, and internally to Tamer Group colleagues. “Three years ago I helped to establish Tamer Group’s Business Transformation Board,” he explains. “I had a meeting with the board of


“Being an effective CIO, you shouldn’t take a back seat until a technology vendor pushes something in front of you” w w w. t a m e rg ro u p . c o m


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directors and laid out a vision of transforming the company to a best-in-class with best practice in IT, optimisation of processes, more customer service and value focus and so forth. “I lead the transformation board which is made up of key people from right across the business and we have completed many projects that we set out three years ago, so we have come a long way. Technology is a great enabler for us, and this has been recognised by the management in the business.” Abdelrahman’s 31-strong IT team supports the whole group and is split into different units. One is responsible for business applications and another for the infrastructure and operations. The third group is the project management office, or PMO. The physical establishment of the Business Transformation Board has also facilitated a crucial sea change in company culture, notably in how it handles challenges in a project-based manner involving personnel from across the entire business, driven by the PMO. “This is becoming a cultural norm,” Abdelrahman says. “We are projectising all of the time, creating timelines, establishing priorities and allocating roles in everything we do. The second element of culture that has changed is the attitude of optimisation at all levels, especially in the supply chain as we are a distribution company. This is now a primary objective for everyone throughout the organisation.” SUPPLY CHAIN PLANNING High up Abdelrahman’s priorities list in 2013 was to optimise Tamer Group’s inventory management across the board, what he terms supply chain planning. After analysing every factor and detail with managers from every department of the organisation, the adopted approach can be split roughly into two segments – supply and demand. Distribution Resource Planning software from Oracle, a solution called

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ASAP, was implemented to inform management at distribution centres of how to balance their stock levels with other DCs in the Tamer network. “This a unique capability in Oracles DRP,” Abdelrahman says. “Not only will it tell you what to buy and when, but before taking the buying decision it will tell you how to balance the inventory levels between different warehouses and DCs on a daily basis, aiming at keeping inventory levels thin all the time.”

On the demand management side, Tamer Group implemented another piece of Oracle software, Demantra, which has enabled collaborative planning right the way through the organisation from sales reps right the way up to top level management. “We initially deployed this in our healthcare business and in Q1 of next year we will roll this out in the consumer line of the company,” Abdelrahman confirms.


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JOURNEY TO THE CLOUD The other significant area of focus has been the company’s migration to a hybrid cloud architecture across many of its business and IT systems. Abdelrahman’s conservative strategy has seen Tamer Group gradually move key IT elements (or components) away

from on-premise and into a hosted cloud environment, a process which has proven invaluable in terms of enhancing operations and, perhaps more crucially, gathering knowledge. “We started the cloud journey two years ago with a small investment in Oracle Sales Cloud , which is a salesforce automation software covering sales forecasts, information on leads and interactions,” he explains. “Again this started out in our medical business and now are using it across other departments as well. The team loves the application and they can now use it on mobile to pursue business opportunities.” Another Oracle adoption followed, this time its transport management solution, OTM. Starting with the on-premise version, the fleet optimisation software is now partially migrated to the cloud and continues to provide crucial insight into truck deployment, route planning and load management.

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The number of staff that Tamer Group employs


December 2016


Other projects include migrating finance functionality at one of Tamer Group’s smaller units in Dubai, in what is a prototype test. Abdelraham is also considering moving some of the company’s email to the cloud, creating a hybrid communications system. “I am eager to build this capacity gradually, and I am sure that eventually everybody in the market will be doing the same, adopting a hybrid environment and balancing the cloud with on premise solutions,” he says. “Creating solutions to integrate the two platforms is a key focus at the moment, and will be for the next three to five years. Hybrid comes along with a lot of complexity that every company will have to address.” TAMER INNOVATE It is this complexity so far encountered by Tamer Group that has inspired Abdelrahman in establishing and managing a new enterprise, Tamer Innovate. Set up this year, its main objective is to emerge as a regional leader in supporting organisations’ transformations to the cloud, with a specialist niche of building hybrid models. Abdelrahman is hoping to sign a significant agreement with a holding company in Saudi Arabia, a business operating in many different sectors like Tamer Group. “We are focusing on the big groups that want to embrace the cloud journey,” he adds. “We have very complex groups and different companies at Tamer, and I have been solving all of these problems and challenges in building our own hybrid cloud environment. I hope to be able to do the same for companies out there facing the same hurdles.” Tamer Innovate is also looking to create some partnerships with other expert providers in the region to help boost its knowledge base as more business is taken on. However, it is Abdelrahman’s belief in building up internal IT capacity and expertise that is most evident. Although finding and recruiting talent is admittedly a big challenge, it is something which Tamer

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Group has approached with vigour. “We believe in building up our own IT capacity internally, and developing our own team of experts who understand our business, our industry and the technology we need,” he explains. “All of the applications we are adopting we are implementing ourselves – our gradual approach to adopting the cloud is allowing us to do this and build up the knowledge of our team.” And it is with Tamer Innovate that Abdelrahman will channel his main focus over the coming months and years, this having overseen maturation of the wider Tamer Group’s IT setup. “We have reached a very stable stage at Tamer Group and the hybrid cloud transformation is going to be the big project for us,” he says. “I want Tamer Innovate to be positioned as a key player in the hybrid cloud market. Complexity is creating opportunity and I don’t see many other companies out there that can offer what we can in terms of creating hybrid solutions. We are very fast learners from our own internal experiences, and this is where we can make a big difference.”


December 2016

CHIEF OF CHANGE In just four years Tamer Group has embraced new technology and new ways of thinking, a cultural shift driven from the top which has resulted in newly optimised IT systems and processes. The company’s story is a clear example of how a CIO, this case a Chief Innovation Officer, can be crucial in instigating and implementing strategy that drives an entire business forward. “An effective CIO should be known as a Chief Change Officer,” Abdelrahman says. “Being an effective CIO, you shouldn’t take a back seat until a technology vendor pushes something in front of you. This is a retroactive approach – a modern CIO must always be ahead of the business, looking at the direction set out by the board and thinking ahead of the game. How can we fulfil these various strategies through change? This is what we have to ask.”

“I am eager to build this cloud capacity gradually, and I am sure that eventually everybody in the market will be doing the same, adopting a hybrid environment and balancing the cloud with on premise solutions�

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Providing innovative and creative solutions within private and commercial aviation in the Middle East Written by Catherine Rowell Produced by Dennis Morales


With the change in General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) regulations, Chief Commercial Officer Yosef Hafiz discusses how private aviation company NasJet is offering key solutions for clientele who base their aircraft in Saudi Arabia, and have been awarded an Aircraft Operating Certificate by the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA)


December 2016



ince 2004, Chief Commercial Officer Yosef Hafiz has worked for NasJet, with a key focus on sales and innovation. Graduating from Purdue University with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering has bolstered Hafiz’s expertise and passion within aviation, obtaining responsibility for four main areas of NasJet’s corporate operations; customer service, business development, sales and marketing. Since 1999, the company has become renowned for its first-class service, catering to a wide range of clientele, from royal family members and different governmental organisations within Saudi Arabia, to private companies and ultra-high net worth individuals. Providing a range of corporate aviation services and solutions, the company operates six different types of aircraft which are situated in the company’s diverse fleet, such as the Hawker, Falcon and Airbus Corporate Jets. “There is variety here and different types of manufactured aircraft, which we are able to operate which gives us our strength, from the larger sizes like the Boeing Business Jets (BBJs), down to the smaller aircrafts like the Cessna Aircraft”, comments Hafiz. Over the years the company has significantly expanded its range of aircraft and management services, incorporating over a thousand in-house

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“If the individual or company joins a commercial AOC, which is one of the solutions which NasJet offers as an addition to the private AOC, then they are able to actively market their aircraft for sale, or charter it” – Yosef Hafiz , Chief Commercial Officer

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aviation experts, becoming the largest Gulfstream operator in the Middle East. The company has recently added a GulfStream IV and Legacy 600 to its fleet, further increasing the variety of aircraft. Key features such as safety, security, privacy, reliability and flexibility are all parts of the highquality service which NasJet offers to clientele, but the company is continually seeking new ways to attract further markets. It delivers flexible solutions and adaptable itineraries for clients, in addition to key flight support and high quality maintenance services. Hafiz explains: “NasJet offers several solutions; either the individual or company buys from us on an ad-hoc basis, charter flights, or they purchase with us block hours where they buy in bulk, such as 100-200 hours, however much time which will meet the clients’ needs throughout the year.” The company has also recently updated its website and is actively marketing its Empty Legs to the local aviation community, with the

aim to expand operations through several service solutions. “One of the services which we are expanding into is offering flight support solutions with people who own their aircraft and don’t want to have us manage it, but they want us to run the flight plans and do all the work for them behind the scenes when they request a flight”, adds Hafiz. A second service the company is also offering is crew support, where an owner of an aircraft is in need of a pilot, flight attendant or mechanic, increasing their support services further. Since the change in General Authority Civil Aviation regulations (GACAR) from March 2016, NasJet has published several articles in local newspapers and on the company website to issue guidance, information and support, tailoring services to support the local community. Aircraft owners within Saudi Arabia have been informed that they must obtain an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) in order to retain access in undertaking commercial activity. In order to remain compliant,

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Yosef Hafiz Chief Commercial Officer


owners must submit comprehensive plans and manuals by March 2017, stating whether they plan to operate their aircraft privately and apply for their own AOC, or whether they wish to utilise services such as NasJet’s, who have become the first private aviation company within the region to be granted an AOC and offer this service to clients. Hafiz explains that the GACAR has issued two different types of AOC, private and commercial: “Private AOC means that it is purely private, meaning clients are not going to charter the airplane and they are not going to offer it up for sale or for charter flights. If the individual or company joins a commercial AOC, which is one of the solutions which NasJet offers as an addition to the private AOC, then they are able to actively market their aircraft for sale, or charter it.” In order to remain ahead of the competition, collaboration and continual communication is an essential part of NasJet’s success. Individuals who wish to purchase a new aircraft are provided a

one-to-one relationship with a sales individual at NasJet, who in turn manages the transaction and portfolio of that client. Hafiz explains: “It’s a direct relationship between the NasJet sales agent and the ultrahigh net worth individual or company that we’re serving”. In addition, the company has a long-term partnership with the Jet Business in London, who supports NasJet in sourcing appropriate aircrafts for individuals in Saudi Arabia, alongside partnerships with ExecuJet and LuxAviation Group, who house a combined fleet of over 250 business jets. Despite its consistent success, the company’s increased growth and focus on providing innovative solutions has not been without its challenges. With reduced spending from local governments, Hafiz explains: “It is very important for the company to continue to think of innovative and creative ways of selling aircrafts, looking into new business ventures and ways to maintain our existing clients”. However, the company has provided a groundwork for further

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private aviation companies in the region since its establishment 17 years ago. Hafiz comments: “NasJet has always been the founding company for other companies that have begun here in Saudi Arabia. A lot of our ex-employees have joined those organisations or created those other organisations”, providing a benchmark of what private aviation companies can and should be. NasJet showcases several strengths, especially where other competing operators do not yet offer the ability for aircraft owners to operate on four different aircraft commercially. NasJet is able to operate Saudi Arabia registered aircraft (prefix HZ), US registered aircraft (prefix - N), Cayman Islands aircraft (prefix - VP-C) and San Marino aircraft (prefix -T7) commercially. Hafiz explains: “That’s something that other operators in the middle east don’t yet have, which NasJet really has its strengths. It gives our clients the ability to register their aircraft in different states and countries of registration and gives them options”, at which the company will develop their existing services and continue to provide high quality solutions for clients within Saudi Arabia.


December 2016



Zurich Insurance Penetrating the digital insurance market Written by Dale Benton Produced by Jonathan Bradley


Zurich International has undergone a digital transformation to improve the customer journey and experience in the Middle East. The multi award winning company now sits as a market leader of a young and growing industry.


urich Insurance Group has been operating in the Middle East for almost 30 years. As a company that is recognised for its life insurance and long term savings solutions, Zurich Insurance is a market leader across the region. Through Zurich International Life, the company provides savings, investment and protection products to customers and clients across the UAE, Bahrain, Qatarand Hong Kong. “Our objective is to help customers plan their financial futures. The solutions we provide are aimed at giving people peace of mind,” says Reena Vivek, Chief Operating Officer, Zurich International Life.

Plugging the information gap Vivek is based in the Dubai branch of Zurich and she admits that the


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financial industry within the Middle East is still very much a growing industry in its infancy. This presents a series of regional challenges that Vivek and Zurich have both recognised and overcome in the journey to become the internationally leading, awardwinning insurance solutions provider. One such challenge has been the lack of awareness within the market on the importance of insurance. “This market has a high savings potential with the absence of personal income tax and a high GDP per capita. However, customers in the Middle East need to be educated on the importance of savings and protection,” says Vivek. The insurance industry in the Middle East is under-penetrated and this presents what Vivek describes as an exciting opportunity


Reena Vivek, Chief Operating Officer, Zurich International Life

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for Zurich to invest, not only in educating its customers and distributors but also improving the overall customer experience. “Insurance products tend to be complex in their nature and we want to make sure people understand what they have purchased and continue to remain invested in those solutions – so one of the things we have done is strengthening our online platform to educate and service more customers,” says Vivek.

key to making sure that customers understand the products and solutions they have purchased and more importantly, remain committed to these long-term solutions. “Zurich has enhanced its online customer platform significantly to make sure that it provides information to its customers in a simplified, jargonfree manner,” says Vivek. The transformation of the customer experience and journey extends to the simplification of the sales process. Simplicity in When a customer The time Zurich Insurance Group has been operating service solutions purchases life in the Middle East Part of the way in which insurance cover over Zurich is improving the a certain amount, a customer experience is through medical examination must significant changes in the way the be completed in order to proceed company communicates with both with the insurance process. customers and distributors. Due This, Vivek believes, creates to that complex nature, insurance a ready-made excuse for not documentation and communication purchasing life insurance as can be wrapped up in jargon that the process is often lengthy. is often complicated and difficult “Zurich has therefore launched to understand as a customer. a service called Nurse Screening, Communication, Vivek says, is in which a qualified nurse will visit


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the client at a time and place of their convenience to conduct the medical exam. Around 80 percent of our protection policy applicants go through this process, which is a very customer centric and simplified process,” she says.

Power to the partner The digital transformation very much starts with the customer. Through a partnership with Each and Other, a Service Design company based in Dublin, Zurich conducts market research to map the customer’s journey with Zurich. Once this journey is identified, it allows Zurich to prototype and test improvements and customise it to better suit specific market requirements. This process of test and learn ensures that the ultimate solution or process that is delivered is in line with customer and distributor expectations. To deliver market leading insurance product solutions, Zurich works with a number of key distribution partners in what Vivek describes as an Intermediate Distribution model. This


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means that Zurich does not directly sell the insurance policies, but the distribution partners do. “We have terms of business with over 80 brokers and over 12 banks in the region, including exclusive arrangements with HSBC, Citibank and a new agreement with ADCB’s Simply Life,” says Vivek. This model allows the needs analysis and initial client interaction to be conducted by the distribution partner and once an application is completed, it is handled by Zurich. The company then issues the policies and works closely with the partners moving forward to ensure the on-going service to the client is of the best possible standard.

Removing barriers Partner distributors play a key role in the delivery of Zurich’s insurance products and so the distributor’s experience has also been looked at and reassessed. Zurich has created a process in which a financial professional and customer sit together and generate a quotation electronically using Zurich’s Quote and Apply solution on a tablet


device. Once the solution is agreed and the electronic application is complete with an e-signature, it is sent through to Zurich for processing, all at the touch of a button. “The focus has been on removing the barriers which make purchasing insurance solutions difficult and removing the barriers to understanding what has been purchased,” says Vivek. “It’s about keeping the client informed about their policy so they are happy to remain in it.” A further part of this transformative project has seen Zurich move a number of capabilities to Dubai, creating the Claims Centre of Excellence for Zurich International Life. The claims process is a key part of any insurance company and

Vivek believes that transparency is key in both strengthening the relationship with the customer, and also differentiating Zurich from other insurance companies. “We are constantly striving to improve the speed with which our claims are paid out and also increasing the number of claims we pay,” says Vivek. In moving such market facing departments closer to the core market of Zurich International Life, Zurich has increased its employee base in Dubai by over 40 percent in the last three years. Vivek says this results in an increased market focus, as the company is finetuning what they deliver and its relevance to the customer.

Walter Jopp CEO, Middle East and Africa


“Zurich has enhanced its online customer platform significantly to the extent that we have online capabilities that provide information to customers in a simplified, jargon free manner” Customer focus The customer is very much the driving force behind the digitilisation of Zurich Insurance. Through a process of a Net Promoter Score Survey, which looks at whether customers and clients can be considered promoters or detractors of the brand, Zurich identified a need for change and for Vivek, this created a need to look both externally and internally at the company’s processes. “It made us step back and look at the company through a customer lens. As an insurance company it’s amazing how easily you can fall into the trap of being internally focused, and being very difficult and complex to engage with. Customers want simplicity and transparency,” she adds. The net promoter survey kickstarted the transformation of the company’s digital presence.

Customers in the modern market want convenience and with more power at their fingertips, through tablets and smartphones, it is crucial for a business to succeed to deliver on those digital fronts. Customers also demand transparency, and for an insurance company transparency on its track record on claims payment is vital. Zurich publishes its data on the number and value of claims paid out on an annual basis, something that Vivek describes as a testament to the fact that the company comes through when clients need it the most. Zurich is the only international insurer that publishes its claims statistics that are specific to the Middle East.

Enabling innovation Zurich has invested over $25million

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enhancing the company’s digital capabilities to respond to the market demands. A key advantage for Vivek has been the involvement of the wider Zurich group which has allowed a larger focus on R&D across international markets and relaying it back to the Middle East. Naturally this raises questions that need answering as to whether there is market relevance or if the market is ready to adopt particular technological innovations. “We are conscious about making sure that any technology we invest in is relevant to the market, it’s either adding value to the distributor or to the customer. We don’t want to adopt too fast and get ahead of the market,” says Vivek. Vivek identifies that innovation is less invested in across the Middle Eastern insurance industry. It is the banks that can be seen as the lead indicators of what insurance companies should be looking to invest in in the future. “There’s real innovation here in the banking industry that could be globally trend setting,” she says. Some of those trends include the introduction of voice recognition for


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passwords, creating a more secure customer experience. Innovation is also happening across the payment space with cashless payments. The UAE has recently introduced Direct Debits and while direct debit is common in the much more mature European markets for example, it is still a new concept in the financial market in the Middle East. “It’s a real positive here in the Middle East to have Direct Debits and we are working with our bank partners to try and introduce that as a more secure method of payment for our customers,” says Vivek.

Award winning The digital transformation has been ongoing for the last three years and Zurich has already begun to reap the rewards, not only improving the overall net promotor score but also taking home multiple awards at the International Life Awards, International Fund and Products Awards and the MENA IR Awards 2016.“It is validation that we are on the right track, doing the right thing and hitting the right customer pain points,” concludes Vivek.


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Business Review Middle East - December 2016