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November 2016 •

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DIGITISATION in the GCC with Grant Thornton


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Welco me to t he November 2016 issue of Business Review Middle East. In this month’s issue, we spoke to Sojern about the booming travel industry in the Middle East – and how companies working in this sector can use technology to maximise growth opportunities and simplify business operations. We also hear from Grant Thorton about e-commerce and how businesses in this sphere should tackle digitalisation. Our top 10 looks at some of the most successful fashion brands and designers to come from the Middle East. The magazine features interviews with leading companies in the region, including Hyatt Hotels, Oman Air, P&T Group, Injazat Data Systems and We hope you enjoy the issue, please send us your feedback on Twitter @BusinessRevME

Enjoy the issue! Lucy Dixon Group Editorial Director



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SilverStorm helps organizations’ transition to service orientation, delivering enterprise solutions that support their digital transformation strategy. ‘Easy to do business with’ and ‘everything as a service’, set in a consumer driven environment are key concepts when transitioning organizations towards service orientation. This paradigm shift can be achieved through SilverStorm’s pragmatic approach to process improvement, organizational change management, and through the use of innovating technology. SilverStorm ‘bridges the gap’ between the customer’s actual state and the desired state. “The flexibility and versatility of the ServiceNow platform, together with the speed of implementation by SilverStorm provided us with the best possible solution.” - Carlos Garriga, CIO Sareb • SPAIN • MEXICO • UK • USA




Travel tech


Innovation & digitisation in the GCC



Middle Eastern fashion designers TOP 10





Oman Air


Supply chain

Injazat Data Systems Technology


Bidcorp Middle East Food and Drink



Hyatt Hotels


P&T Group



62 7


Business Review Middle East talks to Stewart Smith, Sojern’s Senior Director of Sales for the MEA region, about the fast-growing travel sector in the Middle East



Tell us a little about Sojern. It is travel’s leading data-driven performance marketing engine serving over 1,000 travel brands worldwide. Its Sojern Traveller Platform, including 350 million user profiles and billions of traveller intent signals, along with custom data science and campaign optimisation algorithms designed to reach and convert travellers, delivered over $3 billion in bookings in 2015. Recognised by Deloitte as one of the fastest growing companies in tech, Sojern’s mission is to help every travel business reach, engage, and convert current and future travellers across channels. Sojern is headquartered in San Francisco and has an office in Dubai.

Why was opening an office in Dubai a priority for your business? The Middle East is home to three of the world’s leading international airlines and a fast-growing hotel and tourism sector.  In fact, the Middle East is the fastest-growing region for travel with the UAE being the dominant market. Not only that but with a young population, one in six customers in the Middle East is using 10

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the Internet as the booking platform of choice. The Sojern Traveller Platform will help travel brands connect with a young and tech-savvy audience that is looking to travel within - and outside of - the MEA region.  

What were some of the challenges you faced in opening an office in the Middle East? Understand who your customers are: One of the key challenges in

opening an office in a new region is understanding who your customers are and reflecting their needs. It became clear early on that the UK for example, is ahead in terms of understanding and adoption of programmatic advertising and therefore it was vital for us to tailor our messages and the way we discuss our business with potential clients. Tailor everything! Tailor your marketing messages, your prices,

your payment terms, your pitches and your service to suit your new client’s’ needs.  Just because it worked in the US doesn’t mean it will work in MEA. Recruit a team - It’s also key to remember that you can never underestimate local knowledge! Soon after we opened I recruited an experienced team to support our business in this region. Josh Beckwith, our Sales Director has worked in digital marketing in the Middle East 11



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& Africa region for over eight years.  Having a team who is experienced in the cultural differences of doing business in a new region instantly makes opening up a new office easier. Be compliant: Another challenge in opening an office is ensuring you are compliant and not breaking any legal requirements specific to the region. Location, location location: Choose an office location that is not only accessible for staff and clients but is also professional enough that you can conduct meetings there and host clients. Be social: Join local networking groups and industry associations so you can meet people and learn from them as well as increase your pipeline of potential clients! Enjoy it! Opening up a new office in a new region is a fun experience. Enjoy all the challenges and successes!

What are some of the unique characteristics of this region? Despite there being a young population with 44 percent of the ME population under 20 years old and some of the world’s most active and dedicated smartphone users, there is a hesitancy to transact

online. Consumers within this region still have an affinity towards cash payments when it comes to travel.  According to ThinkDigital, among UAE leisure travellers 39 percent use the internet to plan their trip, but only 12 percent book their travel online. We may find that like some other global trends there is a short lag in this region when it comes to fully going online for travel. Having said that, I’ve noticed that although there is a lag in the adoption of some technologies, what would usually take the rest of the globe three to five years to fully adopt, takes the ME region far shorter. Again, it seems that once the region decides to commit, it moves quickly.

How does the digital marketing industry in the Middle East compare to Asia, Europe and the US? It is following very similar trends to the rest of the globe, it’s just taking a little longer to be fully adopted.  The combination of technology and data is extremely powerful in marketing and beyond the wave of programmatic buying and RTB, we are now beginning to see digital marketing entering the mainstream 13

PROFILE in the Middle East. With the Middle East considered as the fastestgrowing region in travel, we are seeing brands utilising real-time data in order to target consumers in-market for their service at precisely the right time with a highly personalised offering in order to drive ROI.

What areas of the digital marketing industry in the Middle East region are more advanced than other areas globally? In terms of mobile adoption, the Middle East region is only second to Asia-Pacific. According to eMarketer, as of mid-2015, almost 30 percent of the population in the region were using mobile devices to access the internet, equivalent to almost 110 million people. The number is set to increase to 172 million by 2020, by which time 42 percent of the population will have mobile internet access.   Growing mobile broadband and smartphone usage is driving an explosion in mobile data in the region.  In fact, Middle East smartphone users are regarded as some of the most active and dedicated worldwide. The rise of mobile is changing booking patterns, consumer behaviour and 14

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business models in travel. This generation of millennials have a notably shorter attention span in an environment where they have access to an abundance of information, options and channels all in the palm of their hand. To compete, brands now need to develop customercentric experiences that are highly personalised, engaging and delivered at exactly the right point in the path to purchase across all available channels.   

What are some of the key challenges travel brands based in the Middle East are facing when it comes to targeting their customers and driving revenue? The region’s affinity to traditional travel agencies and cash payments is certainly a challenge when it comes to creating a complete online digital marketing strategy for travel brands. That being said, some of the major Online Travel Agents (OTAs) have tailored successful models for the region. For example, has an Arabic-language website, and also accepts offline payments on arrival at the hotel, in addition to credit card transactions. This suits travellers who want the value

and choice of online booking, but still prefer to pay in person.   Another challenge which this region is not alone in facing is the need for personalisation. From hi-tech dream to everyday reality, the way we research and book travel is almost unrecognisable to five years ago. Today’s consumer has an abundance of channels and information sources now available to them across multiple

devices making the path to purchase increasingly long and complex.  In fact, these are the savviest consumers that markets have ever known. People understand the value exchange between the data they provide and the services they get in return. These trends along with the sharing economy and lastminute booking have all had a huge impact on the way consumers now book travel. 15

Innovation & digitisation in the GCC Attracting the next generation through e-commerce and online comparison sites W r i t t e n b y : K H U R R A M B H AT T I , A u d i t P a r t n e r a t Grant Thornton within the United Arab Emirates.

A WEALTH OF research exists in the public domain in regards to the importance that the millennial generation has on global society. The characteristics of this group have a profound impact on the way that businesses attract and retain the attention of new buyers. According to a study commissioned by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch, there are over 2 billion millennials around the world, of which around 86 percent live in emerging markets. When we look closer to home, this group accounts for over one-third 16

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of the entire GCC population. Given the access to high disposable income across the region, alongside the rapid diversification of the economy, this group of new consumers will play an increasingly important role in the shifting landscape of buying behaviours. GCC millennials tend to be higher spenders than their global peers, with access in most cases to more than one handheld device from which they scan the global market for the latest insights, trends and deals. This further validates the statistics


TECHNOLOGY in regards to internet user numbers, which currently stand at a squareaverage-per-country penetration figure of 83 percent for the GCC significantly higher than the global average of 49.2 percent. Within the GCC, two countries particularly stand out – the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Aside from their economic depth they are home to a rapidly growing e-commerce market. So with access to high disposable incomes, a wealth of technological innovation on the horizon, increased access to the internet and handheld devices, what does the future hold for e-commerce within the GCC market? Globally, worldwide retail e-commerce is estimated to increase to $4.058 trillion in 2020, making up 14.6 percent of total retail spending. Likewise, in the UAE, which accounts for five in 10 people shopping online in the region, the e-commerce market is estimated to exceed $10 billion in value by 2018 – supported by a growing, young and techsavvy population that favours the ability to obtain competitive pricing, convenience and ease of access to various goods and services. The growth potential that this 18

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“GCC millennials tend to be higher spenders than their global peers, with access in most cases to more than one handheld device from which they scan the global market for the latest insights, trends and deals”


sector represents for local business is immense compared with the numbers in 2012, when $3.2 billion was spent online across the entire GCC. It is therefore no understatement to say that there is a plethora of opportunities within this sector in the GCC. The government and private sector have collectively supported this lucrative industry through educating users and maintaining just

enough oversight to help the sector develop, without being weighed down by cumbersome regulation or overly bureaucratic red-tape. The e-Government initiatives integrated with online payment platforms have helped users build confidence and trust in transacting online and have aided in nurturing consumer awareness, maturity and acceptance. In the UAE, in addition to moving services online, the 19

TECHNOLOGY government has taken bold steps in setting up the world’s first purposebuilt duty free e-commerce hub, Matajircom, making very clear its ambition to work with both local and regional players in order to continue fostering e-commerce. That said, regional businesses have historically been slow to adapt to the change and thus currently the trade between online shoppers in the region and locally based businesses accounts for a mere 10 percent of the total estimated spend. Recent research by PayPal suggests that local businesses need to embrace e-commerce more seriously and invest further time in planning their digital strategies in order to tap into the market opportunity in the region. The removal of previously existing trade barriers has simplified the process and provided multiple routes for businesses to exploit the burgeoning online shopping trend. According to Google, the UAE and Saudi Arabia rank in the top five countries globally in smartphone penetration rates and 40 percent of smartphone owners in the UAE alone reported making their first ever online purchase in the previous 12 20

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months with a positive experience. This provides us with an outlook on the demand for effective e-commerce channels and potential for businesses to make significant inroads towards accessing this valuable market. One of the key highlights of the current online data analysis is that most B2C transactions are centred on travel (air-fare) and consumer electronics, but the range of goods and services being acquired is growing, with shoppers increasingly keen to tap into the internet’s ability to help facilitate quick price and service comparisons. It has been witnessed that approximately 40 percent of current consumers typically undertake some sort of price evaluation activity before executing an online transaction and this figure is likely to increase, as user maturity and awareness begins to develop further. This presents a considerable opportunity for both end-retailers and the “brokers” - sites that enable online price comparisons and facilitate transactions between the goods/service provider and the end consumer. Platforms such as comparison sites support end-retailers to





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explore digital channels with minimal disruption or cost to their business, given it is a relatively safe and phased approach to e-commerce. Similarly, broker sites such as compareit4me. com – an online comparison site promoting financial/insurance based products - can target specific consumer segments by offering comparable goods and services, simultaneously exploiting a particular niche and market demand. The business model is by no means unique, but it is proving fertile ground for new online businesses seeking to exploit a relatively new and fast-developing channel. Having made reference to, it is worth noting that the company launched in 2011 within the UAE has now spanned to nine countries across the wider Middle East region. The firm has a growing service portfolio, which has earned it multiple awards, which have positioned it well to make the most of the developing local market. The business was one of the vanguard entities in the online comparison space and helped to drive e-commerce take-up in the region. is one of the

“The UAE and Saudi Arabia rank in the top five countries globally in smartphone penetration rates� few businesses that has maintained the development of its proposition in harmony with market maturity and is now proving to be a hallmark for those who may be looking to follow in its footsteps. With an increase in awareness and realisation of online trading benefits by goods and service providers, comparison sites such as are poised to become a healthy catalyst for a revolution in local retailing trends. The GCC region is well positioned to exploit the lucrative opportunities that e-commerce offers, given the generational demographic shift that we are witnessing and which will inevitably have a seismic impact on businesses for the future. 23

TOP 10

Top 10 M Eastern


Middle n fashion


Writ ten by CHLOE LEWIS

TOP 10

01 RULA GALAYINI Rula Galayini started her brand in Lebanon, where she used inspiration from the country’s artisanal routes, basing her first designs on the oriental latticework that covers the surface of historical structures. Her brand was launched in 2007 under the name Poupee Couture, and raised money through the crowdfunding marketplace raising US$112,000 for 16 percent of the company equity, retaining 84 percent of the company shares – it has 18 shareholders. After this she decided to rebrand her company, naming it after herself in order to attract a more international audience. Her work is also inspired by Lebanon’s natural beauty and artistic heritage. The collections are designed for everyday life, featuring geometric designs and contrasting colours. Her collections include The Cuff Collection, which is made up of hybrids of handbags and jewellery and The Articulate Collection, which is inspired by art and architecture, and mainly features bold statement pieces.


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T O P 1 0 M I D D L E E A S T E R N FA S H I O N D E S I G N E R S

02 RAMI KADI Rami Kadi is a Lebanese-American fashion designer who graduated from the French fashion school ESMOD in 2008 and soon after was selected by the Starch Foundation to showcase his first collection. He opened his first studio and boutique in Beirut in 2011, attracting a wide range of clientele with his unique creations. His autumn and winter collections are based around dark colours with bold, striking patterns, often floral and close-up images show that the patterns are made up of intricate sewing patterns and stitched on sequins. His winter collections are a striking contrast to the summer collections, which are mainly white or pastel colours, with softer floral patterns and feathers. Rami Kadi dresses have been worn by celebrities such as Emirati singer Ahlam Al Shamsi, Lebanese TV presenter and model Daniella Rhame and Miss Lebanon 2015 Valerie Abou Chakra. The headquarters are based in Lebanon, Beirut.


TOP 10

03 ZAREENA Zareena is a Dubai-based fashion designer who became interested in fashion when she began experimenting with fabrics and colours while studying Business Management in India. This began her worldwide search to find the best textiles and needlework. Her first collection was launched in the late eighties. By 1994, Zareena had begun to establish her fashion house, Fasateen in Dubai, from which she received awards such as Designer of the Year from L’officiel Middle East Magazine, Best Designer from the Emarat El Youm newspaper and Sayidaty Lifestyle Magazine.. She is seen as one of the most celebrated fashion designers to emerge from the Middle East, and has displayed her work three times at Dubai’s Fashion Forward (FFWD), the Middle East’s most definitive fashion platform. The headquarters of Zareena are based in Dubai, UAE.


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Jean Louis Sabaji was raised by a fashion designer, which ultimately carved out the path for his own fashion label. He graduated Lebanese American University in 2009, and went on the to the Milan Domus Academy, giving him the opportunity to share his creations with famous Italian designers. His family background prompted him to go into the world of Haute Couture, and his work is based on the demand from the clientele, calling his studio ‘neither fashion designers nor clothing manufacturers, but rather builders of character, concept and movement’.


TOP 10

05 NOON BY NOOR Noon by Noor is a fashion label that focuses on striking prints and intricate embellishments, with inspirations from both Eastern and Western influences and an emphasis on tailoring and attention to detail. It was founded in 2008 by cousins Shaikha Noor Al Khalifa, founder, CEO and designer at Noon by Noor, and Shaikha Haya Al Khalifa, founder, COO and designer at Noon by Noor, who both studied fashion design in the USA, and returned to Bahrain after graduating to start their label. In 2011, an event was held in Los Angeles to launch the brand internationally, which was followed by a presentation at New York Fashion Week in 2012, where they displayed their Fall 2012 collection to editors, journalists and celebrity guests. Noon by Noor can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bahrain; Saks Fifth Avenue, Dubai; Symphony Style Harvey Nichols, Kuwait; Ron Herman, LA and Elizabeth Charles, San Francisco. Its online shop has worldwide shipping.


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06 YIGAL AZROUEL Yigal Azrouel is an Israeli American fashion designer, born in Israel and now living in America. His first collection was debuted in 1998, and received instant acclaim, both commercially and critically. In 2000, his showroom opened in New York’s Garment District and currently 80 percent of his collection is manufactured there. In 2004 he was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Yigal Azrouel had no formal training in fashion design and uses the inspiration from his travels, art, culture, architecture and nature to create his work. His collections are sold at select luxury retailers all around the world.


TOP 10

07 REEMA AL BANNA Reema Al Banna is an award-winning UAE based designer who is the founder and CEO of Reemami, which was launched in 2009. Reemami has become recognised and celebrated for its signature architectural and experimental cuts and hand illustrated graphics. Reema first began to experiment with patterns as a graphic designer, and since applied this to fashion. Many of the prints on her clothes are based on boxing, which she is a fan of, and are hand drawn. Some designs include boxing gloves on strings, helmets, punching bags and boxing rings, which are then incorporated into more traditional prints such as stripes and checkers. She graduated after two years from ESMOD, the French Fashion University in Dubai. Reemami is seen as one of the most exciting names to have emerged from the Middle East, and her individuality has been praised by fashion critics and loyal customers alike.


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08 FARAH ASMAR Farah Asmar is a Middle Eastern fashion label set up by its CEO Farah Al Asmar and specialising in handbags. Farah Al Asmar studied fashion and graphic design at Istituto Marangoni London. Her handbag label is inspired by art, culture, fashion, architecture and technology and is based on uniqueness, while keeping in mind altered tastes, age groups and market diversities. The prices of the bags range between around $100 to $1000.


TOP 10


COURTURE Fanilla Courture is a fashion brand based in Doha, and is owned by Razan Suliman, a self-taught graphic designer who created the label in 2011. She has based her designs on inspirations from Arabic pop culture and fashion iconography with a mix of cultural elements, vivid colours, and high quality fabrics. The brand started out by making t-shirts, and has since expanded to include items such as dresses, sweat pants, sweaters, Kaftans, hoodies, passport covers and mobile covers and is currently in stores at Hamad International Airport, 51 East stores, the Gate mall and Boutique Muscat, with headquarters in Doha, Qatar.


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10 LA BOURJOISIE La Bourjoisie is a fashion label and beauty centre that was founded in 1997 by Antoine Salameh. It created a strong presence for itself in the Arab fashion world, with haute couture and dresses for women. Most of its collections feature elegant dresses with striking gold and silver sequin designs. La Bourjoisie has attracted clientele from all over the world, with people such as Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj and Khloe Karadashian wearing the brand, and the name has become well known in Kuwait.


Oman Air’s journey to become the best

Written by Nell Walker Produced by Dennis Morales 37

Abdulaziz Al Raisi, Executive Vice President of Oman Air, is working hard to shine a spotlight on the company’s distinctive branding and its homeland


man Air, the national airline of the Sultanate of Oman, has established itself as an enviable enterprise since 1993. Rather than racing against the giants to become the biggest or most prosperous company, Oman Air puts its efforts into what counts most – excellent customer service and cementing a distinctive brand. Abdulaziz Al Raisi is the company’s Executive Vice President. He has brought his wealth of experiences in the airline sector to Oman Air: “Basically I am an aircraft engineer,” he says. “I did my apprenticeship with Air New Zealand in 1984. I stayed there for five years and trained as an aircraft engineer. Upon completion of my apprenticeship I came back to work with Oman Air, which was called Oman Aviation Services at that time. I started my career as an engineer and became a senior engineer before I moved up to managerial roles. “The company was rebranded as Oman Air in 1993 and began operating long haul services in 2007. I was part of the team which


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worked on acquisition and development of our fleet, and customised almost everything. In 2010 I began assisting the CEO in running the company’s day-to-day affairs, which involved controlling the Supply Chain Management and Learning & Development Departments as well as Aircraft Acquisition. “I became the Executive Vice President for Products & Brand Development during the recent restructuring.” Al Raisi is now in charge of everything to do with guest experience, comprising inflight and lounge services, catering, and branding of the airline, including aircraft design and interiors. Much of the company’s image is in Al Raisi’s hands and he is committed to increasing guest trust and growing as a unique brand. As Al Raisi says, “Oman has a very rich culture and a time-honoured heritage,” and he wants


November 2016


“We are immensely proud of being the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman and we make an important contribution to our nation” – Abdulaziz Al Raisi, Executive Vice President the Oman Air aircraft to represent that. In order to ensure that the interiors of the aircraft reflect Omani culture with traditional patterns and colour schemes, Oman Air works with reputed designers, and the company considers this as integral to its branding. “Our aim is that any guest who flies on board our aircraft from any destination to Oman Air’s home base of Muscat feels that

they are going to a place which is really unique and fascinating.” In addition to the regular launch of new routes, Oman Air is getting involved in codeshare agreements with other leading airlines in order to provide connections, with the added advantage of increasing traffic to Oman. Oman Air is keen for the Sultanate to be seen as a

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In less than a century, Boeing took the world from seaplanes to spaceplanes, across the universe and beyond. If you thought that was amazing, just wait.


tourist destination, and while it doesn’t aim to compete with regional airlines, it believes that it has a great role to play in showcasing Oman and introducing guests to this beautiful nation by offering the easiest possible connections. The company has grown steadily and contributed around 440 million Omani Rials to the national economy in the last year alone. “Currently our fleet is 45 aircraft and we are expanding further,” Al Raisi says. “We have many aircraft awaiting delivery from Boeing and we are growing at a steady, sustainable rate, bringing tourist business to the capital as we go.” Alongside his many other responsibilities, Al Raisi leads the design aspect of each aircraft which is a huge task. Oman Air is currently working on a new set of first class and business class seats created in Miami to unique specifications, proving its dedication to how the company represents itself. “When it comes to our products, we don’t compromise,”

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Which aircraft best combines comfort with efficiency?

It’s undoubtedly the A350 XWB. Offering 18ʺ wide seats as standard in economy, along with a 25% step change in fuel efficiency and a 25% lower seat-mile cost, it has unrivalled low operating costs. The best bit? It’s already in the air.

Airbus is the answer.

“We are focused on a process of continual improvement in the passenger experience” – Abdulaziz Al Raisi, Executive Vice President


November 2016


Al Raisi says. “We make sure guest experience and we don’t that whatever we do is the best, benchmark ourselves against any irrespective of the size of aircraft.” of our competitors. Having said This attitude also extends to that, the competition for guests’ technology. In 2009, Oman Air was attention is huge, and we put a lot of the first airline to have line-fit Wi-Fi money into improving our products connectivity on its Airbus A330s: and services. While bigger airlines “We were the leaders in technology are cutting costs we’re investing.” and today, all our A330s are By not clashing with the fully fitted with internet bigger players in the and mobile phone. Our market, Oman Air is Dreamliners are also able to continue fully connected. carving out its Once you are niche as a highon-board, you can be quality service totally in touch with provider with an The year Oman Air the rest of the world, outstanding guest was founded with touch screens and experience and top all the latest Apps and guest relations - and gadgets available on-board.” it retains its own specific Al Raisi considers that the growth tactic. While it is not yet company’s best achievements thinking about expansions into are those which benefit the guest huge markets such as Australia most. Oman Air has won awards or the US, Al Raisi is open to the for excellent customer guest concept a few years down the line. service, and its seats themselves Having become well-established have achieved accolades too. in the Middle Eastern, European “We are focussed on a process and South East Asian markets, of continual improvement in the Oman is now being promoted as


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an attractive prospect in China. There has already been a good level of market interest from there; Oman Air is strategic in its business decisions, making intelligent choices rather than aggressively dominating. As well as becoming involved with China, Oman Air’s immediate plans include the building of new Airport Lounges at Muscat which will reflect the level of superiority the airline prides itself on: “These will be totally new airport lounges, within a totally new airport. They include a huge first class lounge and business class lounge belonging to Oman Air. There will be another lounge at the arrival hall. Our current airport is very small; it was built back in 1973 and easily gets congested. The new


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Airport will be opened next year which will allow passengers better comfort during the entire process. “We are immensely proud of being the national carrier of the Sultanate of Oman and we make an important contribution to our nation. We make a significant economic contribution, we fly our flag around the world and we express the Omani culture in everything we do. In addition, we operate to the highest possible standards throughout the company and our commitment to quality is reflected in our cabins, catering, and branding services. We have received numerous awards and have been assessed as an Official Four-Star Airline, but we will not rest until we become the best.”


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Food for thought Written by Nye Longman Produced by Craig Daniels



How BidCorp is growing in the Middle East


art of the globally-present Bidvest Group, Bidcorp Middle East has risen to become a regional leader in the Gulf for distributing ambient, chilled and frozen food, beverages and non-food products to the foodservice sector including, but not limited to, hotels, restaurants, cafes and catering companies. In recent years, the company has broadened its coverage while adding a variety of food product lines to its original offering. Furthermore, the company has developed a responsive business model and supply chain that has enabled it to adapt to the everchanging needs of its customers. We speak to Hisham Aljamil, Bidcorp’s Regional Managing Director, about how the company has achieved this, as well as the operational directives that have enabled it to reach the top of its market segments.


November 2016

Operations Bidcorp, through its entities, caters to a range of customers in food service channels including institutional, catering and, to a certain extent, some retail sectors in the Middle East. The company operates in six markets in the Middle East via a number of stand-alone commercial entities. These consist of HORECA Trade and Cherrypik Trading UAE; HORECA Trading Oman; Al Diyafa Company for Catering Services, Saudi Arabia, and HORECA United Services Bahrain. Through these subsidiaries, Bidcorp is able to manage, market and deliver an assortment of both its own and renowned branded food and beverage products. As standard, it aims for a 24-hour delivery time in all of its markets. “The market most concentrated on is the Gulf, especially in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain,” Aljamil


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explains. “In terms of overall human capital, we have around 280 foodservice professionals. In terms of coverage, we have state of the art facilities in UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Oman, Bahrain and the three major regions in Saudi Arabia. In terms of overall business, turnover is close to $100 million.”

market and business development, it is by no means impossible and the opportunities to grow are there for the taking, with the right strategy. “We’re trying to replicate best practices across all the markets,” Aljamil explains. And this is no small feat. “Best practice, of course, comes after learning - and sometimes failing Market strategy - in a given market. It’s about But operating successfully when to replicate, when to in the region isn’t simply adapt, or when to scale a case of owning back, be it operations, and operating marketing, systems, subsidiaries. “The IT or logistics.” challenge is that Perhaps the most Number of employees our markets are at pertinent example at Bidcorp Middle East different levels of has been a best maturity – internally practice developed and externally; internally through practical application as a business and externally in one market that has had as a market. So, for example, our profound consequences for its other food service business in Saudi territories. “One best practice we just Arabia is much more mature than rolled out was for ordering online,” the business we have in Bahrain. Aljamil says. “It took us two years The former is eight years old and to roll it out, in the UAE initially - we the latter only two years old. invested a lot of money but learned While it is certainly challenging to so much. Now we’re replicating operate with such variations in both this for our Saudi operations.”


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“With a rigorously practical mind-set, the company is sure to continue its reputation as a reliable and effective food service partner�

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“Bidcorp Middle East has risen to become a regional leader in the Gulf for distributing ambient, chilled and frozen food, beverages and nonfood products to the foodservice sector�


Talent management Looking to grow businesses in the Gulf also requires strict adherence to a number of often changing rules regarding employment practices – notably the Saudiisation measures of the KSA Government. “With some practices there are many ways to do differently but here there is only one way to do it and that’s according to the law. We therefore hire Saudis, train them, develop them and invest in them,” says Al Jamil. “This requires that we choose talented people who are also the right people. We are also required to be in line with the quotas they allow for us - each market is slightly different.” Once Bidcorp has achieved the right mix of local and expat talent, employees enjoy a variety of different training programmes, as well as a number of perks. Aljamil says: “We train them on soft skills and on technical skills. We implement succession planning programmes. We have encouraging and attractive remuneration packages when it comes to both lump sums and benefits.

Long-term growth For Aljamil and his teams across the company, replicating successful processes will always be cemented by further growth and expansion. Looking to the future, he sees a number of exciting possibilities on the horizon in terms of both

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improvements to its current business and in completely fresh directions. In both aspects of this strategy, working closely with partners is essential. “If you ask me today where would you see the business in the next five years, I would tell you that our number one priority is to make sure we have a presence in all the markets in the Gulf,” he explains. “So five years from now, we should be expanding into a minimum of two to three additional markets and the reason for that is because suppliers and customers are becoming more and more regional.” Supporting this long term strategy is a large-scale integration - of business systems, people, new brands and customers. “When we look at a brand


November 2016

in a category, we don’t say we want this for the UAE, rather that we want this for the region. System-wise, we say can we locate that system in another market if we address all the barriers to entry to those markets.” Having the business sense and daring to recognize its best performing processes and scale them regionally, Bidcorp’s Middle East operations are set to deliver value for both customers and the business as a whole for years to come. With a rigorously practical mind-set, the company is sure to continue its reputation as a reliable and effective food service pioneer.


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Disrupting insurance distribution

in the Middle East

Written by Dale Benton Produced by Jonathan Bradley


C O M PA R E I T 4 M E . C O M

More than 15 years after emerging in Europe, insurance aggregation is finally taking hold in the Middle East

In Europe 60 percent of insurance sales are sold through comparison websites – allowing the customer to save time and money. We saw a real opportunity to bring this phenomenon to the Middle East,” says Jonathan Rawling, CFO of Compareit4me is a financial comparison site in the UAE. One of its co-founders, Jon Richards, moved to Dubai and wanted to open a bank account and have a credit card to go with it. He very quickly discovered that, unlike in Europe or the UK, where one can simply go online and find all the information at the click of a button, there was no such website or platform that would allow him to find the right bank and credit card suited to his specific needs. Together with co-founder Samer Chehab, compareit4me was created to fill this information gap. Compareit4me has been a fully


November 2016

established and successful bank and credit card comparison business for a number of years, and in March 2016, the company officially launched the insurance comparison arm of the business, which was initially focused on car insurance. “When I arrived in the UAE, I was struck by how difficult it was to buy insurance in the Middle East. Just as there was no information online about banking and credit cards, it was the same with insurance. There was simply no easy way to shop around and compare products and prices,” says Rawling. Half a year later and Rawling is proud of the immediate success of the insurance comparison aggregator. “We went very quickly from launching the business in March to selling thousands of policies across the UAE. There was a latent demand for buying insurance online that wasn’t being served.


Jonathan Rawling CFO

Prior to compareit4me, Jonathan Rawling was CFO for Zurich Insurance in Turkey and the Middle East and held various roles in the insurance practices of PwC in the UK, Switzerland and Australia. Accordingly, he has local comparison knowledge and offers a window into the insurance industry in the Middle East.

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Visit or call now 8004 742


Our insurance platform satisfied that demand, and we got amazing feedback for it,” says Rawling. Comparing with counterparts While the success is clear to see, Rawling explains that insurance comparison came a little later than banking and credit card comparison because of the differing technological requirements. “If two people were to apply for the same credit card then most likely they will get the same rates. In insurance it’s different. There are so many different variables. We’ve all got different cars, different experiences, nationalities and hence more complex technology is needed to determine the price and product features applicable to any specific customer,” he says. On the surface, the user experience at compareit4me is largely similar to that of any major European comparison site. However, the technology powering this is significantly different. “An insurance comparison website in the UK takes your details and sends them via an API solution to

insurers, who would then instantly return a quote for the website to display. This is a perfect technological solution but it’s not one that we could implement here in the Middle East today,” says Rawling. Overcoming the challenge One of the big challenges that Rawling and the company faces is that, quite simply, in the Middle East there is no option to digitally retrieve a quote from the insurer. As the insurance industry does not itself sell online, API technology was not available for compareit4me to plug into. The company overcomes this challenge by operating completely in-house – something that Rawling feels is crucial to its dominance. “Insurers provide us with their pricing algorithms and our system generates quotes on their behalf. To the customer it looks the same, but beneath it all, the technology is vastly different. Our technology enables insurance comparison in a market where it shouldn’t yet exist,” he says. The willingness of insurers to provide their algorithms to

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C O M PA R E I T 4 M E . C O M

compareit4me was based partially on trust for the compareit4me. com brand and partly from the insurance expertise of the company’s management – Rawling having previously been CFO of Zurich in the Middle East. This combination has allowed the company to dominate the region’s insurance market. “Insurers compete with other partly through branding and partly through service, but the first thing that a customer looks at is price,” says Rawling. “For an insurer to trust you with their detailed algorithm for calculating price is a big thing, especially here in the Middle East. We had to convince insurers that they could trust us with their trade secrets and, more importantly that together we could make significant inroads into this market. These were long and detailed conversations that took place over many months but eventually we were able to persuade the first insurers to join us. “Rather interestingly, we are now getting requests from insurers to join our panel and they are trying to


November 2016

persuade us, so the conversation has flipped on its head a little.” Dominating the market The company, which initially launched with car insurance, now has 10 insurers offering a total of 21 products, including car, home, travel and life insurance – and more insurers are being added all the time. Compareit4me is the go-to insurance and bank comparison aggregator in the Middle East. While Rawling admits that there are other entrants in the market, nobody is doing it to the same scale as compareit4me. “Our aim is to dominate the insurance comparison space. If you look at the amount of investment we’ve received and the resources we have available to deploy and win more customers, we really are many times bigger than our closest competitor,” says Rawling. Already, the numbers certainly add up for compareit4me when it comes to market domination, but Rawling says that the company is still growing. “The brilliant thing about insurance is it renews every year,


Jon Richards CEO

Jon Richards has 10 years of digital marketing experience in the UK and the UAE – most recently with He founded compareit4me. com in August 2011 and became full-time CEO in April 2014.

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C O M PA R E I T 4 M E . C O M

Samer Chehab COO

In early 2012 Samer Chehab joined the business as COO and started educating banks on the service and proposition. He went full-time in May 2013. Samer brings a wealth of local knowledge to the business, having worked in senior digital media sales roles regionally for close to 10 years, including at


November 2016


so we almost inherently double the size of our business just by maintaining the same levels of activity, but we’re always trying to innovate and improve,” he says. “We have to make sure that the user experience is top-notch, and that people coming to our site really do save time and money. With all the investment we’re making in technology, it’s no exaggeration to say that, every single day, we make some adjustment or other to improve the experience. We’re very much a technology-focused company.” A recent round of bridge investment will certainly make that job easier. The company last month announced that it had raised $2.4 million in additional funding – more than double the $1 million that it set out to achieve. To date, compareit4me has raised almost $6 million in funding, with the latest round to help fund aggressive expansion plans across the region. According to Jon Richards, CEO of, the insurance business will underpin much of that growth. “Given the business is transactional,

it creates the same opportunities and challenges as other e-commerce sites. These are very exciting times for the business. H1 2016 saw revenues grow approximately 2.5 times, and since our insurance business launched in March, we have already sold close to $2 million in policies – and it’s growing at 30 percent to 80 percent per month,” he says. The first wave of innovation Financial technology – or ‘fintech’ – is a huge talking point across the global financial industry. In the Middle East, where some of those technological innovations cannot immediately be replicated, Rawling believes that compareit4me represents the first real wave of innovation. Insurance distribution in the Middle East, as evidenced by compareit4me, is changing. The existing model where insurers played the role of distributors and manufacturers of products is inefficient and costly when compared to the insurance aggregator model. “In the Middle east, many insurers are relatively small. Some don’t have the resources or the ability

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to develop an online presence. In just a couple of weeks, we can take an insurer into the digital world, and hence open up an online sales channel that was previously not available to them,” says Rawling. In the modern world the customer is finding more and more power at his or her fingertips, thanks in no small part to mobile and tablet devices. Around 50 percent of sales at compareit4me are made through mobile devices, meaning compareit4me’s site has to be fully mobile-optimised. “Our long-term goal is to create a portal that allows you to access all your insurance and financial details in one place at one time. When’s your insurance due? A quick click of a button and it’s right in your hand. This will change the way that people interact with financial institutions.” With continually growing, and it still being a relatively young company, aside from adding more verticals where does the firm head from here? “The next key focus for us is expanding geographically while continuing to increase our dominant


November 2016

position in the UAE,” says Rawling. “We need to roll this platform out across other markets to allow more customers to benefit from the savings and transparency we can create for them. Our next big target is to really make a push in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where we already have a decent presence. We are also actively looking at other markets.” Fundamentally, however, Rawling believes that doing a good job for customers will be the biggest driver of compareit4me’s success. “Our stated aim is to improve transparency and financial literacy in the Middle East. By doing that, we will put customers into positions where they can make better informed decisions about their finances,” says Rawling. “We don’t need to educate people to save money, we just need to provide the platform so that they do can do it for themselves,” he concludes.


“Our stated aim is to improve transparency and financial literacy in the Middle East. By doing that, we will put customers into positions where they can make better informed decisions about their finances�

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The growth

of data Written by Nye Longman Produced by Stuart Shirra



A major managed IT services company in the UAE is looking forward to continue leading its industry


ully owned by Mubadala, an investment arm of the Government of Abu Dhabi, Injazat Data Systems has been tasked with nothing less than transforming the ICT landscape of the UAE through innovation by forming global partnerships. Following almost 12 successful years of operations, the company is expanding its service offering to clients in the form of cyber security, business applications, IoT, and a greatly enhanced range of cloud capabilities. Head of


November 2016

Sales Eddie Cunningham was instrumental in setting up Injazat in 2004/5: “Over the years we have gone through a number of transformations and transitions. The one that we’re involved in right now is probably one of the most significant ones, since the whole dynamic of the IT services market is changing. “If you look at the market globally, many of the other players are going to or have gone through some pretty tough transitions. We have had the benefit of being one of the biggest regional players in a fairly buoyant marketplace. So we managed to gain a dominant position but we haven’t been complacent about that, so what we’re focused on is the next level of growth.”


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Operations The core of Injazat’s offering to the UAE market consists of enterprise cloud, IT outsourcing, and data centre-managed services alongside enterprise applications and a range of learning capabilities. What makes this offering stand out among the other players is down to the company’s ability to make the global more local. Cunningham says: “We are in the marketplace for medium to large GCC enterprises where they can effectively make use of globally available applications

that will have the ability to have data and business analytics. “We have expertise particular to a range of industries. Within the apps teams, for example, we have experts who make sure the HR systems meet the requirements of the Abu Dhabi and the UAE government.” In order to further enhance its customer offerings, the company is also looking to drive down the cost of its services as much as possible, and it is achieving this by automating processes while working to boost customer engagement. Cunningham adds: “All of which improves the

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Number of Employees at Injazat Data Systems


Your data. You own it. But hackers are hard at work to get it. With all of today’s breaches, how do you protect that data? SAILPOINT CAN HELP In order for your organization to be secure, you need both identity governance and data access governance solutions to ensure you have full visibility, control and compliance over your data. Learn more at


November 2016

Ibrahim M. Lari Chief Executive Officer


quality of the user experience and drives down the cost of service. “We are continually working as we seek to improve the technologies that we’re using and particularly as we move into the cloud space, where we’re looking at getting the best value for money but also the highest levels of service and availability from the infrastructure that we’re using. “There are continuous improvement programmes in the organisation. Each looks at how it can improve the quality of the service Injazat can deliver and we also run regular client satisfaction surveys. “A caller will get an email asking if they would please rate the quality of service they received and, on a broader basis, a couple of times a year we undertake a sample survey of senior level clients so they can give us feedback on the quality of our services, from which we can derive service improvements.” Such is the depth of Injazat’s knowledge across its verticals, it is eyeing up regional expansion, with Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in its sights.

Talent management “Back in 2006/7 we took the in-house training requirements we had and turned them into what we call The Injazat Institute (TI2),” Cunningham explains. “We started off focused exclusively on training in tools and technologies, and developed some of the softer skills like presentation and negotiation techniques.” And that’s the crux of Injazat’s training philosophy today – a programme of skills that aims to develop technical and broader professional skills that delivers for the company, its customers, and its partners. The company is also committed to becoming an incubator for local talent, which is why it has ensured that over 15 percent of its 800-plus strong, multi-lingual workforce is made up of Emiratis at every level of the business. So much so that it is an embedded KPI in the company’s corporate management performance system. Cunningham adds: “The Injazat Institute leads the charge on interns, bringing them up to speed but also beyond that, it is now

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November 2016


“Earlier this year the company ran the first GCC Business Innovation Summit in Abu Dhabi, and intends to make it a regular event” involved in selecting training and career development alongside our partners. One example is for our security awareness and cyber security training - a big topic globally but especially in the UAE. “We teamed up with organisations like Kaspersky for everything from security awareness training, right the way up to security specialist training to improve the quality of cyber security and capabilities within the region. “Looking at the general trend in technology, costs are going down. So to balance that we are looking to expand the range of services we offer so we maintain the service growth we have had over the last few years,” Cunningham concludes.

Having developed a now very wellestablished track record working with both government and important private sector players, Injazat is now looking forward to ushering in the next generation of innovations, both as part of its remit and the greater UAE. Earlier this year the company ran the first GCC Business Innovation Summit in Abu Dhabi, and intends to make it a regular event. With around 200 C-level executives in attendance – from the UAE and further afield – the event focused on cyber security and how to manage down the cost of delivering IT services. This is another example of how Injazat is pursuing every possible method to ensure that the country is both a regional and global technology leader.

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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 fullyowned hotels, Hyatt’s brands are renowned for a high-quality, holistic


November 2016

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 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



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3C Payment enables secure payments anyhow, anywhere across multiple industry segments. Our hosted platform unifies multiple payment channels allowing merchants to trade in person and online in over 30 countries worldwide. 3C Payment has been providing payment solutions to the hospitality industry in the UAE and worldwide for over three decades. Our impressive list of clients includes the leading global hotel brands where we offer flexible integrated payments with specialist functionality and reporting across multiple channels.

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• PMS integrated.

• In-app payment.

• Choice of PCI certified hardware.

• Secure tokenisation service.

• Smartphone based echeck-in.

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• Web based tool for pre-auth .cancellation.

Check Out • Fast track card-less check-out with top up & check-out on original card. • Pay in home currency with DCC. • Late charge and no-show functionality.

Online Payments • Hosted or integrated payment pages. • In-app payment. • Secure tokenisation service. • Telephone booking payments.

Full Restaurant Service • Mobile terminals (WLAN, bluetooth & mPOS solutions.) • Table management from terminal. • Tip management. • Split bill cash or card payment.

Table Management • Fully integrated mobile terminals. (WLAN, bluetooth & mPOS) • Recall a list of open bills by table or waiter ID from the terminal. • Recall & print an itemised table bill.

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Customer Friendly

• Multiple site management.

• Pay @ Table.

• Closed loop & loyalty cards

• Split bill capability with cash or card

easily integrated. • Standardised international infrastructure and reporting.

payment. • Pay in home currency with DCC • Tip management.

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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 |


November 2016


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 systems-wide streamlining strategy that consists of 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

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November 2016


charge of the property,” Verrips adds. He explains that 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 and will

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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 cloud-based 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.


November 2016


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Standing the TEST OF TIME Written by Tom Wadlow Produced by Jordan Platten





November 2016


Think before designing,” says Stephan Frantzén, Partner and Architect at P&T Group. Simple advice perhaps, but truly thoughtful architectural design is a rare and valuable commodity in times of rapid urban sprawl. While the skylines of today are largely unrecognisable to those of even a decade ago, let alone the 19th century, P&T Group’s authenticity, attention to detail and pioneering spirit has more than stood the test of time. Indeed, 2018 will mark the firm’s 150th anniversary. “Many old buildings – around 100 years old – are still standing, most famously the National Heritage buildings all along the Bund in Shanghai,” Frantzén points out. “The fact that these buildings are still in use is testimony to the design quality and to sustainability. “A legacy like this carries with it a huge responsibility when we take on new projects, and the legacy inspires us to try and match the design quality of bygone buildings, importantly following the principle that good buildings never outdate.” “My wife’s career took the family to Hong Kong in 1990 and I searched for the most international architectural firm,” Frantzén adds. “P&T stood out with its legacy and tradition of designing exiting and beautiful projects, shaping not only Hong Kong but many cities all over the Far East.” William Salway set up the business in 1868, 20-odd

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2,000 Number of employees at P&T Group

One of the Largest International Contractors in the Middle East. CSECE ME L.L.C has been actively involved in various sectors in Construction industry, such as Building, Infrastructure, MEP, Steel Structure as well as Project Financing & Investment.

Web: Email:


years after Hong Kong was established as a British Colony and when the demand grew for building banks, shopping pavilions, clubs and offices. Project pipeline Having secured a huge project win for a city plan in Dubai, P&T established an office in the Dubai in 2004, which now has 150 employees. Frantzén spent four years in London and New York before returning to P&T’s Dubai branch in 2008, driving projects forward. Today, P&T Group is one of the largest consultancies in the world, drawing on a global network of 2,000 architects and engineers. Its Middle East project portfolio contains notable award- and competitionwinning designs already. The 70-story Burj Rafal is the first major project to be fully completed by P&T Group’s Dubai office. Home to stunning apartments and the five-star Kempinski Hotel, the tower required all of the firm’s vast high-rise experience as architects, structural and MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) engineers. “Burj Rafal is at the moment the

tallest completed tower in Riyadh, and it received the award for ‘the most sustainable large project in Saudi-Arabia’ some years ago, based on our in-house best practice in MEP,” Frantzén explains. Another flagship hotel, nearing completion, is the Viceroy Hotel on the Palm in Dubai. “It will be spectacular with a 16 stories gateway structure containing guestrooms on the sides and a ballroom spanning across the opening on top,” Frantzén says. “The ballroom views are amazing: the Marina towers and beach hotels to the west and views of Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa to the east. Restaurants flank an 80m infinity pool that ends in a beach club and the beach. It will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable hotels in Dubai.” P&T’s project scope in the Middle East does not stop there. Turning from hospitality to hospitals, the company is working on one of the largest hospital developments in the world in Riyadh, with 1,200 single bed wards. Other projects in progress include a multiple hotel complex in Aqaba, several residential projects in Abu Dhabi and

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Dubai, a headquarter complex in Dubai and a residential development in Bahrain down to the Gulf. Frantzén also reveals that P&T has a residential tower under construction in Lagos, with another hotel also being designed. “We see more projects coming out of Africa, possibly in Ethiopia and Senegal,” he adds. Standout Trust, thoughtfulness and reliability have formed the backbone behind P&T’s formidable growth into the global design giant it is today. “P&T is known for working closely with clients, developing and expanding visions and finding opportunities, creating synergy and adding value,” Frantzén explains. “In simple terms we do thoughtful design that is appealing, where humane scale and functionality is key, and buildings are future proof.” By utilising its expertise, P&T secures 100 percent of a project’s development investment, often saving its clients time, money and reducing maintenance efforts. Frantzén and other partners like to be involved close up with projects, combining their top-level strategic


November 2016

roles with the hands-on design work they remain so passionate about. “One has to understand what is at hand, read between the lines and try to reveal every relevant opportunity,” Frantzén says. “Architects used to work in their home country and be specialist, understanding local materials, technology, culture etc. Today architects work all over the world and have become generalists managing design to a great extent. “Being all over the world means that we must learn and understand local culture, traditions, local climate and find suitable solutions, using suitable materials, and this can be good. We are all victims of ‘habituation’ meaning that we stop reflecting over things that we get used to. The danger is that we stop thinking.” After discussing how difficult it can be to educate true thinkers - designers and architects of tomorrow - Frantzén revealed some of the criteria he looks out for when recruiting new talent. “Most important for us is to recruit people that relate to our projects, are open minded, imaginative, intelligent and have a positive and


dynamic attitude,” he explains. “IN SIMPLE TERMS The urban conundrum WE DO THOUGHTFUL With more than half of the world’s DESIGN THAT IS population living in built up areas today – a trend that is only going to strengthen APPEALING AND as populations continue to grow – IDEALLY BEAUTIFUL, Frantzén believes that urban design WHERE HUMANE SCALE is the greatest challenge facing the AND FUNCTIONALITY industry, together with sustainability. Frantzén concludes: “We add to the IS KEY, AND BUILDINGS dialogue about urbanism wherever ARE FUTURE PROOF” we are and in Dubai that means we Burj Rafal Tower & Hotel Kempinski share experiences from the Far East on Smart Cities, sustainability being a large part of this. We share our knowledge from our offices in the Far East: how the likes of Singapore gives incentives to create elevated gardens in high rise and adding sculptures in public areas, and how Hong Kong has elevated climate protected walkways linked to subways, busses and trams. “P&T is taking an active role in city planning, master planning and shaping urban spaces between buildings through the work we do, and with the momentum we have going this seems to continue, maybe for another 150 years.”

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Business Review Middle East magazine - November 2016