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October 2016

THE RISE of Iran’s tourism industry

How Vodafone Qatar is building smart stadiums

Pharmacy One The success of Jordan’s first chain pharmacy

8 questions on the Middle East’s thriving events industry




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WELCOME TO THE October 2016 issue of Business Review Middle East. In this month’s issue, we look at the growing tourism industry in Iran, to find out if it is the region’s next travel hot spot. We also take an extensive look at Vodafone Qatar’s plans to make sure the World Cup makes maximum use of technology by creating truly ‘smart stadiums’. And we have a Q&A with dmg’s Matt Denton, about the Middle East’s thriving MICE sector – that’s meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions. Finally, the magazine features interviews with leading companies in the region, including Hafilat, Oasis Hospital and Pharmacy One. We hope you enjoy the issue, please send us your feedback on Twitter @BusinessRevME

Lucy Dixon Group Editorial Director


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The rise of Iran’s tourism industry TECHNOLOGY


Smart stadiums



Eight questions with… Matt Denton


With over 50 successful implementations across 4 continents and 24 Countries

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




Pharmacy One Supply chain


Hyatt Hotels Technology

Taufik Kurniawan Technology





Saferoad Technology

Hafilat Industries



Oasis Hospital Healthcare



The rise

of Iran’s tourism industry Iran is well placed to become the next tourism giant of the Middle East W r i t t e n b y : I A N L L OY D N E U B A U E R


ONE MAN’S LOSS in another man’s gain. It’s a cruel economic calculus yet one that rings true in the Middle East as Turkey’s tourism sector crumbles following a string of terror attacks. The most recent, a coordinated suicide attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport in June that claimed 45 lives, was the ninth in the past year. Some of those who’ve cancelled travel to Turkey will now look at Iran, where tourism is enjoying a modest renaissance after decades of hibernation. Last year Iran received five million foreign visitors – a sliver of the 37 million Turkey received when its arrival numbers peaked in 2014. But in the two years that have passed, Turkey’s arrivals have plummeted by more than a third, while Iran’s have grown around 10 percent per annum. There are two key reasons for Iran’s mini-tourism boom. The first is the signing of a historic nuclear deal between Tehran, the US and five other nations last year and the subsequent


October 2016

easing of decades-long economic sanctions. The second is the fact that Iran is safe. Despite being sandwiched between Afghanistan and Iraq – the two most volatile countries in the Middle East – Iran boasts an impressive security record. The country has not experienced a significant terror attack since 2008, when a bomb in the southern city of Shiraz killed 14 people. “My friends all said you are crazy, why do you want to go to Iran?” says Huang Yanpei, a Chinese student traveling solo around Iran. “But I have found it to be very safe here for women.” Adds Nasr Esfanahi, Public Relations Manager at the Abbasi Hotel, a resplendent 300-year-old luxury hotel in the city of Isfahan: “All around the Middle Eat there are security problems, but not here in Iran.” GREAT EXPECTATIONS More than just a safe place to visit, Iran, as heir of ancient Persia, is home to some of the most significant




“Despite being sandwiched between Afghanistan and Iraq – the two most volatile countries in the Middle East – Iran boasts an impressive security record”


October 2016


historical sites in the Middle East. The country has 19 World Heritage-listed cultural sites, including Persepolis, a 2,500-year-old archaeological park that rivals the Roman ruins at Ephesus in Turkey; and Isfahan, a city so splendid and grand it inspired the 17th century proverb Esfahn nesf-ejahan ast – Isfahan is half the world. From ancient mud-brick cities that rise like mirages from the desert, to historical courtyard homes reinvented as boutique hotels, to cheap medical care and cosmetic surgery, to important Shiite pilgrimage sites and the world’s best-value skiing, Iran has the raw materials to become the new ‘it’ destination of the Middle East. Masoud Soltanifar, head of the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handcrafts and Tourism Organization, told the Associated Press his government is banking on a tourism boom to drag the country out of recession. He said Iran aims to host 20 million foreign tourists every year by 2025 – the

equivalent of 30 percent year-on-year increase over the next 10 years. A flight of fancy? Based on current projections, most definitely. But major players in the tourism game are drinking the Kool-Aid. In January, AccorHotels, the world’s largest hotel company, opened Iran’s first internationally branded hotels: a 296-room Novotel and a 196-room Ibis at Tehran international airport’s free-trade zone. In March, Spanish hotelier Melia announced it was building a 5-star 319-room tower on Iran’s sun-drenched Caspian coast. In May, Germany’s Steigenberger Hotels, which operates 120 hotels in 13 countries, announced it would build 10 hotels in Iran over the next ten years. And in June, AirAsia X became the first low-cost airline to connect Iran with Australasia. “Our research shows that whenever we enter a new market, we stimulate growth in the number of arrivals by an average of 150 percent within



12 months,” says AirAsia X Head of Commercial Arik De. “There’s no reason for us to think Iran will be any different.” MANY RIVERS TO CROSS However one factor that may skew AirAsia X’s bell-curve in Iran is the country’s ageing and insufficient infrastructure. “The Iranian hospitality market has been neglected for the past four decades, so there are both quantitatively and qualitatively a lack of hotels irrespective of the market positioning,” says Christophe Landais, AccorHotels’ CEO in Iran. “There is a huge needs to develop new hotels as well as to renovate existing ones to accommodate this influx of visitors.” Iran’s Tourism chief Soltanifar says the country aims to build 370 new international-grade hotels by 2025. That’s not an unreachable target according to market researcher Euromonitor International, which


October 2016

forecasts 138 new hotels coming on line in Iran within the next five years. But filling those new hotels with skilled staff will prove challenging. Despite English being a mandatory secondary-school subject in Iran, anecdotal evidence suggest only one in 20 people in the country speak the language fluently. And while Iranians are famous for their hospitality, a warm smile doesn’t necessarily equate into professional hospitality services. “We have problems finding skilled staff, ” says Nasr Esfanahi of the Abbasi Hotel in Isfahan. “And the law in Iran says we’re not allowed to hire foreigners – only Iranians can work here – though we can bring in consultants from overseas.” Another Iranian law at odds with international norms is a requirement for foreigners to leave their passports with hotel desks. It’s a never-ending source of grief for travelers who forget to collect their passports before taking off on lengthy and dangerous


road trips. According to World Health Organization, Iran’s road accident rate is 20 times the global average and it has the highest numbers of death caused by road accidents in the world. Yet the biggest impediment for a tourism boom in Iran is the absence of global payment systems. Iran’s banks remains locked off from the world as a result of US-led sanctions linked to Iran’s problematic human rights record and its ongoing support for State Department-listed Foreign Terrorist

Organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas. Until these complex political issues are resolved, international credit and debit cards won’t work in Iran. Use of Iranian ATMs is also blocked to tourists, who must bring enough cash to last them their entire trip. “It makes it difficult for them because they do not do not want to carry much money,” says Esfanahi of the Abbasi Hotel. A RESOURCEFUL NATION Economic sanctions may have diminished Iran, but they have also fostered a determined streak of resourcefulness. When this reporter ran out of cash in Iran, enquiries led to a currency house in Tehran where clerks used a foreign PayPal account to facilitate a cash withdrawal – for a princely fee of 18 percent. The sharing economy is also helping alleviate Iran’s accommodation shortfall with websites like and connecting tourists with Iranians who welcome




October 2016


perfect strangers into their homes. A book in the German language has even been written on the phenomenon: Couchsurfing im Iran by Stephen Orph, an editor who spent two months backpacking around the country. “Couchsurfing is quite popular in Iran because you get to meet people from overseas and sometimes make life-long friends,” says Rasool, Isfahan’s most active couchsurfer with more than 200 successful hosts. Relief for Iran’s hotel skill-shortage may also be on the way following plans by prestigious Swiss hospitality school Ecole hoteliere de Lausanne to open a campus in Isfahan. Everyday Iranians are making contributions, too. At Isfahan’s World Heritage listed Jame’ Mosque, retired English teacher Mahmoud Reza supplements his pension by showing tourists the hidden meanings of the fine decorative details on the mosque’s 1,200-year-old walls. And at the Persepolis archaeological park, Ali Heydari, a bilingual 11-year-old, is making a name for

himself as the youngest accredited tour guide in Iran. “I taught myself to speak English using audio tapes at homes,” he says. “Now I’m learning German and after that, Mandarin.” Few people understand the opportunities – and pitfalls – of a tourism boom in Iran better than Mehdi Ziaee, the second generation co-owner of Isfahan’s cheap and cheerful Amir Kabir Hostel. “Before the revolution in 1979, all the rooms were filled every day with travelers from around the world,” he says. “After the revolution visitors came down, and then we had the Iran-Iraq war when nobody came at all. It was very hard for us but we stayed open the whole time, except for a threemonth period when a missile landed nearby and every pane of glass in the building had to be replaced.” He adds: “Now things are good again. Since the signing of the nuclear agreement we’ve had a 60 percent increase in occupancy. We can only hope this time, the good times last.”



Smart stadiums Writ ten by LUCY DIXON

Vodafone Qatar’s Chief Operating Officer Mohamed Al Sadah talks to Business Review Middle East about its work on smart stadiums for the Qatar 2022 World Cup


What is a ‘smart stadium’? From our perspective, the concept of a smart stadium encompasses two main aspects: fan experiences and improved operations. In terms of fan experiences, a ‘smart stadium’ uses technologically advanced infrastructure and digital technologies to deliver greater connectivity and create unforgettable sports experiences for sports fans. Smart stadiums are sports venues that have been designed and developed to offer a wide range of benefits – for example, high-speed broadband network connections, rich content displays, interactive technologies and more. Together these provide fans at sporting events with an end-to-end digital experience. Smart technologies can also enhance and improve the operations of a stadium. For instance, smart technology can be deployed to ensure the safety, security and integrity of a venue on match day. Such technologies can support the multitude of logistical and operational activities that are involved in the running of such venues – from ticketing, to parking, to payments and more. 22

October 2016

“As preparations for the World Cup accelerate, so will fans’ expectation for super-fast connectivity”

What are your plans for smart stadiums for the 2022 World Cup? Our leading Internet of Things (IoT) platform is now available in 40 markets including Qatar, as part of our strategic direction to bring all that’s innovative to the country. This demonstrates how we are always looking to bring expertise and innovation from all around the world to Qatar. We have abundant experience in delivering smart stadium experiences – from the Vodafone Arena in Turkey, to the London Olympics and our work with Valencia Football Club in Spain. These strengths underpin our ability to support Qatar’s efforts in delivering an amazing 2022 FIFA World Cup


Qatar, the first in the Middle East. As preparations for the World Cup accelerate, so will fans’ expectation for super-fast connectivity. The ability to share videos, pictures and messages with people online will be an important

aspect of the fan experience in six and a half years’ time. So a big part of our involvement is supporting the authorities and the large number of stakeholders involved in delivering a World Cup that fulfils the promise of a fan experience like no other. We are the ideal partner to work with organisations like the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, helping them realise the promise and the potential of the smart stadium experience. We’re also ideally placed to support the State of Qatar more broadly as the country develops the necessary infrastructure around World Cup projects and smart cities such as Msheireb emerge, offering the promise of enhancing people’s lifestyle as well as empowering businesses through efficient and sustainable services delivered by an integrated ICT infrastructure. 23


How will you be working with Vodafone Turkey and Beşiktaş football club to deliver these smart stadiums? Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) designed to accelerate the transfer of knowledge, expertise and technological know-how from Turkey’s first smart-stadium, the Vodafone Arena in the Beşiktaş district of Istanbul to one of the world’s fastest growing football markets in Qatar. Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey have agreed to enter into a collaboration to enable Vodafone Qatar to receive the benefit of Vodafone Turkey’s expertise, knowledge and experience in smart stadium technologies and the implementation of such technologies. This will cover the following key elements: Knowledge and information based on Vodafone Turkey’s flagship implementation of smart stadium technologies in the Vodafone Arena;

Technical solution design, capability and functionality; Resources and personnel experienced in the design 24

October 2016

and implementation of smart stadium technologies. Through this partnership, we are ideally placed to provide sport fans at the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarTM with the ultimate digital experience as well as for a variety of other venues and stadiums hosting major sports events taking place around the region.

What makes Qatar the right country to focus on when it comes to smart stadiums and smart technology? Qatar is one of the first countries to have to build so many stadiums from scratch for a World Cup, so the opportunities are massive. The use of smartphones is widespread, as is social media usage – we can expect that Qataris and residents in the country will take full advantage of the digital opportunities around the World Cup. It’s also more than six years away. Considering we’re currently seeing the development of so many new technologies, it’s exciting to think of what will be in place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarT when the first ball is kicked. A viewing experience enhanced




“The same technologies, expertise and capabilities also underpin the smart cities that will improve the quality of life for all people in Qatar�


October 2016


by back of seat technologies was an innovative part of Qatar’s winning bid and hosting concept.

How does Qatar compare to other countries in the region? By the time the World Cup kicks off in Qatar, no other country in the region will boast as many stateof-the-art stadiums. Whether it’s solar or cooling technology, all of the stadiums will have impressive technological features that will integrate it with, and make the most of, the surrounding area. For a country of Qatar’s size relative to others in the region, being home to so many amazing stadiums is truly impressive. Some of these innovative technologies could be deployed as early as 2017, when Qatar hosts the Gulf Cup of nations and is hoping to have the revamped Khalifa International stadium open.

Is the country as a whole very tech-savvy? Qatar has made great strides in building an advanced ICT sector in recent years. The World Economic Forum’s Global Technology Report 2014 reaffirmed the country’s

place as one of the Middle East’s – and the world’s – most “networked ready” nations. For the mainstream population, the penetration of mobile phones and laptops has grown significantly, and ownership of mature devices such as smartphones and tablets has also increased. The result is that Qatar is described as “one of the most connected countries in the world.” Smartphone penetration stands at 80 percent, while 96 percent of Qatari households are connected to the internet. Research by Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) has revealed that Qataris are more aware of newer networks like Snapchat when compared to expat residents in the country (77 percent of Qatari internet users versus 39 percent of expats) and Instagram (97 percent versus 65 percent); and that they tend to be among the earliest adopters of these emerging social media services. Children receive their first smartphone in Qatar on average at the age of eight – amongst the earliest of anywhere in the world. 27


Could the smart technology used in the stadiums be used for other developments in Qatar? Absolutely. We recently brought the power of its international network to Qatar with the launch of our Global Machine to Machine (M2M) Platform. This means that Vodafone Qatar’s capabilities now include a scalable Global M2M Platform with interactive portal for end users; access to global SIM cards powered by the world’s largest network; highly secure solutions; more than 1300 M2M experts worldwide; broad portfolio of M2M terminals, application and service enablement development and testing and deployment – all from a single supplier, with a single contract. The recently announced partnership between Vodafone Qatar and Vodafone Turkey is one example of the role that M2M and IoT can play in the country’s development. This partnership is designed to deliver smart stadium technologies, leveraging the power of Vodafone’s international network and global leadership in IoT technology to help deliver the ultimate experience for sports fans and developing the stadiums of the 28

October 2016

future in markets including Qatar, Turkey and across the Middle East. But the same technologies, expertise and capabilities also underpin the smart cities that will improve the quality of life for all people in Qatar and which have been identified as an important focus area by Qatar’s various authorities. The transportation sector especially is a priority area for the country as it manages the rapid development of road infrastructure and increasing volumes of traffic. Smart solutions will be key to managing these challenges and deliver the required benefits to the people of Qatar. Vodafone’s M2M fleet management and asset tracking and video surveillance solutions can play a key role in helping Qatar’s businesses and authorities achieve this. Vodafone Qatar is driving the vision of the smart city by enabling whole new developments to be built from the ground up using the latest technology to connect devices, systems and infrastructure directly to their inhabitants. This is the commitment Vodafone Qatar is making to support the Qatar National Vision 2030, connecting every machine to improve lives and businesses.




Eight questions with‌

Matt Denton Matt Denton, President at dmg events, Middle East, Asia & Africa, tells us why Dubai is such a thriving destination for international events



Why is Dubai such a great location for event organisers?

Location and infrastructure. Dubai, as we know, acts as a regional hub and has fantastic exhibition facilities – other countries are not so blessed! Dubai has always been aware of the importance of business tourism and is seemingly built for events. The infrastructure just works: easy visa process, world leading airline access, hotels and entertainment at various price points and, of course, the event facilities themselves all position Dubai at the first choice host in the region. Visitors and exhibitors come here for business, but they also know they are going to be looked after and have a great time.


October 2016

E I G H T Q U E S T I O N S W I T H ‌ M AT T D E N T O N


How does it differ from other international events hubs Location again, it serves an important geographic market with a fantastic events infrastructure. Dubai as a trading hub has a lot of regional companies headquartered here so you can reach far without leaving town. Also Dubai is really dominant in the region, whereas other hubs have competition – Singapore, Thailand and Jakarta. Duba, and to some extent Abu Dhabi, have the only regional venues and infrastructure that can cater for a large international trade show.



How have you seen the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) sector change in the region? MICE has always been an important sector in Dubai and as the region develops the sector is becoming more professional and becoming more consolidated, with large international organisers targeting the region. Also as the markets grow and develop, we are seeing more niche and vertically targeted shows to satisfy growing demand and scale. An example being our Big 5 Construction show that has operated in Dubai for some 30 years and fills the Dubai World Trade Centre. However, in recent years we have spun-off concrete and machinery shows for a deeper dive into those industry segments and a specific windows, doors and faรงade show joins the portfolio this year.


October 2016


E I G H T Q U E S T I O N S W I T H ‌ M AT T D E N T O N

3 4

What effect do you think Expo 2020 is having on the events industry in the UAE?

I think we’ll begin to see the true effect in the next few years as the fantastic plans the Expo team has visualised begin to rollout and the contracts start to flow both here and abroad. There is a huge amount of excitement surrounding Expo 2020 and it can only benefit the industry and its reputation. The legacy of Expo will undoubtedly be even greater awareness of Dubai as a destination, even more fantastic infrastructure and MICE facilities and of course more talent in the employment market. Because of the peripatetic nature of the Expo many will move on after it has finished, but many will have fallen in love with Dubai and stay to build their careers here. 35


5 36

How is dmg contributing to growth in the sector? In recent years dmg has seen unprecedented growth both in Dubai and the wider region serviced by our Dubai regional office. In the last six years we have grown our local team from around 60 staff to over 230 and our event portfolio from six events to over 25 in the region and a further 20 international events managed from here. We have both launched and purchased events and attracted international partners to work with us here. Many of these events have a truly global footprint and showcase Dubai to the business world attract companies to do business here and ultimately for many to set up operations here.

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E I G H T Q U E S T I O N S W I T H ‌ M AT T D E N T O N


What is the biggest event dmg currently runs in the Middle East? It is almost a tie, we operate the huge and globally important ADIPEC, the oil and gas event in Abu Dhabi coming up in November. However, The Big 5 also in November wears that crown. Not only filling the DWTC it has also generated a host of spin-off events and we have also geo-adapted it into six other countries. I strongly believe with this footprint it is the world’s leading construction event brand.




How has technology changed the events industry? As overused the term ‘engagement’ is, it perfectly sums up the need for events to connect with audiences on an emotional level to create successful and memorable events. This is where technology comes in enabling organisers to meet the needs of the attendee by creating a more personalised and interactive experience. From what we have seen, when implemented successfully, technology can increase attendance, enhance learning and importantly facilitate networking.


October 2016

E I G H T Q U E S T I O N S W I T H ‌ M AT T D E N T O N


What are dmg’s goals in the region?

We are always looking to develop in the region. Despite being a UK company we really do feel this is home. Recent developments have seen a lot of activity in Africa and Asia, but our core will always be here. Our geoadapting and verticalisation of our events will continue, but we are also looking to broaden the scope of some of our smaller events. We have great plans to segment Index, our leading interior design event in May. In terms of new shows, one great success that springs to mind is the Windows, Doors and Facades show I mentioned previously. A new event for this year, extracted from Big 5, it has smashed its targets and attracted a far broader range of exhibitors who would not traditionally come to Big 5. It is a true testament to our verticalisation strategy. 39

The CVS of the

Middle East Written by Nell Walker Produced by Dennis Morales



Pharmacy One’s founder and President, Amjad Aryan, discusses the inherent challenges and subsequent success of Jordan’s first chain pharmacy


harmacy One holds the significant title of being the first chain retail pharmacy in Jordan, boasting 75 locations over just 15 years. Amjad Ayran, the company’s founder and President, grew and nurtured Pharmacy One from nothing and has his early work experience in the sector to thank for the entrepreneurial spirit which spawned his own company. “I’m a pharmacist by profession,” Aryan says. “I worked multiple jobs before starting at pharmacist school in Boston at the late age of 24, and while studying I worked for CVS. So by the time I graduated, I had five years of pharmaceutical experience. I decided that if I couldn’t build a new CVS of the US, why not build the CVS of the Middle East? It made sense to become a big fish in a small market.” Building a business Aryan started his business with just $200,000 and a vision to open 10 pharmacies. In 2001, he took this concept to Jordan and built what he calls the “pilot branch”. “I wanted to make sure the consumers understood and appreciated the big drug store concept,” he explains. “This is a pharmacy where you can browse the shopping court as well as picking up prescriptions, and I wanted


October 2016




people to acknowledge the quality stores while working on perfecting of service. Then they would go out his business processes until 2005. of their way to receive that quality “During that time I was building the again, and there would always be a platform for the expansion, by which I pharmacist who could counsel them mean IT systems, trading procedures, on their medication, that would show personnel, and so on. I spent four years them how to use the medication, building that platform, and once it was and be readily available to serve.” ready, I started expanding at a rate The customer proved far of 12 new branches per year. easier to convince than “No one had done the authorities. Aryan this before so it was faced an uphill battle challenging. The against the Jordanian consumer accepted Pharmaceutical it and loved the Association idea of having The year that in attempting pharmacies with Pharmacy One to convince the the same name, with was founded historically conservative consistent availability organisation to allow an of products, consistent outsider to promote chain quality of service, and the pharmacies. Other pharmacies in ability to access the same records at Jordan are, in Aryan’s words, “mom any branch. The smaller competitors, and pop shops” and there were no threatened by the introduction of a chains despite the fact that the law big chain, began improving their own allowed them. Prior to Aryan’s arrival, quality of service; I would say we’ve that law had never been implemented. raised the bar for pharmaceutical By 2003 he had managed to open care in Jordan as a result.” the second branch of Pharmacy One, and remained with just the two Technological needs




Pharmacy Ones’s IT system was enormously important. It had to sufficiently support the customer, the company, and the community at large. Doctors and patients alike would need to be able to easily use the patient record software, and the records had to be extremely secure. A program to deal with Pharmacy One’s logistical needs was also required; the company has around 350 different suppliers, and the software orders medications automatically from the central warehouse when required, avoiding out-of-stock situations. In Aryan’s words, “inventory control is key”.

Aryan decided early on that he didn’t want to compete with his suppliers, but for them to complement each other. “We’re retailers, not agents or importers. It was a big fear that another big pharmaceutical company would come in and within a short time control a huge percentage of the market, join other agencies, and become agents for everything in Jordan. I took it upon myself to be the best retailer possible, and as I’m not in the business of importing medications or mass distribution to pharmacies, that really gives our suppliers comfort that after 15 years

“I am example of someone who came in as an unknown and was able to do something special” – Dr. Amjad Al Aryan, President & Founder


October 2016


we don’t want to compete with them.” The company’s IT system is very advanced for the Middle East, to the extent that multinational companies contact Pharmacy One directly wanting to use its data to better understand the market. According to Aryan, “beautiful things come out of those relationships”. Jordan’s emergency services number is now connected to Pharmacy One Drug and Poison center, and calls that are made which refer to medication or other relevant products will be directed to Pharmacy One, where a specialist can aid the patient. Other services, like sign language

translation, have been launched at some Pharmacy One branches along with a 24 hour video calling service. Both are intended to ease communication for the hearing impaired and enable all to take advantage of Pharmacy One services. Medication instruction stickers printed with Braille are available at all branches. Through different departments led by team of professionals, Pharmacy One has managed to set new pharmaceutical standards in Jordan and the Middle East. An automated inventory and ordering solution has been developed to manage stock refill



and distribution to all branches, innovating new ideas to creatively introduce, expose, and provide different and new services. These are standardised to maintain product variety, mix and increase brands, and allow product visibility to become a standard and ongoing procedure. Pharmacy One also makes sure to continuously pay back to the Jordanian society through social responsibility projects and offerings, such as performing health service days, providing training and scholarships, supporting projects that help people in need, improving life for youths, and empowering women. Aryan is proud to add that “50 percent of Pharmacy One staff are female.”

“If I couldn’t build a new CVS of the US, why not build the CVS of the Middle East? It made sense to become a big fish in a small market” – Dr. Amjad Al Aryan, President & Founder Expansion While Aryan wishes to expand further into the Middle East, the process is complicated. “Laws here differ from one country to another,” he explains. “It’s not like in the US where federal law applies in all states. For example Saudi Arabia does not allow ownership of pharmacies for non-Saudi nationals, and UAE only allows 50 percent ownership to foreigners. It’s complicated and presents a huge challenge. So we decided to expand differently by giving franchises to Pharmacy One rather than owning branches. We can give the franchise to companies who


October 2016




From Right to Left: Dr. Laral Al Abasi - Senior VP Internal Control, Mr. Farah Barghout - VP Administration , Mr. Mutaz T. Bseiso - Senior VP Innovation & Communications, Dr. Yousef Fanous - Chief Executive Office, Dr. Ezz Eldin Al Aryan - Chairman, Dr. Amjad Al Aryan - President & Founder, Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim - VP Supply Chain , Mr. Rani Abu Taha - Senior VP Retail Pharmacy Operations, Dr. Amani Abu Hilal - Senior VP Marketing & Merchandising

• Strong reputation in the market ranked within the top drug stores in Jordan. • Dedicated resources (100%) • Total Infrastructure support. • Expertise management and principals support. • Highly qualified and trained staff. Karmel Drugs House, 17 Abdulla Ghousheh Street, 7th Circle - Jabal, Amman Tel: +962 6 5826816

want it in different countries and we can expand accordingly. One place where we can expand into, however, is Palestine, which has very similar laws and consumer behaviors to Jordan.” As an entrepreneur – one who has won various Entrepreneur of The Year awards, at that – Aryan believes firmly in the power of persistence and resilience, and that his experience in the working world prior to and during his pharmacy education made him the man he is today. “There is a feeling in Jordan that you

have to be well-connected to succeed in business,” he says. “I am example of someone who came in as an unknown and was able to do something special. That’s the advice I want to give people from all parts of the world. Don’t listen to naysayers, believe in the power of ‘I can’, focus on what you can do, and ignore negative people.” Aryan has his team and Pharmacy One’s location to thank for a great deal of the company’s success. He stresses the importance of having an excellent team, and choosing wisely

when picking a place to start from: “I advise a lot of people who want to be the best in whatever sector of business they choose to come to Jordan,” Aryan concludes, “because they won’t be dealing with only the 10 million people who live here, but huge markets, smart people, and keen college graduates who can help them achieve their goals. Jordan is a great place to live and if I had to do it all over again, I’d still start from Jordan.”


Man with a plan:

How Taufik Kurniawan is reforming Bahrain’s tech scene Written by Alice Young Produced by Craig Daniels

Business Review Middle East profiles Taufik Kurniawan, an IT expert who’s shaking up Bahrain’s tech infrastructure. We chat to him about his journey and how his technology road map keeps his client driving forward


aufik Kurniawan has had an eventful career. Originally from Indonesia, he started up as a network engineer at Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company. Kurniawan worked his way up to become project manager, and then settled as an IT project manager. From there, he caught the attention of multinational company WorldCom; he helped to develop its business in Indonesia. He then worked a technical service advisor at one of the biggest group of IT companies in Indonesia, Sigma. Kurniawan tells us about his departure from Indonesia. “11 years ago, there was an offer from Bahrain. It was a good opportunity, so I took that opportunity,” he explains. “I started here as an ICT project manager for the implementation of


October 2016

ICT infrastructure in Bahrain World Trade Centre - an iconic building. Kurniawan stayed in this role until 2005, when his team had completed the project. Impressed with his work, Kurniawan’s boss asked him to assist with another venture. The offer materialised into Kurniawan’s current role: heading the IT infrastructure for a semi-governmental organisation. “It’s an honour for me to help set up the IT organisation. It started with only a few employees, now it has over 25 people. It started as an unorganised IT structure, it’s now a well-managed IT organisation,” Kurniawan triumphs. Despite Kurniawan’s enthusiasm, the process to development wasn’t simple. When arriving in Bahrain, Kurniawan found that the IT infrastructure and environment differed hugely from Indonesia’s.


“It’s an honour for me to help set up the IT organisation. It started with only a few employees, now it has over 25 people. It started as an unorganised IT structure, it’s now a well-managed IT organisation” – Taufik Kurniawan



“Bahrain is a small country, with approximately more than one million people here and the IT vendors are very limited. During my early years in Bahrain, we invited several vendors to implement some projects and their quality of work was not to my expectation. Although I am not a perfectionist, I always want to do something perfectly and way beyond expectations. Then my boss and I decided to develop and train our own internal resources instead,” Kurniawan explains. Despite the limited technology


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providers and partners, Kurniawan managed to produce a progressive IT strategy in his current role. He constructed a road map; an IT strategy of how the team was going to achieve an improved IT infrastructure in five to 10 years. Kurniawan feels that Bahrain needs to be able to see a modern and complex IT environment in the rapidly changing business environment, through simplifying IT strategies. “I always think that IT strategy should be simple and easy to implement, in whatever organization we are, be it in


government, education, healthcare, energy, service provider, banking and finance, telecommunication etc., the IT strategy is started from the organization business mission or objectives,” Kurniawan comments. He stresses the importance of a comprehensive IT strategy; it identifies the requirements of achieving the objective in the area of capital investment, human resources, standard business process, and later implements the tools to deliver the services. “Depending on the organisation’s

goals and objectives; we often see it as transformation, as a business enabler. IT supports business and IT and business alignment/integration that would dictate our IT strategy.” Kurniawan continues: “IT strategy is simply building and developing secure, reliable and scalable IT infrastructure, then operating with a service mindset at heart. Successful IT strategy and implementation requires a holistic approach of all three important strategy components: people, process and technology.”


Avaya Helps Organization to Rapidly Achieve Digital Transformation Vision and Objectives The Organisation, has announced it is working with Avaya to improve collaboration, connectivity and efficiency at all locations. The Organisation has deployed unified communications solutions from Avaya to make it easier for workers to securely connect with each other, helping to reduce costs and increase productivity. Taufik Kurniawan, said: “We believe that this platform will enable us to extend an excellent customer experience to all. Working with Avaya brings us international expertise that is adapted for our needs, as well as access to a superior, secure, and proven communications platform and solutions. Avaya was able to offer a complete portfolio of solutions, meaning we only have to work with one vendor to deliver a full communications system.” The Organisation has worked closely with Avaya for more than ten years, and the latest implementation – Avaya’s Unified Collaboration Platform and Avaya Communicator – will enable the Organisation to deliver services in a seamless fashion and truly move towards digital government. By delivering a modern collaboration

system for all sites in our organisation, Avaya is improving the communications experience for staff and visitors. For instance, the Avaya solutions allow mobile phones to be linked to the system, proudly allowing the organisation to provide employees with one-number portability, making it easier to get in touch with staff quickly and easily, and increasing their productivity and efficiency. Avaya worked with Batelco, the principal telecommunications company in Bahrain, to implement and run the system, with the ability to execute effectively, and deliver the required levels of aftersales support being key factors in the Organisation’s decision to choose Avaya. Mohammed Areff, Vice President – Middle East and Africa, Avaya, said: “We are happy to strengthen our relationship with Taufik, and to play a role in the digital transformation of the organisation. By delivering the latest, cutting-edge communications technologies we can help the Organisation achieve its ICT objectives, without compromising on security. For more information please visit our website:


According to Kurniawan, there’s a need to prepare the soldier behind the gun - the right people with sufficient skills and knowledge. Kurniawan’s team develop and train their internal resources to be able to run and operate with efficient processes of their tasks, activities and procedures. They then deploy technology solution surrounding people and processes as per organization requirements to achieve their business objectives. It includes hardware, software and brainware. “IT strategy is an interesting art in applying IT standard, frameworks and references to our unique business or organisational environment,” Kurniawan says. “Many IT standards, frameworks and references are defined, such as IT governance, IT services, enterprise architecture, but the beauty is how we adapt those to our unique environment to get the most benefits of them for our organisation.” Kurniawan chooses the motto “simple is beautiful” when implementing IT strategy to the organisation. An example of this is resource pooling approach, Kurniawan adds: “The idea was to optimise the utilisation

“IT strategy is an interesting art in applying IT standard, frameworks and references to our unique business or organisational environment” – Taufik Kurniawan



of any IT resources we already have and make it scalable. There were so many scattered IT resources and I want to pull them together to make a centralised IT resource-pooling. It started with building a tier 3 data centre to consolidate several scattered computer rooms. We consolidated and centralised all the IT servers, IT equipments, IT applications, business applications (which are previously scattered here and there in several computer rooms).” With same approaches in minds, Kurniawan’s team do the same thing for centralised printing, centralised wireless internet, BYOD, IoT, centralised security system, cloud infrastructure, IP Telephone and ERP. In order to support employee productivity and efficiency through mobility, the team implement the advanced solution from Avaya portfolio. Not only does IP collaboration from Avaya increase staff productivity and efficiency, but it also reduces the operational cost of communication. With Kurniawan at the helm, the team


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produced a fibre-dedicated private network. For security reasons, they made a dual, independent of each network in order to separate sensitive data and public facing information. The networks interconnects multiple locations across Bahrain. “These two networks are similar in size and in topology architecture, however there is no connectivity between the two, they are independent .We take very serious security measures for our internal confidential data and information,” Kurniawan describes. “Our network is very robust, very highly redundant, very high speed and yet secured.” Each scattered location has its own internet connection, resulting in huge


operational costs. Having experience of building and developing more than 6 ISPs in Indonesia and the first ISP in Nigeria, Kurniawan quickly decided to build a mini-scale ISP for the organisation and centralised the Internet services (Internet access and internet email servers). Kurniawan stresses that within the organisation, there’s no excuse for poor connectivity and downtime.. After establishing the infrastructure, the team centralised the connectivity with multiple service providers for a

highly redundant uplink. The mini-scale ISP proofed to reduce operational costs and at the same time improve reliability, scalability and security. As for the process strategy, Kurniawan’s team engage with business consultants to standardise and reengineer the business process, based on the combination of existing and commonly practiced process with the best practice in the industry and then we implement the process and map them in our ERP Software implementation. We implement the most notable ERP software in the market for our organisation. Vendors and technology partners are key to the infrastructure development process; Kurniawan ensures that he picks the best ones. “So many vendors meet me and my team. They say, ‘you know what you are doing!’ and try to sell their professional services to us,” Kurniawan says. Unfortunately for these vendors, the team very rarely contract people in this manner. “Mostly what


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the associated vendor lock-in that they create are the roots of the movement toward software defined cloud networking. Arista has chosen to leverage an approach that uses merchant silicon and open-source software, which has delivered a more significant pace of innovation for networking. In addition, our merchant silicon approach delivers state-of-the-art platforms with increasing bandwidth and density, and lower price points enabled by technology advances associated with Moore’s Law. Arista Networks was founded to pioneer and deliver softwaredriven cloud networking solutions for large data centre, storage and computing environments. Arista’s award-winning platforms, ranging in Ethernet speeds from 10 to 100 gigabits per second, redefine scalability, agility and resilience. At Arista we are personally committed to providing ongoing quality, support and innovation to our customers. As a pioneering company Arista is able to anticipate trends, challenge the status quo and respond to new markets and our customers have appreciated and encouraged us as we welcome the new era of cloud networking.

The other key innovation that Arista has brought is our use of merchant silicon. Legacy approaches have relied on building teams of ASIC engineers who laboriously release proprietary ASICs that are tightly coupled to proprietary software – creating vendor lock-in, increasing product cost and limiting customer choice. Elimination of these gratuitous interdependencies and

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happened was we study and do the research ourselves, we design ourselves, and then we identify the product that we require. Only then do we engage the vendor and technology partner.” Kurniawan’s team negotiates with a technology principal rather than contacting the local vendor directly. Kurniawan and the principle collaborate on design and identify the programme they require. After an agreement is made, the principal engages with their local partner. Not only does Kurniawan build relationships with internal partners, he also forges links with foreign firms. “I have an interesting story,” Kurniawan begins. “There are several products which didn’t exist in the GCC region before we, as an organisation, introduced them to the region. These products met our requirements, they fit our design goals, however they were not having any presents in the region. Many of these products come from a two to three-year-old start-up IT company. Arista Networks –is one of the products which fits our technical requirements and existed here before we invited them to come to the region.” They also invited scale-out storage start-up products that are suitable for their cloud-computing infrastructure – an area that fascinates Kurniawan. “Cloud technology is very interesting,” he tells us, before explaining how he dabbled in the practice before he even



knew what it was called. Four years ago, Kurniawan made a road map called Corporate IT Infrastructure (CITI), that eventually became known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS in cloud terminology). “I have been lucky to have several strategic technology partners that committed to help our organisation. Previously, whenever there was an IT project, we always have a requirement of servers, storage and network. We end up with so many unstructured


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landscapes. At the time, I had an idea to consolidate all of this. I designed a service layer, network layer, storage layer, application layer, platform layer and virtualisation,” Kurniawan explains. “During this time we collaborated with scale-out storage start-up. Our design was very simple, but integrated and we avoided being locked by any vendors. We called our approach “Loosely Coupled, Tightly Integrated.” Because all Kurniawan needed was memory capacity, computing


“Our design was very simple, but integrated and we avoided being locked by any vendors. We called our approach as ‘Loosely Coupled, Tightly Integrated’” – Taufik Kurniawan

capacity and network connectivity, he had flexibility. “I can use any servers. I can use servers from a big-name vendor A, vendor BC, vendor DEF. Even I can use any white box servers with an unknown brand, I can use it because as long as they have a CPU, they have a memory and they have a network connectivity,” he tells us. This architecture requires a fast, lowlatency and high density data centre network requirement, which leads the team to a start-up networking solution from Arista Networks and a scale-out storage strategy which leads them to also a start-up cloud storage solution. “By implementing this architecture, we achieve a simple architecture, yet it is reliable, scalable and agile. Even it is much cheaper compared to any other solutions from the bigname IT vendor,” Kurniawan says. Most IT vendors flood their product with lots of features, and most of the time we require only few of them. So when the team focus on those few specifications usually they can reduce the initial investment. There is no exception with cloud computing infrastructure.



My good example was when we were required to have a powerful operating system with high availability cluster configuration for both ERP solution and centralised corporate database in our cloud infrastructure. My quick analytical thinking lead to *Nix, then Linux and eventually to Suse Linux Enterprise Server (SLES). A year later, cloud computing was booming. “I realised what I was doing was called Infrastructure as a Service in cloud computing terms. Cloud computing starts with consolidation, optimisation, virtualisation, standardisation and automation.”


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Kurniawan says. However, his team don’t do automation, as they only implement a certain level of cloud computing as per requirements. As for implementing IT infrastructure for the organization, Kurniawan is happy that: • Agile and scalable infrastructure accelerates the solution delivery to the business, which practically can be done by IT resource pooling, cloud infrastructure and automation. • Cost reduction and efficiency


achieve through the reuse of IT resource pooling, business process automation and support maintenance optimisation. • A roadmap of infrastructure is created based on existing system to achieve future envisioned it ecosystem. Regarded as an interesting case study, Kurniawan shared his experiences in several well known IT conferences such as CloudAsia, Cloud Computing World Forum and Datacentre Dynamics.

Cloud computing is incredibly popular at the moment, but how does Kurniawan see himself using his IT expertise in the future? “I want to do this for as long as possible, then in the future I want to share my expertise and knowledge in my home country. Maybe I’ll teach in a university part-time, or something like that,” he considers. Kurniawan is excited about the future, but for now he’s satisfied working with his team, developing new ways to improve IT infrastructure for his Bahraini client. For Kurniawan, this is his ideal job. “It’s like a dream,” he tells us. “It’s amazing.”


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


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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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“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 |


October 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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October 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.


October 2016


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Paving the way

saving lives in

Written by D Produced by C

y to safer roads:

n Saudi Arabia

Dale Benton Craig Daniels



In Saudi Arabia, there is one death caused by an accident on the road every 40 minutes. Saferoad is stepping in to pave the way to a better and safer future

Resolutions to such a problem cannot be done by a single party or authority rather than a collaboration by all means of resources available whether it’s police traffic control, technology, schools, and nonprofit organizations that spread awareness amongst people,” says Mohannad Alhaj, CEO of Saferoad.

transportation, construction, oil and gas, to name a few. Saferoad is a GPS tracking provider which gives readings every few seconds to a server which then saves that data and creates a location on the map to monitor the safety of that vehicle.

“The main goal of Saferoad is to reduce this number. To help the drivers here in Saudi Arabia to enhance their driving behaviour. This is why we started this initiative in saving lives, and changing driver behaviour.” Saferoad is a telematics solutions provider across the whole of Saudi Arabia. The company is committed to making the roads safer through a wide range of service solutions that it provides across many sectors:

Alhaj started Saferoad in 2008 alone in a warehouse garage, where he built up the hardware and software for the GPS tracking solutions that Saferoad offers. By 2009, Alhaj was obtaining the necessary licence to sell his AVL solutions and tracking devices. With only a small amount of capital and operating alone, Alhaj and Saferoad now boasts over 180 corporate clients across Saudi Arabia as well as more than 40 employees, with


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The long and winding road


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Saferoad selling its solutions to more than 70 countries across the world. “When I started this business there were no resources and no money. It was only personal resources at that time and I was working 24/7. I actually don’t remember having any weekends off from 2008 to 2013,” says Alhaj. “We’ve gone from working with a single server working on DSL connection to a data centre and cloud servers now.” The client that really kick-started the rise to success was Saudi Aramco, the Saudi Arabian oil giant. Saferoad became a qualified GPS tracking provider for the company in 2010, something that Alhaj describes as a pivotal moment in its history. “We have installed more than 500 devices into vehicles around the kingdom to Saudi Aramco haulers vendors, where at that time, there was only three people in the company,” says Alhaj. “It was like I had won a hundred billion dollars, it’s one of the best moments during this entire process.” Following the hugely successful

partnership between Saferoad and Saudi Aramco and AEVAramco Entrepreneurship venture or Waed”, everything changed for Alhaj. “We started to have better business, better clients from this moment onwards,” he says.

Onwards and upwards From then on it has been a continuous rise for Saferoad. After all the hard work of building the hardware in that garage, growing his business to more than 200 domestic and international clients, Alhaj found Saferoad amongst the TechTour top 50 growth companies in the world in 2015. Further proof of the rise in Saferoad and Alhaj’s stock came in December the same year, as Alhaj was named number four in Forbes’ list of 100 Entrepreneurs shaping Saudi Arabia’s Future. “I got the whole company together and said that this, where we are as a company, we only got to this point because of them, their efforts and we hope that we can become better and better,” he says.

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“As the only Saudi company we are in a key position to understand and capitalise on the requirements of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure”

Your future is Wa'ed. The Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center (Wa’ed) exists to ignite the spirit of entrepreneurship in the Kingdom. We have a number of programs to help you establish and expand your innovative business idea. Contact us today and let’s start building your future together. Wa’ed, building the future one entrepreneur at a time


October 2016




“It was very surprising, but I was extremely happy because I had spent a lot of years working and it’s a proof that people have recognised this effort, bringing the company many years of success.”

Twists and turns in the road To achieve success, a company must overcome a series of challenges, be them internally or externally. Saferoad, being a Saudi company and nonbinding to any of the larger companies from the US, Canada or Europe, found investment from corporate customers difficult in its early days. “To implement an application such as our GPS solutions into Saudi Arabia was difficult when compared to the US or Europe, and the answer for this is that they have good infrastructure in their countries,” he says. “Here in Saudi Arabia, it’s difficult for the client and the customers to understand the benefits of the application of this GPS service. How can they increase the performance of their vehicles and their fleet? How can they make a return of investment

on this? We work on how to deliver the exact service to the client that fits with their internal requirements.” Operating purely throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided Alhaj and Saferoad with the ability to become one of the leading service providers and this is down to the simple fact that there are no other companies providing the same or similar services to them. “There could be more than 100 competitors in Saudi Arabia, but 99 out of those 100 are agents and resellers for foreign companies. Saferoad is a Saudi company through and through. As the only Saudi company we are in a key position to understand and capitalise on the requirements of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure,” says Alhaj. Saferoad may be the only company that provides such GPS tracking service solutions but the company has resources and agents who operate across Saudi Arabia. Saferoad created many brands for many companies which offer the same solutions we offer but using

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different devices and applications in the Saudi Arabia domestic or international market. Most of those company’s clients aren’t aware that Saferoad is the company who operate it.” says Alhaj.”

service that can satisfy the clients. “We are saving lives and satisfying customers by delivering their requirements and needs on reducing operating costs. The team feels a huge amount of joy every day at Saferoad because Putting people in the driving seat they are a part of saving those lives A good company is driven by good which is a very noble goal here.” people and Alhaj admits that Looking ahead, Saferoad it is the people who works has its eyes set firmly not with him to deliver only on this goal of the services that satisfying the client Saferoad provides but ultimately saving that has brought lives throughout the company Saudi Arabia. Alhaj Number of the success it believes that the Employees at has experienced company must focus Saferoad to this date. on becoming stronger “Through the challenges at saving lives, providing that we have faced over the more services for more companies years, it is the team support that and individuals in order to enhance has helped Saferoad overcome the driving abilities of their fleets. those challenges,” says Alhaj. “Saferoad is looking to pave the way “We have a family environment to a better future. This is our goal, a in Saferoad. We’ve always ensured safer road network throughout Saudi that we invest in people who can and Arabia and we are working every have helped this company to be on day to try and enhance our service the right track to provide an optimal in order to achieve this,” he adds.


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“Resolutions to such a problem cannot be done by a single party or authority rather than a collaboration by all means of resources available whether it’s police traffic control, technology, schools, and non-profit organizations that spread awareness amongst people” Looking to the future Saferoad’s development process is always working and shows no signs of stopping, working harder to improve the quality of its services and adding more innovative ideas to better serve its clients and Saudi Arabia. The company has ambitions of working with agents all around the world, and Alhaj admits that this is something that can only be achieved through that can be achieved through liberating the perception that people from the middle east are simply consumers to a mindset that they are an innovative people who can innovate for the whole world. “We are developing the company through our employees because they


October 2016

are proud employees and want to further Saferoad’s goals; a greater level of safety for many countries around the world”. The employees help Saferoad in order to develop its operation and every day we feel we are adding values. Every day we are saving lives in the whole world because of our services”. Every day we have satisfied customers and more market,” he says. “Saferoad gets many, many good service solutions around the world right now. We have met many international clients interested in becoming an agent. From the US, to Brazil, to South Africa, Kenya, Russia, Australia, New Zealand. Everywhere.”

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Written by Dale Benton Produced by Stuart Shirra




These large industries are bound into working with local IT service provider SSBS, and there are only few companies who are offering those end-to-end services here,” says AbdulRahman AlOthman, Sales Director at SSBS. SSBS, a subsidiary of the Al-Othman Holding, is a service and solutions company headquartered in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia. “SSBS is a systems integrator, we provide a lot of IT solution services, whether it’s a low current building up a network, infrastructure, servers and data centres or going up to the application and business intelligence layer,” he says.


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SSBS differentiates itself from other competitors in the Saudi Arabian sector through a key factor, SSBS is based purely in Saudi Arabia. “By trade, we are 100 percent Saudi company. We are established in Saudi Arabia and we came up in Saudi Arabia. Most of our competitors are multinationals with a huge resource of support from across the world, our key advantage is that we design and integrate the solutions to fit local needs” he says. “We look at each other from a solution offering perspective and how much market segment there is out there for us. The way we operate is that all of our consultants are here onshore,” he adds.


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Saudi Arabian partners The success of SSBS comes from its rich portfolio of partners. SSBS works with partners to ascertain specific client requirements and needs. “We have a huge portfolio partners that we deal with. It’s almost like a toolset that we always refer back to and try and put those tools together to cater to the client,” says AbdulRahman. AbdulRahman states that SSBS works on a win-win operational basis, a win for the company and a win for the client before entering a partnership. “Some of these partners operate from Dubai, but mostly in the UK and in the states and sometimes clients here in SA are not willing or patient enough to wait for these partners to come on the ground and view some of the presale activities and even technical support,” he says. This results in a strategic outlook from SSBS, the company takes it upon itself to ensure it has a strong in-house knowledge of what the partners are offering, its solutions, how they work and how to fix things should there be an error. This all factors in to the win-win situation that SSBS tries to ensure.


October 2016

“When we partner up with any company we enter knowledge sharing mode. We assign highly qualified personnel in our organisation who are technically in charge of that partnership and we seek out opportunities to allow those people to shadow the company throughout the first couple of projects together,” says AbdulRahman. “Then, we work on our own from that point onwards. That way we can support and sustain that working relationship in the future.” He says. “This method has proven to be very successful for us and continues to be, the biggest proof is our many awards we receive from those partners commemorating us for our commitments and efforts.” This process allows SSBS to design and tailor its service solutions accurately and more effectively for its clients, as well as enhancing a strong reputation for potential investors and clients moving forward. Conglomerate of change Despite being part of a conglomerate of companies across Saudi Arabia and the region, when the company


started in 2002 AbdulRahman stresses that it was always an outward facing company. “We never started off as the Group IT support division, but more of a outwards facing services company,” says AbdulRahman. “It was the strong successes with the likes of the largest Oil & Gas producer, the largest Petrochemical companies and utility companies – all these large companies across the Kingdom,” he adds. From this point onwards, the conglomerate looked at the large and successful portfolio that SSBS has accumulated and decided that the best practice going forward would be to combine the IT department and SSBS and have the company serve the entire group with these companies through a service level agreement (SLA) as a service provider. “Through this agreement we’d take over the groups entire IT and run with it. We’ve been doing it very successfully, running most of those services in our data centres across the Kingdom,” he adds. With responsibility on this

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October 2016


level, security and sustainability is crucial to the success of the company as a service provider. “We have four different service providers that give us data as well as multiple backups and this is how we sustain our group,” he says. Sweet success Looking at the company’s portfolio, AbdulRahman highlights key success stories in working with these partners. One such success story was, under the supervision of the largest Oil and Gas company, the procurement of SAP licences for a large independent energy research centre. “We procured and implemented SAP licences for them all within five months, enabling all the best practices. We basically hosted and ran their ERP Instance – from their help desk right through to the support team,” says AbdulRahman. “This included maintaining a main site with multiple connectivity to ensure that there is no downtime, a complete setup. Back then, in 2009, a project of

this complexity wasn’t really the norm for Saudi Arabia.” He says. Another key success during SSBS’ short history was the development of an Automotive Grade Wi-Fi. The device developed and implemented into 120,000 cars across the kingdom through one of the largest car distributors in the country. The importance of key resources The makeup of a successful IT service provider is not simply the IT services it provides but the people that work hard to provide high quality service solutions, and this is something that AbdulRahman is all too aware of. “An IT company can only go as far as where the resources are. As a company, you need to find the right resources and maintain them. We strive to bring up young ambitious resources to take the business forward in the future,” says AbdulRahman. These resources are recruited through a “very strong” HR recruitment team that looks both

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locally in Saudi Arabia and externally. “We provide our requirements and our team will identify resources that we can consider. When it comes to certain professional services and skillsets, we have partners in Asia, Europe and the States who are resourcing companies that we can rely on,” he says. “They are our extended manpower; they help us find the best resources available in the market.” He adds.

The challenge in innovation A service provider in any market will face challenges and obstacles that it must continuously overcome as it aims to provide the best service solutions to its customers and clients. For SSBS, AbdulRahman admits that it’s no different. “The typical risks of any project come into play, client expectations, fitting it all into negotiated timelines and essentially delivering what


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October 2016


has been promised,” he says. “This is why, as with any company, we have a Project Management Officer that runs these projects and mitigates risk as much as possible.” He adds. In a company what strives to be innovative and be the best service provider in Saudi Arabia, AbdulRahman is all too aware of the need to stay ahead of the game. “You have to be aware of what’s happening around you. You have to update yourself as no one will update you,” he says. “The thing with IT is, always be on top of it. Connect to the right people and resources in terms of information, IDC, Gartner, Forrester, these are examples of good portals to access information.” He adds. Making waves in the market While accessing and exploiting the right portals is a crucial way

in which any IT company can maintain a high level of success, it is important to understand the market it operates within. “Innovation often works in waves. Things start in Europe or States for example and over the course of time it trickles here to Saudi Arabia. As a company you want to take a risk as being one of the first to adapt from the west and be the quickest to market,” says AbdulRahman. Looking ahead, SSBS has ambitions of being not only the best service providers in Saudi Arabia but one of the best providers on a multinational scale. “Our benchmark is always the multi nationals, they’re the ones that we believe have an edge and we try to compete as much as possible. Our ambition is of course to be the best IT company in the country.” He concludes.

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HAFILAT INDUSTRIES continues to innovate smart transport solutions Written by Tom Wadlow Produced by Heykel Ouni



Business Review Middle East speaks to Hafilat Industries about its latest innovations and projects as it continues to deliver world class buses and vehicle conversions to the region


year is a long time in business. Since our last feature with Hafilat Industries in 2015, the bus manufacturer has embarked on a number of innovation and expansion projects, cementing its position as industry leader. The company also continues to play to its strengths, producing the finest buses in the region for wellknown players including Mercedes and Volvo, using top quality aluminium sourced exclusively from Alusuisse in Switzerland. We caught up with CEO Iyad Al Ansari, who talks to Business Review Middle East about Hafilat’s latest plans. “Since last year we have been growing steadily and developing new 4x4, 6x6 and 8x8 bus varieties that can be used in many different applications,” he says. “We are also continuing to use


October 2016

aluminium which is still a key point of difference for us – it is light and durable material and we don’t see a better alternative for our buses.” Going electric With production capacity of 300 buses per year at its Mussafah base in Abu Dhabi, Hafilat is also working on an all-electric aluminium bus with several partners based around the world. For example, a Malaysian partner is supplying motors, connection expertise comes from Volgren in Australia and a Chinese supplier is providing batteries and battery racks. Hafilat’s job is to bring all of this expertise together. “Currently most manufacturers of electric buses use a steel frame, so this is a unique project we are doing,” Al Ansari explains. “We are aiming to have this commercialised within

Iyad Al Ansari, CEO

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“Electrification is a growing global trend and there is a clear international move towards electric vehicles” – Iyad Al Ansari, CEO

three to five years and expect to have a prototype being tested on the roads by the end of next year. “Electrification is a growing global trend and there is a clear international move towards electric, connected vehicles. The major hurdle we see is end users having enough charging stations from which to refuel with electricity. There is no single company that can carry out the whole project on purely electric buses, so we combine all the component needed and integrate the final product.” Plenty in the pipeline Beyond manufacturing, modifications, conversions and maintenance are other important lines of business for Hafilat, with a new extension of the hangar recently opened at the Abu Dhabi factory catering for after

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sales services. It is here where Hafilat fulfils key maintenance services for its contract within the UAE. On the other hand, Hafilat Misr (our subsidiary in Egypt) has established their after sales support base in Cairo. “We are also working for the Department of Municipal Affairs & Transport of Abu Dhabi by maintaining their fleet – which we have supplied earlier in three year contract,” Al Ansari adds. “We are also doing some more conversion work, with commercial


October 2016

vans turning them into school buses.” The variety of work does not stop there. New 4x4, 6x6 and 8x8 bus conversions have been tailored to different use cases, including onshore oilfields, safari parks and zoos, as well as paramilitary purposes. Hafilat is also expanding its geographical reach with plans to expand its infrastructure into Kuwait, a joint venture worth around $20 million. Al Ansari adds: “We have had a feasibility study conducted for the project which has informed us of the specific types of buses that are most viable to produce there; project is viable for us to go ahead. “There is nothing on the


ground as yet but we are setting up the joint venture and are ready to start now all the paperwork and drawings are finished. This will be an important strategic move for us as we currently do not have any capacity in Kuwait.”

messaging service is there, and we are combining them to deliver this technology.” The system is being tested with the Abu Dhabi police and is expected to be in operation sometime in 2017. Another forward-thinking project Al Investing in the future Ansari discusses is the introduction Alongside expanding its core of digital LED advertising screens activities, advanced technological on its 12-metre long buses. innovations are bolstering The new displays, nine Hafilat Industries’ metres in length and reputation for pushing 0.8 metres wide, boundaries. It is replace traditional currently developing printed methods a new student which require The year that tracking system manual changing, Hafilat Industries for its school buses meaning real time, was founded which auto-messages relevant branding parents when their children can be displayed on a step on and off the bus. journey-by-journey basis. Al Ansari explains: “We give every “For example, if a bus is travelling student a form of ID card or bracelet to Wembley stadium in London and that transfers a signal to a centre which Chelsea are playing there, then we effectively connects the bus door can use Chelsea branding for that to the student. The message will be evening before changing the advert for sent to the parent saying their child something else the next day,” Al Ansari has just left the bus or has just got on adds. “Traditional bus advertising on the bus after school has finished. printed boards can last weeks and “All the technology like I.T.S. and months – they are not reactive.”


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500+ The number of employees at Hafilat Industries

All of this R&D and technological work is being showcased to future generations at Hafilat’s Fabrication Lab, or “FabLab” as it is known. Children aged between around 8-17 are shown the latest 3D printers, laser cutting machines and other industrial technology in a bid to encourage more into pursuing careers in engineering and industry. This bus was funded by Dubai and the idea came from Sheikh


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Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Award.

Safety first When asked about his ambitions for Hafilat in the coming years, Al Ansari named safety among his highest priorities, with mobility always being at the heart of what the company stands for and produces. “I want us to develop the safest school bus there is,” he says. “We are already producing some of the best


school buses right now but we keep on developing new ideas like the student tracking system. The second aim is to build the first truly full electrical bus integrated and developed in the Middle East on commercial level, which we are working hard on at the moment with our partners around the world. “The key is mobility – we want to move people at speed, safely and with ease using technology. Most of our solutions now take into consideration the possibility of aligning information and connectivity. True mobility will involve more automation and smart transport networks, and Hafilat must stay on the lead in contribute to this scheme in UAE.”

“The key is mobility – we want to move people at speed, safely and with ease using technology” – Iyad Al Ansari, CEO

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Oasis Hospital is leading the way in revolutionising healthcare IT systems within Abu Dhabi Written by Catherine Rowell Produced by Craig Daniels



Chief Information Officer of Oasis Hospital, Trevor Bunch discusses how the organisation is determined to provide world-class IT support alongside continual developments at the hospital, creating increased patient engagement and preserving trust within the Emirati community.


asis Hospital is renowned as the only non-for-profit Christian hospital within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is a vital service within the Emirati community, so much so that even members of the royal family within Abu Dhabi were born there. These close connections have led to a recent new facility, granted to the hospital in order for exceptional care and support to be provided to the increased number of citizens. Bunch reflects that the hospital’s patient population can be described in thirds, with two thirds being Emiratis and expats, but the remaining third have minimal insurance or sponsors. To this effect, the hospital seeks to seal this gap in health services. At present, there is currently no designation for not-forprofit facilities, but services are either government or private. The hospital


October 2016

remains involved in the community as this is a foundational part of Oasis Hospital and what makes them different. It is not unusual to see them out on home visitations or supporting the UAE government by providing surgeons who travel to war-torn Yemen or Lebanon to support Syrian refugees. “Due to a long-standing relationship with community partners, there are a lot more opportunities we can offer up after we streamline our operations,” Bunch adds. In line with the hospital’s expansion, significant investment has been placed within its IT systems. Since his appointment three years ago, Bunch has streamlined all IT operations through a complete hardware refresh and implementation of effective data centre migration. His backoffice applications have been moved to the


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Cloud, and is pushing forward with an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) transformation. Such processes have created a resourceful, well-run and cost effective system. Previous configuration management issues are now a thing of the past, where virtual assets are managed as a single instance, eradicating many patch management issues. “Everything from lighting controls, to how the air is moved around the building, to emergency systems that are joined to the IT network. Our network went from somewhere around 500 end-points to over 5000 end-points. So how does IT fit in with the overall business strategy of the hospital? It

touches every single element to how we run the hospital,” explains Bunch. “When I arrived three years ago, 68 percent of my infrastructure and application assets were donated and managed by someone else. It was a very sophisticated system, but not financially sustainable. We were at the point that we had to do a refresh when I arrived.” By becoming the first hospital in the Emirates to adopt a hyper converged infrastructure, the hospital IT systems have native highavailability, so that if one piece of hardware malfunctions, another part will recover the data. This, Bunch confirms, eradicates the need for

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redundant and under-utilised hardware. This change has also allowed the organisation to scale back their future EMR hardware buy dramatically, allowing it to reduce their overall memory by 35 percent and compute requirements by approximately 45 percent. Over 95 percent of servers within the hospital are now virtualised, alongside 45 percent of desktops. Amongst these changes, the hospital was able to move from a single data centre to new, modern redundant data centres in a new building with zero downtime, moving 150 servers and over 300 desktops in the process. Bunch proudly adds that such a move for the organisation was “seamless” and “all hospital operations moved from one facility to their existing building with zero IT downtime and zero patient incidents, becoming the first facility move in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.” A partnership with global healthcare platform Orion Health will ensure the hospital’s transition towards a sustainable, streamlined future, where current patient processes can be redefined and ways of working can be adjusted in line with


October 2016

these changes. Bunch explains, “If you look at the future of where healthcare IT is going, enterprise apps no longer take three years to implement anymore – what we get with Orion is a solid foundation for integration. If we get a request for an app specifically for our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) - those are things I can plug in and I don’t have to worry about clinical data sprawl.” “That’s what really excites me about Orion. Anything we want to build around that, such as patient portals, are the things that keep me really excited for the next several years.” Current plans with Orion will see the complete implementation of the hospital’s EMR by March 2017, with the overhaul of the hospital’s patient registration system, in addition to the apps the doctors currently use. “Those are the things that I’m excited about – we’re going to be able to give them the data tools they need to improve the care that we’re giving,” adds Bunch. With such an aggressive timeline, Bunch believes the first six months to a year will focus on system optimisation and user expectations.


“Anything we want to build, such as patient portals, are the things that keep me really excited for the next several years� w w w. o a s i s h o s p i t a l . o rg



However, this lays groundwork for additional care pathways and quality care initiatives to be incorporated. The UAE healthcare sector is facing some significant challenges: healthcare costs are rising, oversubscription of services and a flood of incoming private providers are creating competitive and regulatory challenges. However, Bunch is optimistic about the hospital breaking away from traditional methods and reorganising current processes to become more streamlined and focused. This is not because they need to generate shareholder wealth, Bunch stresses, but the hospital is keen to deliver more charitable outreach and community events. Bunch is continually focused on delivering key IT directives and developing strong relationships with strategic partners to ensure patients view the long term benefits, in turn creating consistent trust within the Emirati community. Such a solid integration engine has also ensured the hospital is not in danger

of fragmenting its clinical decision making and all recommendations will be in the patients’ best interests. “If any doctor thinks productivity and/or finance is interfering with their clinical decision making; they have every right to sit in the boardroom, challenge us and hold us accountable,” Bunch comments. Oasis Hospital is an exceptional hospital, at which Bunch’s passion is clearly displayed. The majority of the hospital’s business objectives solely concern quality of care, with only two out of seven values placed on the hospital’s efficiencies. Bunch comments, “Relationships we have been able to build with our tech partners I haven’t seen anywhere else in any industry”, which highlights its influential reputation within healthcare and underlines the hospital’s importance within the Emirati community. The hospital’s strategic directives and technological expertise will ensure a future, sustainable business model for years to come.

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Business Review Middle East magazine - October 2016