There is no denying that technology is big business in the Middle East. According to the latest stats, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leads the world in smartphone penetration at 73.8 per cent, the electronics market in the region is set to hit $4.3 billion this year and the UAE’s cloud-based solutions industry will grow at a rate of 43.7 per cent over the next year.
Technology will certainly remain a focus in the coming years as Dubai prepares to host the World Expo in 2020. Hosted under the theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, the global event will reflect the UAE’s success in pioneering new paths of development and innovation.
With all eyes firmly on the UAE, we asked Abdel Aziz Rahal, general manager of Tensator Group Dubai, to share his thoughts on technology trends in the region.
Q: Technology plays a big role in the Dubai market. What do you predict as being the major general trends we’ll see develop in the run up to Expo 2020?
Abdel: Connectivity between businesses and consumers has been a rapid area of growth over the past few years and this is something that I certainly see increasing as we move towards Expo 2020.
This has been driven by major advancements in mobile technology, including phones and tablets. All of our personal devices have the ability to talk to one another and businesses have come to realise that they need to be a part of that conversation. It’s all part of what has become known as the omni-channel experience.
Q: Which sectors in particular do you see gaining momentum?
We’ve witnessed the development of increasingly smarter applications to make these conversations faster, more efficient and, most importantly from a business point of view, more profitable. What was once something that was considered fairly high-tech is now an integral part of the customer journey.
Abdel: The aviation sector continues to perform well. We’re strategically located within an eight-hour flight of two thirds of the world’s population and there’s set to be an investment of $100 billion in the Middle East airports industry by 2020. In fact, our Dubai team is currently getting ready to exhibit at the Airport Show 2015, 10-12 May (stand 8181, hall 8).
Aside from aviation, the banking sector is particularly strong and moving towards a more transparent, integrated digital approach with customers.
- Why do you think there is such a focus on the banking sector?
Abdel: Online banking isn’t as all-encompassing in the UAE as it is across Europe. It tends to be the most basic of financial operations that are handled online and branches are still heavily used for most things. In response, banks are investing in opening new branches and revamping existing ones.
- What challenges does this present?
Abdel: Managing the flow of customers in branch remains a key challenge for UAE banks. Reducing waiting times while still making bank processes efficient are the two major factors. As a result we see a lot of interest in solutions such as Self Service Systems and Virtual Queuing.
- Has the UAE banking sector embraced smartphone technology?
Abdel: The industry is starting to think in terms of an omni-channel experience and see the benefits for both customers and staff.
There’s a clear link between effective management of customer flow online and helping to control the experience in branch. So, in theory, if a customer is able to use an application remotely that enables them to prepare for their visit to branch in advance, it can have a number of benefits. This not only improves the customer experience but also makes the process at the bank more efficient as staff will know anticipated customer flow and individual requirements, allowing them to pre-plan.
This is something that Tensator Group is leading the way on in the UAE by linking smartphone usage with our Virtual Queuing solutions. This process allows bank customers to pre-book appointments for particular services, find branches with the shortest waiting and see what documents they will need to bring with them.
It’s this kind of joined up thinking that will continue to be critical to business success in years to come.