Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

  • Small businesses can immensely benefit from incorporating CSR as a part of their overall business strategy.
  • CSR activities can give a powerful message to your employees and in turn get a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project from them
  • While it might not always be possible for SME’s to donate cash for such initiatives, many companies are deploying winning strategies to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisations.
  • Engaging your suppliers can also amplify the impact of your CSR initiatives, while helping strengthen your relationships with them.

Should an SME owner embrace the concept and opportunity of getting involved and supporting Corporate Social Responsibility projects?

Some of you may have followed the news when it was announced last year that the US government was on the verge of defaulting on their debt. For average people around the world, this was one of the most confusing topics in recent times, considering the three tumultuous years of financial storms, earthquakes and tsunamis and let’s not forget, scandals.

What got my attention was that Apple Computer had within its own arsenal, stockpiled more cash in-house than the entire US government. Could it be that Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, once a scrawny geek of a kid who scrapped conventional wisdom to go out and innovate as an SME, to fulfill a dream that everyone should own a computer, could ride in like a white knight and save the whole country? Does charity begin at home?

Innovation and courage make it possible for an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs to support social programmes with millions of dollars each year. But what if you have a small business, and your focus is just on survival? What if you are struggling for loans or investors for your own project, and cannot even conceive the possibility of crossing the threshold of success and being able to give back?

When does it make sense to get involved as a small business and give back to your own cause or community? Well, for my part, and for many of the consultants on my team, we believe in looking for opportunities even before rolling out a start-up and building that into the mix as an integral part of the holistic structure of the entire business strategy.

To understand these reasons, one should reflect on some of the advantages of actually shaping your company culture with this type of commitment.

Powerful message

For a start, think of the message you will be sending out to your employees who will begin to realise that they are part of something more than just a 9.00 am to 5.00 pm job. This will often give them a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project and endeavor that makes them proud to say to total strangers, family and friends, what they do, who they are and why they love what they are doing now.

This, HR managers will tell you, is a powerful factor in human capital retention, and a recruitment magnet is always more powerful, when the team within, are all ‘game on’ and buzzed about the company. Among your clients, there is a percentage who will appreciate that some part of your margins which they contribute to, are recycled in a place that has a ‘feel good’ or worthy cause impression, again amplifying another good reason to do business with your company. This can grow to the next level, namely getting clients involved in social action projects, which are miracles of good CSR work in so many communities.

So, how much do companies need to invest in a CSR project, and how is it possible to do this before making a profit? The answer that I propose is that, although it’s nice to be able to donate cash, often, in the lifecycle of young start-ups, it’s not feasible. Many companies are, however, deploying winning strategies in order to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisation.

In the MENA region there are dozens of such organisations that have created CSR projects that would appreciate the focus and participation of one hour of someone’s time. This could range from having your team agree to spend half a day repainting a home for the elderly within your community, hosting a car wash to donate money to a needy school, creating a used book drive to donate to an orphanage. In fact, subject areas are endless and there is never enough. The unseen advantage in all of this is, there is a magical, intangible and yet amazing feeling of giving back to something or someone.

We, as business people, are able to feel a little taller in the process of this work, and at the same time, we have the advantage of not only putting a smile on the receiver’s face, but also spreading pride and significance amongst our teammates and our network for our participation.

Brand recognition

This is not thankless work either. Many participating SMEs are able to elevate their brand recognition and perception, by associating with causes that speak to their audience. This is a key factor of creating a strategy that works for your company. Find a CSR synergy that fits to the services or products that you deliver to the market. Build this into your overall business plan and connect with people on various levels as a result of your winning strategy. Be warned that there is a fine line between being genuinely involved in a CSR project and exploiting it so that you purely get a part of cash rewards.

It is better when companies form committees where employees and officers are part of the steering process, to make the best case scenario recommendations to the shareholders, about not only installing a CSR department, but guiding it and sustaining it. Another helpful hint if your SME adopts this practice is your key secret agents who can make your efforts even more powerful – your suppliers.

You will be amazed that when your team is committed, and has the ability to share a clear vision about what, why, and who, your suppliers will ask when and how they can help. Therefore, you, as the owner of an SME, are able to light a candle in your own store and by the power of passing the torch, ignite second and third party attention and support all around your organization’s CSR wagon.

And yes, remember, charity begins at your front door.

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review


A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

  • One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
  • The Management Mix Guide is a 7 step referential platform for developing corporate strategy; it is also a guide for reengineering, & restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
  • The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into  consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
How can companies & organizations assure a sustainable strategic development?
One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
NCR, Wang Laboratories, BBAC are companies that have been vanished long time ago; and more recently major names such as Delta Airlines, General Motors or World Com have also disappeared.
In view of the above, a Managerial Guide is recommended which is implemented in hundreds of companies & organizations in specific industries such as the Banking & Finance, Telecommunications, Healthcare, Information Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Food Processing & other industries such as Machinery Manufacturing.
The Management Mix Guide is a referential platform for developing Corporate Strategy; it is also a Guide for Reengineering, & Restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation1
The seven steps for implementing the 9-5-4 Guide are as follows:  
  1. Analyze the micro-environmental factors:  Competitors, Customers, Substitutes, Partners & Suppliers;
  2. Analyze the opportunities & threats in the macro-environment: Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural & Technological (standard PEST analysis).
  3. Identify the organization’s stakeholder’s constantly evolving needs.
  4. Analyze the organization’s strengths & weaknesses in the nine organizational elements, Each element elaborated separately in the following page.
  5. Formulate the Strategy regarding the 9 organizational elements.
  6. Set an action plan & implement the strategy.
  7. Continuously monitor & evaluate the strategy.
The nine organizational elements are as follows:
  1. Strategy: After revisiting and restating the Organizational Vision, companies should develop the corporate strategy, which includes the organization’s strategic orientations & objectives, based on the existing and required resources and assessment of the micro & macro environments in which the organization operates.
  2. Processes: Optimization, standardization & streamlining of the organization’s management, operational & supporting processes by controlling process related risks and ensuring the continual monitoring & improvement of the management system through the identification of KPI’s. Various types of international management standards are adopted, according to the industry and the needs of the organization.
  3. Talents: Development of a customized competency based talent management system for attracting, developing and retaining talents. The talents will implement the formal processes and informal processes for achieving operational and strategic objectives.
  4. Structure: Development of the required competencies and layers and setting the communication lines, the reporting system & cross-departmental coordination systems for supporting the achievement of the corporate strategies and organizational vision.
  5. Marketing: Development of a marketing plan by setting a Market Monitoring System for transforming information into intelligence and then into initiative in terms of new products and services, a pricing policy, a placing and a promotional policy by taking into account the constant changes of the customer behavior and the market requirements.
  6. Sales: Optimization of the sales process through the seven steps sales model and establishment cross-selling & up-selling approaches. In addition, development of sales channels in different geographical regions.
  7. Customer: Being in the center of the stakeholders, the company will develop a customer satisfaction and loyalty policy; the customer experience management system will be set and some specific procedures will be identified such as: loyalty programs, satisfaction surveys & complaint management systems.
  8. Information technology: Development & optimization of a holistic Information Technology policy that will support the implementation of the processes, including but not limited to Information security Management system.
  9. Resources: Development of financial Management and asset management systems for optimizing the exploitation of the resources.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation2
The Strategic Management Guide presented above has proven its efficiency in numerous corporations. Management Mix experts constantly monitor the results & performance of companies implementing the guide and provide customized recommendations to reduce the managerial waste (muda) and cope efficiently with the environmental changes.

The article is written by Raffy Semerdjian for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review


Using external consultants to save time and money

Using external consultants to save time and money

  • Recruiting staff can be a painful experience because there is a dearth of highly qualified and competent professionals, and more often than not organizations end up hiring the least bad applicant and not the best.
  • Further, to manage ad-hoc overflow of work companies need temporary staffing, but finding qualified candidates who are ready to work for a short term is even more difficult than finding full time employees.
  • A viable solution to these issues might be to hire external consultants on short or long-term contracts. These consultants are specialists at recruiting, and eventually prove to be a cost-effective options as they help organizations mitigate the opportunity cost risk.

I was formerly a senior manager for a service company in the UAE and I discovered that recruiting staff was a painful experience as there are were always plenty of people seeking work, or alternative jobs in many instances, but there was a dearth of highly qualified and competent professionals. Any job advertised would have many applicants but it took a long time sifting through the CVs and at the end of the process you might have 5 people at most to interview as most applicants didn’t even meet the advertised job specs. And even after short-listing two or three candidates it felt more like a case of hiring the “least bad” applicant rather than the best.

Although my recruiting experience are limited to Dubai I believe the problems I suffered are common to managers throughout the Middle East region.  I have concluded that hiring professional staff in this region is a long-winded process and not everyone recruited will be a best fit for the role in mind. And with experienced professionals coming at a premium cost it can be an expensive hiring mistake should the successful candidate ultimately need replacing.

In addition companies often have temporary staffing needs for special projects or to solve work overflow issues. But finding experienced professionals who are prepared to work for a company on a short-term basis is even more difficult than hiring them long-term.

One solution to these issues might be to hire external consultants on short or long-term contracts. There are several benefits to this option including:

Contracts can be time limited: Although some consultants work on indefinite long-term contracts it is more usual for contracts to be time limited although often with an option to extend by mutual agreement. So if the contractor is not performing as expected, or is no longer needed, then the extension option will not be taken up. Most contractors work on annually renewable contracts but it is not for special projects a 3 month or 6 month contract might be more appropriate. (For one organization I worked on 3 month renewable contracts for over a year). By contrast very few employees would agree to a one year renewable contract and it might even be a breach of the relevant Labour Code to offer same in some jurisdictions. And I know by experience that initially good employees can experience dramatic performance deteriorations during the time that they are employed for various reasons.

Contracts can be terminated relatively easily: If a contractor is not even meeting basic requirements, or is creating some other business problem, then it is possible to terminate the contract even before the renewal date subject to meeting the notice period. Most annual renewable contracts will have a one to three month notice period. And there is no grievance process even if the consultant believes his contract has been terminated unfairly. So he can have no legal complaint if the termination complied with the terms of the contract. By comparison any manager knows just how difficult it is to fire an employee and there is always the risk of a wrongful dismissal case even if the employee was non-performing. (I have worked with companies that settled out of court with former employees claiming wrongful dismissal, rather than endure the expense of fighting the case, even when the companies concerned felt they were fully justified in the termination).

Consultants are already technically trained, are reliable and can work unsupervised: Many consultants are older people with long experience in their relevant industry and most such contractors have been managers so are used to motivating employees without the need to be motivated themselves. (Indeed in some industries it is common for persons who have reached mandatory retirement age to be hired back as consultants almost immediately after the retirement party).  These consultants understand the need to meet deadlines and other targets and have the motivation to know that their contracts can easily be terminated if they fail to perform as required.

Consultants have their own resources: External consultants can often work from home and will usually have their own fully equipped offices meaning that they don’t require valuable desk space or equipment that can be reserved to the company’s own employees. Nevertheless most consultants are willing to work from the company’s offices when required to. In my own experience I spend a lot of time working at home but also work on assignment sitting at an office desk each day but almost always in a different country to my home country. (The company usually pays my travel and living costs in such case).

Consultants can reduce employment costs: Most consultants do not receive employee benefits such as paid vacation and sick pay. And they are not eligible, in most cases, for the company’s health insurance and pension programs. So these are cost savings in themselves. It is also the case, (but not always), that consultants will accept hourly pay rates that are below that of a full-time employee for the equivalent position. (Consultants who work from home will usually require a lower fee than those that are expected to work from a company office). In addition consultants are often also prepared to accept retainer fees, which means that the company can retain their services for a very low fee, and then pay them at the regular hourly rates when the consultant’s services are actually needed. In my case I offer a substantial discount on my hourly rates if a company pays me a retainer fee.

There are other benefits to retaining external consultants including the fact that a retained consultant can eventually become a full-time employee if it is mutually beneficial to all concerned.  And there are a few downsides such as no perceived loyalty to the retaining company although I doubt that many full-time employees have much loyalty to the companies that employ them for the first few years of their employment.

The article is written by Ed Rogers  for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom?

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom

  • The MENA region is home to the second-largest mobile phone population in the world, but the region’s mobile advertising spend is the lowest among all regions.
  • Weak mobile marketing infrastructure – lack of smartphone penetration and mobile- and tablet-compatible websites – in the region is one of the key reasons for this dichotomy.
  • Lack of high quality (engaging) and Arabic content is the second key inhibitor to the growth of mobile advertising in the region.
  • However, with mobile advertising in the region poised to grow from $50 million in 2013 to $340 million in 2017, MENA brands that are able to get their mobile strategy right, and create mobile marketing infrastructure and content tailored to consumer needs will emerge as winners.

The MENA region is home to the second-largest mobile phone population in the world. As per the Global Media Intelligence Report by eMarketer, at 525.8 million, the Middle East and Africa had the second largest mobile phone population in 2013. This was way ahead of developed economies like North America and Western Europe (both had <350 million mobile phone users), and was behind only the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, which stood at 2.5 billion+, thanks to significant contributions from populous countries like China and India. In addition to the growing mobile phone users, smartphone users in MEA went up from 67 million in 2012 to 112 million in 2013, increasing the penetration of smartphones among all mobile phone users from 5.1% to 8.3% in the region.

However, despite a large and fast growing mobile phone population, MENA’s mobile advertising spend is the lowest among all regions in the world. While the region stands second in overall mobile phone usage, its advertising spend on the same platform comes last among all the regions. As a result, in 2013, the region contributed just $50 million to a global mobile advertising spend of $15.8 billion. That represents 140% growth compared to 2012 spending levels, but is far behind regional totals elsewhere in the world. North America, which has the lowest mobile population among all regions stood first with a >50% share in the global mobile advertising market. Even other emerging markets like Latin America ($150 million) or Central and Eastern Europe ($162million) outsized the MEA region on this metric.

Table 1: Mobile Phone Users by Region (Millions, 2011-17)

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom1

Source: Trendsmena, eMarketer

Table 2: Mobile Internet Ad Spending by Region (USD Million, 2011-17)

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom2

Source: Trendsmena, eMarketer

As puzzling as the above situation may seem, the reasons are not hard to find.

First of all, mobile marketing infrastructure – smartphone penetration and mobile- and tablet-compatible websites – in the region is not up to global standards. Smartphones support internet-based applications and are the basic platform required for mobile advertising; on the other hand, age old feature phones that do not support such applications are not conducive for internet-based mobile marketing and can only be used for sms marketing purposes. Now, despite its fast growth, smartphone penetration in the region is still a meagre ~8%, much lower as compared to other regions (smartphone penetration in the US is >60%).  This explains why despite the advantages of internet-based mobile advertising, SMS campaigns still remain the most popular form of mobile marketing in the region.

In addition, while MENA brands have taken to digital marketing on social media platforms like Facebook, most of them still lack websites that are compatible with mobiles and tablets. This is a major drawback since click-through rates (CTR), a measure of how well a campaign has done, are higher for mobile (0.5%) as compared to those for other digital campaigns (0.2%) in the region, as per mobile advertising agency AdFalcon.  The lack of infrastructure is also highlighted in a recent study by Deloitte & BPG, which found that majority of MENA brands are still developing the required infrastructure (responsive design websites, apps, e-commerce platforms, etc.) to market themselves on mobile platforms; as a result, the value of online advertising is 40 times higher than mobile in the region.

Chart 1: Mobile Marketing Infrastructure in MENA 

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom3

Source: Deloitte, BPG

Chart 2: Brand Lifecycle Stage in MENA

Is MENA Ready for the Mobile Marketing Boom4

Source: Deloitte, BPG

Secondly, marketing content is not engaging enough, and the lack of Arabic content further compounds the problem. The Deloitte & BPG report also found that 80% of the brands in the MENA region who are engaged in digital advertising are still in the infancy stage of the brand lifecycle.  As a result, irrelevant banners and pop-ups dominate mobile advertising in the region, as brands are focused on pushing their content (products, services, etc.) to potential customers, as opposed to engaging them and building a global brand. Further, despite an Arabic speaking population of 350 million, only 3% of the global online content is in Arabic language, thus lowering the impact of such advertisements.

Despite the current situation, mobile advertising presents a great opportunity for brands that are able to get their mobile strategy right, and create content that is tailored to consumer needs. A report by marketing agency RBBi and Addictive Mobility, a Canada-based mobile advertising company, found that smartphone and tablet users in the GCC are six times more likely to “click through” to advertisers’ websites on their devices than their counterparts in the U.S., and >80% of these click-throughs were made via links embedded in online videos, while 3% came through advertising links on social media networks.

Leading experts opine that for MENA brands to leverage the above opportunity, mobile advertisements will have to move from irrelevant banners and pop-ups to carefully crafted ads that are in-line with the utility app that the consumer is using on his smartphone. To understand consumer preferences, brands will have to use consumer analytics and geo-location services, and create a different set of ads tailored to each target set. Further, mobile advertisements need to be short (20-30 seconds) and engaging in the form of a short video or a game, and should offer incentive to the user to click through.

With the mobile marketing spend in the region expected to rise from $50 million in 2013 to $340 million in 2017, brands that focus on the above aspects stand to benefit from the growth of the overall digital and mobile marketing market in MENA, as depicted by the case study below.

Case Study: Effective use of Mobile Advertising to Introduce the New Ford Explorer in Jordan 

Campaign Objectives:

  • Create brand awareness about Ford and it’s car models in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
  • Introduce the all new ford explorer along with its features in the local market.
  • Allow customers to contact the call center and visit the company’s showrooms in order to increase sales opportunities.

Duration: 3 week  | Mobile Marketing Agency: Ad Falcon


  • AdFalcon Team designed a rich media ad in order to show case the Ford Explorer and its features using the latest approaches in mobile advertisements.
  • The banners were served on top of premium mobile apps and sites in Jordan targeting smartphone users only.
  • Once the users click on the Ford banner, they were directed to a rich media page that allowed them to view images of the Ford Explorer (interior and exterior), watch a video that demonstrated the new features of the vehicle, and a Click to call action button that allows users to choose the nearest showroom and contact its call center.


  • The campaign was able to generate 1,000,000+ impressions for the new Ford Explorer during the 3 week period
  • The highest click-through-rate achieved during the campaign was 0.39%

Source: Ad Falcon

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Addressing Pilot Shortage: An Opportunity Area within fast growing Middle East Aviation Market

Addressing Pilot Shortage

  • The Middle East is outpacing the world in terms of international traffic growth, witnessing growth in demand and expansion of capacity at rates never seen in any other market.
  • Rising population with high disposable income; favourable geographic location; growing tourism sector; strong presence of expatriates who travel frequently to their native nations and an underdeveloped railway network are driving this aviation boom.
  • However, despite the strong growth in the air traffic as well as the fleet size, the lack of skilled aviation professionals is acting as roadblock in Middle East’s thriving aviation industry.
  • Though it seems to a big problem, it is a BIG opportunity for the players who can leverage it by pursuing aviation training centers/academies as a profitable business proposition.

The Middle East is the fastest growing aviation market across the world in terms of international traffic growth. According to IATA, in 2013, the growth in passenger traffic for airlines in the Middle East was 12.1% – more than double the global average and in both business and leisure travel. Between 2012 and 2032, air passenger traffic in the Middle East is expected to expand at a CAGR of 6.7% in terms of Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPK), while air cargo traffic is expected to grow at a 7.2% CAGR in terms of Freight Tonne Kilometers (FTK). To add to this, air passenger traffic on outbound routes from the Middle East is expected to outpace the traffic on traditional routes such as Europe – North America, Europe – Europe, and North America – North America over the coming two decades.

Expanding population base (especially of foreign nationals), urbanization, higher income levels, underdeveloped railway network and burgeoning numbers of tourists are driving the Middle East aviation sector. With a growing young population base, increasing propensity to travel and ongoing regional liberalization, regional traffic growth is acting as an important contributor to the Middle East’s expansion as long-haul routes are. Regional governments are prioritizing aviation, recognizing the industry as a catalyst for local development, diversification, delivering trade, tourism, and economic growth.

Aviation Traffic Growth – Middle East vs. World

Addressing Pilot Shortage2

Middle East Aviation Market Value = USD 550 Billion

Addressing Pilot Shortage1Source: Boeing.com

Long-term expansion is clearly visible as Middle East airlines are expected to receive delivery of 2,610 new passenger and cargo aircraft (worth $550 billion) over the span of next 20 years. Nearly 960 aircraft are on order, including more than 600 widebodies, accounting for 25% of the global backlog, or twice as many as on order in North America. Increasingly, the traditional hubs (London, Paris, Singapore) and their carriers (Lufthansa, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines) and their hubs are being superseded by Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi and their home carriers (Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways). If one looks at the rapidity of the shift, it has been breathtaking. In the past five years, London Heathrow, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam added a total of 11.7 million new passengers, growth of just 5%. In contrast, the three upstart Middle East hubs have added 35 million passengers, an increase of a whopping 60%.

However, despite the strong growth in the air traffic as well as the fleet size, the lack of skilled aviation professionals has been acting as a deterrent in the path of Middle East’s thriving aviation industry. According to industry experts, quality pilots will become an increasingly limited commodity over the coming years, driven by the rapid fleet growth of Gulf airlines. The region is facing an unusual situation where the jobs created by the aviation boom will not be able to fill up soon due to lack of skilled professionals. This is further aggravated by the fact that U.S. pilots staffed in the Middle East are heading back home to fill the positions left vacant by the retiring U.S. aircraft pilots. According to a recent report by Boeing, there will be a need of more than 37,000 pilots in the Middle East to fly the aircrafts due for delivery there over the next 20 years. But there is a serious lack of adequate training facilities.

Though it sounds as a big problem, it is a BIG opportunity for the small players who can leverage it and evaluate aviation training centers/academies as a profitable business proposition. Dedicated aviation academies are going to play an important role in solving the pilot shortage in the Middle East, and ensuring that people receive the training they need for being certified as skilled airline professionals. The existing training centers are struggling to keep up with the demand and point towards a market ready to welcome new entrants. Two training centers in the UAE have 1,300 full time and 500 part time student pilots and engineers. Another Jordan-based air school churns out 130 pilots a year and wants to increase the number to nearly 200 while expanding to a second training centre in Iran.

Airlines too are not behind and are starting pilot training centers to ensure an adequate supply of workforce for the aircrafts they have in their ordered delivery pipeline. Emirates Flight Academy is expected to address the need for 40,000 pilots in the Middle East over the coming two decades. Emirates Airlines operates a Pilot and National Cadet Pilot Program, and is planning to open a flight academy for pilots in 2015. The academy will be able to take up to 600 pilots and will be situated in Dubai. Air Arabia has already established a flight academy, which is up and running in Sharjah. A few weeks back, Etihad Airways announced that it is establishing the Etihad Flight College, a world-class flight training facility in the UAE for Emirati and international cadet pilots. Such steps by the players, in addition to solving the pilot crunch, will create more job opportunities for the local talent available in the region.

Among the aviation training institutes operating in the region, Emirates-CAE Flight Training is an outstanding example of a successful aviation joint-venture, as highlighted in the case study below.  

Case Study: Emirates-CAE Flight Training ­– 12 Successful Years of Imparting Aviation Training

Emirates-CAE Flight Training                                                  

Founded: 2002| Joint Venture: Emirates and CAE

Emirates-CAE Flight Training (ECFT) is jointly operated by Emirates and CAE, a global leader in modeling, simulation and training for civil aviation and defence. Located in the Emirates Aviation College campus, ECFT provides aviation-related courses for commercial and business carriers in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, and South America, aimed primarily at flight-deck crew and maintenance personnel.

Over the past 12 years, Emirates and CAE have consistently invested in the management and expansion of their joint venture. This has helped in growing the business substantially as well as earning ECFT its strong reputation as a centre of training excellence.

It was the first training facility of its kind in the Middle East that was approved by aviation authorities in Europe, the U.S. and the UAE. According to Camille Mariamo, Managing Director, commercial training and simulation, Middle East & India Region, “ECFT works in close collaboration with more than 20 different national aviation authorities to ensure that their specific requirements are fulfilled”.

Locations/Facilities: ECFT operates 2 training facilities in Dubai:

  • The original facility in Al Garhoud, Dubai has 14 training bays and is one of the largest pilot training facilities in the world. It caters to 200 aviation clients and trains more than 10,000 pilots and technicians a year on a range of Airbus, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Bombardier, Dassault, Gulfstream and Hawker Beechcraft aircraft types.
  • With the first center almost reaching full capacity, the Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) facility was opened in 2013. ECFT’s new 55,000 square foot facility already boasts of industry-leading Airbus and Boeing flight training simulators with breakthrough visual realism, cockpit replication and high-fidelity avionics simulation.


  • The original facility in Al Garhoud, Dubai, was the first training centre of its kind in the Middle East to be approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA).

CAE was unable to provide figures for its market share in the Middle East. “I can say we are the dominant player with a very strong leadership position,” according to Mariamo. As per CAT magazine’s 2011 civil full flight simulator census, CAE supplied all of the simulators in the UAE, including seven units for Emirates and three for Etihad.

Source: The Emirates Group

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Tips & Learnings from Successful MENA Entrepreneurs

Tips & Learnings from Successful MENA Entrepreneurs

  • Believe in yourself
  • Have a vision
  • Burn the boats
  • Know our business inside out
  • Think big (regional and global) and not small (domestic)
  • View competition as an enabler
  • Focus on creating a structure
  • Have the right mix of talent and attitude in your team
  • Be observant, have an open mind and continue reinventing yourself
  • Surround yourself with positive people, and block your ears to the naysayers

Middle East entrepreneurs, empowered by technology, are ready to take entrepreneurial challenges and improve their lives and society, by launching firms focused on bringing never-heard-of concepts to life. Over hundreds of start-ups make a beginning every year. However, do all of them have the ability and planning to survive or get past the 10 year mark? What is the learning’s from the ones who have been successful in doing so? It will become clear when we discuss the experience shared by some successful MENA entrepreneurs and experts.

Believe in yourself. People will follow you when they believe you and they do believe you when:

  • You believe in yourself.
  • They have to believe in your path.
  • They believe your approach, system, methodology.
  • They believe in your capability to execute the process, system, approach offered.
  • It is tough to re-define reality and hence, having a strong self-belief is the key.

Have a vision of what the market will be like in 5 years or 10 years. An entrepreneur needs to make others believe in their vision and thus, he needs to create that vision. Making a desire into reality is the job of an entrepreneur, not only to push himself to achieve greater heights, but also to make his followers believe in him.

Burn the Boats. The entrepreneur should not leave himself any option other than success. The aim should be to conquer or perish. While executing a project it becomes important to have a plan B; however, for the entrepreneurs, it is not advisable to have a plan B as all it does is hamper plan A. The key is to remain committed and dedicated to one line of action and doing away with all the disturbances. According to JC Butler of Dubizzle, a Dubai-based start-up that offers free classifieds on its web platform, “Rid your heart of ‘I will try my best’ until all that’s left is ‘I have decided’. If one has a deep belief in his vision, then failure is not an option.

Know your business inside out. You may or may not have university degrees but you need to understand your business in and out. It may require spending lot of time and significant investments in learning about your industry and the tricks of the trade. A few ways to understand the industry can be attending trade shows, hearing speakers and being ruthless in the quest of relevant information.

Think big (regional and global) and not small (domestic). The success stories of Middle East entrepreneurs suggest that they had a plan to expand to at least five countries. This has benefited entrepreneurs from the smaller countries such as Jordan and Lebanon who have achieved more success than entrepreneurs from Saudi Arabia. This suggests that not being over-dependent on the domestic market, however large it may be, is a key to success for MENA entrepreneurs.

View competition as an enabler. This is especially true if you plan to launch a venture in a niche market segment, as any competition will help grow the overall market, and will likely bring in more business for you than taking away. However, if the competitor is big firm that poses a real threat, then get flexible and nimble. In such cases, it always helps to have a great company culture, which becomes your brand and cannot be copied.

Focus on creating a structure. Business initiatives revolving around the intangible concepts need a structure to hold them together. The structure helps to add frameworks and tangibility to these ideas. For example, Pharmacy1 stores have same appearance and customer experience with things located in the same place in every store, irrespective of the size of the store. Hence, it is necessary to ensure a structure in all aspects of business, be it action plans, resources or roles. The structure also enables smooth transformations when required.

Have the right mix of talent and attitude in your team.  It is important to pick people who can be groomed as future leaders. According to Tahir Shah, the founder of Pop-up Pakistani street food concept Moti Roti “People make things happen, you cannot learn and do everything. Hence, it becomes imperative to begin with a team with the right talent across right areas”. It is seconded by many other successful entrepreneurs like Amjad Aryan of Pharmacy1 and JC Butler of Dubizzle who believe in hiring people smarter than themselves.

Be observant, have an open mind and continue reinventing yourself. It has been observed that after initial success in the business, the mind tends to get complacent and keeps reveling in the success. Here again, competition play its role in making you realize your position and the potential of the market you operate in. So, continue to reinvent yourself to stay in the game.

Surround yourself with positive people, blocking your ears to the naysayers. That’s the advice from Amjad Aryan, a businessman who wanted to start a pharmacy business when he was a 23-year-old Palestinian immigrant cleaning carpets in Chicago. There, he had a chance to experience the efficiency, expertise and product selection at CVS Pharmacies.

Case Study: Pharmacy-1 & Amjad Aryan’s goal of creating the CVS of the MENA region

While he was studying at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston, Amjad Aryan got a chance to do an internship at CVS. He joined there as a manger and became a store manager later. In 1997, he bought his first pharmacy, Roberts Drugstore in Miami, a large self-service store with a supermarket and cash machines. He renamed it as Pharmacy 1 and expanded with four new branches.

He sought to bring this concept to the Middle East, where he found out that the pharmacies were small family-run business characterized by a laid-back attitude towards service and an old-fashioned view of the retail pharmacy. After he had identified the need for quality pharmaceutical healthcare and customer service in the region, he also believed in its success. Using his savings, Amjad opened the first Pharmacy 1 in Amman in 2001. It has now the largest pharmacy chain with over 110 branches in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. This has created over 800 jobs and the chain is the largest recruiter of pharmacists in the region.

What has Amjad done?  He had adapted an already successful business model, adopted some of its best practices and customized it based on the regional requirements.

One of the biggest challenges faced was acquiring talent in the region. In order to address this, he started a pharmacy university internship program with a three-month simulated pharmacy at colleges. He also hired people better skilled than him. All his seven VP’s were specialized in their fields. These executives focus on their work, while Amjad looks after the expansion projects.

All the Pahrmacy1 outlets have the same appearance and customer experience. In the first couple of years, Amjad standardized customer care, prevented prescription errors and speed up product replenishment, which brought consistency. Today, Pharmacy1 is known for convenience, professionalism, expertise staff (result of extensive employee training), and excellent customer service.

However, Amjad does not seek to build a successful company only; rather he seeks to build CVS of the MENA region. Amjad’s belief in the power of “I can” and in giving second chances; makes him give time back to society, make difference by empowering youth and change mindsets to promote the potential and ability of youth in Jordan.

Source: Arab Business Review Research

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

How to Run an Effective LinkedIn Campaign

How to Run an Effective LinkedIn Campaign

  • Social media marketing is the new norm, and LinkedIn has emerged as one of the best business-to-business (B2B) marketing platforms worldwide. With over 10 million LinkedIn subscribers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), of which over 67% acknowledge that LinkedIn helps them build relationships and drive new business leads, it makes sense to use the platform for marketing campaigns in the region as well. Here are some tips and live examples for MENA marketers to consider to ensure that their campaign hits the bull’s eye.

Define the target customer segment for your product or service on LinkedIn. Keep in mind that your target segment on LinkedIn may not necessarily be end-consumers and may not necessarily match the identified segment as per your previous sales. For example, the largest customer segment for your computer peripherals business may be students, but on LinkedIn, the prospective segment may be small scale businesses looking for low-cost computer set up. Similarly, if you are a brand manager at a cosmetics company, most of your offline marketing campaigns would be directed towards individual female users but on LinkedIn, the target would probably be different, say professional make-up artists and beauty parlor chains, so the campaign has to be plotted around them and not the end users.

Build your target list and create a targeted campaign using LinkedIn PPC. Once you have identified the target segment or group, you can use LinkedIn PPC (pay per click) which offers filters according to job title, function, seniority etc. Use combinations that work for you and get the most relevant set of prospects. You can then profile these prospects to design an appropriate campaign. LinkedIn offers several unique PPC advertising opportunities – poll ads, social ads, ‘Join Group’ ads, and video ads.

LinkedIn banner ads can be customized for specific audience. So, if you are targeting employees of a particular company, they should see your ad designed specifically for their company when they log on to LinkedIn. Your ad can speak about solutions to their issues, resulting in higher click-through rate (CTR). LinkedIn recommends creating about three to fifteen ads per campaign with varying headlines, call-to-action phrases and images.

Monitor the performance of your campaign and improvise. Track your results by directing your PPC ads to a landing page instead of home page to gather data about the leads. It will help in improvising on your advertisement for better traction. Further, keep track of the success rate of each ad and withdraw the ones with lowest CTR.

Choose the right mode of payment to optimize cost. Cost per Click (CPC) campaigns are better for lead generation purposes, while Cost per Impression (CPM) campaigns are better for branding purpose. You can optimize campaign cost by choosing the right mode of payment, as a LinkedIn campaign has to be worth the cost involved to be effective. LinkedIn offers two payment methods viz. cost per click (CPC) and pay per 1,000 impressions (CPM). The CPM mode of payment may suit for a branding campaign to get as many people to see your campaign while the CPC mode may be apt for lead generation campaign.

LinkedIn suggests a bid range depending on budget and the competition for ads from similar campaigns. Ensure that you bid within the range. Analyze when your target audience will most likely be online and bid higher during that time or day to win over competing ads. It will require a bit of trial and error to achieve an optimum bid and budget.

Use the Lead Collection feature to gather list of interested customers. LinkedIn offers a feature called Lead Collection where it allows people to ask for more information or to be contacted by your company via a checkbox at the end of your advertisement. You will be notified by email of such leads and also be allowed to promptly respond via LinkedIn InMail. Note that you will not receive any contact details of the leads.

Businesses having a niche target audience can use Inmails to market their value proposition. If your target segment is small and specific, you can also connect with them via Linked Inmail. The feature allows for extremely targeted messages delivered to exactly the right person through personalization. In fact, LinkedIn offers a “guarantee” on these messages.

Revamp your LinkedIn profile page for an expected rise in visitors. Showcase your offerings on your LinkedIn profile page, and ask for recommendations from satisfied customers, like Hewlett-Packard whose “Products & Services” tab features over 3,000 recommendations for nineteen unique products and services. It makes for the most powerful form of endorsement, word-of-mouth marketing, as recommendations from your own connections are highlighted.

Use LinkedIn groups to create a community for your existing and prospective customers. LinkedIn’s “Custom Groups” premium option allows brands to control the entire group page, including sidebar ads, polls, videos, blog integration, and other custom media.  This space is usually reserved by LinkedIn to show ads that the group owner does not control. The option is quite expensive, so can be used for short spells along with an offline campaign to give an instant push.

The best example of successful application of this feature is Dell Business Solutions Exchange LinkedIn Group. With nearly 8,000 members, the group is full of Dell’s most valued prospects, with over half of them being in IT and computer industries and maximum are in decision making capacity. While the group added 50-100 members per week, there were durations when the group attracted unusual membership, which is, most likely because of a simultaneous marketing campaign- offline or on another social network.

Case Study: Vestas, a world leader in wind energy and infrastructure space, used its “Energy Transparency” campaign on LinkedIn to reach out to carbon conscious corporations about the benefits of investing directly in wind energy, and promote Vestas as their partner of choice.

As part of its growth and expansion strategy, Vestas wanted to run a campaign that raised awareness of the brand benefits for companies that use wind energy, and to reach out to key stakeholders in specific companies to drive consideration for wind energy and Vestas as a preferred partner. So, the company commissioned two studies, the Global Consumer Wind Study in partnership with TNS Gallup and the Corporate Renewable Energy Index in partnership with Bloomberg New Energy Finance, which found that that corporations are eager to source more renewable energy and also identified consumers that wanted products made with wind energy.

When the company decided to build a marketing campaign to target these customers, it felt that the conventional method of using the email campaign along with banner ads may not generate the continual effect, the kind they were expecting from the campaign. Therefore, armed with target audience and consumer preference research data, Vestas designed a LinkedIn campaign including:

  • LinkedIn Inmail- Personalized (regards to the recipient’s name and company name) InMail messages were sent to smaller set of prospects as compared to the overall campaign.  Each InMail had a link to a customized version of EnergyTransparency.com including company and industry information.
  • Customized banner ads: 400,000 employees of these corporations were targeted through banner ads placed in LinkedIn. In spite of standard ad used for each impression, the company created custom ads specifically featuring targeting company.
  • Custom Landing pages and microsites: It created custom landing pages and microsites with targeted content for each prospect. This allowed Vestas to deliver precise messages, offering real and specific insights to each prospect. It also allowed Vestas to capture accurate data on the interest level for the firms targeted and for the overall success of the campaign.
  • Adaptive design across platforms: Vestas used adaptive design to ensure an optimal experience for users receiving the campaign cross-devices including desktop, tablet and mobile.

Result: Vestas’ LinkedIn campaign was highly successful, as depicted by the results below.

  • 11 million impressions with a click-through rate (CTR) of 0.11 – 0.21% among targeted companies
  • 10,680 corporate executives, employees and key opinion leaders visited the site, averaging 7.02 minutes
  • High efficiency with minimal waste: 80% of targeted opinion leaders & 30% of targeted executives visited  the microsite spending an average of +8 minutes
Source: Arab Business Review Research, LinkedIn

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Apple Watch – Is the Time Up for Swiss Watch Brands?

Apple Watch – Is the Time Up for Swiss Watch Brands

  • Apple is all set to reinvent and significantly upend the digital watch market with its Apple Watch.
  • The Apple Watch, which will be closely tied-into the Apple ecosystem, and will also incorporate its latest healthcare and mobile payment offerings, seems ready to eat into the already limited market presence of existing smartwatch manufacturers like Samsung, Motorola and LG.
  • However, it also poses a threat to Swiss luxury watch manufacturers like Richemont & Swatch, which are adopting a wait-and-watch approach and hope not to witness another version of the something they woefully refer to as the “quartz crisis”. 

When Apple launches a new product, it does so with the intention to disrupt an entire industry, and Apple Watch will be no different (Tim Cook said earlier this year “Apple aims to be the best, not the first, with everything it makes”). Continuing its track record of innovation and disruption, Apple has launched its first wearable device – the “Apple Watch”, which is expected to be the new ‘game changing’ product in the wearable technology space. Just the way iPod crushed players in the MP3-player space, the iPhone became a game-changer for the smart phone industry, and the iPad created the tablet market, the Apple Watch is expected to disrupt the digital watch business.

The direct competition comes from existing smartwatch manufacturers, and the Apple Watch seems to have all the technological, design, and marketing components to beat the competition in the wearable technology market. With 70% of the smartphone market in developed nations being saturated, technology companies have been trying to diversify and create disruptive wearable technology (for example, Google Glass). Smartwatch is fast emerging as a hot product category, and most players have attempted to capture this market. Samsung, Motorola and LG have already launched smart watches, but they have received mixed reviews and moderate interest from consumers.

Latest reports from Forbes suggest that Microsoft is also planning launch a smartwatch within the next few weeks that will passively track a user’s heart rate and work across different mobile platforms. Google has unveiled its smart watch software named “Android Wear.” However, none of the existing smartwatches have been able to drive mass adoption so far, but Apple Watch is expected to change that trend.

The Three Versions of the Apple Watch 

Apple Watch – Is the Time Up for Swiss Watch Brands1Source:  Apple

Here are the key reasons why we believe that the Apple Watch is likely to be more successful than others who have thus far attempted to capture the wearable technology market:

  • Enabling new features/services: The Apple Watch offers several big features such as health monitoring and frictionless payments with Apple Pay. As the health and mobile payments industries are yet to embrace mobile internet; the Apple Watch is expected to have a significant impact on them.
  • Innovative third-party apps: App developers are already waiting to build third-party Apple Watch apps, offering a robust ecosystem of messaging, social networking, and real-time information applications. For instance, the Apple Watch will have numerous third-party apps, including a Starwood Hotels (HOT) app that would let the user unlock a door with their wrist.
  • Massive existing user base to tap into: Apple already has a huge install base of iPhones, iPads, and iPods. During last Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple boasted a total of 800 million shipments of iOS devices, thus offering Apple an outstanding customer base to sell its new products to.
  • Extension of the iPhone: Yes, we have seen watches that check pulse, play MP3s, and check emails; however these watches are not functional extensions of the world’s most powerful smart phone. As the Apple Watch will use iPhone (which has higher speed, memory, and performance than the PCs of a few years ago) for connectivity, this creates a great advantage for Apple Watch.
  • Innovation fits in an existing product category: Unlike Google Glass, the Apple Watch is an innovative product that’s socially acceptable to the general consumers and fits into an existing product category which consumers understand.

However, smartwatch manufacturers are not the only ones that face competition from the Apple Watch.  With Apple’s track record of driving product adoption and displacing existing market leaders, the Swiss watch industry is keeping its fingers crossed and hopes not to witness another version of the something which they woefully refer to as the “quartz crisis”. The quartz crisis of 1960s involved the entry of inexpensive quartz movement-based watches from Asia to compete with the expensive mechanical watches that previously dominated the market. With Apple Watch about to hit the market, the biggest worry for watch brands (both luxury and non-luxury ones) is that consumers might forgo buying one of their products for an Apple Watch, as people become comfortable with features of a smartwatch and start wearing traditional watches less and less.

Apple Watch is expected to have the largest impact on the medium-low range of the two major Swiss watch companies’ brands, according to research conducted by Bernstein. The Swiss watch market is dominated by the two brands: Richemont — that has brands such as Piaget, Alfred Dunhill, Montblanc and Jaeger-LeCoultre; and Swatch — which makes timepieces under the Breuget, Tissott and Rado labels. According to a Bernstein report, “They could be exposed to revenue and EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) losses of around 3% if 20% of the addressable market is taken by smartwatches, but Richemont’s high-end brands look immune from any negative impact.” Indeed, in terms of pricing, only 1% of Richemont watches brands overlap with the Apple Watch market as most of its brands are high-end ones. But, Swatch, which owns a number of high-end watch ranges as well as its lower-end namesake brands, could be exposed to revenue losses. Also, Richemont generates about 46% of its revenues from watch sales; while Swatch relies on 90% from watches with 23% being generated by lower-end designs – the segment currently being targeted by Apple.

Further, to drive adoption, technological expertise is being complemented with the right marketing and hiring strategy by Apple, and should be treated as another indicator of the competition that awaits the Swiss watch manufacturers. Since 2013, Apple has been hiring leaders from the fashion industry,  to position itself as a lifestyle brand, as opposed to being a technology brand only – the most significant one being Burberry’s CEO Angela Ahrendts’ entry as the SVP of Retail and Online Stores. Angela’s presence was felt in the design and launch of Apple Watch – with sizes for both men and women (42mm wide and 38mm wide) combined with a wide range of styles, Apple catered to the desires of watch lovers and the style-conscious consumers. Here is a list of all the positions at Apple that were filled by fashion industry top-shots since 2013:

Apple Watch – Is the Time Up for Swiss Watch Brands2Source: Complex.com

While it may be too early to spell doom for the Swiss watch manufacturers, one thing is for sure – these brands will have to innovate at a much faster pace to retain and grow their customer base. Developing their own smartwatch won’t be a bad idea either, because if Apple is successful in driving Apple Watch’s adoption, it will likely expand the market for luxury watches (apart from smartwatches) among young consumers, thereby creating a large addressable user base for the Swiss brands.

In the end, it will be a toss-up between companies that only have better products, but also have the right marketing strategy to attract and retain their customer base.

May the best watch win!

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Unemployment Paradox in the MENA Region

Unemployment Paradox in the MENA Region

  • High and increasing unemployment rates in the MENA region are a concern for governments and economy.
  • We have at our hands a peculiar situation where we lack employment opportunities, as well as a lack of qualified candidates who can meet specific job requirements
  • This article deals with the common employment paradoxes faced by employers in the region.

One of the challenges that face any economy is its unemployment percentage and the MENA region is not an exception; where these rates are not only high…But unfortunately increasing!

Unlike most people claims; unemployment is not mainly attributed to unavailability of employment opportunities, but surprisingly enough, employers are also facing the challenge of scarce caliber resources who can meet minimum requirements of a specific job. Companies need workers who can do their jobs perfectly or at least do the minimum requirements needed for the job to be productive; while employees are mainly focusing on job rewards.

Therefore there is a paradox between the 2 claims, one which states that the market does not have enough jobs and the other that claims that many jobs can’t find candidates to fill! Well actually both are true!

While investors are not investing enough (Development and Money), also workers are not working hard enough!

The following chart shows different unemployment rates across the global regions (2014-Q2):

Unemployment Paradox in the MENA Region1

Common Unemployment Paradoxes

A) Attitude vs. Skills:

  • Most employers are eager to realize positive performance results and therefore seek in their interviews to hire employees with “technical” experience with low focus on attitude and behavior; thus leaving a lot of “Inexperienced” or “fresh graduate” candidates unemployed. The more we have employers like these, the higher will be the salaries of experienced workers and the lower will be the chance for potential good calibers.
  • ​MNC expansions through the past 2 decades has dramatically influenced the general market trend for people development in 2 ways:
  • Exported good candidates who are seeking better packages (Especially Managers) to local companies.
  • They directly forced their competitors to provide people with better development path and financial packages to avoid high employee turn-over.
  • MNC invasion was not all so good also; some employees would just leave because they are perceived below expectations at their former companies where the performance bar is really high, while they know they can get a better salary and job title at another organization that is not so very much sophisticated! This was one of the reasons for salary bubbles raising the gap between different company ranks.

B) Able to Work vs. Willing to Work:

  • While some people can’t find a job, some others are not willing to work unless in very specific jobs or even unwilling to work at all!
  • Some insist on finding jobs in their specific education field, while others are not willing to work unless with a specific salary or a specific position.
  • The main issue is not the perception itself, but rather their willingness to improve their knowledge, skills and attitude… Some workers just don’t and won’t upgrade any of those three, but still are demanding specific jobs that can’t be matched by their current set of skills and will (Most probably) stay unemployed!

C) Gap between Education and Actual Required Market Experience

  • While employers are still valuing technical and functional skills, millions of fresh graduates are out in the market getting frustrated from the amount of job applications and interviews replied to negatively or even none replied to at all! I always face this question from frustrated young people “How can I have experience if nobody is willing to provide me with this experience without having prior experience?!”

D) Perceived vs. Actual Skills:

  • Another paradox that invaded the job market is how a candidate perceives the skills required to perform adequately in a given job. If an employee is given a negative feedback from his / her direct boss, most commonly they will seek another job where they are perceived as better candidates to fill the required positions

E) Low Caliber

  • It is very common that company X is looking for a senior manager and 100 people apply for the job, then the number reaches 10 candidates after the initial screening and then 2 at the final interview them 0 accepted, then company X looks for a specific senior manager to hire later by direct head hunting.

What we are facing currently is a multifaceted “unordinary” issue; therefore the solution also should be “unordinary”

Real change of: Perception – Attitude – Creative Solutions.

The article is written by Sherif Taha for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

BYOD in the Middle East

BYOD in the Middle East

  • The rise in IT spending is fueling the increased adoption of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture in the region, and given its inherent advantages for employees and employers, BYOD adoption is bound to grow further in the coming years.
  • However, BYOD adoption is accompanied by IT security risks arising out of lack of awareness about device security among employees. The situation is compounded by insufficient network resources and the lack of formal BYOD policies at organizations to manage security risks emanating from use of personal devices on official servers and networks.
  • CIOs in the region need to respond by preparing IT networks and formulating a BYOD policies, which are designed to manage this increased demand for BYOD and mobile diversity in the region.

An Employee Engagement Tool or an IT Threat?

  • Middle East is among the fastest growing IT markets in the world, with IT spending in the region expected to exceed $32 billion in 2014. As per the latest IT forecast by IDC, spending on IT products and services in the Middle East will increase 7.3% year on year and will cross $32 billion in 2014.  Nearly 75% of this expenditure is expected to come from individual customers, the public sector, and the communications and financial services verticals. The key growth driver will be public sector investments in improving government services, education, and healthcare services in the GCC region.
  • The rise in IT spending is fueling the increased adoption of the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture in the region, as the increased proliferation of smartphones and tablet PCs, as well as increased mobility of workforces is forcing a shift in the way that companies operate on a day-to-day basis. A survey by Aruba Networks found out that employers in the Middle East were more likely to say Yes to BYOD, as compared to companies in other parts of the world.  The study found that 70% of EMEA enterprises allowed some form access from personal devices, a figure backed by Cisco’s 2013 Middle East ICT Security which found that almost two-thirds of employees in the region are allowed to use their own devices to access the company server or network.

Percentage of Companies saying Yes to BYOD across Regions

BYOD in the Middle East1

 Source: Aruba Networks

  • Given its inherent advantages for employees and employers, BYOD adoption is bound to grow further in the coming years. BYOD allows workers to operate on devices that they are comfortable working on, and in some cases from a location of their choice (e.g. home), thus extending flexibility in working environment.  Therefore, the BYOD culture benefits employees and bossts their motivation and engagement levels.  But its benefits are not limited to employees are alone.  Employers too stand to benefit considerably. As per Cisco Consulting Services estimates, the annual cost benefits of BYOD range from $300 to $1,300 per employee, depending on the employee’s job role.  In addition, happier and motivated employees have higher productivity, and are more likely to focus on innovation rather than just dealing with daily chores at workplace, thus contributing to the overall growth of the organization.
  • However, BYOD adoption is accompanied by IT security risks arising out of lack of awareness about device security among employees. The use of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets is expected to grow over the next few years, as the region is expected to have 850 million mobile users by 2017.  And most of these devices will also be used by employees at workplace as BYOD adoption increases – this is corroborated by the Middle East ICT Security Study that found that nearly 64% employees are allowed to use their own devices to access the company server or network. However, 65% of employees their own devices in the workplace currently do not understand the security implications of using personal devices in the workplace, thereby exposing the company server or network to high degree of IT security risk.
  • The situation is compounded by insufficient network resources and the lack of formal BYOD policies at organizations to manage security risks emanating from use of personal devices on official servers and networks. As of 2013, only 55% companies in the Middle East have a plan or a formal policy to manage the use of personal devices for work related purposes.  As a result, cyber-criminals are increasingly attacking internet infrastructure rather than individual computers or devices, with password and credential theft, infiltrations, and breaching and stealing data.  Therefore, it is not surprising that businesses in the Middle East are facing a growing risk of cyber-attacks as per the 2014 IT Security Study in the Middle East.

As per the Aruba Networks survey, the IT security challenge is accompanied by  insufficient network resources to support the influx of multimedia-rich devices, as 35% organizations claimed that they did not have enough wireless coverage and capacity for supporting BYOD.

  • Overall, the key challenges and concerns highlighted by businesses considering or implementing BYOD in the region are:
    • Securely connecting devices (especially mobile) to corporate networks
    • Avoiding an increase in IT resources and expenses
    • Ensuring wireless coverage and capacity
    • Ensuring device security
    • Establishing corporate policies and acceptable uses
    • Enforcing access rights to resources based on user, device, and app
  • CIOs in the region need to respond by preparing IT networks and formulating a BYOD policies, which are designed to manage this increased demand for BYOD and mobile diversity in the region. As a first step, CIOs need to develop IT infrastructure that is capable of supporting a broad array of devices without overburdening their IT staff. With mobile devices leading the BYOD adoption, this would mean increased investment in wireless infrastructure in the coming years. The requisite IT infrastructure development needs to be complemented by developing and implementing organization-wide BYOD strategy and policy. To develop an effective policy, organizations need to define and understand factors such as which devices and operating systems to support, security requirements based on employee role and designation, the level of risk they are willing to tolerate, and employee privacy concerns.

The key characteristics of a good BYOD policy are:

  • Balances security requirement vs. employee experience and privacy. It is important to develop policies that have minimal impact on employee’s experience, while maintaining the required security levels. Equally important is defining and communicating the level of vigilance/monitoring that IT department plans to implement to monitor device usage. Given that BYOD is an employee-driven phenomenon, a policy that is too restrictive or invades user privacy might prove counter-intuitive to the whole concept (and related benefits) of BYOD. So mapping the security requirement based on employee role is critical.
  • Supports multiple devices and operating systems: It is important for CIOs to factor-in all types of platforms and operating systems used by employees. While iOS is a natural choice due to the high level of in-built security, Windows (phone, PC, tablets) and Android (phone, tablets) have also gained immense popularity and can no longer be overlooked.
  • Is flexible (semi-BYOD): for organizations that have high degree of data security risk (e.g. financial services firms), CIOs can opt for semi-BYOD policies which allow their employees to use their own devices so long as they comply to a list of company-approved devices, so that IT departments don’t have sleepless nights over what devices their networks might have to accommodate.
  • Most importantly, a good BYOD strategy is focused educating employees about BYOD policies and ensuring compliance to alleviate related risks. It is important for organizations to not just develop such policies, but also provide guidance on ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ and best practices on using personal devices for official purpose. Conducting company-wide roadshows and training/counselling sessions, followed-up by online tests around the company’s BYOD policies is another way to driving home the message of the company’s seriousness about such initiatives and IT security at the same time.

We believe designing and implementing BYOD policies is important not just for organizations that either adopted or are considering BYOD, but for others as well since BYOD adoption is a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ for businesses in the region.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review