Strategies in flux: AppsFlyer's Paul Wright explores mobile advertising dynamics

In this exclusive interview with Paul Wright, General Manager of Western Europe and MENAT at AppsFlyer, we delve into the intricacies of mobile advertising in the face of Google and Meta's dominance in Android non-gaming and remarketing. Wright advocates for diversifying ad campaigns beyond the top two giants, emphasizing the potential of other quality media sources. As we explore the role of Chinese media sources like Xiaomi, vivo, and oppo on a global scale, Wright highlights their strength in driving both volume and quality. Amid economic downturn challenges, changing media source rankings, and the evolving iOS ecosystem, Wright provides insights into building and maintaining strong client relationships through media diversification.“For marketers, selecting the best media partners is particularly important on iOS because of its high-quality audience. However, privacy-driven fragmentation in measurement has only created more uncertainty, increasing the need for accurate performance rankings for the platform,” he says.The conversation concludes by addressing the shifts in rankings for Android gaming and remarketing categories, emphasizing AppsFlyer's neutral stance in advising clients and the importance of actionable insights backed by data. Excerpts:With the dominance of Google and Meta in Android non-gaming and remarketing, how would you recommend diversifying and optimizing ad campaigns to achieve better results for AppsFlyer clients?While it's true that Google and Meta dominate the non-gaming and remarketing segments on Android, this shouldn’t mean marketers should rule out other quality media sources. As highlighted in our report, there are many others that can offer good ROI, so I would definitely recommend looking beyond just the top two. I would also advise expanding to other channels to drive mobile app growth. For example, this year we have seen Connected TV start to show promising results (although it should be noted that at this time, user acquisition and remarketing are not yet supported).How do you see the role of Chinese media sources like Xiaomi, vivo, and oppo in the global market, and how should AppsFlyer position itself to leverage their scaling abilities?At present, we can mainly see that their strength lies in driving scale (volume) as these devices are becoming increasingly popular worldwide, and especially in developing markets, thanks to their relative cost-effectiveness. This is evidenced in the fact that Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo are ranked 4th, 5th and 7th, respectively, globally in non-gaming. It is worth noting too that Xiaomi in particular shows great quality among life and culture apps in the Middle East as well, where it is ranked 3rd in the power ranking for this segment. So it isn’t just about volume, but also quality, as we see high power rankings for these media sources for life and culture apps in other regions like Southeast Asia and Latin America.For marketers, it's important to recognise that these media sources have high preload installs potential as apps can be preinstalled on these devices by the manufacturer. These installs are given the highest priority in attribution. This means that if a user engages with other campaigns before opening the app for the first time, the preload campaign is still awarded the attribution. In line with this, other engagements are regarded as assisted installs.Can you elaborate on the significance of Apple Search Ads functioning independently of SKAN and deterministically attributing users regardless of ATT consent? How might this impact the future landscape of mobile advertising attribution?This means that for users attributed to ASA, you have the full range of features and measurements provided by the lifetime value (LTV) attribution model — just like in present day Android, or pre iOS 14.5 iPhones. This media source has full data granularity giving it a significant edge over its competitors.How would you build and maintain strong relationships with key clients in light of the challenges posed by the economic downturn and changes in media source rankings?My advice to marketers is to prioritise media diversification. As the world continues to bounce back following bouts of economic uncertainty, marketers and media owners cannot afford to make the wrong decisions — especially when it comes to media source budget allocation. Only four of the top 20 media source players saw budget increases this year; costs of media continue to fluctuate; and channels like CTV are leading ecosystem players to quickly adapt and think outside of the box to reach consumers.For marketers, selecting the best media partners is particularly important on iOS because of its high-quality audience. However, privacy-driven fragmentation in measurement has only created more uncertainty, increasing the need for accurate performance rankings for the platform.Given the shift in rankings for Android gaming and remarketing categories, how would you collaborate with clients to tailor strategies that align with their specific goals and market dynamics?At AppsFlyer, we are agnostic to media sources and maintain a neutral stance when advising clients. Our expertise lies in empowering them to measure the impact of their campaigns and then backed by data, they are enabled to tailor their collateral and choice of network to maximise effectiveness and outcomes.Ultimately, marketers must recognise that whilst the index provides the industry with valuable insights and direction, this is only half the equation. AppsFlyer’s products and solutions are what enables these Performance Index insights to become actionable.Furthermore, as the players in the advertising landscape and ecosystem continue to shuffle and evolve, it highlights the need for advertisers to ensure they are working with mobile measurement partners (MMPs) who hold the broadest and most advanced integrations with these partners.AppsFlyer has been releasing the Performance Index since 2015. How would you ensure that the company stays ahead of industry trends and continues to innovate in the rapidly evolving mobile advertising landscape?We are committed to our customers and the industry which is why we expend significant efforts and resources in continuously monitoring the market and conducting and sharing highly informative research. This enables us to stay ahead of market dynamics. Combined with the fact that we are extremely receptive to customer feedback, this translates to a market-leading ability to evolve our solutions in line with the directions in which our industry is heading. We also collaborate with top media sources and industry leaders to maximize the value to our customers and help advance our industry as a whole.

Breaking ground: Ravi Gupta unveils Safexpay's GCC journey and aspirations

In an exclusive interview, Ravi Gupta, Founder and CEO of Safexpay, provides insights into the strategic decision to expand into the GCC region, with a particular focus on Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman. As the digital payments landscape in the GCC experiences robust growth, Gupta sheds light on Safexpay's commitment to offering tailored payment solutions, collaborating with key industry players, and investing significantly in the region. With an ambitious growth projection and innovative technologies like facial recognition-based payments, Safexpay aims to redefine the fintech landscape in the GCC and beyond. Excerpts:Can you elaborate on Safexpay's decision to expand into the GCC region, specifically targeting Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman?Safexpay's strategic decision to expand into the GCC region, specifically targeting Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman, stems from the robust growth observed in the digital payments sector within the region. With the digital payments market in the GCC poised to reach a total transaction value of US$106.30 billion in 2023, and an anticipated annual growth rate of 12.09% from 2023 to 2027, there is a burgeoning demand for comprehensive payment solutions. Notably, the digital commerce segment is projected to lead with a total transaction value of US$61.74 billion in 2023. This presents a significant opportunity for Safexpay to actively participate in the dynamic digital payments and fintech landscape, aligning with the region's governmental initiatives and the substantial drive towards digitization.How does Safexpay plan to tailor its payment solutions to meet the unique needs of businesses and consumers in the GCC countries?Safexpay stands out in the GCC market by specializing in tailored payment solutions, uniquely addressing the needs of businesses and consumers. While others focus on payments, Safexpay excels in solving fintech and banking challenges, offering customized platforms that align precisely with client needs. This commitment to customization positions Safexpay as a distinctive and valuable player in the market.Could you provide more details about the specific payment solutions Safexpay is offering in these GCC countries, such as White Labelled Payment aggregation and Facial Recognition-Based Payments?The White Label Payment Aggregation platform offered by Safexpay serves as a comprehensive portal with a consolidated dashboard. It encompasses various features, including multiple payment plugins, diverse payment modes, payment links, e-invoicing, analytics, and notifications. The platform is designed for advanced customization to cater to the specific needs of businesses in the GCC countries. In addition to the White Label Payment Aggregation, Safexpay introduces a Facial Recognition-Based Payments platform. This innovative solution is aligned with the global shift towards contactless payments. It enables seamless checkouts through facial recognition technology, ushering in a new era where users no longer need to remember passwords or carry physical cards. The emphasis on identity verification through facial recognition enhances security and convenience in the payment process.The partnerships with organisations like Magnati, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, and Dubai Chamber of Commerce are crucial for your expansion. How do these partnerships facilitate your operations in the GCC region?Partnerships with organizations like Magnati, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, and Dubai Chamber of Commerce play a pivotal role in Safexpay's expansion in the GCC region. The collaboration with Magnati, for instance, has already resulted in the successful implementation of the White Label Payment Aggregation platform and the delivery of an extensive suite of payment solutions with multiple value-added services.Safexpay's strategic approach involves fostering an ecosystem-led platform partnership methodology. By partnering with key players in the GCC region, the company aims to create a comprehensive ecosystem where Safexpay adds significant value and establishes strategic collaborations to deliver advanced payment and solution-based platforms. The focus is on core automation and digitization of existing processes, offering a range of solutions from payment services and digital merchant onboarding to cutting-edge technologies such as facial recognition-based payments and engagement in the metaverse. These partnerships are instrumental in positioning Safexpay as a key player in driving the automation and digitization agenda within the GCC business landscape.Safexpay is committing a significant investment of approximately 10 million USD in the GCC region. What are the key areas or initiatives that this investment will support?This investment will primarily support key initiatives in the areas of awareness, market expansion, and the establishment of dedicated sales and product teams within the GCC regions. Recognizing the importance of government support and collaboration with banks and fintechs, Safexpay aims to strengthen its position by actively contributing to the region's digitization journey. The investment underscores Safexpay's commitment to fostering growth and innovation in the digital payments and fintech landscape of the GCC.Your growth projection of 80-100% annually by 2025 is ambitious. What strategies and factors do you believe will contribute to achieving this growth in the GCC market?Safexpay's ambitious growth projection of 80-100% annually by 2025 is underpinned by a comprehensive three-pronged strategy. First and foremost, the company aims to build market awareness by showcasing the unique features of its white-label solutions, emphasizing their high level of customization. Secondly, Safexpay is committed to collaborating with key ecosystem players in the GCC region, forming strategic partnerships to deliver tailored solutions and fostering a demand for white-label market development. Lastly, Safexpay plans to facilitate market expansion across various sectors and regions. This involves not only offering its current suite of services but also expanding its range to meet the specific needs of diverse markets and sectors within the GCC region. This multifaceted approach positions Safexpay to effectively navigate the dynamic landscape and capitalize on emerging opportunities for growth.How do you see the contactless payment landscape evolving in the GCC region, and how is Safexpay positioning itself to be a key player in this space?We anticipate a significant evolution in the contactless payment landscape in the GCC region, driven by the imperative for secure and convenient solutions post-COVID. To position itself as a key player, Safexpay has introduced innovative technologies, including facial recognition-based payments and metaverse payments. These advancements cater to the growing demand for fast and secure contactless payment methods. We envision a future where facial recognition seamlessly extends beyond unlocking devices to simplify payment processes. The integration of metaverse payments reflects the company's commitment to pioneering novel and user-friendly solutions in the GCC's dynamic payment landscape.You mentioned a focus on on-boarding around 5000 merchants in the next 2-3 years. Can you share your strategy for merchant acquisition and how you plan to serve their unique needs in the GCC markets?Safexpay's strategy for merchant acquisition in the GCC markets centers around its role as a B2B2C player, specializing in tailored solutions for banks and fintechs. The company plans to extend similar customized solutions to multiple banks and fintech partners across the GCC, facilitating merchant onboarding through these entities. The focus is on providing solutions like Digital Merchant Onboarding with Value-Added Services (VAS) and Software as a Service (SAAS) to ensure a seamless onboarding experience. Safexpay has dedicated teams for merchant integration and support, aiming to streamline and enhance the onboarding process for merchants in the region.Safexpay aims to become the preferred payment service provider for customised fintech solutions. What sets Safexpay apart from competitors in the GCC market?What sets us apart includes our white-label and custom payment aggregation platform, seamlessly adaptable to any fintech or banking partner. Our offerings extend beyond payments, providing a comprehensive suite of services and solutions. With in-house development capabilities and a proven track record in India, we bring a wealth of experience to the GCC region. Moreover, Safexpay stands out by consolidating multiple partnerships, whether in payment modes, banking collaborations, or e-commerce plugins, into a unified portal, offering a streamlined and comprehensive view of services.The expansion plan in the GCC region is a significant step. Could you outline any plans for further expansion into neighboring markets after establishing a foothold in the GCC?Certainly, beyond the GCC region, Safexpay envisions expanding its footprint into neighboring markets. The company is keen on fostering partnerships for payment platforms and services in countries like Sri Lanka, recognizing the substantial scope for digitization. Leveraging India's expertise, Safexpay aims to contribute to the growth of its neighboring nations. The overarching goal is to be a catalyst for positive change, acting as an enabler for these nations to progress by leveraging Safexpay's advanced technological infrastructure.How does Safexpay intend to contribute to the fintech and techfin space by offering innovative solutions in the GCC region and beyond?Leveraging advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence for metaverse and facial recognition-based payments, coupled with data analytics, the company aims to introduce secure and streamlined financial solutions tailored to the unique needs of the GCC countries. These innovations not only enhance traditional financial services but also pave the way for financial inclusion, digital payments, and personalized banking experiences, including easier e-commerce checkout services. Safexpay envisions a future where individuals and businesses in the GCC region can seamlessly access, manage, and optimize their financial activities, contributing to the region's economic growth and technological advancement on a global scale.What challenges and opportunities do you foresee in the GCC market, and how is Safexpay prepared to address them?In the GCC market, we see a significant opportunity in customization, including platform adaptability and multilingual adoption. By offering features such as Arabic checkout pages and customizable templates, the company aims to collaborate with key players and turn these opportunities into success stories. Additionally, Safexpay views existing players in the GCC markets as a chance to identify and address unmet needs or underserved solutions, paving the way for further innovation and growth in the region. Through strategic partnerships and a focus on meeting specific market demands, Safexpay is well-positioned to navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities in the dynamic GCC landscape.

A voyage of vision and victory with Assiduus Global CEO Somdutta Singh

In this exclusive interview, Dr Somdutta Singh, CEO, Assiduus Global, shares her defining moments, the motivation behind becoming an angel investor, and the strategic maneuvers that led to a multi-million dollar exit at the age of 26. Delving into her investment philosophy, she unveils the personal aspects that guide her choices and offers valuable advice to aspiring angel investors. The discussion also sheds light on the patent-pending middleware developed by Assiduus and its profound impact on cross-border e-commerce distribution and supply chain. Singh reflects on the challenges faced in scaling Assiduus and the strategic measures taken to overcome them. She provides insights into Assiduus' remarkable journey, achieving over $300 million in revenue for Fortune 500 companies and SMEs across 20+ countries in 2022. Excerpts:Can you share the defining moments that led you to become an entrepreneur at such a young age?Born into a well-to-do family of doctors in Kolkata, I found inspiration from my father's friends who were marketing executives and businessmen. Witnessing their freedom and work-life balance contrasted sharply with my parents' demanding schedules, working for 36-48 hours at a stretch. Although expected to follow in my parents' medical footsteps, I chose otherwise early on, yearning for a life of choice, exploring the world and improved work-life balance. Determined to break tradition, I became the first entrepreneur in my family. During college, I took on various odd jobs to be financially independent, selling chocolates, distributing marketing flyers, and learning sewing. After completing my education in India, I pursued higher studies in the US, where I translated my experiences into my first venture: an ad-tech firm.In 2018, while scaling D2C private label brands in the US, I recognized the challenges of expanding cross borders. Understanding the uphill battle of selling online, I founded Assiduus Global to address the complex landscape of cross-border e-commerce.Guided by Swami Vivekananda's wisdom - "Take risks in your life. If you win, you can lead! If you lose, you can guide!" - I aspired not just to be a team member but a leader, pursuing my passion and bringing others along on my journey.What motivated you to become an angel investor, and how did you navigate your first multi-million dollar exit at 26?Angel investing, well not just for me, for any investor, I am sure, transcends mere financial gains; it embodies a commitment to giving back. The profound significance of this venture became palpable at the age of 26 when I encountered the reality of my first multi-million dollar exit. This achievement wasn't a business transaction that was separate; it epitomized the culmination of countless nights dedicated to analysing markets, navigating through mistakes, and absorbing invaluable lessons. Each setback became a stepping stone, setting the stage for future triumphs and enriching my journey as an investor and entrepreneur.What criteria do you consider when selecting startups to invest in, and how has your investment strategy evolved over the years?Selecting startups is deeply personal. I look for visionary leaders, innovative solutions, and the potential for genuine impact. Over the years, my investment strategy has evolved, shaped by a deeper understanding of market dynamics, a commitment to adaptability, and a passion for supporting socially responsible and sustainable ventures.Could you share a specific example of a successful investment and the key factors that contributed to its success?This one's tricky. All my investments hold a special place for me. Investments always involve spotting a startup with a unique vision, strong leadership, and a solution that filled a genuine market need. My journey has been marked by shared victories, strategic guidance, and a resilient team that faced challenges head-on, showcasing the transformative power of collaboration.What advice would you give to aspiring angel investors looking to build a successful portfolio?Build a diversified portfolio, stay informed about industry trends, cultivate a strong network, and don't shy away from calculated risks. Learn from failures, and be actively involved in the ventures you support.Can you elaborate on the patent-pending middleware developed by Assiduus and its impact on cross-border e-commerce distribution and supply chain?Assiduus Global Inc. is not just a business venture for me; it's a passion project. The patent-pending middleware is the result of a collective vision to revolutionize cross-border e-commerce. Seeing Fortune 500 corporations and international SMEs expand globally is not just a statistic; it's the tangible outcome of dedication, innovation, and a belief in transformative technology. Additionally, Assiduus Global Inc. also offers global shopify fulfillment services through their advanced end-to-end distribution and supply chain platform, powered by exclusive and patent-pending technology. In collaboration with an impressive portfolio of over 100 brands, they rank among the select few PAT-positive companies. Since its inception, the company has seen remarkable growth of over 2000% and has been ranked No. 8 in Deloitte's list of rapidly emerging tech-enabled enterprises.What challenges did you face in scaling Assiduus, and how did you overcome them?Scaling Assiduus posed funding challenges, particularly as a woman-founded business. Overcoming this hurdle involved strategic partnerships, effective fundraising efforts, and showcasing the company's potential.How did Assiduus achieve over $300 million in revenue for Fortune 500 companies and SMEs across 20+ countries in 2022?Crossing the $300-million revenue mark for Assiduus wasn't just a business milestone; it was the result of hard work from a very very resilient team, innovative technology, and a commitment to client success that's deeply personal. Our end-to-end distribution platform isn't just about transactions; it's about facilitating dreams on a global scale.With over 40 prestigious awards, which recognition holds the most personal significance for you, and why?The Champions of Change Award holds personal significance, acknowledging my commitment to social development in India. Other honours, such as being recognized among India's most influential women innovators and receiving the IEEE-UN Women Impact Entrepreneur Award, highlight the multifaceted impact of my work.

Houda Tohme on her 22-years at Havas Media: A journey of growth and innovation

Houda Tohme has had a remarkable 22-year career in media and marketing, with her journey at Havas Media Middle East beginning in 2006. Over the years, she has demonstrated unwavering dedication and passion in her field of expertise. Notably, she has played a pivotal role in the impressive growth of Havas Media, leading the planning team with pride. Throughout her career, she has worked with prestigious brands such as Chanel, Puig, Coty, and Kia.In 2019, Houda Tohme achieved the position of Managing Director and later assumed the role of CEO at Havas Media, marking more than 13 years of invaluable service with the group. As an integral member of the management team, she oversees the media operations across the region. Her leadership reinforces the agency's mission to bring people and brands together through meaningful connections.In this exclusive interview with Adgully Middle East, Houda Tohme, CEO of Havas Media, reflects on her journey with the company and sheds light on the significant progress made by women in the Middle East. Her rise from leading the planning team to the highest executive positions is a testament to her commitment and substantial contributions to the company's growth. Excerpts:Could you please describe your professional journey and share what or who inspired you to reach your current position?In 2002, my media journey started in Dubai as a media planner. Over the years, I've worked with diverse clients, ranging from FMCG giants to luxury brands. I began as a Media Manager at Havas with a team of no more than 10 people. I was able to play an active role in growing the agency into a team of 250+ professionals across five GCC markets, making us one of the top five agencies in the region.I am very fortunate to be part of an organization that doesn’t just recognize the dedication of its employees but actively nurtures their potential. This approach not only motivates the workforce but also demonstrates the agency's commitment to fostering individual growth and empowering each team member to achieve their utmost potential.In your role as CEO of Havas Media, what are your main responsibilities, and what can you tell us about your experience with the organization over the years?My priority has always been and will always be my team, the heart and soul of our organization. We take pride in our unique culture rooted in integrity, transparency, and collaboration. I lead a skilled team, many of whom have been with us for over a decade, seamlessly embodying our values. I focus on business development for growth and client retention, highlighted by the most recent successful partnerships like Nakheel, Aujan, and LG Electronics. And I also oversee refining our product, and ensuring it stays ahead of the curve across the region.What are your thoughts on women's empowerment in the Middle East, and how have you observed changes in this regard over the past decade?The region has made significant progress in promoting women's rights and opportunities for their advancement. The UAE serves as an exemplary model for women's empowerment for the entire Middle East. With a strong belief in the pivotal role of women in society, the UAE boasts a thriving community of women entrepreneurs who own thousands of businesses valued at AED60 billion1. Women in the UAE also occupy two-thirds of public sector positions, including 30% in senior leadership roles2, and an increasing number in ministerial roles.Remarkably, since 2018, Saudi Arabia has implemented substantial changes to champion the empowerment of women in the kingdom as part of the overarching societal reforms undertaken for vision 2030. Moreover, the percentage of Saudi adults actively participating in the economy has risen to 51.5%, with more than two million men and women now engaged in the private sector3. The first Arab woman to go on a space mission is a Saudi national, further highlighting KSA’s commitment to breaking new frontiers and advancing gender equality. These developments underscore the broader recognition of women's contributions throughout the Middle East and I believe we should all be proud of that.Being a media expert, what can you say about the new media marketing strategies adopted by Havas in the UAE?Our distinguished ‘village model’ is fundamentally client centric with creativity, innovation, and agility serving as the core pillars of our offering. This unique model allows us to offer tailored, flexible solutions based on our clients' ever-changing needs. It fosters an environment of collaboration and versatility, enabling us to bring together diverse talents and disciplines to solve a wide range of challenges for our clients. We are constantly evolving to stay at the forefront of the industry, embracing new solutions and approaches while staying true to our creative roots.Havas Media is recognized as one of the most successful communication companies. What distinguishes Havas Media from its competitors?At Havas Media, our reputation as a leading communications agency is rooted in an organizational culture that not only places our talented team at the core, but also creates an environment where individuals can truly thrive. This culture fosters a sense of innovation and collaboration, providing our passionate team the foundation and tools to thrive. It's this exceptional team, many of whom have been with us for over a decade, that serves as the cornerstone of our achievements.Furthermore, our forward-thinking approach ensures we stay ahead of the curve. We have a strong core product which is centered around building meaningful media experiences for consumers. In the recent years, we have expanded the breadth of our offer by bringing in new capabilities in commerce, content, and data. With our Havas market practice expanding into the Middle East, we're equipped to guide clients through the complexities and intricacies of the commerce ecosystem. We are actively enhancing our data offering and expanding our content pillar to anticipate and meet evolving client needs. This helps us create stickier and deeper relationships with our key partners.Can you provide details about a campaign that posed significant challenges but ultimately achieved great success?The Adidas Liquid Billboard campaign was an integral initiative that really stood out for us. This campaign is a testament to the power of collaboration, bringing together versatile talents across our village to solve a challenge facing the women of the region. We needed to go beyond conventional and create something truly ground-breaking. The outcome was the world’s first swimmable billboard, a bold and innovative concept that not only captured the attention of our target audience but also made a significant impact globally. It earned us, and the Middle East, one of only three Cannes Lion Grand Prix awards in the region's history while sparking discussions about body positivity and inclusivity in swimming.This campaign also demonstrated our passion about not just reaching audiences but also about creating meaningful and lasting difference to the people and the brands we work with.As an accomplished media professional, what advice would you offer to newcomers in the field on how to achieve success in their careers?In my journey as a media professional, I’ve learned that success in advertising and marketing goes beyond the perceived glamour and excitement of the industry. My foremost advice to those starting out is to ensure your career choice aligns with your interests and personal values. While it offers a dynamic and creative work environment, it is equally demanding and can be stressful.Pursuing a career merely for the sake of having a job can lead to demotivation and burnout. Therefore, it becomes important to carve a path that truly speaks to your passions and strengths, as motivation and a deep-seated commitment are crucial for navigating the demanding aspects of this industry and ultimately achieving success.What are your views about the statement ‘women can be better media experts as communication is their forte’?The notion that 'women can be better media experts because communication is their forte' is an interesting perspective, but it's important to approach such generalizations with caution. While it's true that many women excel in communication skills, attributing a specific skill set to an entire gender can be overly simplistic and overlooks the individual talents and capabilities of each person, regardless of gender. In my view, expertise in media and communication is not gender-specific but a result of individual talent, experience, and hard work. Both men and women can be equally skilled and effective in these roles. At Havas, we focus on harnessing the unique strengths and perspectives of each team member, fostering a diverse and inclusive environment where talent thrives, irrespective of gender.Where do you envision Houda Tohme in 2033? What goals or aspirations still linger on your professional bucket list, even with the numerous achievements you've attained?Looking ahead to 2033, I envision myself continuing to make a meaningful impact, not only in the media industry but in the broader advertising and marketing sector within our region. In an industry driven by human ingenuity and relationships, our actions hold the power to instigate subtle yet impactful changes. My aim is to cultivate environments that emphasize and prioritize collaboration, transparency, and ethics. I intend to actively participate in shaping a more positive and sustainable future, where human welfare is paramount.

Hailing a ride of success with Islam Abdul Karim of Yango

Yango, a tech platform, specializes in transformation of global technologies for local enrichment. By reshaping them into seamlessly integrated daily services, the brand connects world innovations with local communities to enhance daily experiences. Starting as a ride-hail service, the brand is growing at a tremendous pace, scaling and launching more services, and engaging with an increasingly larger number of audiences and markets.In an exclusive Interview with Adgully Middle East, Islam Abdul Karim, General Manager, Yango GCC, talks about Yango’s success as a ride-hail service, how the brand has grown tremendously in a year, and much more. Karim also shares Yango's partnership with Coca-Cola Arena, and its participation in the recent Gitex 2023.How has Yango adapted its ride-hailing service to meet the unique needs and preferences of customers in the UAE?To cater to the needs and preferences of UAE customers, Yango has tapped into the region's demographic shift, particularly with 60% of the population being under 25. Recognizing the appeal of ride-hailing services for younger audiences, Yango provides on-demand high-quality options at a good value for money that resonates with millennials and Gen Z, especially amidst changing petrol prices and a heightened focus on environmental concerns. Moreover, with services like the Kids class, Yango provides safe and specialized travel experiences for families, utilizing spacious cars available in Dubai such as the GMC, further attesting to our commitment to regional customization.Since transportation holds a substantial 24% share of global carbon emissions, Yango is also proactive in addressing sustainability goals, integrating EVs into their fleet in alignment with the UAE's vision for net-zero emissions by 2050. At the moment approximately 15% of our partners’ fleet is electric. This not only minimizes carbon emissions but also caters to the rising demand for eco-friendly transit solutions.Can you discuss any partnerships or collaborations Yango has entered into the region to enhance its service offerings?Yango is the official ride-hailing partner of Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena. We provide premium ride experiences for concert and event attendees. Yango app users receive a 20% discount on their first ride to or from the arena, ensuring a convenient and memorable experience.We also recently participated in GITEX 2023, where our primary focus was to highlight successful growth of ride-hailing service in the UAE and our further plans to expand within the country. Along with this we also announced the new global operations office in Dubai Internet City for the Yango company, including but not limited to Yango ride-hailing, Yango Delivery and Yango Tech services. It will open this year.What challenges has Yango faced in establishing its brand and operations in the UAE, and how have you overcome them?One challenge in the UAE has been the prevailing trend towards private car ownership. However, projections show a significant rise in ride-hailing users, expected to reach 3.25 million by 2027. With our unique features, we've been able to offer a more convenient, economical and sustainable solution.How does Yango ensure the safety of both drivers and passengers, especially in the context of this region?The UAE gives great importance to road safety, and Dubai’s Road & Transport Authority regularly updates traffic laws to be stricter. In line with the country’s vision for safe roads, we have various safety features in the app including reckless driving technology and Safety Center in the app where passengers can access the SOS button, share their route with friends and relatives, or contact the urgent team which is available 24/7. Additionally, we plan to introduce in Dubai new safety technologies like the speed monitoring and driving style monitoring system to enhance safety further. These advancements prioritize the safety, comfort, and overall experience of everyone who uses Yango.Are there any upcoming features or services that Yango plans to introduce specifically for the Middle East market, like the recent one as Kids Service Class?Yango, as a technology company, is continuously innovating and introducing new services and products tailored specifically for the region’s market. One of the most exciting is Yasmina, an advanced Arabic-speaking human-like AI smart assistant. This digital companion goes beyond basic functions to transform the user experience with tailored, intuitive support for the region. Yasmina's human-like conversational skills are powered by a proprietary language model fine-tuned with input from content professionals in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, and more, ensuring various dialect recognition.Sustainability is another area we're passionate about, especially given the UAE's ambitious vision. We're actively investing in enhancing systems that leverage the power of data analytics, AI, and Machine Learning to ensure optimal routing and reduce carbon emissions. The demand for EVs in the UAE is also on the rise, anticipated to increase by a CAGR of 30% leading up to 2028. We're exploring opportunities to integrate more EVs into our partner’s fleet aligning with the UAE's target to cut 40% of carbon emissions by 2030.Our presence in the region is expanding, with a new dedicated office space in Dubai Internet City slated to open by the end of 2023. This is part of our larger growth strategy, which also includes expansions in the UAE and even beyond the region, like Ethiopia.How does Yango ride-hailing service differentiate itself from other platforms operating in the region?Yango is a tech company dedicated to adapting global innovations into everyday services that enrich local communities. Operational in more than 20 countries, we have vast experience in transformation of technologies into daily services around the world and have tailored our services to the UAE market.As for our ride-hailing service, Yango stands out from others in the region through a combination of innovations and targeted service offerings at a good value for money. Our features, such as user-friendly apps, safety technologies integrated within the service, and partnership with Coca-Cola Arena, specifically address the challenges of the UAE clientele. We understand that we are not just providing a ride, but a tailored experience. This ensures we always stay ahead in providing unparalleled service.Can you share some stats or success stories that highlight Yango's growth in the UAE?We celebrated the one-year-anniversary of our operations in Dubai this September. We continue to experience 20% week-to-week growth at high season there and will expand to other emirates within the upcoming months.What is Yango's long-term vision for its operations in the Middle East, and how do you plan to achieve it?Vision of Yango ride-hailing service is to be at the forefront of smart urban mobility in the market and support urban connectivity goals. Our strategies include integrating state-of-the-art technologies, ensuring the high standards of safety, and exploring opportunities like incorporating electric vehicles (EVs), for example.

How TCL is revolutionizing home entertainment: An interview with Sunny Yang

In the rapidly evolving landscape of consumer electronics and home appliances, TCL has consistently stood at the forefront of innovation. In this interview with Adgully Middle East Sunny Yang, the General Manager of TCL MEA, sheds light on the latest groundbreaking products and strategies that propel TCL as a global leader. From cutting-edge TVs redefining home entertainment to a steadfast commitment to sustainability, TCL continues to shape the future of technology. Yang delves into the company's unique initiatives, partnerships, and customer-centric approach, offering insights into TCL's vision for growth, innovation, and market expansion in the Middle East and beyond. Excerpts:Can you share with us the latest innovations and product developments that TCL is currently working on in the consumer electronics and home appliances sectors? TCL continually strives to push the boundaries of innovation within the consumer electronics and home appliances sectors. Our most recent endeavour, the TCL C755 QD-Mini LED 4K TV, is a testament to our commitment to excellence. This cutting-edge product redefines picture quality with its incorporation of Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos technologies, coupled with an impressive 144Hz refresh rate. The result is an immersive IMAX-enhanced viewing experience that sets a new standard for home entertainment.In addition to the existing model's available sizes of 50, 55, 65, 75, and 85 inches, we are excited to introduce the grand 98-inch variant, expanding our range and offering our customers a wider array of options to choose from. At TCL, we take pride in our pursuit of innovation and are dedicated to enhancing the consumer electronics and home appliances landscape with the latest advancements in technology.TCL has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability. How is the company incorporating eco-friendly practices and technologies into its products and operations? TCL takes great pride in its commitment to sustainability and is dedicated to integrating eco-friendly practices and technologies into both its products and operations. Under the global banner of the #TCLGreen campaign, we are spearheading a transformative initiative to inspire greatness and foster a more environmentally conscious planet for all.The #TCLGreen initiative has received worldwide recognition, serving as a symbol of our steadfast dedication to sustainability within local and global communities. In pursuit of these sustainability goals, we offer a range of environmentally responsible products that include the TCL Mini LED C845, the TCL FreshIN Air Conditioner, the TCL Eco Fresh Refrigerator, and our TCL Front Load Washer, which excels in providing advanced hygiene care.At TCL, we are committed to making eco-conscious choices accessible to our customers and are continuously innovating to minimize our environmental footprint across all facets of our business operations.In a highly competitive market, what strategies does TCL employ to maintain its position as a global leader in consumer electronics and home appliances?In a fiercely competitive market, TCL employs a strategic approach that has positioned us as a global leader in consumer electronics and home appliances. One of our key distinctions is our unrivaled expertise in the realm of large-format displays, with TCL holding a prestigious position as the global leader in 98-inch TVs. This attests to our dominant presence in the realm of XL-sized displays, a testament to the quality and innovation synonymous with our brand.Furthermore, we are proud to hold the second-place position as a global TV brand, and our aspirations are set even higher; we are on a mission to swiftly ascend to the coveted No.1 spot. This ambition aligns with our unwavering commitment to delivering products that redefine quality and innovation, further solidifying our prominent status in the market.In the domain of home appliances, we offer a range of cutting-edge technologies that empower consumers to lead smarter and more eco-conscious lifestyles. Our product portfolio spans from refrigerators to air conditioners and washers, all designed with a focus on environmental sustainability and technological advancement. We are confident that as we effectively communicate our unique value propositions to consumers, they will increasingly recognize TCL as the most sought-after brand in the realm of consumer electronics, and this will serve to bolster our pursuit of the No.1 position.Ultimately, our goal is to kindle a sense of excellence in the everyday lives of our consumers through our exceptional products, cementing our position as a global leader in the consumer electronics and home appliances sectors.With the growth of smart home technology, how is TCL adapting to meet the evolving needs and preferences of consumers in this space?Amidst the burgeoning smart home technology landscape, TCL is strategically adapting to align with the ever-evolving needs and preferences of our consumers. Our approach is centered on the integration of WiFi-enabled functionality in our home comfort appliances, thereby ushering in a new realm of possibilities for enhancing the convenience and control of these devices.By harnessing the power of your smartphone, TCL's WiFi-enabled appliances grant you immediate access to advanced controls that are seamlessly at your fingertips. A simple download and connection of your device open the door to a transformative experience where TCL simplifies and enhances your home comfort in an effortless and convenient manner.Through this innovative adaptation, we are committed to delivering the utmost in smart home technology, empowering consumers to take control of their comfort and convenience with the ease of their smartphones.Could you elaborate on any recent partnerships or collaborations that TCL has embarked on to enhance its product offerings or expand its market reach?TCL has been actively pursuing partnerships and collaborations to bolster our product offerings and broaden our market reach. Notably, as a brand that is on a mission to inspire greatness, we have recognized the immense global appeal of sports as a platform for engagement and have made strategic investments in sponsorships to significantly augment our following.Leveraging our reputation for innovative product solutions, TCL presents an unparalleled proposition for sports enthusiasts. Our commitment to providing TVs with exceptional specifications ensures that consumers can enjoy an unbeatable sports viewing experience. These partnerships not only enrich our product ecosystem but also reinforce our presence in the market, catering to the diverse interests of our audience.Customer service and support are crucial in the consumer electronics industry. How does TCL ensure a positive customer experience, from product purchase to post-purchase service? We place paramount importance on delivering a positive customer experience, extending from the initial product purchase to post-purchase service. To achieve this, we have established a dedicated team of customer-facing professionals who undergo continuous training to remain well-informed and proficient in serving our digitally savvy consumers.Our service centres are staffed with highly experienced customer service and technical support experts who excel at simplifying intricate issues, ensuring that customers enjoy seamless and hassle-free experiences. We have created a multifaceted support network that includes various channels for communication, both online and offline, such as email correspondence. Additionally, our channel partners are instrumental in providing extensive support, further enhancing the overall customer service landscape. Our commitment is to ensure that each customer interaction is a testament to TCL's dedication to excellence in the realm of consumer electronics.The global supply chain landscape has faced challenges recently. How has TCL navigated these challenges and ensured a steady supply of its products to customers?TCL has been able to adeptly steer through the recent challenges in the global supply chain landscape, prioritizing the uninterrupted availability of our products to our valued customers. Our strong presence in the market has been instrumental in this regard.Even when faced with formidable hurdles, we remain resolute in our commitment to offering consumers top-of-the-line technology products, underpinned by our relentless pursuit of cutting-edge innovations. Our vision is to establish ourselves as the quintessential brand for premium quality in the industry and to showcase our high-end models, which we anticipate will garner substantial market penetration over time. Our dedication to ensuring a steady supply of our products reflects our deep-seated commitment to meeting the needs of our customers.Looking ahead, what are the key goals and initiatives that TCL has in store for the coming years in terms of growth, innovation, and market expansion?TCL has set forth a clear roadmap, encompassing pivotal goals and initiatives aimed at fostering growth, driving innovation, and expanding our market presence. Our pronounced focus centres on the dynamic Middle East region, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia serving as the flagship territories.One of our key initiatives involves the expansion of our retail network throughout the Middle East. We are making substantial investments in this expansion, underscoring our unwavering commitment to growing our footprint in this promising market. We hold great confidence that the year 2023 will mark the commencement of this transformative journey, propelling TCL towards new horizons of growth, innovation, and market expansion in the Middle East and beyond.How does TCL adapt its product offerings and marketing strategies to cater to the specific preferences and demands of consumers in the Middle East market?We tailor our product offerings and marketing strategies to align with the distinctive preferences and demands of consumers in the Middle East market. One of our strategic approaches involves the incorporation of sports marketing to bolster our global visibility, enhance recognition of our top-tier products, and stimulate sales.Through the astute utilization of sports marketing and the continuous enhancement of our integrated global marketing capabilities, we are solidifying our worldwide presence and reinforcing our brand recognition. This approach allows us to effectively resonate with the specific tastes and requirements of consumers in the Middle East, contributing to a more tailored and compelling consumer experience.

Alex Malouf: Leading communication and EV transformation in the ME

Alex Malouf, the Board Director at PRCA MENA and Executive Director of Corporate Communications at the region’s first electric vehicle brand, is a prominent figure in the communication and PR industry in the Middle East. Apart from serving as a Board Director at PRCA MENA, he holds the position of Executive Director of Corporate Communications at the region’s first electric vehicle brand. With two decades of experience in the Middle East, Alex has resided in various countries across the region, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and the United Arab Emirates. In this exclusive interview with Adgully Middle East, Alex Malouf offers insights into his journey, transitioning from a journalist to his current roles. He shares his passions and deep-rooted appreciation for the communications and PR industry. Furthermore, he delves into the Electric Vehicle sector of the Middle East and expresses his enthusiasm for this evolving industry. Excerpts from the interview:Could you share your professional journey and some of your notable achievements with our readers?I’ve been an analyst, a journalist, and I’ve worked in a number of communication agencies (some local, some global), and I then moved client-side. I’ve had the good fortune of working with some incredible people, teams, brands and organisations. I’ve also lived through some remarkable changes, such as the introduction of social media, the growth of influencers, and the rise of key issues such as sustainability. What I'm most proud of is helping organisations better understand and benefit from the potential of communications. I have also been dedicated to advocating for important societal issues, including the environment, gender equality, education, and learning.You've earned various recognitions, such as being named the first communications innovator in the MEA region by the Holmes Report and identified as a Rising Star and potential future Chief Communications & Marketing Officer by Provoke Media. How have you managed and successfully played all these roles in your career?I’ve always taken everything one step at a time, be it in terms of my learnings and education, my career path or my volunteering. I’m guided by a belief that communications can be a force for good when done well and ethically, and that we need to encourage more young talent to enter the industry. If you do good work, the accolades will follow.As a communications leader for the first Saudi Arabian vehicle brand, what can you tell us about your experience working with a new industry?Communication is always exhilarating, regardless of the industry. What's truly thrilling is being part of the initial stages of a once-in-a-lifetime transformation of society. There's a multitude of tasks at hand, including engaging with diverse audiences to generate enthusiasm for electric vehicles, demonstrating how smart mobility can enhance transportation safety, and discussing the pivotal role of technology in concepts like autonomous driving. Sustainability and eco-friendly transportation are also essential aspects to consider. Given the wealth of activities in this realm, we must carefully tailor our messages for various groups.How have you witnessed the evolution of the Public Relations industry over the years, and what positive changes have you observed?I’ve worked in the profession in the region for two decades, and it’s been great to see the maturing of the sector. When I started here, the focus was primarily on media relations. Now, there’s much more thought about a wider variety of stakeholders, including employees, community relations, government affairs and the like. We are also tackling bigger issues, such as sustainability and purpose. We still have much more to do to ensure that communications has a seat at the leadership table in every organisation, but we are getting there.Could you share some recent marketing and communications strategies that you have implemented? What changes can we anticipate in the vehicle industry as a result?With the rise of electric vehicles, we are witnessing the biggest change we have seen in the automotive sector for decades. What we have to do is get consumers excited about these changes, and make them want to be part of this change. There are challenges, such as the higher initial cost of EVs, a lack of charging infrastructure, the lost cost of petrol in the Gulf and the need for incentives and subsidies. I’m a convert, and I love my EV. I want others to feel the same, and that’s why communications is essential to making a convincing case for people to shift to EVs.What is your vision for the future of the vehicle industry in the Middle East?I want to see safer, smarter, more sustainable mobility across the Gulf. I think we can lead the transition to an electric future. Communications will play a major role in making the case for this change, and I’m excited about what we can do to get the region’s public excited about what EVs will mean for them, our cities and countries.

Trevor Kuna unveils QNET's path to e-commerce success

In this exclusive interview with Adgully Middle East, Trevor Kuna, Chief of Transformation and Reputation at QNET, delves into the company's innovative direct-selling business model, its response to the evolving e-commerce landscape, commitment to quality and sustainability, and future plans for enhancing well-being and enriching lifestyles. Trevor Kuna provides valuable insights into the strategies that have helped QNET thrive in the dynamic world of e-commerce and the emerging industry trends that shape its future. Excerpts from the interview:QNET is known for its unique direct-selling business model. Can you explain how this model benefits both your customers and your independent representatives and how it aligns with your company's mission?QNET is a prominent lifestyle and wellness company that uses a direct selling business model to offer a wide selection of exclusive products that enable individuals to embrace a healthier, more balanced, more empowered life. Our direct-selling model aligns with the company's mission of empowering individuals, fostering entrepreneurship, and improving lives. It provides a vibrant platform where customers enjoy outstanding service, access exclusive high-quality products, and receive continuous support. Independent representatives can set up their businesses with minimal startup costs, benefiting from flexible schedules and simplified workflows, ultimately achieving financial independence while being part of a supportive community. Over and above that, QNET offers transformational opportunities to IRs (Independent Representatives) through mentoring, thus honing skills in personal development, sales, and leadership, to name a few.In recent years, the e-commerce landscape has evolved significantly. How has QNET adapted to these changes, and what strategies are you implementing to stay at the forefront of the industry in the region?In response to the evolving e-commerce landscape, QNET has implemented several strategies to stay ahead in the industry. Among these, our award-winning QNET mobile app takes center stage, playing a pivotal role in enhancing the overall shopping experience for our valued customers and distributors, anytime, anywhere. We understand that in today's digital age, mobile accessibility is paramount, and the app has been designed with that in mind. It has a user-friendly interface, making it easier for individuals to browse and shop for their favorite products. The mobile app not only simplifies the purchasing process but also offers a range of features, such as personalised recommendations, to make the shopping journey more convenient and enjoyable.Additionally, our transition to a 100% cloud-based computing infrastructure is a transformative step for QNET. The significance of this move lies in the agility and scalability it offers to our operations. Cloud computing allows us to adapt swiftly to changing market conditions, enabling us to scale resources as needed and keep up with the ever-evolving demands of the e-commerce industry. It enhances our efficiency and ensures a more seamless experience for our distributors and customers. With the cloud-based approach, we can also better utilize data and analytics, enabling us to make informed decisions and deliver a more personalized experience to our users. This shift not only streamlines our operations but also future-proofs our IT infrastructure, ensuring that we can continue to innovate and meet the expectations of our target audience in a dynamic digital marketplace.While focusing on customer experience, we place a strong emphasis on security to safeguard the trust and data of our customers.In line with the evolving e-commerce landscape, we've also ventured into social commerce, harnessing the power of social media channels for direct sales. QNET has expanded its online presence to international markets, tailoring its websites to accommodate different languages and currencies.These comprehensive strategies collectively enable QNET to adapt to the changing e-commerce landscape, ensuring adaptability and industry leadership while maintaining the highest standards of security and customer satisfaction.QNET offers a wide range of products and services across various categories. How does the company ensure the quality and authenticity of these offerings, and what steps do you take to maintain customer trust?QNET prioritizes the quality and authenticity of its exclusive products and services through a comprehensive approach that encompasses rigorous certification processes and transparent sourcing. At QNET, we are very particular when it comes to vendors and suppliers we work with, ensuring that our choices align with our ethical business practices and advocacies.Sustainability and ethical business practices are increasingly important to consumers. Can you share how QNET incorporates sustainability into its business operations and product offerings?Sustainability and ethical business practices are core principles at QNET. The company integrates sustainability into its operations and product offerings through various initiatives.QNET offers eco-friendly products utilizing sustainable materials, focusing on minimizing waste and using recyclable or biodegradable materials.For instance, QNET’s luxury brand, Bernhard H. Mayer, QNET’s luxury watch and jewellery brand, released cruelty-free, vegan leather straps in its Lurve collection watches. Very recently, at our V-Convention in Malaysia, we launched the OMNI watch collection, an exclusive line of designer watches made from recycled materials, resulting in unique, eye-catching timepieces that make a bold and sustainable fashion statement. Each stunning watch in the OMNI collection, named for the Latin word meaning “all,” incorporates an industry-leading 85% recycled high-grade stainless steel in its case, dial, buckles, and metal bracelets. Every recycled component is LEED- certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a globally recognised standard of ecologically sound manufacturing and production.QNET also recognizes that responsible consumption goes beyond the product itself—it encompasses every aspect, including packaging. That's why QNET has embraced Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified packaging.QNET is committed to ethical sourcing, ensuring that raw materials come from suppliers adhering to fair labour practices and environmental regulations. Bernhard H. Mayer's "Timeless Tanzanite Collection" features exceptionally rare gems, and all of them have been ethically and sustainably mined, in addition to supporting employees’ livelihood and the local Tanzanian mining industry.Additionally, the company actively engages in green initiatives, such as tree-planting campaigns and waste-reduction efforts. Indeed, QNET's commitment to sustainability is further exemplified through the EcoMatcher programme, a groundbreaking initiative launched in the Philippines, Kenya, and the UAE. Through this programme and other NGO partnerships, QNET has planted over 10,000 trees, contributing to reforestation efforts and creating a positive environmental impact.The company also engages with local communities, supporting initiatives that promote sustainable living and economic growth. Lately, QNET partnered with “VeryNile,” an innovative initiative aiming to clean Egypt's Nile, particularly on Qursaya Island. The project involves removing plastic waste, increasing environmental awareness, and empowering local women. The collected waste is recycled and transformed by the women's island's residents into handmade crafts, offering economic opportunities for them.What are the major challenges and opportunities you see for QNET in the near future, and how is the company planning to address these challenges while capitalizing on the opportunities?Staying relevant in today's dynamic market is the foremost challenge for any company with a 25-year history. At our core, we center our efforts on continuous product innovation, the enhancement of our digital interfaces, and the provision of a world-class customer experience, both for our distributors and customers. We passionately believe that the companies that can capture the hearts and minds of today's consumers are the ones that will shape the future.However, amidst these challenges, we recognize significant opportunities in digital expansion, global market outreach, product diversification, eco-friendly initiatives, and harnessing the power of social media influence. To navigate these challenges and seize these opportunities, QNET is committed to forging strategic partnerships, investing in further development, elevating our customer service standards, ensuring meticulous regulatory compliance through meticulous planning, and prioritizing innovation. This comprehensive approach is designed to fortify our competitive position in the market and pave the way for our continued success.QNET's mission is to enhance the lives of its customers. Can you provide some insights into the company's future plans for product development and expansion, particularly in areas that promote well-being and an enriching lifestyle?QNET is proactively engaged in advancing health and wellness solutions, which includes both the development of new products and the improvement of our existing offerings. This initiative encompasses a focus on eco-friendly items and innovative technologies, all designed to enhance individual well-being.Furthermore, QNET is actively exploring opportunities in the realms of personal development, education, and experiential offerings, all aimed at fostering individual growth and personal fulfillment. Our commitment to these areas reflects our dedication to delivering holistic well-being to our customers.In our ongoing quest to transform the way we conduct business, we envision a future where our distributors can efficiently manage ten times the number of customers they do today with the help of a mobile app. Our goal is to minimize friction in the sales process, allowing our distributors to dedicate more time to nurturing deeper relationships with their customers. This vision aligns with our commitment to providing exceptional customer experiences.In addition, QNET is open to strategic collaborations with industry experts, with the aim of creating specialized products and services that further enhance our customers' overall well-being and lifestyle. These collaborations exemplify our dedication to continually expanding and enhancing our offerings.What are the latest trends in the industry?A range of exciting developments in the e-commerce landscape is on the horizon, and they are set to transform the industry. Augmented reality (AR) technology, for instance, is emerging as a significant trend. It's expected to become more widespread, revolutionizing the e-commerce experience by enabling virtual product trials and elevating customer interactions.Simultaneously, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is making its mark, powering chatbots and personalised recommendations that create tailored shopping journeys. The adoption of both AR and AI holds the potential to not only enhance customer service but also improve operational efficiency, ultimately driving profitability for e-commerce businesses.In addition to technological advancements, environmental concerns are increasingly influencing consumer choices. E-commerce companies that prioritize sustainability, from eco-friendly packaging to reducing carbon emissions, are likely to attract and retain environmentally conscious customers. The emphasis is on transparency and sustainability in product life cycles, with a growing shift towards regenerative practices, aiming to make a positive impact on the environment rather than merely being sustainable.Moreover, the preferences of younger consumers are evolving. They seek products that offer personal benefits, affordability, and the opportunity to make a social impact. The intersection of these factors is reshaping the e-commerce landscape.As industry evolves, trust is emerging as a fundamental currency. This trust extends to how customer data is handled, the integrity of supply chains, and the ability to offer products that genuinely make a difference in customers' lives. E-commerce businesses will need to prioritize and nurture trust as a cornerstone of their operations to succeed in this changing landscape.To simplify our relationship with distributors and reduce friction in the sales process, we aim to use AI to optimize distributors' time management, enabling them to promote products and build their sales teams more effectively. This commitment to streamlining operations aligns with our broader strategy of embracing technological advancements and addressing evolving consumer expectations.

Passion to success: A chat with ISHRAQ Communications founder Osama Tinbakji

Established in 2020, ISHRAQ Communications is a boutique communications agency based in Dubai specializing in PR service with a strong experience in creating a positive connection between the client and the public. With its aims to define the real concept of public relations by creating impactful campaigns that deliver guaranteed results, this agency has been making great strides in the PR industry.In an exclusive Interview with Adgully Middle East, Osama Tinbakji, Founder of ISHRAQ Communications, shares the importance of PR in today’s fast-paced business world. He also describes his successful journey from working at PR Houses to running a PR and communication agency. He also talks about his long clientele list and appreciation he has received so far. A few excerpts:Please share your professional journey with us.Throughout my professional journey, I have consistently immersed myself in the dynamic fields of Public Relations and marketing. From the onset of my career, I have been actively engaged in leveraging my expertise and skills to excel in these domains, as I had been handling the PR and marketing for a furnished serviced apartments’ hotel, shipping company, and curtains manufacturing company in Damascus-Syria before I decided to leave Syria and start my journey in UAE in 2009.My proficiency in developing comprehensive Public Relations strategies and delivering captivating content for PR and marketing initiatives has facilitated my work with IHG, a renowned chain of luxury 5-star hotels. During my work with IHG I was keen to secure the utmost exposure to the hotels and the golf club through very successful campaigns and building the best relations with all types of media in GCC and the MENA region. Afterwards I worked with three public relations agencies, where I gained extensive experience in PR and communications covering all of the sectors including government, corporate, advanced technologies, IT, tourism and hospitality, and diplomatic accounts in Abudhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, and Ras Al Khaimah.Then I found myself capable of starting my own business and launched Ishraq Communications LLC as a boutique communications consultancy in Dubai specializing in PR and social media services aiming to create a positive connection between the client and the public, as I believe in the importance of consistent communications approach for all entities and sectors in order to maintain reliable public relations with the communities based on a clear, creative, and effective strategic plans.What inspired you to start ISHRAQ Communications? What does it mean in Arabic?ISHRAQ in Arabic means the sunrise or the emergence of brilliant ideas. As Yakov Zel’dovich said: “Without publicity there is no prosperity”, and as Bill Gates said: “If I was down to the last dollar of my marketing budget I’d spend it on PR!”The importance of public relations lies in doing multiple tasks of building and maintaining reputation, effective communication, relationship building, crisis management, media relations, influencer engagement, managing public perception, supporting marketing efforts, stakeholder engagement, and enhancing organisational growth.Based on my passion for PR and communications and my belief in this field I decided to launch my own consultancy benefiting from my solid experience and taking inspiration from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai who says: “We all take risks in life, but the greatest danger is not to take risks at all”, “When you do what you like, you won’t feel like you are doing work.”How is the organisation faring in the Middle East? What sets ISHRAQ apart from its competitors?With the grace of the Almighty, everything has been going well at ISHRAQ Communications since I launched the consultancy. We have a strong presence in GCC and the Middle East; we have been taking clients on retainer and projects basis to provide the PR and social media services mostly in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Our tailored and holistic approach to PR ensures that our clients are involved at every step of the way. Through our expertise and in-depth knowledge of the domestic and regional PR, we offer our clients top-quality, innovative and integrated communications solutions.We believe that PR is the art of shaping business prospects into stories that journalists demand. At Ishraq Communications we make effective use of both traditional media platforms and the digital channels to build strategic relationships with the key media on behalf of the clients to set up interviews, distribute press releases, opinion pieces and editorials and to organise press events. I am proud of our team who can produce high-quality Arabic and English content for all PR tools and social media materials. We are the journalists’ favorite agency when it comes to professional Arabic and English content writing for their articles and stories. We strive to build the best relations with all media channels and platforms in the region so they reach to us for our clients input to add in their articles and they welcome us when we contact them to pitch for new releases.We work in vast array of sectors with focus on government sectors, tourism boards, hospitality companies, IT and technology, real estate, retails, architecture and development management services companies, art galleries, events and exhibitions, and media research groups.What can you say about your major clients? What strategies have you adopted in the last couple of years?We are proud to work with reputed companies in the region; MDMS in Saudi Arabia has chosen us as their preferred PR agency, and SRMG has appointed us to handle their media relations in the region. We are also proud of our strong relation with Brill Collective as we have achieved successful PR projects together. We also handle PR projects for the largest hotels and resorts chain companies in the world, and we also manage the PR and social media mandate for largest events and art galleries in the UAE.Our primary work strategy is centered on delivering exceptional service to all our clients, irrespective of the budget they allocate. Unlike prevalent practices in the market, we do not prioritize accumulating a large client base only to neglect their needs and compromise on service quality. Our commitment lies in providing consistent, high-quality service to each and every client we serve.Share some unforgettable professional experience that brought you lot of gratification.Throughout my professional career, I have consistently striven to deliver exceptional results to the client. While the breadth of my accomplishments would require numerous pages to fully articulate, I can highlight a few notable achievements.One such achievement was the recognition I received from His Excellency, the former Irish ambassador to the UAE, Mr. Aidan Cronin. He praised the efforts I put in to ensure that the Irish pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai received the highest level of exposure and effectively showcased its activities. This recognition is a testament to my dedication and expertise in delivering outstanding outcomes.I am also immensely proud of the media coverage and strategic opportunities, I secured for esteemed organisations such as IHG, Aldar Retails, Tourism Ireland, Rotana Hotels and Resorts, Soneva Resorts, Ascott Hotels. By leveraging my skills and industry knowledge, I effectively positioned these companies to maximize their visibility and capitalize on promising prospects.Furthermore, I am honoured to acknowledge the recent recognition bestowed upon Ishraq Communications by SRMG, the largest integrated media group in the MENA region. This recognition was in appreciation of the exceptional exposure we achieved for their newly launched channels and media platforms.These accomplishments are just a glimpse into the extensive track record of success I have cultivated throughout my career.Any advice to young PR personnel with the zest to make it big!My advice for young PR professionals is to approach the market with a professional attitude. It is crucial to establish strong relationships with the media based on honesty and respect. To gain experience, I recommend working with clients from various sectors. This will provide exposure to a wide range of campaigns and projects, allowing them to build a diverse portfolio of experience and strategic plans. Additionally, it is important for PR personnel to practice writing about different fields. This will enhance their content-creation abilities, which play a vital role in public relations and communications.Effective communication is essential, whether it is with colleagues or clients. Without proper internal communication, it is impossible to deliver the best communication services. Furthermore, I advise adhering to the highest work ethics and avoiding toxic work environments characterized by cliques, gossip, and harmful conspiracies.

From one client to a global force: Journey of Mad Influence with Gautam Madhavan

Gautam Madhavan, a 26-year-old entrepreneur, leads Mad Influence, a highly successful full-service digital marketing agency. The agency had humble beginnings in 2018 with just one client, but it has rapidly grown since then. Today, Mad Influence manages twelve to fourteen campaigns daily. Their early adoption of influencer marketing has propelled them to prominence in this global trend.In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Gautam Madhavan, CEO & Founder of Mad Influence, sheds light on the company's comprehensive scope of work.While emphasizing that Mad Influence is indeed an influencer management agency, he emphasizes that their services encompass more than just connecting content creators with brands. The company also specializes in digital marketing, social media management, content creation, and offers consulting services for businesses. Additionally, Madhavan discusses the rationale behind expanding Mad Influence to the Middle East and shares insights into the company's future aspirations for the region. Here are some excerpts from the interview:Can you please share your entrepreneurial journey?My journey in the world of entrepreneurship has been quite a dynamic and exciting one. I founded Mad Influence with a vision to revolutionize influencer marketing. It all started with a passion for connecting people and brands through the power of social media. Over the years, I've learned to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape of digital marketing and influencer collaborations. From humble beginnings, we've now grown into an international player in the industry.What inspired you to launch ‘Mad Influence’ and ‘Mad Studio’ at such a young age?The inspiration behind launching Mad Influence and Mad Studio at a relatively young age came from recognizing the immense potential and impact of influencer marketing. I saw the power that influencers held in shaping consumer behavior and driving brand engagement. Mad Influence was born out of the desire to create a platform that could bridge the gap between influencers and brands, making it accessible to a global audience. Mad Studio, on the other hand, was established to provide creators with a space to unleash their creative potential. Youth often bring fresh perspectives and a willingness to take risks, which can be advantageous in the digital landscape.The trend of social influencers has significantly risen in the past few years. How do you measure its success?The success of the influencer marketing trend can be measured in various ways. One key indicator is the engagement and reach of influencer campaigns. We closely monitor metrics like likes, shares, comments, and click-through rates to evaluate the impact of influencer content. Additionally, the conversion rates and sales generated through influencer collaborations are vital performance indicators. As the industry evolves, we also consider the authenticity and relatability of influencers as key factors in success. Ultimately, it's about the value that influencer marketing brings to both brands and influencers in terms of increased brand awareness, customer trust, and revenue.How do you connect Brands with Influencers? Do brands look for a certain Influencer for their campaigns?Connecting brands with influencers is at the core of what we do. We offer a marketplace platform where influencers and brands can register and connect. Brands often have specific criteria for the influencers they want to collaborate with, such as audience demographics, niche relevance, and engagement rates. Our platform allows brands to search and filter influencers based on these criteria. Alternatively, influencers can also apply for campaigns that match their expertise and audience. We believe in facilitating a seamless and mutually beneficial partnership between brands and influencers, ensuring that the right fit is made for each campaign.Mad Influence has recently forayed into the Middle East? What made you do so?The Middle East presented an exciting opportunity for Mad Influence due to several reasons. First, the region is witnessing significant growth in influencer marketing, with a diverse and engaged audience. Second, Dubai, in particular, is a multicultural hub with a large number of expats, making it an ideal place for pilot projects and micro-influencer campaigns to target specific audiences. Lastly, Dubai's strategic location allows us to work with various time zones, which is crucial for managing global influencer marketing campaigns effectively. These factors made the Middle East an attractive market for our expansion.What can you say about the influencer marketing platforms of the Middle East? What can you predict about it?The influencer marketing platform in the Middle East is rapidly evolving and holds immense potential. We anticipate that it will continue to grow, driven by the region's diverse and digitally active population. As influencer marketing becomes more mainstream, we can expect to see innovative campaigns and partnerships emerging from the Middle East. This region has the opportunity to become a global hub for influencer marketing, and we aim to be at the forefront of this growth.Have you formed alliances with social influencers or brands in the UAE?Yes, we've formed valuable alliances with both social influencers and brands in the UAE. We've had the privilege of collaborating with some well-known names in the region, including influencers and celebrities. We've also partnered with brands in various industries, including real estate, tourism, FMCG, lifestyle, and consumer products, to execute influencer marketing campaigns that have proven to be highly successful. These alliances have not only allowed us to expand our network but have also enabled us to create impactful campaigns that resonate with the local audience.Mad Influence has collaborated with and offers advice to the biggest companies on social media channels including YouTube, Meta, Sharechat, Moj, MX Takatak etc. Will this be in the MENA region as well?Absolutely, our expertise in collaborating with major social media channels and offering advice will extend to the MENA region. We believe in leveraging the full spectrum of social media platforms to create comprehensive and effective influencer marketing strategies. The Middle East presents unique opportunities, and we will continue to work closely with brands and influencers to utilize platforms like YouTube, Meta, Sharechat, Moj, and MX Takatak to drive successful campaigns in the region.What will be your strategies for making Mad Influence successful in the MENA region?Our strategies for success in the MENA region will revolve around understanding the local culture, consumer behavior, and the influencer landscape. We aim to establish strong partnerships with regional influencers and brands, ensuring that we offer tailored solutions to meet their specific needs. Additionally, we'll continue to invest in technology and data analytics to provide insights and performance metrics that will drive successful influencer marketing campaigns. Our goal is to become the go-to platform for influencer marketing in the Middle East and make Dubai a global hub for this rapidly growing industry.

Idrees makes Dubai go blue with ‘Changing Tree’

Founded in 2015, Changing Tree, a creative and tech company based in Bangalore, has gained recognition for its expertise in harmoniously merging creativity and technology, often referred to as the CT Effect. The company has recently taken a significant step in its growth journey by establishing an office in Dubai, expanding its presence to the Middle East. In a conversation with Adgully, Idrees, the Founder and CEO of Changing Tree, sheds light on why Dubai serves as the ideal location for their expansion and introduces their new "blue campaign." Excerpts:Please share your entrepreneurial journey with us? What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?My entrepreneurial journey has been a thrilling adventure, filled with uncharted territories, experiences, and lessons. What inspired me to become an entrepreneur was the belief in thinking differently and recognizing untapped opportunities. I began this journey by identifying a market gap and realizing that the fusion of creativity and technology could address brand challenges. This realization led to the birth of Changing Tree. I've always held a deep conviction in the power of execution. It's not just about having knowledge; the real power lies in implementing that knowledge. Becoming an entrepreneur, for me, was about following my passion, pursuing what I loved, and making a meaningful impact in the world.Changing Tree is quite a unique name. What is the motto behind naming it so?"Changing Tree" is not just a name; it's a promise. Picture a tree, with one side barren and the other lush. The barren side represents businesses stuck in old ways, but the green side signifies the potential they can achieve with a little help. "C" in Changing stands for Creativity, breathing life into ideas, and "T" is for Technology, providing the tools to soar. Therefore, just like that tree, with creativity and technology, businesses can change and grow.You have recently ventured into the Middle East by opening an office in Dubai. What made you take the brand overseas to Dubai?Our vision is to have a global footprint, allowing businesses across the world, regardless of their size, to benefit from the CT Effect (creativity and technology). Dubai, with its reputation as a hub of innovation and forward-thinking, serves as the perfect getaway. Its strategic location, connecting the East and West, aligns seamlessly with our mission. Choosing Dubai as our first step toward global expansion was an instinctive decision, introducing the CT Effect to a region ready for transformative changeThe Middle East, as we know, is the hub for creative and tech companies. What, according to you, sets Changing Tree apart from the competition?Absolutely, the Middle East is indeed a hub for creative and tech companies. However, what sets Changing Tree apart is that we're not solely a creative or a tech company. We are a distinctive blend of both, where creativity and technology converge to craft innovative solutions for our clients. This unique combination is at the heart of what differentiates us from the competition.What are the marketing and creative strategies adopted by the organisation to win the Dubai market?Our approach to conquering the Dubai market was marked by a meticulously designed three-phase campaign filled with suspense and intrigue. The culmination of this campaign was an impactful reveal where we introduced Changing Tree as the driving force behind Dubai turning blue. Beyond this, we actively participated in networking events and established a strategic digital partnership with the prestigious Icon Awards in Dubai. Leveraging our established reputation and recognized work in India, we've paved the way for our success in Dubai, cultivating valuable referrals and trust in the market.Your new ad campaign is brilliantly shot. What is the significance of the color blue in it?Thank you for noticing our campaign. The colour blue holds special significance for us as it represents our brand. It signifies the fresh and innovative approach that Changing Tree is introducing to the Dubai market. Blue is our way of making a statement about the change and energy we bring with us.

Can Generation X marketers thrive in the age of AI?

Having been a part of the marketing industry for the past 25 years, I've witnessed numerous revolutionary changes. We often joke about the days when we relied on faxes and floppy disks ( to share information.When I began my career, it was difficult to imagine, and I'm certain none of us could have predicted how much the industry would evolve. And yet, here we are. AI is revolutionizing marketing and advertising practices by leveraging AI-driven analytics, personalization, content automation, and programmatic advertising to enhance the customer experience, ultimately driving business growth.When I talk with colleagues from my generation (X) who embarked on their careers around the same time as me, I sense a fear and concern about keeping up and adapting to this new era. However, as someone who always maintains a positive outlook and sees the glass as half full, I firmly believe that with the right mindset and a willingness to learn, not only can we keep pace with the evolution, but we can also leverage AI to our advantage, drawing upon our years of experience and expertise.Understanding the power and workings of AI is crucial if we want to continue navigating the marketing industry effectively.Embracing a more data-driven approach is essential, enabling us to make informed decisions. Although this is not entirely new—analyzing data and gaining insights has always been a part of our work—now we have more intelligent tools to aid us in these endeavours.Instead of viewing AI as a threat to our expertise, we should perceive it as a powerful tool that augments our capabilities. Embracing new technologies will enhance productivity and provide us with more time to focus on strategic thinking.I'm certain you'll agree with me that those of us who have chosen to be a part of this industry are constantly challenged and have always had inquisitive minds. Therefore, acquiring new skills and adapting to changes won't be a daunting task. We understand that continuous learning and upskilling are crucial for staying ahead in the ever-evolving marketing ecosystem.While AI can support and amplify our efforts in creating meaningful and impactful campaigns, it's important to remember that genuine human connection and emotional intelligence will always remain key in our industry. Throughout the years, we've gained tremendous knowledge by studying and analyzing customer behavior. AI can assist us in magnifying these efforts.It's worth noting that what works today may not work tomorrow. Hence, embracing a mindset of experimentation and agility is critical. AI equips us with the necessary tools and platforms for constant experimentation, enabling us to make strategic decisions more quickly.In a way, I believe we are privileged to have started our careers many years ago. We've witnessed groundbreaking changes and now have the opportunity to combine our expertise with the capabilities of AI. Rather than feeling fear and insecurity, let us embrace this new era as valuable contributors.(Asterios Chalkias is an award-winning marketing communications strategist with over 25 years of experience in top-tier international PR firms, advertising agencies, and research organisations. Based in Qatar, his expertise spans diverse industries, including sports, FMCG, automotive, technology, healthcare, and finance. He is renowned for his significant contributions to global sporting events like the FIFA World Cup in Qatar (2022) and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.)

Brendan Ryan on how Nomadic revolutionizes business travel in the Middle East

Nomadic is the flexible, transparent, and multi-faceted business travel solution, launched by Fragomen, the world’s leading provider of immigration services, in the United Arab Emirates, with the aim to mark further expansion of Fragomen’s presence in the Middle East. During the first half of 2022, the number of visitors in the UAE nearly tripled compared to the same period in 2021. This surge underscores the growing demand for short-term immigration solutions, including business visas and other cross-border travel and compliance needs. In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Brendan Ryan, Partner at Fragomen and CEO of Nomadic, sheds light on how Nomadic is simplifying travel in the Middle East and discusses its future goals.Can you provide an overview of how Nomadic's business traveller solutions addresses the specific compliance challenges faced by companies and their travelling workforces in the Middle East region?Nomadic is a user-friendly, secure software platform and mobile app that harnesses the power of innovative technology and the expertise of Fragomen, the world’s largest provider of immigration services. Nomadic was created to address the complexities of short-term immigration compliance in the Middle East. With the region, particularly the UAE, experiencing significant economic growth and an upsurge in business travel, there's an emergent need for efficient short-term immigration programmes. Nomadic makes travel seamless by creating travel profiles, establishing risk tolerance levels, and automating the completion and filing of applications. In 2022, Dubai alone recorded 14.36 million overnight visitors, with projections for 2023 to exceed both of these figures according to an official UAE government report. Our dedicated entity in the UAE oversees the broader Middle East, ensuring that the unique needs of this dynamic landscape are catered to comprehensively.How does Nomadic leverage technology to ensure compliance and seamless travel for business travellers?At Nomadic, we utilise innovative technology to streamline visa applications and create unique traveller profiles, eliminating the need for repetitive data entry and reducing the risk of human errors. Our incorporation robotic process automation (RPA) is central to digitising much of the visa application process, simplifying what can be a complex procedure. However, our commitment goes further. We also focus on ensuring compliance by closely tracking essential dates like visa expirations, entry/exit records, and evolving regulations. This comprehensive approach not only enhances the overall travel experience but also results in time savings, leading to cost efficiencies for businesses.Given the unique dynamics of the Middle East region, what sets Nomadic apart in terms of its approach to short-term immigration compliance compared to other solutions? How receptive is the Middle East region in adopting innovative solutions like Nomadic?Nomadic distinguishes itself in the Middle East through a combination of deep regional expertise, advanced technological capabilities, and a dynamic adaptability to changing regulations. We also leverage Fragomen’s worldwide footprint, which facilitates case processing in over 170 jurisdictions, to ensure that travellers are fully prepared for their journeys and provide an in-depth understanding of local customs and regulations. Moreover, our tech-driven solutions ensure timely and precise compliance, which is crucial in the Middle East's rigorous regulatory environment. We also set the standard by prioritising data security, addressing the region's strong emphasis on privacy.The Middle East's economic resurgence, especially seen in the UAE's travel boom, underscores the need for efficient immigration solutions. The significant expansion of Nomadic in the region underscores the Middle East's enthusiastic adoption of technology-driven, customised solutions for contemporary business travellers.What is your vision for Nomadic's presence and impact in the Middle East over the next two years? Are there any expansion plans or strategies tailored to this region?Our vision for Nomadic's presence and impact in the Middle East over the next two years is to establish ourselves as the leading business travel solution provider in the region, in line with the significant economic and travel growth that the Middle East is currently experiencing. To achieve this, we have developed a well-structured strategy that focuses on the unique needs of the Middle East. This region is renowned for its diverse appeal, forward-thinking immigration policies, and world-class infrastructure, all of which we intend to leverage to our advantage. Recent developments like the UAE Cabinet Resolution 65 of 2022, which has redefined visa categories to accommodate a wider range of individuals, create immense potential for innovative services like Nomadic's compliance assessment and Fragomen's golden visa evaluation. By aligning our offerings with evolving policies and regulations, we aim to provide unparalleled value to businesses and travellers in the Middle East while establishing Nomadic as a trusted partner in this dynamic and growing market.In which industries or sectors do you see Nomadic's technology benefiting the most in the Middle East? What specific compliance challenges do businesses in this region face that Nomadic aims to address?Nomadic's solutions facilitate global expansion, making it easier for companies to enter new markets and seize growth opportunities. In the competitive landscape of the Middle East, where industries like tourism, professional sports, finance, technology, and infrastructure frequently engage in cross-border activities, our technology is a valuable asset for businesses aiming to navigate the complexities of international travel with ease and confidence.Business travellers contend with a multitude of rules and regulations, often varying based on the nature of their activities. Some travellers may require visas, even for transit through airports or land crossings en route to their final destinations. Failure to understand these transit requirements can disrupt travel plans and have a negative impact on business operations.Could you elaborate on how Nomadic's technology ensures the security and privacy of traveller data, especially in the context of the Middle East, where data protection is a growing concern?Our commitment to data security assumes even greater importance when considering the nature of the information involved. The data necessary for immigration applications ranks among the most sensitive and personal in the realm of information technology. In recognition of this, and in conjunction with Fragomen Technologies, we have meticulously integrated rigorous security provisions into our platform, software, processes, and tools. For instance, some of our indispensable protection is achieved through the secure storage of individual traveller histories and the seamless integration of encrypted data via APIs, all the while ensuring transparency and upholding privacy as fundamental principles.How does Nomadic stay updated with the evolving compliance regulations and requirements in the Middle East to ensure its technology remains effective and up-to-date for businesses operating in the region?Nomadic adopts a proactive approach to remain informed about evolving compliance regulations and requirements in the region. We have dedicated knowledge teams based in the Middle East that closely monitor changes in regulations, stay updated on jurisdictional updates, and keep a vigilant eye on shifts in compliance criteria. These teams actively collect and verify information from authoritative sources, engage with relevant government entities, and remain knowledgeable about the latest developments.Moreover, we actively leverage Fragomen's expansive global network and data integration capabilities that facilitate real-time data feeds and automated updates on immigration requirements. This technology enables our platform to promptly reflect any regulatory modifications or newly established compliance prerequisites. We also maintain ongoing engagement with local authorities and industry experts, further enhancing our capacity to anticipate and adapt to evolving regulations.Can you provide examples of success stories or case studies where Nomadic's technology has significantly improved compliance and efficiency for businesses in the Middle East, highlighting the tangible benefits they've experienced?Nomadic has always stood at the forefront of immigration and mobility solutions, making significant strides in enhancing the travel experience for some of the world's most prestigious organisations. One of our most notable regional success stories from 2023 encapsulates our dedication to service excellence and the transformative power of our technological suite. In this instance, Nomadic assisted a global technology company with visa application processing for 500+ attendees for a two-day summit, many of whom could not simply obtain visa-on-arrival or visa-free access to the UAE. At the heart of our approach was our robust technology. Our centralized platform managed cases with unmatched precision, our pre-configured travel advice eliminated generic communication inefficiencies, and our sophisticated assessment tools navigated the unique challenges of each profile. These tools weren't just instrumental for this summit; they've revolutionized the experience for industries requiring swift deployment of their skilled workforce.

Turbocharging customer loyalty: The need for CRM strategies

In an age where data drives customer service and customization, it is sad to experience a situation where a leading telecommunications company fails to make use of the wealth of information at its disposal.In view of the customer service week a few days ago, I would like to share the experience I had recently with one of the largest telco companies in the GCC region, and it was a stark reminder of how poor customer service and a lack of personalization can drive customers away and benefit competitors.A few weeks ago, I received a call from this telco company, in which they attempted to offer me an upgraded mobile package. In theory, this should have been a straightforward and potentially beneficial interaction for both of us. However, it soon became apparent that they had not taken the time to study my profile or understand my needs before reaching out to me.The first issue was their insistence on pushing me towards a higher-tier package, even though a careful analysis of my data usage would have shown that I was not utilizing all the data included in my current plan. It was evident that the company's representatives had not taken the time to examine my consumption habits or preferences. This oversight, in my opinion, highlights a fundamental flaw in the telco company's approach to customer engagement.This incident serves as a stark example of a major telco company's failure to develop a customer relationship management (CRM) strategy that resonates with its customers. When a company of this stature, which has access to a treasure of data about its users,neglects to employ it to customize its offerings and improve customer experience, it undermines not only its reputation but also the loyalty of its customers.As a marketing professional with over 25 years of experience, I am well aware of the importance of understanding the customer's needs and preferences, developing messages, customer journeys and strategies that resonate with them, and ultimately, creating brand experiences that enhance their daily lives. This experience left me deeply disappointed, especially coming from a telco company that has access to all the necessary customer data to do better.The outcome of this encounter was double:• First, I decided to re-evaluate my mobile package and opted for a more cost-effective option that better suited my needs, still staying with the same telco company.• Second, the poor customer service and the inability of the telco company to provide a tailored offering led me to explore alternative options for my home internet needs. I found myself actively considering packages from other service providers, and finally decided to opt for another telco company.This is a clear example of how a poorly executed customer retention strategy can not only damage the relationship between a company and its customer but can also carelessly promote the interests of its competitors.It highlights the need for telco companies, as well as businesses in general, to invest in data-driven, personalized CRM strategies.My recent experience with one of the biggest telecom companies in the GCC region was a reminder that even giants in the industry can fail when it comes to understanding their customers and providing a level of service that aligns with their preferences. This episode should serve as a cautionary tale for companies that have access to a wealth of customer data, urging them to leverage that information to create meaningful, customized interactions and secure customer loyalty.Failure to do so not only risks alienating existing customers but also presents opportunities for competitors to swoop in and provide a more personalized, customer-centric experience.

Nitesh Agarwal chronicles Urban Company's Middle East success story

In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Nitesh Agarwal, Regional Head of Urban Company in the Middle East, sheds light on the company's journey in the region. Since their entry into the Middle East market in 2018, Urban Company has prioritized delivering premium services. Starting in Dubai, they've expanded their offerings across the UAE and KSA, offering services in approximately 20 categories. With a partner network of 32,000 professionals, Urban Company is now Asia's largest tech-enabled home services marketplace. According to him, Urban Company's success in the UAE can be attributed to a multifaceted approach. They prioritize customer-centricity, utilize technology to enhance service quality and affordability, invest in training, and consistently innovate. Excerpts:Can you share with us the journey of Urban Company in the Middle East?Urban Company entered the Middle East market in the UAE in 2018. Over the past five years, our commitment to providing a premium service experience has been our guiding principle. We started with Dubai in the UAE because of the potential that we saw in this market. We started with launching part-time cleaners, one of the popular categories here, slowly expanding our services to Abu Dhabi and Sharjah in the UAE and Riyadh and Jeddah in KSA. We now offer services in around 20 categories across UAE's home, beauty & wellness verticals.We are currently Asia’s largest and highest-rated tech-enabled home services marketplace with a partner network of 32,000 hand-picked service professionals.What, according to you, are the factors that have made Urban Company successful in the UAE?Urban Company's success in the UAE can be attributed to a multifaceted approach. Firstly, we prioritize customer-centricity above all. By harnessing the UAE's impressive 99% internet penetration rate, we've cultivated a deep understanding of the local consumer landscape, allowing us to fine-tune our services for maximum appeal.The UAE's service industry landscape, teeming with both organized and unorganized providers, presented a unique challenge. Traditional brick-and-mortar salons, technicians, and cleaning providers often offer services at competitive prices. However, the growth projection of the on-demand home services sector, anticipated to expand by 9.7% by 2026, indicates a promising trajectory, especially for digital platforms like ours.Our strategic utilization of technology has been a game-changer. It's allowed us to continually enhance our service quality while ensuring affordability—a key to customer retention in this market. Moreover, we place immense emphasis on training, considering the World Economic Forum suggests re-skilling half of the global workforce may be inevitable by 2025.Lastly, innovation has been a cornerstone of our strategy. Introducing tools like steam mops in our cleaning category, for instance, has empowered us to surpass customer expectations, solidifying our reputation as industry pioneers. In short, our success in the UAE stems from a blend of customer focus, affordability, rigorous training, and consistent innovation.What services do you offer, and which ones are the most popular?We offer a bouquet of high-quality services, such as salon, nails and spa at home, cleaning, plumbing, handymen, appliance repair etc., through our mobile app and websites.While cleaning was initially 85% of our offering, by 2023, services like beauty have grown in demand, with a significant portion of women preferring at-home beauty treatments, reflecting a shift from traditional salon visits.What is the procedure for joining Urban Company as a professional in any field?In the UAE, we focus on delivering hyper-localised services, and vendor onboarding is an ongoing process. Urban Company has a structured approach towards partner development and well-being centred around four key pillars: improved earnings, safety net, training and wealth creation.In the UAE, we work with vendors to improve the living standards of the workforce, upskilling, increase salaries and give incentives to them, as employee engagement is essential for great customer satisfaction.There is a thorough and objective selection process for every single service professional. Joining Urban Company involves a rigorous four-stage process. Candidates undergo screening, review of documentation such as Visa and licenses, detailed technical and soft-skill training given by on-payroll industry experts in real-life simulated set-ups, and final evaluation.This meticulous process ensures that all our professionals deliver services aligned with our high standards. We also incentivise service professionals on the basis of customers’ experiences.Urban Company believes in delivering a remarkable customer experience and we are constantly on the lookout for innovative measures to give the best to our customers. The global online on-demand home services market is estimated to reach $4.1 trillion by 2027, with more service providers and vendors introducing and enhancing sustainable, scalable and convenient services for modern customers.Are primarily women your clients for salon services, or do men also avail of your services?While women represent a major segment of our beauty services, the changing dynamics show that 30% of beauty services are consumed by men.What obstacles hindered your growth, and how did you overcome them?Our journey in the UAE, while rewarding, has not been without its set of challenges. When we entered the market, we faced a fragmented competitive environment, intensified by the presence of organized competitors, quite unlike the scenario in our home base, India. Many competitors lured customers with low prices, often compromising on quality. The pandemic further reshaped consumer behaviour, prioritizing health, hygiene, and high-quality services. Amidst this, consistently evolving consumer behaviour and rising expectations meant that we had to be agile and responsive.To navigate these obstacles, Urban Company took a multi-pronged approach:• Diversification and Quality: We expanded our service range to cater to the varied demands emerging from the pandemic, including increased demand for part-time cleaners, salon services, and wellness provisions.• Innovation and Technology: Introducing steam cleaners and scrubbing machines allowed us to redefine cleaning standards in the UAE. Furthermore, our tech-driven checks ensure our partners always utilize genuine products and adhere to our rigorous standard operating procedures. By investing in ongoing innovation, tools, and products, like our disruptive hourly cleaning service and signature pedicure, we've consistently raised the bar.• Training and Partnerships: Our emphasis on continual training ensures our partners are equipped to offer top-tier personalized services. Regular retraining, based on dynamic user feedback, keeps our services aligned with consumer expectations.• Digital Engagement: Recognizing that modern consumers are digital-driven, we've optimized our user interface, payment gateways, and overall digital experience to be hassle-free and intuitive. This has been pivotal, as even a single negative feedback in today's digital age can shift the trajectory of our business.In essence, while challenges like the pandemic, competition, and evolving consumer behaviour posed hurdles, our unwavering commitment to quality, innovation, and consumer-centricity has been the cornerstone of our resilience and growth in the UAE market.What is your vision for the company? Where do you see it in five years?Our vision is to establish ourselves as the largest on-demand home services marketplace by focusing on delivering an unparalleled experience to our users. With the UAE market projected to grow by 9.7% annually until 2026, we foresee a 10x growth in this region alone. Hence, with a focus on experience, we have invested heavily in the selection of service professionals with extensive training in real-life simulated set-ups and deep investments in bringing the most cutting-edge tools and products to our users.

Injeel Moti: Leading success with Catch Communications and Catch Academy

Catch Communications is a new-age media agency known for providing customized communication solutions that deliver quick, impactful, and effective results for businesses. Injeel Moti, the driving force behind Catch Communication and Academy, boasts a decade of experience in communications and brand reputation, primarily in the GCC region. Through Catch Academy, she offers training to business owners and MARCOM professionals, focusing on contemporary marketing strategies.In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Injeel Moti, Founder and Managing Director of Catch Communications & Catch Academy, shares her insights into harnessing effective marketing to support and grow businesses, brands, and concepts. She also delves into why public relations can be a strong suit for women and highlights the progress made in the MENA region in positioning women as industry leaders and accomplished professionals. Here are some excerpts:Kindly share your journey, starting as a PR professional, and leading to your role as the Founder of Catch Communications and Catch Academy?I never intended to be in PR; it happened to me. My very first job upon graduating from university was that of a content writer in a marketing firm which involved working very closely with the PR department. The role gave me exposure to the wondrous world of communications, and there has been no looking back since. I was drawn to the industry, the creativity, ideation, and ability to influence perception through story-telling was very exciting to me as a young professional and continues to be till date. Starting Catch too was a gamble, I acted on intuition and knew I had enough passion for the profession which would fuel my entrepreneurial journey.What motivated you to establish Catch Communications and Catch Academy?Catch Academy was born during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a business, we faced a significant challenge, losing 90% of our clientele overnight due to budget cuts and a reluctance to market during this difficult period. Recognizing the essential nature of marketing for our business, we conceived the concept of an academy and introduced crash courses. These courses aimed to educate people on the fundamentals of modern marketing, enabling teams to handle their marketing needs in-house. We witnessed a positive response from a diverse group, including marketing professionals, entrepreneurs, and students, all expressing keen interest in our courses.Could you provide insights into the brands that Catch Communications has collaborated with?When we launched in 2018 our core focus was the consumer space and our clientele typically was in the fashion, beauty, wellness, entertainment & hospitality space; however, over the last couple of years we have evolved and now have a corporate division too where we service brands in the finance, tech, health, and FMCG space.Can you share an example of someone who gained prominence after training at Catch Academy?One of our very first enrollers went on to set up her own independent marketing consultancy which was the primary goal for her when she signed up to the course. It is deeply gratifying to say that she was able to fulfill her dream through us.How do you see Artificial Intelligence impacting the Public Relations Industry? Is it a positive or negative influence on the PR sector?Most definitely, AI is a positive influence. I like to look at AI as a useful tool that helps PR professionals do their job quicker, better and more accurately. Ethical AI surely will become a major force in PR, as more people see its importance in creating honest and responsible communication that reaches a wide audience.Do you think the PR sector tends to attract more women, and if so, what might be the reasons behind this trend?There are a few reasons for this, but I'd like to highlight two in particular. First, effective PR often demands a high level of empathy and emotional intelligence, as professionals must comprehend and establish connections with various stakeholders. Women tend to exhibit higher levels of emotional intelligence, which can be an advantage in this field.PR also involves creating written content, press releases, and other materials that require strong writing and creative abilities. Women have historically been encouraged to develop these skills, which can be advantageous in PR roles.What's your perspective on the progress of women in the Middle East? How do you view women's empowerment in the region?In recent years, the MENA region has come a long way in positioning women as industry leaders and driven professionals, with governments and institutions introducing pioneering reforms and an increasing number of women defying boundaries and pursuing their ambitions. The communication space is no exception, In fact, women in leadership roles within the comms/PR spaces are aplenty and growing every day.What advice would you offer to individuals, both men and women, aspiring to become leaders in the PR sector?First and foremost one must have a deep passion for the space; PR isn’t your typical 9-5 job, and the evolution is constant and endless. Practical experience is invaluable in PR. Look for internships, entry-level positions, or volunteer opportunities that allow you to build your skills and develop a portfolio of work. Learning from mentors and experienced professionals is essential.

UAE emerging as a global hub for Web3 innovation

Stablecoins have been one of the most pivotal use cases for digital assets. Traditionally, the stablecoin landscape has been dominated by US dollar-backed stablecoins such as USDT, USDC, and the recently introduced PYUSD. To gauge their popularity, one only needs to look at the numbers, i.e., the total market cap of stablecoins hovers around $124.117 billion (according to DeFi Llama), with USDT leading the way with a commanding 67.13% market share. Given its association with the world's most influential currency, the US Dollar. As crypto regulations keep developing across more regions, one will see a corresponding growth in the popular use cases.  The primary utility of stablecoins lies in their ability to facilitate cross-border payments at an exceptionally low cost. Globally, corporations shuffle approximately $23.5 trillion (as per JP Morgan's report) across borders each year. The associated transaction costs for these massive sums tally up to a staggering $120 billion annually. Issues like trapped liquidity, delayed settlements, and the need for foreign currency conversions also plague this process. In this context, stablecoins offer a streamlined solution, enabling seamless transactions with unparalleled security and traceability on a distributed ledger technology. These transactions can easily be facilitated through regulated and compliant custody solutions providers.The UAE market has already surprised us with its commitment to becoming a leader in the digital assets space, and it is not surprising to see such highly innovative and simple-to-use Web3 products emerging from the nation. The launch of Dirham-backed stablecoin shows that the digital asset market in the region is entering a more mature phase and is ready for the next stage of growth on the back of evolved regulatory frameworks.Not only that, the UAE market is also emerging as a global hub for Web3 innovation, and the Dubai International Finance Center (DIFC) is acting as a fulcrum to strike a fine balance between regulations and the business aspirations of Web3 entrepreneurs. The growing popularity of the UAE as a Web3 hub clearly shows in the statistics released by DIFC. There has been a 23% rise in the companies enrolling at DIFC this year. Out of these, 660 companies are led by fintech innovation. The UAE regulators are focused on boosting the local economy by liberalising the policies to suit the needs of emerging technologies like Web3. The move will create high-quality jobs for the local community, provide skill development opportunities and add to the region's economic growth through operational expenditures and services to the public. The rapid advancements on the policy front will ensure that the UAE is at the forefront of the web3 revolution and stays ahead of its global counterparts. Liminal is keen to build a strong presence in the UAE region and has received in-principle approval from ADGM in Abu Dhabi to provide digital asset custody services to Web3 businesses and institutions. As an active player in the region, Liminal already has a premium clientele and will look to leverage its position further. We are committed to the UAE Web3 growth story and have hired local talent for leadership positions. We will continue to expand our operations across the Middle East.

Omaima Saad's journey: From translator to innovator at BAB Middle East

BAB Middle East, excels in the art of mind-reading and skillful expression. The company is renowned for delivering innovative, affordable, and rapid custom language services and copywriting expertise, tailored to foster cultural connections and meet industry demands. In the ever-evolving landscape of contemporary business, AI emerges as a promising force with its learning and improving capabilities, and BAB Middle East is at the forefront of harnessing this potential.Within the realm of BAB ME's content creation, AI's brilliance harmonizes with innate human creativity, infusing an authentic human touch into the content. As a result, BAB ME has unveiled its pioneering copy-shop, a hub designed to offer AI-powered translations, copywriting solutions, interpretation services, and meticulously perfected proofreading tasks, all under the watchful eye of human experts.In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Omaima Saad, Managing Partner and Arabic Creative Director at BAB Middle East, sheds light on the unique and practical copy-shop dedicated to crafting creative, cost-effective copies. Here are some excerpts from the interview:Can you please share your career journey with us? Have you experienced any highs and lows in your career that you would like to mention?I started as a translator in Beirut right after my graduation, then I moved to Dubai where I started my advertising career, I joined Grey Group as an Arabic copywriter and stayed for almost 15 years. I have always been passionate about the Arabic language, looking for new creative ways to craft it. Not to forget the challenges we had back in the days, when we had to come up with new Arabic terms to reflect everything happening in the world of technology in our mother tongue.Could you tell us about BAB Middle East - its inception, its success, and its ideology?BAB Middle East is a translation and copywriting company, founded by women, and operated by women to make communication easier for everyone. For us, it is a small world when we communicate with each other, and we aim at making it smaller and smaller with our new app and our endless determination to communicate.BAB Middle East recently launched a Mobile App to provide AI-powered translations, copywriting solutions, etc. Could you share some details about it and explain how it will make life easier for the users?We've made the conscious choice to embrace AI as a powerful learning tool. Instead of considering it a hindrance, we've chosen to turn it from a potential curse into a valuable blessing. Our approach is all about harnessing the machine's capabilities to provide our clients with cost-effective and swift content solutions, saving them both time and money.Our user-friendly mobile app simplifies the process: You upload your file, receive a cost estimate and a deadline, give your approval, and we take care of the rest. We offer a range of services, all enhanced by AI: AI-powered translations, perfected by human touch; Copywriting solutions, crafted by human creativity; Interpretation services, carried out by our skilled team; and proofreading tasks, meticulously completed by humans.At BAB Middle East, we maintain the perfect synergy between technology and the human touch. We're here to save time and money while delivering copies that are refined to perfection. Our app is not just a tool; it's your one-stop copy-shop for creative and cost-effective content.How is AI changing the business landscape in the Middle East? What are your predictions for its future in the region?The scene is very much different with AI, but this breakthrough will never replace the irreplaceable. It will never excel without the human touch. True art lies in harmonizing AI's capabilities with the depth of human insights. One needs to picture AI as a fledgling learner under our guidance. By embracing it as a collaborator, businesses will continue to streamline processes, elevate content, and ensure that the true driving force – human expertise – remains at the helm of success.What are your views on women leaders in the region? What progress have Middle Eastern nations made in terms of women's leadership?They lead by example, I get motivated every day seeing a new achievement signed by a woman here in, so I always feel the urge to compete, excel and shine.What are your future plans and growth projections for BAB Middle East?My goal is to transform the BAB Middle East App into the go-to copy-shop for anyone seeking cost-effective and creative content. Our mission is to facilitate effective communication, making the world a smaller place, and empowering more women to contribute to the betterment of our global community.

True Color Films' Tom Howell: Pioneering in Middle East production

True Color Films, a prominent Production House based in Switzerland, is renowned worldwide, and it has gained recognition in the Middle East as well. Tom Howell, the Head of Development and Co-owner at True Color Films, has been increasingly focused on the Middle East for many of his commercial projects. In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Tom Howell, Head of development at True Color Films, expressed his fondness for the UAE as an ideal location for shooting and post-production. He also shared his insights on the buzz around Augmented Reality (AR) and whether it's more than just a passing trend. Here are the excerpts:True Color Films has recently shot ads for Red Bull and Discovery in the UAE. Why does the UAE interest you so much?The UAE boasts a highly active media landscape, and it's evident that the industry's power dynamics may increasingly shift towards the region in the years to come. Many talented producers and directors prefer filming in the Middle East due to its reliability in terms of locations and production. It's a vibrant and emerging market that exhibits a willingness to explore new production technologies.What makes the Middle East a perfect destination for production houses?The Middle East offers a significant advantage over many established filming locations: consistent sunshine. The near-guarantee of good weather simplifies shooting schedules and budgeting. As the entertainment industry deals with financial constraints, the trend is to minimize variables by either shooting indoors in studios or in locations that can promise excellent natural light.What campaigns have you undertaken in the UAE?Currently, we haven't executed any global campaigns in the Middle East. However, we often consider shooting commercials in the region due to its abundant and appealing backdrops. We have a network of reliable contacts in the UAE and anticipate filming there in the near future.Does the UAE pose any problems in terms of language, culture, etc.? How do you deal with that?Thus far, we haven't encountered any significant issues when filming in the Middle East. Like in any media market, it's important to consider filming permits and account for cultural and societal differences during pre-production planning. Filming in the UAE might require more complex and time-consuming preparations, but with precise planning, the production generally proceeds smoothly. Submitting storyboards and scripts ensures adherence to the creative direction. Overall, the process is quite manageable.What are the latest trends, such as remote production, you have witnessed? How will technologies like Augmented Reality change the dynamics of the industry?We must wait and assess the global adoption of Augmented Reality (AR) to determine whether it's more than just a fleeting trend in the industry. In the past, the excitement around technologies like 3D quickly faded. The real transformative shift may emerge from LED virtual production studios, which can offer virtually any background a rendering engine can create. This could significantly reduce costs and maximize shooting time on set.What are your future plans, and what are your growth projections for the next two years?True Color Films is in the early stages of its journey. We have a dedicated team that values creativity and storytelling above all. In addition to our production team, we offer post-production services, including editing, colour grading, sound design, and a 3D artist with an Academy Award. Our goal for the next few years is to expand our client network and freelancer base. If you'd like to see our latest work,

Creative journey of Danny Azzi and his take on AI and Metaverse in advertising

The advertising and marketing industry is currently experiencing a significant upswing, primarily due to the widespread adoption of AI, particularly in the field of advertising. Danny Azzi, a seasoned creative leader with more than 23 years of experience, has recently taken on the role of Executive Creative Director at AGA-ADK (The Network Communication Group). He has an extensive background working with multinational networks such as FP7McCann, DDB, Memac Ogilvy, and Drive Dentsu in the Middle East and GCC.In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Danny Azzi, Executive Creative Director at AGA ADK, shares insights into his professional journey, outlines his goals, and discusses upcoming ad campaigns for the new organization. He also provides his perspective on the topics of AI and the Metaverse. Excerpts: You have worked with many top companies. How has your professional journey been so far?I was fortunate to work with leading multinational agencies in the Middle East and the GCC, and to be exposed to different schools of thinking and multiple agencies’ cultures.In addition to this, working with top global and regional brands from diversified industries has enriched my experience and brought forward campaigns that were recognised in leading global and regional award shows. So, I can say that my professional journey was fulfilling and rewarding at all levels.    AGA-ADK ranks among the top communication networks in the MENA region. What are your aspirations on joining it as the Executive Creative Director?AGA ADK is part of The Network Communication Group, the largest independent network in the region; so joining them at this stage of my career offers a promising opportunity to take my professional journey to unprecedented heights.AGA ADK management and I both share the same vision on the need to foster talents and to instill a creative culture that champions brave ideas and disruptive thinking. Our aspiration is to become the go-to destination for creativity, whether it is for brands or talents.What are your basic responsibilities as the ECD of AGA-ADK? What are your target areas for the organisation?My main duty as a creative leader is to focus on the big picture by implementing a creative culture and setting a clear vision to guide the team and steer all efforts in the same direction.On a day-to-day basis, I am overseeing the creative product and managing the creative teams across different offices and markets in the Middle East. My main target areas for now are people and products, which are interlinked. Brave and meaningful ideas are byproducts of a talented team. At AGA ADK we take pride in having a diversified pool of talents, and we are working relentlessly to help them grow their careers further and sharpen their skills. In fact, we have an extensive development plan for the coming year that consists of a series of seminars and workshops, covering different topics related to communication, digital, social, AI and many more. What changes can be expected at AGA-ADK in the coming year? What are your future plans?They are not changes, but rather areas of focus. We are already present in multiple markets, and we have an ambitious plan to further grow our operations.In addition to the expansion plan, we want to be famous for the work we do. So next year is going to be all about growth and fame. What all iconic brands does AGA-ADK cater to? What are the forthcoming campaigns that we should look forward to?We have a diversified portfolio of global and regional clients across different industries like FMCG, retail, medical, governmental, real estate, destination, entertainment, transportation and many more. I don’t want to pinpoint any specific campaign as there is a lot of passionate work going into the creation of several and hopefully you will see them live in due time.What are your views about the advertisement and communication industry of MENA region? How is it shaping up?Our industry in the MENA region is facing a lot of setbacks against the backdrop of a challenging economic situation. Budgets are shrinking, the competition is getting tougher, and agencies are expected to offer more for less. On the other hand, there is always a bright side, and our region is leaving its mark on a global level through the work that is being recognized in leading award shows.Our industry is always changing and evolving. However, the way it shapes up differs from one country to the other. For instance, Lebanon is starting to witness a creative renaissance, and the UAE just like KSA is seeing tremendous growth and transformation on all levels.What changes has AI and Metaverse brought about in the ad industry? How is AGA-ADK adopting it for its progress? There is no doubt that AI is reshaping our life on all levels, especially the way we conduct business. We all should embrace it, and learn how to harness its power. In our industry, AI is making waves and having a great impact on complicated and time-consuming jobs by turning them into easy tasks.However, for me, AI is a tool, and I believe in our industry, a brave idea will always be essential to creating meaningful work, hence the importance of curious and insightful human intelligence.When it comes to AGA ADK, and similar to other agencies, we are using AI to simplify certain tasks and optimize our time. Nonetheless, I regularly advise against the team’s full reliance on AI tools and technology, in order not to hinder their creative capabilities but rather to expand them and perfect their execution through AI.

Ananth Narayanan: Charting the course for Mensa Brands in the UAE and beyond

Mensa Brands, a company known for partnering with digital brands to help them grow significantly, has recently made its entry into the UAE market. In this move, they have introduced some of their brands on various digital platforms within the country. Mensa Brands has launched three brands – Villain, Pebble, and Folkulture – on platforms like Amazon and the Saudi e-commerce platform Noon. Additionally, they have introduced MyFitness peanut butter, which is part of their Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) portfolio, on quick commerce platforms Talabat and Noon Minutes.In an exclusive interview with Ananth Narayanan, the Founder and CEO of Mensa Brands, Adgully delves into the company's future plans in the UAE. Narayanan, who previously served as the CEO of Myntra, discusses the motivation behind digitally launching these brands in the UAE, his future goals, and how the UAE market differs from the Indian market. Excerpts:Mensa Brands has recently entered the UAE market. What are your goals and aspirations for the Middle East?The UAE's strategic location as a crossroads connecting Asia, Europe, and Africa positions it as an ideal entry point. This geographical advantage enables us to efficiently reach not only the local market but also extend our products to the broader Middle East and beyond. Furthermore, the cosmopolitan population in the UAE aligns perfectly with Mensa Brands' commitment to delivering premium products to a discerning consumer base. The market appreciates quality, which aligns with our brand values. The substantial expatriate community in the UAE is another asset. Leveraging this multicultural community offers us a remarkable opportunity for paving the way for comprehensive regional expansion plans.What prompted MENSA to launch its brands like Pebble, Villain and Folkulture on Amazon UAE? What can you predict about their success?Our decision to launch brands like Pebble, Villain, and Folkulture on Amazon UAE is underpinned by a strategic rationale. This choice derives from Amazon's robust logistical capabilities, a widespread marketplace presence with access to a diverse consumer base, the wealth of market research and insights it offers and the potential to enhance brand visibility and credibility. Our research and analysis support the success of these brands on Amazon UAE, as they align well with local preferences.You've introduced MyFitness peanut butter on Talabat. What are your expectations and goals for it?With a population which has a preference for healthier alternatives, and substantial purchasing power, the UAE market presents an exceptional opportunity for MyFitness. Talabat's commitment to operational excellence and their expansion into Q Commerce and dark stores across the UAE make them an ideal partner.You are the man behind the success and international expansion of Mensa. What are the strategies and campaigns that have been initiated for the UAE market?We aim to expand our product offerings to cater to a wider range of customer preferences. Building customer loyalty is crucial in the competitive e-commerce landscape, and we plan to initiate targeted activations, such as partnerships with local influencers, to boost engagement and raise brand awareness in the UAE market. Additionally, we plan to collaborate with top-tier marketing agencies to execute data-driven, culturally relevant campaigns that resonate deeply with the UAE market, aligning our messaging with local values and trends.What are your views about the UAE market? How is it different from India?The UAE market, though smaller in population compared to India, offers unique advantages. Its higher per capita income and significant purchasing power set it apart. This concentrated consumer base allows businesses to tap into a financially capable and receptive audience, offering opportunities for growth and profitability that may be harder to attain in larger but less affluent markets.Will you be employing any social influencers in the UAE for establishing Mensa the country?We plan to implement an influencer activation strategy by collaborating with renowned UAE-based lifestyle and fitness influencers. Through these partnerships, we aim to promote our brand, products, and values to the target audience, enhancing brand recognition and establishing a genuine connection with consumers who resonate with these influencers.What are your strategic plans for Mensa in the Middle East in the coming years? Where do you envision the company in five years?Our vision for the next five years is centred around several key initiatives. We are committed to introducing our other brands in the Middle East. Local collaborations with celebrities and influencers will not only enhance our brand's cultural relevance but also strengthen community engagement. Furthermore, we intend to capitalise on opportunities such as the 'Yellow Friday Sale,' 'Black Friday Sale,' and other noteworthy events to establish deeper connections with our target demographic. We are also exploring opportunities to establish manufacturing capabilities within the UAE to streamline operations.

Barbara Soltysinska on virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars in marketing

In our ongoing series focused on gaining insights into the virtual influencer landscape in the Middle East region, Adgully recently interviewed Barbara Soltysinska, Co-founder & CEO of indaHash. indaHash is a social media marketing app that connects more than 120,000 influencers with global brands. As a leading figure in the marketing landscape, So?tysi?ska delves into the transformative world of virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars. She shares her perspectives on the impact of these digital entities on advertising and marketing in the UAE. Barbara explores the unique opportunities they offer compared to traditional marketing approaches, sheds light on successful campaigns, addresses cultural sensitivities and ethical considerations, and offers a glimpse into the future of this dynamic industry. Excerpts:How do you see virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars reshaping the advertising and marketing landscape in the UAE? What unique opportunities do they offer compared to traditional marketing approaches?Virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars remain a fresh addition to the marketing and advertising realm in the Middle East. Currently, virtual influencers in the UAE serve more as intriguing entities rather than dominant influencers, particularly when considering their follower count, engagement rates, and overall activity. For instance, the most recognizable Meta Kira boasts under 4k followers. Compared to globally recognized computer-generated influencers, there's substantial room for growth in the Middle East. Also, talking about virtual influencers, it is more challenging to define where they should belong. There is a pretty recognizable profile of @iamxalara, which defines itself as being based in Istanbul, but was created by a UAE-based company. This niche presents exciting opportunities for artists, NFT creators, and brands alike.Given the UAE's recent influx of NFT enterprises, many of which are eager to craft their own metaverses, I anticipate a significant expansion in this domain within the region. With only 35 Instagram-verified profiles of this kind worldwide, it's evident that the arena isn't oversaturated yet. In the past, creating virtual influencers was a costly and time-consuming endeavor for companies and creators. However, thanks to the rapid advancement and widespread adoption of AI content generation, companies like Midjouney, the landscape has undergone significant transformation.The biggest opportunity lies in brands that can own their influencers. What is very interesting is that a lot of top virtual influencers come from Brazil and the top one who has over 6.4M belongs to Magalu, one of top brazilian retailers.Let me name some opportunities lying in virtual influencers:-> Brand Safety - Virtual influencers, as controlled entities, provide a protective barrier against potential controversies that could harm a brand's reputation.-> Consistent Branding - Virtual influencers can be customized in terms of their actions, speech, and appearance to ensure they consistently align with the brand's ideals. Look at the example of Barbie!-> 24/7 Engagement: Virtual influencers ensure round-the-clock interaction with audiences, maximizing reach across time zones and guaranteeing uninterrupted delivery of marketing messages.-> Cost-efficiency: Despite an initial investment, virtual influencers can be more economical in the long run, eliminating costs like travel and accommodation.-> Digital Integration: They easily blend into platforms like video games, VR, and AR, growing sectors in the UAE.-> Narrative Innovation: Virtual influencers resonate with the UAE's tech-forward trajectory, interweaving traditional Emirati culture with a vision of the future.Can you share examples of successful campaigns or initiatives that have leveraged virtual influencers or AI-driven avatars in the UAE? What were the key factors contributing to their success?NooNoouri, a virtual influencer, was featured in Harper’s Bazaar Arabia's July 2018 edition. For this, she was dressed in a Zuhair Murad dress and posed against Dubai's Burj Khalifa backdrop. This campaign marked her debut in the magazine, specifically in Mohammed Sultan's Best Dressed List. It's significant to note that high-fashion brands were exploring the virtual influencer space as early as 2018. This initiative successfully merged high fashion with emerging digital trends. Another more recent collaboration is Meta Kira attending the launch of the NFT shop in the Mall of Emirates, thereby reaching the niche of people interested in the space. At the end of the day, reaching the right audience with the right message is most important, regardless of whether the influencer is virtual or not.In a region known for its diverse culture and values, how do virtual influencers and AI avatars adapt to local sensitivities and preferences? What strategies should marketers employ to ensure cultural relevance and authenticity?The definition of authenticity for virtual influencers is different. It is more about transparency and making audiences aware that they are interacting with a virtual entity and not a real person. The challenge lies in ensuring this transparency without diminishing the influencer's appeal. The rest of the rules, such as delivering the right message, producing quality content, reaching the right audience at the best possible time, and maintaining the right frequency, remain the same for the entire influencer marketing space.What are the key challenges and ethical considerations associated with using virtual influencers and AI avatars in advertising and marketing, and how are these being addressed in the UAE?I believe that just as brand collaborations must be disclosed, the fact that an influencer is virtual should also be clearly indicated. A more significant concern, in my opinion, especially on platforms like TikTok, is the use of deepfakes. They pose a serious danger and should always be prominently labeled.With the rapid advancements in AI and technology, what trends do you anticipate in the evolution of virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars in the UAE's advertising and marketing industry over the next few years? How should businesses prepare for these changes?I believe each of us might have our own avatar to use in a virtual world, interacting with a community of people who also use their avatars. If this occurs, the adoption of virtual influencers will likely accelerate, further blurring the line between offline and online experiences. Businesses should investigate and consider how they can adapt to their needs in this new space, stay curious, and experiment. This isn't a short-term fashion or fleeting trend; it represents a major and profound shift that's on the horizon. Whether they like this change or not, it is happening.

From marketing to gaming: Nindi Dev Sharma's path to leading Stream Shreek

In this interview with Adgully, Nindi Dev Sharma, the Head Of Growth - Gaming & Technology at Stream Shreek, shares insights into her remarkable career journey and the highs and lows she's encountered as a successful woman in the advertising and gaming sectors. Discover her thoughts on women in the industry, the growth of gaming in the MENA region, and the transformative power of AI in gaming. Plus, get a glimpse of the latest trends shaping the Middle East gaming landscape and the exciting future of the industry. Excerpts:Kindly share your career journey? What highs & lows have you encountered professionally, being a successful woman?In my career journey spanning over 15 years, I bring a wealth of experience in business management, marketing strategy, and communications, with a strong focus on the retail, FMCG, and energy sectors. My expertise encompasses areas such as media relations, consumer campaigns, social media, digital strategy, strategic partnerships, internal communications, crisis management, and public affairs. I've had the privilege of occupying key roles at renowned companies such as Megasoft Pvt. Ltd, Accenture, IBM, my career, I've been immersed in the vibrant realm of marketing and advertising, where creativity and strategy come together. Over the years, I've taken on diverse roles, such as devising marketing strategies, introducing brands and products, and establishing brand identities, both within established organizations, agencies, and startups with a wide range of offerings. These experiences have granted me an in-depth insight into the industry's transformation.Highs & Lows:The highlights of my career have included the privilege of working for exceptional companies led by visionary leaders.Looking back on my experiences, the pinnacle of my career as a woman in advertising/marketing has been observing the transformative influence of the campaigns I've been a part of. These initiatives not only defied conventions but also empowered women by spotlighting their strength and liberating from conventional roles. In contrast, my position at Stream Shreek deviates significantly from the traditional agency role. Notably, the gaming realm exhibits a disproportionate ratio of women in leadership positions compared to their male counterparts. Despite this, the current landscape presents an exhilarating opportunity to break new ground and occupy an invigorating space.Reflecting on the less favorable aspects of my journey in marketing/advertising, I view these instances as essential lessons. It became evident that when one finds oneself in an environment where objectives are misaligned, the opportunity for personal growth and success becomes constrained. This has prompted me to approach my choices regarding industry and agency associations with heightened mindfulness, ensuring that alignment is a central criterion for my decision-making.What inspired you to be a part of Stream Shreek, a popular game streamers platform in the MENA region?I am truly appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of the gaming industry. My journey led me to LPSBrands in Dubai, a reputable and well-established branding and digital agency, where I spent over a decade. During my time there, I witnessed the inception of the gaming vertical, now known as STREAM SHREEK. It was during a conversation with Mr. Aasim Shaikh, the Managing Director of the group, that we discussed a collaboration. Without any hesitation, I embraced the role.Being a part of the gaming industry in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region is incredibly exciting. It outpaces the combined size of the music and entertainment industries. Major brands are actively seeking ways to engage with this audience, and through our platform, we have created the largest marketplace for Arabic-speaking streamers, all conveniently accessible in one place. We ensure that streamers are fairly compensated for their collaborations and campaigns.Being an expert in business management, marketing management as well as communication, what is your take on women in the industry? Do you feel there is any bias in the industry?I am fortunate to have enjoyed positive interactions collaborating with my male colleagues, counterparts and leaders in the advertising field. I've had the privilege of partnering with remarkable leaders and trailblazers within the industry who have graciously assumed mentorship roles for me. These experiences have profoundly contributed to my professional journey. Our collective dedication to cultivating a more inclusive sector has the potential to cultivate groundbreaking ideas and inspire creativity.Hence, fair share of credit to them.I must emphasize that in the UAE, the government strongly supports women empowerment. To be honest, I haven't observed any gender bias against women in this region. I take pride in making this statement.You have recently joined Stream Shreek, what is your take on the growth of the gaming sector in MENA?My involvement in the gaming industry is an ongoing journey filled with learning and growth. At Stream Shreek we are always striving to progress, aiming to connect our brands with an untapped audience by exploring the world of gaming. Currently, as more mainstream brands begin to venture into this space, we are not only focused on educating the brands about the operational aspects and how they can engage effectively, but we are also dedicated to developing Stream Shreek as the leading marketplace for Arabic-speaking streamers. Our goal is to become a comprehensive gaming strategy agency, providing a one-stop solution for brands. Just as in gaming, it's about fresh ideas, creative narratives, and creating an immersive experience for people. These elements blend seamlessly with advertising. By combining gaming elements, interactive storytelling, and virtual reality, I've been able to design advertisements that capture people's attention in innovative ways. This collaboration across different industries has enhanced my creative work, resulting in ads that stand out from the usual onesWhat would be your advice to women starting in the advertising/gaming sectors? What hardships can they face that men may not encounter?For women embarking on their journey in the industry, I would emphasize the significance of having confidence in your capabilities. Remember that knowledge holds tremendous power. It's perfectly acceptable not to attain perfection immediately; what truly matters is continuously educating oneself and applying that knowledge through market insights. Don't hesitate to voice your opinions, share your concepts, and actively pursue mentorship. Build a circle of colleagues and networks who provide unwavering support, magnify your voice, and foster your advancement. Embrace challenges as chances for personal and professional growth, recognizing that stumbling is part of the process—what truly counts is the determination to press ahead and progress.It's Ok to fall.Gaming is a sector traditionally dominated by men. Being a woman, how did you make your place?I consider myself lucky to have been presented with an opportunity to join Stream Shreek, the gaming division of LPS Brands, in the Middle East. These are genuinely thrilling times.That being said, entering the gaming industry as a woman brings forth a unique set of challenges, considering its historical male-dominated nature. Nevertheless, by actively engaging in gaming communities, advocating for diversity, and showcasing expertise, women have the potential to carve out their own niche. Participating in online forums, sharing insights, and collaborating on projects can play a pivotal role in dismantling obstacles and contributing to a more inclusive gaming landscape.Notably, within both the gaming sphere and specifically in the MENA region, there has been a notable surge in the presence of women in the gaming community. Remarkably, women make up 20% of the gamers within this community. With governmental backing for events like the Dubai Esports Festival and the initiation of various other events, there has been a substantial upswing in these statistics, and this trend is poised for continued growth.How will AI change the dynamics of the gaming industry?AI will change the gaming industry by personalizing experiences, creating realistic characters and content, improving graphics, analyzing player behaviour, enhancing testing and quality assurance, and offering virtual assistants and streaming enhancements. It will make games more engaging and efficient to develop.What are the latest trends you have witnessed in the gaming industry in the Middle East region?The gaming industry in the Middle East is rapidly growing and evolving, with a number of new trends emerging in recent years. These trends are being driven by a number of factors, including the increasing popularity of mobile gaming, the growth of e-sports, and the investment of government and private entities in the region's gaming ecosystem.Here are some of the latest trends I have witnessed in the gaming industry in the Middle East region:• Mobile gaming is the dominant platform. Mobile gaming accounts for the majority of the gaming market in the Middle East, with over 60% of gamers playing on their smartphones or tablets. This is due to the high penetration of smartphones in the region, as well as the growing availability of affordable and high-quality mobile games.• E-sports is gaining popularity. E-sports is a rapidly growing segment of the gaming industry in the Middle East, with millions of viewers and fans across the region. There are now a number of professional esports leagues and tournaments held in the Middle East, and the region has produced some of the world's top e-sports players and teams.• Investment is increasing. Governments and private entities in the Middle East are investing heavily in the gaming industry. This investment is being used to support the development of local game studios, attract foreign game companies to the region, and build esports infrastructure.• The rise of indie games. Indie games are becoming increasingly popular in the Middle East, as gamers are looking for new and innovative gaming experiences. There are a number of talented indie game developers in the region, who are producing high-quality games that are being enjoyed by gamers around the world.• The growth of cloud gaming. Cloud gaming is a new technology that allows gamers to play high-end games without having to purchase expensive gaming hardware. Cloud gaming is still in its early stages of development in the Middle East, but it is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years, as the region's internet infrastructure continues to improve.In addition to these trends, I am also witnessing a growing interest in new technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in the Middle East gaming industry. A number of game developers in the region are experimenting with these technologies, and I believe that VR and AR will play a major role in the future of gaming in the Middle East.Overall, the gaming industry in the Middle East is booming, with a number of exciting trends emerging. I am excited to see how the industry continues to develop in the coming years.What according to you will be the future of gaming in the coming years?  The future of gaming will be more immersive, social, and accessible, thanks to new technologies like VR, AR, cloud gaming, and AI. Indie games will also play a major role, as gamers look for new and innovative gaming experiences.

GGTech's gaming revolution: Alberto Martin on GGTech's gaming & e-sports mission

In the exhilarating realm of e-sports and gaming, GGTech Entertainment Group has emerged as a formidable global force. Their mission: to unite the worlds of video games and e-sports with society, creating distinctive entertainment and educational ventures. In this conversation with Adgully, Alberto Martin, Chief Revenue Officer of GGTech, delves into how GGTech fosters values like integration, sportsmanship, teamwork, and personal growth through gaming. Moreover, he unveils the innovative ways GGTech leverages gaming for learning and skill development, their grassroots initiatives, and the future of e-sports. Excerpts:Can you provide an overview of GGTech Entertainment Group and its mission in bridging the world of video games and e-sports with society?GGTech Entertainment is a global enterprise with a presence in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, and North Africa. Specializing in the fusion of leisure, esports, and cutting-edge technology, our mission is to create distinctive entertainment and educational ventures. With an emphasis on technological innovation and interactive spaces, we deliver a plethora of tech solutions that aim to advance societal growth and offer users a premium, tailor-made gaming experience.How do you believe video games and e-sports can promote values such as integration, sportsmanship, teamwork, and personal growth, and how does GGTech actively encourage these values?Video games and e-sports inherently promote integration by uniting players globally irrespective of background or geography. They emphasize sportsmanship as players engage in competitive settings, following rules and respecting opponents. Team-based games foster teamwork, requiring players to communicate and strategize collectively. Moreover, the iterative nature of gaming facilitates personal growth, as players constantly learn from mistakes and improve. GGTech actively champions these values by developing games and environments that stress collaborative play, organising tournaments with a spirit of fair competition, and creating platforms where diverse players converge, learn, and grow together, ensuring a holistic gaming experience for all.GGTech emphasizes the connection between entertainment and learning. Could you share some examples of how your organisation leverages gaming and e-sports to motivate learning and skill development?GGTech Entertainment is at the forefront of merging entertainment with education, using gaming and e-sports as catalysts for learning and skill development. Our footprint in collegiate e-sports is extensive, encompassing over 100,000 students from more than 1,500 universities across 25 countries on four continents. In the UAE alone, GGTech's Amazon UNIVERSITY e-sports saw participation from over 850 players from 40 universities. This global competition, beyond fostering competitive spirit, emphasizes real-world learning. Students are exposed to workshops presented by seasoned professionals and get the opportunity to gain their first professional experience in the industry focusing on diverse areas from broadcasting to marketing. The educational impact is further evident in the MENA region, where over 3,500 students from 90 universities, forming 300 teams, actively participate in these competitions. Furthermore, the innovative UNIVERSITY Tour in the UAE was introduced, simulating competitive environments across various campuses, allowing more students to experience e-sports firsthand. Through these initiatives, we not only celebrate gaming excellence but also champion academic commitment, real-world career development, and skills like strategic thinking and teamwork. With the gaming industry in the MENA region projected to reach $5bn by 2025, this emphasis on integrating gaming with education is both timely and impactful.What initiatives or programmes does GGTech have in place to engage with and support aspiring gamers and e-sports enthusiasts, particularly at the grassroots level?GGTech has placed a keen emphasis on fostering talent and supporting grassroots initiatives within the gaming and e-sports community. Some of our initiatives are:Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports: This competition has made significant strides in the UAE and the MENA region, captivating thousands of players by blending the competitive spirit of video games with educational undertakings. Spanning over 25 countries, this initiative has influenced over 100,000 students from more than 1,500 universities. Beyond just competition, it paves the way for students to delve into the e-sports industry, offering them first professional experiences. They gain insights into roles such as broadcasters, commentators, producers, and social media managers, setting the stage for their career advancement. Complementing this, the UNIVERSITY Tour initiative brings the thrill of competition directly to campuses, simulating competitive environments to offer students a genuine taste of e-sports participation.TFT RISING LEGENDS & TFT CHAMPIONSHIP: The official competition of Teamfight Tactics (an individual strategy game from Riot Games) in the EMEA region and the TFT Championship is the global competition for the same game. It is one of the fastest-growing games in recent years, and GGTech organises both of these international competitions.Collegiate Esports: GGTech has facilitated competitions such as the College League of Legends (CLoL) and College VALORANT (CVAL) in collaboration with Riot e-sports in the USA.Support & Mentoring for College Clubs: Beyond just organizing competitions, we have a program in place to mentor college clubs, providing them with the resources and guidance they need to develop and flourish.Collaborations with Major Brands: With partnerships, such as the one with gaming computer HP OMEN in the UAE, GGTech ensures that participants have access to the latest gaming technologies, enhancing their gaming experience and competitive edge.Live e-sports Events: Hosting live events, like the Amazon UNIVERSITY e-sports Masters (AUEM) MENA Series Finals, GGTech provides a platform for players to showcase their skills on a grand stage in front of a live audience.Community Building: By organising tournaments and leagues, we are creating a network of like-minded enthusiasts, fostering respect, teamwork, and strategic thinking.JUNIOR Esports: In Spain, GGTech organises JUNIOR Esports, a competition similar to UNIVERSITY Esports, but for high school students.GAMERGY: GGTech's most important on-site event that includes entertaining and educational activities for the whole family. It takes place in Madrid, Buenos Aires, and Mexico, and is considered one of the most important Spanish-speaking events in the sector. The last edition in Mexico, held in August, was attended by more than 75,000 people.CIRCUITO TORMENTA: Riot Games' main amateur competition in Spain, also developed by GGTech. This competition is where many players and teams make the jump to the professional leagues.e-sports has grown significantly in recent years. How does GGTech view the future of esports, and what role do you see your company playing in its continued development and expansion?e-sports has witnessed exponential growth, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The global gaming market is set to rise from US$281 billion in 2023 to $665 billion by 2030. With the MENA region emerging as a major gaming hub, boasting 377 million gamers and countries like KSA and the UAE displaying engagement rates rivalling Europe and America, GGTech is at the forefront of this evolution with its various programmes and initiatives.With the surge in gaming revenues in the UAE, driven by its youth-centric population, the industry has morphed into a communal and interactive experience. Evolutions like virtual reality, the metaverse, and increased mobile gaming accentuate this trend. GGTech plays a pivotal role in this landscape with our involvement in the Amazon UNIVERSITY e-sports competition empowers students globally, offering insights into the industry's multifaceted business segments.The rise of the metaverse and the integration of technologies like AR and VR in gaming also underline the UAE's advancement in the e-sports realm, attracting global talent. In fact, GGTech is actively working to integrate blockchain technology into our competitive platforms, like Qualy. As e-sports and gaming evolve, GGTech envisions itself championing innovation and driving the sector towards new horizons.In what ways does GGTech foster diversity and inclusivity within the gaming and e-sports communities, and why do you consider this important?As the gaming landscape in the MENA region undergoes rapid transformation, there's a notable surge in the participation of female players. Recent data highlights this trend, with nearly 64% of online adult males and 58% of online females in the Emirates involved in digital gaming. Surprisingly, in KSA, the numbers are even closer with 68% online male gamers and a slightly higher 69% online female gamers. The forecast projects that female gamers in MENA could outnumber male gamers. This evolution is attributed to the rising engagement of previously overlooked groups, including women and Gen X.GGTech's initiatives, like Amazon UNIVERSITY Esports, reflect this change, actively encouraging women's participation and ensuring they're recognized and celebrated for their talents. In the UK's UNIVERSITY e-sports competition, for example, tournaments are held specifically for women, to promote inclusion, as they are often overlooked or displaced within the e-sports ecosystem. The future of the gaming industry hinges on such inclusive practices, and with women already showcasing their skills both in playing and streaming, our efforts emphasize that the industry's growth and sustainability are intertwined with its commitment to gender inclusivity.What partnerships or collaborations has GGTech engaged in to further its mission, and how have these alliances contributed to your organization's success and impact?GGTech, from all its products, has links with some of the most important brands in the world: Amazon, Twitch, Microsoft, Intel, McDonald's, Disney, Red Bull, Samsung, and Adidas, among many others. This demonstrates the trust it has earned over the years, consolidating itself as one of the most important companies on a global level, and with sustained growth year after year.This trust is also earned by the world's leading game developers, who trust GGTech to develop some of their most important events. This is reflected in the relationship with Riot Games, Ubisoft, Epic Games, Supercell, and Activision, among other publishers.These strategic collaborations with industry forerunners have been instrumental to our organisation's triumph. They empower us to present unique opportunities, integrate progressive technologies, and ensure our vanguard position in the e-sports sphere, crafting inclusive, captivating, and technologically advanced platforms for gamers everywhere.Could you share some success stories or memorable moments that highlight the positive impact GGTech has had on individuals or communities through its e-sports and gaming initiatives?Over the years, GGTech's initiatives have successfully engaged vast numbers of passionate gamers and enthusiasts. GGTech accompanies the growth of e-sports on a global level, becoming one of the most influential companies in the sector over the years. The trust of global companies, the growth of its workforce, and its international expansion demonstrate that GGTech is a company that works towards providing children, adolescents, and adults with unparalleled educational and entertainment experiences.

Closed Captions Communications: Where sibling synergy fuels creative innovation

‘Closed Captions Communications’ is a branding studio with a difference. It is a brainchild of Serge and Sarah Trad, who have navigated the ever-changing landscapes of both clients and agencies, mastering the intricate realms of branding. With a combined wealth of experience in marketing, communications, journalism, and creative copywriting, the dynamic duo brings a fresh perspective to the world of branding and storytelling.Serge Trad, an award-winning marketing & communications consultant, has an impressive track record of spearheading marketing campaigns, driving business growth, and formulating customer-first strategies for global brands across multiple sectors. He has also been recognized as Dubai’s F&B Marketeer of the Year 2022. Sarah Trad, a journalist, editor, and copywriter, brings her creative flair and unparalleled storytelling abilities to the studio. She has also served as the Editor-in-Chief of prominent media/tech publications.In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Sarah Trad, Co-Founder of 'Closed Captions Communications,' shares insights into the journey of building their unique branding studio, the pros and cons of running a business with her brother, Serge Trad, and the challenges and triumphs they've encountered along the way. Sarah also discusses the startup landscape in Dubai, their approach to branding, and offers valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.Could you share your career journey? As a journalist, how did you come up with the idea for your startup, 'Closed Captions Communications'? What inspired it?Words always meant too much to me. Holding a pen and paper, two of the first things a child is given for fun and learning, I found myself writing for the sake of how letters looked handwritten all while holding meaning when aligned in any specific manner.They say not all readers are writers, but all writers are readers; and I read and write a lot. From culture and art to global oil markets and regional economic and business news, my brain adapts fast to all of them. Apparently I’m a deeply curious person, something I discovered while improvising questions and entire conversations during interviews as a young journalist.On a random day last year, my brother reached out to me with the assignment to create the full verbal identity of a new restaurant that’s a month away from opening at The Palm Jumeirah. This was the first time I found myself in direct contact with branding; it was unlike other freelance projects or articles I had written before. The process was so enriching and satisfying that it pushed my creative writing to prevail over my journalistic side.Closed Captions Communications came to be out of a need to set our creativity free away from other professional commitments.Serge is the Director of Marketing at Addmind, one of the MENA’s biggest hospitality companies, and I’m a journalist with an intimate relationship with words. It was a matter of time for us to combine our talents and 10+ years of experience into a business we want to grow until we’re off this planet.You and your brother, Serge Trad, co-founded 'Closed Captions Communications.' Do you believe it's easier to run a business with a sibling? What are the pros and cons?Running a business is a massive responsibility on its own; managing it with a sibling, in my case older brother, is another challenge that needs a lot of conscious work and open conversations.If I am to list out pros and cons, the cons will all boil down to personal issues and communication while the pros will comfortably override and outweigh the cons.Any argument would de-escalate in the presence of clear, concise communication. Siblings have a heavy load on their backs since childhood, with fights, jealousy, and the need to prove and differentiate one’s self from the other. Once we see our siblings as our friends, or accept the fact that they’re not here to compete with or hurt us, the relationship will begin to self-heal.To jump from brother-sister to business partners usually requires a predisposition to having complementary talents that can be made profitable. Luckily, Serge and I have been nurturing this closeness in taste and interests ever since ever.Could you please provide some insights into your venture?We have a knack for plucking the soul out of a company, giving it a personality and tone of voice, dressing it in design elements that bring out its unique side, and wrapping it all under a brand that’s ready to tango with the world.Both you and Co-Founder Serge Trad are located in different cities, with you in Beirut and him in Dubai. Has this geographical separation posed any challenges for 'Closed Captions Communication'?After Serge and I had decided in all seriousness that we’re opening a branding studio, we needed to brand it. I hadn’t seen him in months, and we were handling all the legal papers over WhatsApp, which was a little odd to me considering Beirut is far from being the paper-free city Dubai is.It was Christmas and Serge decided to have me and parents over in Dubai for the holidays. On a taxi ride, he looks at me and says “Closed Captions Communications”. My eyes opened wide as I was taking the name in.The building of the brand happened over three months during which we only spent three weeks in the same city. WhatsApp and online calls were, and still are, our dearest friends, though being in the presence of each other rolls out an abundance of ideas that materialise into beautiful work like our latest campaign ‘Eat Your Heart Out’, but oh well, c’est la digital vie these days.Do you believe Dubai is a startup hub, welcoming both local and international startups? What factors make the UAE an ideal location for startups?Ahh Dubai, what a city of networking it is. I’ve never encountered a more serious city about business and economy; when a country elects a Minister of Happiness, you know something good is happening.Startups look at Dubai as their playground, just like Silicon Valley is inundated with weird experimental machines/apps/services and self-driving taxis.The UAE’s advantage over other countries in attracting startups would have to be the diversity in headquartered global companies, plethora of investors, the technological savviness of most residents who can switch to being users, and the constant programs and initiatives created by the government and big players to encourage the youth to materialise their ideas.Can you share any impactful experiences, whether positive or negative, from your journey of building your brand?The realisation that if I don’t do it there’s no one else to do it for me keeps me on my toes. As a business owner, I’m going to be doing everything from scheduling calls to preparing legal contracts to working on an outreach marketing strategy to looking up administrative tools and techniques and so on. It’s a lot of skills, learning, and research. Luckily I have Serge as a Co-Founder and his extremely straightforward work ethics to guide my dreamer mind and take a heavy load off my shoulders.How did you navigate and overcome the challenges you faced?An open and positively flexible mentality is how one can jump over hardships and move towards solutions. Sometimes, people only have to seek a betterment to their stagnant state for a snowball-leading change to take place.In times like these, technology has your back, AI is at your service, search engines have the answers to your questions, and experienced professionals can guide you through muddy waters. Even health issues (physical or mental) can be worked on if they’re affecting your workflow. Just seek the help need and don’t let old habits dictate how you lead your life now.What key points about startups would you like to share with the readers?Numbers say over 90% of startups fail within or after a year of their launch. I say one has to be more reasonable than a dreamer. Find a problem and solve it, but have this problem be worth the trouble. It’s cool to add “CEO” or “Co-Founder” to your LinkedIn title but not cooler than helping people and the planet lead a better life through the solution you’re putting all your time and effort and money into

We aim to make metaverse technology accessible to all: Shaffra’s Alfred Manasseh

“Our goal is to democratize metaverse creation, similar to how platforms like WordPress simplified website development. We plan to support the gaming ecosystem and leverage AI tools for various applications. Ultimately, we aim to make metaverse technology accessible to all users, including SMEs, and expand our reach beyond the MENA region,” says Alfred Manasseh, Co-Founder and Chief Metaverse & Operating Officer of Shaffra, the first company in the MENA region offering Metaverse-as-a-Service, enabling companies to have metaverse strategies and presence. Shaffra provides its technology to organisations to be able to build their own metaverses and to empower businesses in various verticals. In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Alfred Manasseh shares insights into the company's mission to democratize metaverse technology, its unique position in the MENA region, and its vision for the future of the metaverse. From pioneering metaverse-as-a-service to transforming industries, Shaffra is at the forefront of reshaping how we interact with the digital world. Excerpts:Can you provide an overall idea about Shaffra’s metaverse-as-service offering, and how it differentiates itself in the MENA region? How receptive is the MENA region when it comes to the adoption of metaverse?Initially when we were at the ideation phase of our startup, Shaffra, our project goals were completely different. We were about to launch a crypto exchange geared for businesses, and that's where the name Shaffra comes from. In colloquial Arabic here in the region, it means code or crypto.Now, when we initially set out to launch our project, our primary goal was to develop a unique business model that would harness global talent. To achieve this, we envisioned running our operations entirely in a virtual environment. However, as we delved into the available options for making our operations completely virtual, we couldn't find anything that fully met our expectations. It was at this point that we made a crucial decision: let's create our own solution. With three co-founders on board, one of whom boasts technical expertise gained from working at Nintendo and developing gaming engines, as well as experience in handling large web data applications, we embarked on building our virtual world or proof of concept (POC), whichever term you prefer. During this process, we recognized that the potential for growth in the metaverse within our region far exceeded that of the crypto exchange industry.Can you name some of your major clients in the region?When we started, we were fortunate to participate in a challenge in Abu Dhabi, which led to our first client, Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism. I can't disclose specific projects, but we're working on about three to four different initiatives for them, scheduled to launch in January 2024. These projects cover areas such as employee interactions, resident interactions, marketing, and tourism. Another client we're currently working with is Omantel in Oman, a telecom company. Their initial focus is on enhancing customer service experiences. We're also in discussions with various banks, telecom companies, and government departments, although I can't provide details at this time.What industries or sectors do you see benefiting the most from Shaffra's metaverse solutions and what specific challenges do they face that your technology aims to address?The primary sector we target is the service aspect of the metaverse. For instance, our work with Omantel transforms how telecom companies serve customers. This concept can extend to police departments, where residents interact with law enforcement, or banks, where customers engage and learn in novel ways. We aim to enhance digital experiences and interactions, making them more engaging and dynamic compared to traditional websites. As for challenges, adoption remains a hurdle, but by working closely with corporations and governments, we aim to create experiences that benefit both organisations and users. We believe the metaverse is the future of the Internet, offering enhanced access to information and efficient interactions.How does Shaffra leverage blockchain technology to ensure the security and integrity of virtual assets within the metaverse?While blockchain can be part of the metaverse, it's not a requirement. We can use blockchain to facilitate transactions and experiences, and we are blockchain-agnostic. However, direct integration with blockchain systems can limit metaverse adoption since not everyone is familiar with crypto wallets like MetaMask. We believe in blockchain's potential but acknowledge that it can currently hinder widespread metaverse adoption. We prioritize accessibility for all users, including those who may not be well-versed in blockchain technology.Could you share some success stories or case studies where Shaffra solutions have had a transformative impact on organisations in various verticals?Certainly, one of our ongoing projects is with a telecom company in Oman. By transitioning their physical branches to virtual ones, we aim to save them significant overhead costs. Additionally, we're implementing AI-driven customer service tools, making the customer service journey seamless and efficient. We can integrate with various tools and APIs to personalize interactions based on customer data. This approach not only reduces costs but also boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.What trends do you foresee in the adoption and development of metaverse technology in the MENA region and globally?We believe the metaverse is the next evolution of the Internet. Just as websites evolved from static pages to dynamic platforms, the metaverse will transform how we interact with digital content. With remote work, accessibility, and changing social behaviours, the metaverse is poised to become integral to our lives. As technologies like VR, AR, and AI continue to advance, the metaverse will offer efficient and engaging digital experiences.How does Shaffra envision the future of metaverse interactions and experiences? And what role do you see your company playing in shaping this future?We anticipate multiple metaverses coexisting rather than a single dominant one. Companies and organisations will build their own metaverse experiences. Standardization in protocols, 3D standards, and AI will guide metaverse development. Shaffra aims to make this technology accessible, initially to large corporations and governments, and eventually to SMEs and the general population. We see ourselves as pioneers in shaping the metaverse's backbone and infrastructure, creating a framework for widespread adoption.Some say that the metaverse was hyped beyond its actual worth, leading to skepticism about its long-term viability. What is your perspective on this criticism, and where do you see the metaverse heading in the future?Hype often surrounds new technologies, but early applications may not fully reveal their potential. Similar skepticism existed during the early days of websites. Over time, the metaverse will evolve and become an integral part of our digital lives. With younger generations growing up in virtual environments, their expectations for engagement and interaction differ from static websites. The metaverse represents a natural progression of the Internet and social behaviours, and we believe it is here to stay.What is your vision for Shaffra, and where do you see yourself two years from now? Please elaborate on your expansion plans in the days ahead?Our vision involves a multi-phased roadmap. In the initial phases, we focus on onboarding large corporations and governments in the MENA region. We aim to create an ecosystem around these clients and simplify the journey for SMEs to join and create their own metaverse experiences. Our goal is to democratize metaverse creation, similar to how platforms like WordPress simplified website development. We plan to support the gaming ecosystem and leverage AI tools for various applications. Ultimately, we aim to make metaverse technology accessible to all users, including SMEs, and expand our reach beyond the MENA region. We envision a future where Shaffra plays a pivotal role in shaping metaverse development and adoption.

Inside the gaming mind of Bijay Gurung: From Angry Birds to global success

Founded in 2020, Riyadh-headquartered Sandsoft Games is a gaming company focused on publishing, developing, and investing in high-quality international gaming experiences and studios. Sandsoft delivers in engaging and entertaining experiences to players in the MENA region, with global support from an experienced team with a proven track record. The seasoned team is composed of passionate game creators who collate a deep-rooted knowledge of the video games market, having worked on some of the most successful game franchises ever, including FIFA, Candy Crush, Need for Speed, Angry Birds and World of Tanks.In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Bijay Gurung, Senior Director, Business Development, EMEA, dwells at length on the delicate balance between creativity and commerce in game development, the challenges and strategies of catering to the MENA region, the importance of cross-cultural collaboration, and so on. Join us on this journey through the gaming ecosystem, where continents, cultures, and people are brought closer together through the power of gaming. Excerpts:Your journey in the gaming industry has been quite remarkable, with experiences at companies like Rovio, Huawei, and Real Networks. How have these diverse roles shaped your perspective on business development in the gaming sector?Since starting my career in the days before the App Store and Google Play even existed, it’s been an incredible journey to see the growth and evolution of mobile games. The industry has grown from games being little snackable bits of content that are just 100 kilobytes in size, to being known as household brands. I spent a decade working on the Angry Birds franchise and continue to see its influence across the globe, with a movie, sports sponsorships and toys all spinning out of the IP.Could you share some insights from your time at Rovio, especially regarding your contributions to launching numerous games and leading major marketing programmes with tech giants like Apple, Google, Samsung, Facebook, and Amazon?I joined Rovio when Angry Birds was first gaining popularity and success. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to launch multiple games in close collaboration with the platforms. Particular highlights include launching Angry Birds Space from the international space station, a surprise appearance in CES for a special version of the game for Samsung Smart TVs, and being part of Apple’s key initiatives like ‘Games for RED’ and ‘Apps for Earth’.The mobile gaming industry is known for its rapid changes. How do you approach identifying and capitalizing on new opportunities and synergies across different platforms and geographical regions at Sandsoft Games?At Sandsoft, we are lucky to have amassed huge industry talents from across the globe. This allows us to identify key partners and partnerships from a range of company sizes and regions, all the way from publishing powerhouse Jam City to small indie developers. By working with international teams, we are able to provide the best experience for gamers wherever they play from.Sandsoft Games focuses on delivering gaming experiences in the MENA region. Could you elaborate on the challenges and strategies you employ to ensure that these experiences resonate with the local audience while maintaining global appeal? The challenge is that no two gamers are alike; but there are ways to provide experiences that have broad appeal. Our aim is to provide the ultimate gaming experience by incorporating local content, events, and cultural relevance. However, we also know that players are interested in experiencing content from beyond their own region. That's why we're focusing on games that have a global appeal while still being relevant to the MENA region. One such game that we think fits the bill is Fantasy Pick, a Fantasy Football game.Your background includes an MBA from the Kelley School of Business. How has this formal education complemented your practical experiences, particularly in the gaming industry?Formal education taught me a variety of lessons; not only in educational content, but also when it comes to working with others. My educational background has taught me how to approach challenging situations with clarity and boldness. Indeed, I've been taught the importance of analytical thinking from an early stage which I apply to my role on a daily basis. The multicultural environment at Kelley has equipped me with an understanding of diverse cultures and approaches; very relevant to my role at Sandsoft!Sandsoft Games has offices in various countries, including Saudi Arabia, Spain, Finland, and China. How do you manage cross-cultural collaboration and communication within your team, and what role do you believe this diversity plays in enriching the gaming ecosystem?Although technical solutions such as Slack and Teams are incredibly helpful in day-to-day communication, we also have quarterly face-to-face catch-ups that help foster effective collaboration and understanding. Most importantly, as our organisation grows, our People and Culture team is doing a phenomenal job of bringing everyone together, from new joiners to those that have been with us from the start. Given that our games are designed for a global market, diversity is key to making our games relevant to our players; particularly when it comes to understanding the market with localized marketing.As a Senior Director of Business Development, you've likely been involved in establishing and maintaining partnerships. Could you share a particularly challenging or rewarding partnership experience from your career, and the key lessons you've learned from it?One challenge I face is managing expectations. In my experience, building trust and a long-lasting partnership that goes beyond a single project has been most successful. Not all games or marketing partnerships will succeed, but viewing them as a part of a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship can help cement a lasting partnership. The philosophy behind games as a service follows a similar approach, as our goal is to entertain our players for many years to come. Whilst one partnership may not turn out exactly as planned, it's a long-term vision of success that we strive for.Gaming is increasingly seen as a medium for storytelling and artistic expression. How does Sandsoft Games balance the creative aspects of game development with the business side, and how do you ensure that the teams you work with maintain their artistic integrity while meeting commercial goals?Game making is very much a mix of art and science. Both go hand in hand. From inception we have the mindset of testing in the market what we are building. We have key milestones in different phases of the development process. Ultimately, a game must deliver an enjoyable experience to the players, and when they are truly engaged, commercial success naturally follows.With your extensive network in the gaming industry, what advice would you give to aspiring game developers and business development professionals who aim to make a mark in this ever-evolving sector?Have fun! The advice sounds simple but to truly thrive in the industry, it helps to have a passion for it. Play games, understand the latest releases, and keep up with the latest developments. When you're truly immersed in your work, the best results arise. Also, don't feel that you need to be an expert in everything. Not all of us are great game makers, but perhaps you have great marketing skills. By working closely with industry friends and colleagues, a well-rounded team can make sure all skills are met and the best results are achieved.Lastly, Sandsoft Games' mission revolves around bringing continents, cultures, and people closer together through gaming. Can you share a vision you have for the future of the gaming ecosystem in the MENA region and beyond?We’re deeply committed to delivering the best content to players, wherever they are in the world. To achieve this, we're building up an industry-leading team across the globe, with 20 nationalities represented among our 50-strong team. In August, Ahmed Sharif from META joined Sandsoft as CTO, and Pasqual Batalla became our COO after leaving SocialPoint. As a Saudi Arabia-headquartered company, we’re also committed to nurturing local talent; and our Press Start Internship Program equips local residents with the skills needed to thrive in the industry. With our talented team in place, we are excited to develop more high-quality gaming experiences for international players.

From 1969 to 2023: Hisense's Fazalur Rahman reflects on the brand's success

In this exclusive interview, Fazalur Rahman, Marketing Director of Hisense Middle East & Africa, provides insights into Hisense's evolution since its inception in 1969, major milestones, and the brand's remarkable growth in the Middle East. He discusses the changing dynamics of the marketing industry, successful strategies, and the brand's expansion into new avenues, including AI adoption and B2B air-conditioning marketing plans. Excerpts:As Marketing Director of Hisense, Middle East, can you please share as to how the company has evolved since its inception in 1969? Kindly mention a few major milestones that the organization has achieved.Since the company’s inception in 1969, Hisense has been pushing the boundaries of innovation and investing heavily in the research and development to bring to life wide range of electronic products and solution to ever demanding consumers and changing lifestyle. Hisense now has over 90,000 employees worldwide, 29 industrials parks, and as of H1 2023 22 research and development centers across the world that service specific key markets for the brand.Since establishing ourselves in the UAE in 2012, Hisense Middle East has experienced remarkable and steady growth, evolving into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. We now have a strong presence across the region, witnessing substantial expansion across diverse product categories. Our business is thriving through a combination of online and offline channels, earning recognition as one of the top electronic brands in physical retail stores, including both organised and independent outlets, as well as major e-commerce platforms.The company’s solid MEA performance closes a successful 12-month period that has also seen us secure a number of high-profile product awards, including the prestigious CES 2023 Innovation Award and EISA Award for ‘Best Product of the Year’ for our premium 4K Mini-LED ULED TV 65U8HQ, and the Tom's Guide Award 2023 for our 4K UST Triple-Laser Trichroma Projector 100L9H.Hisense is one of the largest consumer electronics companies. What are your responsibilities in running such a big organization flawlessly?As the regional marketing director for Hisense Middle East & North Africa, it is my responsibility to design and reshape strategies to improve brand awareness and equity, execute GTM plans, enhance consumer engagement, and optimise retail/shopper marketing. My primary focus in this role is on driving brand equity, influencing consumer behaviour, and accelerating business growth across the Middle East region.While retail expansion remains key to us, we are also elevating our presence through e-commerce and online platforms. Comprehensive marketing plans that drive traffic and conversions through various social and digital platforms, have supported the brand to increase its brand equity.Another key part of our marketing efforts is supporting the brand through collaboration with global sporting events, which has helped us position Hisense as one of the top consumer electronic brands in the region. Participations included the FIFA World Cup in 2018 and 2022, as well as the UEFA European Championships in both 2016 and 2020 and football club PSG, and previously the Australian Open, NASCAR Xfinity Series, Red Bull Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Germany’s FC Schalke 04.Being a Marketing Director, how have you seen the marketing segment evolving over the years? What are your views on the changing dynamics of the marketing industry?In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in marketing. Today, If the brand wishes to stay ahead of competition and thrive in an ever-changing environment, then it must prioritize providing relevant, personalised customer experiences and meaningful engagements.The pandemic has changed how marketers build brands, and marketing’s role has been redefined. Today’s consumer is more concerned with value than with product, and other factors such as the environment and brand activism are equally important when making a purchasing decision.Customers’ expectations for Online/digital experiences have climbed sharply. These experiences must not only be seamless, but they must also span the whole consumer journey. Be it social, mobile, digital, web, brands must meet the needs of their customers wherever they are.On the execution front, there have been great developments too, like Marketing Automation, Artificial Intelligence and 360 degree experiential marketing, which has changed the marketing landscape.What campaigns and strategies have you devised for Hisense over the years? Have they all worked for the brand? According to you, which would you like to re-work on?Hisense has witnessed a big surge in its brand equity over the years. In the last 5 years Hisense brand equity increased by over 154%, in a highly competitive and challenging business environment. This is a result of our strategies and various activations. Our global brand building platform is Soccer marketing, which has worked very well for us, as it is a highly passionate, engaging and mass appeal touch point. Sponsorships like FIFA World cup 2018 and 2022, Euro ups 206, 2021 and now 2024, PSG had all contributed a lot, creating a strong brand awareness with high engagements. We would be pursuing this strategy for years to come.Apart from that, our strategic approach focuses on engaging and influencing consumer behavior at each touch point of the customer journey, be it online or offline. Also we are focusing a lot on experiential marketing, by enhancing our retail marketing, experiential zones as well as consumer activation for real life interaction with our products and solutions.Our strategy rests on three key drivers i.e. Brand marketing, Product marketing and Retail marketing, these play an important role in driving and brand and business growth. Our strategy is delivering the results and we plan to continue pursing it in future too.Hisense as a brand is best known for its consumer electronics division. Is the brand planning to diverge into different avenues? What would be the forthcoming plans of the brand?Hisense is leading in the space of home appliance and consumer electronics globally. Our business covers multimedia products with a focus on Smart TVs, home appliances, and IT intelligent information. We have grown rapidly in the past few years and have expanded to different avenues.One being Intelligent Transport Systems, providing overall solutions like traffic operation monitoring and emergency central system, ordinary public transportation intelligent system, taxi service management information system, road electromechanical system, intelligent road management system to name a few.We have also diversified into the Medical and Healthcare Industry. Last year we introduced imaging platforms that provide medical practitioners with more accuracy using 4k ultra high-definition resolution and state of the art connectivity in endoscope or surgery monitors. Its diagnostic monitors are currently in the final stages of testing at Ahalia Hospital in Abu Dhabi, UAE, while its ultrasound devices are being tested at Medicano Hospital in Erbil, Iraq.In a recent development, Hisense has opened its flagship stores in GCC, LEVANT and North Africa region. What can you share on this?Hisense’s regional growth has been elevated by the expansion of local offices in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, and Algeria, improving regionwide operations and a more robust partner network and relations strategy. This advancement has also brought the brand closer to its key markets, allowing us to better cater for our end users and network partners. We also look forward to catering to local requirements in terms of products, lifestyle, environment and social that influence the customers consumption patterns and habits with a global R&D centre based in Dubai, that will be an innovation centre for Hisense to introduce new products and technology.AI is taking the centre stage worldwide. What is your take on this? How far has Hisense adopted AI in the marketing domain and other related areas?Artificial intelligence is a great technology that can make human-like decisions, and there are many ways to utilize this power in the world of marketing. What makes artificial intelligence so powerful is that it comes in many different forms. Machine learning and artificial intelligence has come together to optimize ad campaigns across multiple ad platforms. We are utilizing AI tools for various marketing activities like Social listening, which helps us collect and analyze data related to our brand, audience and competitors across various social media platforms. We also use it for integrating customer-facing channels to collect every single interaction for in-depth analysis and insights. It helps in right content development, based on VOC data to find out content which the target audience is interested in and responds to it. AI is also used for identifying the right audience segmentation for programmatic campaigns, which helps us to improve digital ads ROI.Hisense is also making huge inroads into the region’s B2B air-conditioner market with a growing reputation for product efficiency. What are the marketing plans for this?B2B air-conditioning is quite different in approach compared to B2C products. The business characteristics are quite different in terms of the entire decision-making process and stakeholder profile, which are our primary target audience. Our marketing strategy is based on creating the right awareness and engagement to the stakeholders through knowledge sharing initiatives as well as B2B communication events to elaborate Hisense technology, solutions and service back-up for their projects. B2B Exhibition, technical seminars, focus groups from specific industry verticals as well as industry online & offline publication are great ways for us to create demand for our products and solutions.

Golden times: Indian jewellery brands sparkle in the UAE market

"You are never fully dressed without  jewellery," is a renowned quote that beautifully encapsulates the significance of jewellery in our lives, particularly for women. Jewellery stands out as an accessory that effortlessly enhances the wearer's appearance, transcending boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, or religion. Historically, India was revered as the epicenter of jewellery craftsmanship, but today, its allure has spread globally, particularly in the Middle East. Indian jewelers, attuned to this burgeoning trend, have seized the opportunity to expand their businesses by establishing outlets in the Middle East market. Let's explore this phenomenon further.Middle East: The next hub for jewelleryThe Middle East jewellery market is a significant and growing sector of the global jewellery industry. The region has a rich history and culture of jewellery making, with skilled artisans and designers creating intricate and luxurious pieces that are highly sought after by consumers around the world.The MENA jewellery market is projected to grow from $30.72 billion in 2022 to $52.24 billion by 2029, at a CAGR of 7.88 percent in the forecast period. Moreover, according to 6Wresearch, the UAE jewellery market is sure to grow during the 2023-2029 period.  The key factors driving this tremendous growth include rising disposable income, increasing consumer preferences for luxury goods, and the growing tourism industry in the Middle East. In addition, the Middle East has a strong cultural affinity for jewellery, which is also contributing in the expansion of the jewellery market.Indian brands beautifying MENAThe last couple of years have seen Indian jewellery brands making their strong presence in the lucrative MENA market, thanks to their intricate designs, high-quality craftsmanship, and the use of precious metals and stones. According to available data, the overall jewellery exports amounted to $5.4 billion in June 2022, which saw 17 per cent year-on-year growth. This tremendous growth can be owed to the Indo-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (Cepa) in 2022. This agreement has strengthened the trade relations between both the nations.Malabar Gold & Diamonds was the first Indian jewellery brand to have utilised the duty benefits of the CEPA to import 25 kg of gold in October 2022, marking a significant milestone for Indian jewellery brands. Shamlal Ahamed, MD - International Operations, Malabar Gold & Diamonds, stated: “The liberal trade policies that promote ease of doing business, political stability, ease of access to international markets and the extremely conducive trade agreements with India, to name a few, make the region very attractive for Indian investment.”<img src='\045007bbdd04203445bcf3ca548600a1.png' class='content_image'>He added: “There are several other factors that make the Middle East jewellery market one of the best in the world for Indian brands. If one takes the UAE as an example, the large Indian diaspora that resides in the region, with high earning capacity, makes up a significant chunk of the market in the middle east. This is an immediately attractive and lucrative prospect for Indian brands looking to establish themselves in the Middle East.”Speaking on the same lines, Ramesh Kalyanaraman, Executive Director, Kalyan Jewellers, said: “The UAE market's appeal to Indian brands, including Kalyan Jewellers, can be attributed to several key factors. The geographical proximity to India, coupled with cultural affinities, fosters stronger business connections and facilitates logistical operations. Additionally, the UAE's tax policy, which exempts gold and jewellery exports, presents a favorable economic environment for expansion. We believe that the tax benefits offered by the UAE not only enhance the competitiveness of our products in the international market but also contribute positively to the growth of the overall jewellery industry.”UAE: A perfect playground for Indian brandsRenowned Indian jewellery brands like Tanishq, Malabar Gold & Diamonds, Kalyan Jewellers, Joyallukas, etc. have successfully expanded their operations to the UAE, showcasing their collections to a diverse customer base. These include not only the Indian diaspora but also the local people as well as tourists from all over the world.Malabar Gold & Diamonds was one of the initial brands to make a foray in the Middle Eastern soil.Says Shamlal Ahamed: “With a strong focus on providing an exemplary jewellery shopping experience to jewellery lovers, the brand quickly gained acceptance amongst jewellery lovers of all nationalities by combining a host of customer-centric approaches with an exquisite collection of jewellery, emerging as one of the most preferred jewellery retailers in the region. The humble yet ambitious beginning laid the groundwork for our expansion into the other GCC countries, Singapore, Malaysia, the US, and the UK. In this regard, the Middle East market was extremely receptive to our business, so much so that we recently established the Malabar International Hub (MIH) at the historic Dubai Gold Souq. MIH houses all the enabling functionalities of the group’s immense international operations and will act as the epicenter for the brand’s current and future business aspirations.”About Kalyan Jeweller’s foray into the UAE, Ramesh Kalyanaraman said: “In 2013, we embarked on this strategic expansion, marking two decades of our journey. As we celebrate our 10-year presence in the UAE, Kalyan Jewellers has consistently flourished in the region, steadily expanding its market share. Over the years, we've worked diligently to create a comprehensive shopping experience for our patrons, ensuring our presence across various consumer touchpoints and building a distinctive presence in the market.”UAE: A goldmine for jewellery brandsThe UAE market offers numerous advantages to Indian jewellery brands, including a thriving population of Indian expatriates, a business-friendly environment, and a strong bilateral relationship between the UAE and India.<img src='\81ed2496e73766b03f3b651a0b09a552.png' class='content_image'>Additionally, the UAE presents an opportunity to Indian brands to increase their market share by targeting other diverse communities. However, the primary advantage lies in the trust and preference that Indians have for Indian brands, ensuring a stable and significant presence in the UAE market.Shamlal Ahamed, when discussing why the UAE is an ideal market for the brand, says: "Malabar Gold & Diamonds initially focused on serving the jewelry preferences of the extensive Indian expatriate community in the region. Over time, our customer base expanded to include the broader South Asian diaspora, followed by expatriates from various nationalities, including Arabs from different countries. Eventually, we established a strong presence among the local Emirati population. Our wide range of designs, outstanding service, and commitment to transparency swiftly made us the preferred jewellery retailer among Indians and people of other nationalities."On the expansion plans of Kalyan Jewellers, Ramesh Kalyanaraman said: “The brand has made significant strides in expanding its presence in the Middle East. Currently, we operate in 33 locations across four countries in the region. The Middle East has consistently demonstrated a positive trend in revenue contribution, with the recent quarter seeing it contribute 16% of our total revenue. It's worth noting that our international endeavors, primarily centered in the Middle East, have yielded impressive results, with a remarkable 29% year-over-year increase in revenue. A significant milestone lies ahead as we prepare to pilot our inaugural franchise showroom within the region this year. Looking ahead, our expansion efforts in the Middle East will be bolstered by the infusion of franchise capital, allowing us to further strengthen our foothold in the market.”Sharing his brand’s future plans, Shamlal Ahamed says: “Malabar Gold & Diamonds has an extensive retail network in all six GCC countries, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Kuwait. Since our international expansion in 2008, we have consistently grown in terms of revenue and store count. We are ranked as the 6th largest jewellery retailer globally, with presence in 11 countries. The ambitious expansion plans that we have charted for the Middle East includes strengthening our retail presence in existing regions with the launch of more showrooms as well as expanding our presence to new territories.”Preferences of the clientelesLet's hear from the experts regarding the preferences of Middle East customers. According to Shamlal Ahamed, in the UAE, customers show equal interest in both modern and traditional jewellery designs.“They have embraced and are quite open to global jewellery trends, always looking for the latest designs, whether it's for special occasions or everyday wear. Additionally, we've noticed an increasing preference for solitaires and diamonds, even among the younger demographic. The country is also becoming a significant destination for bridal jewelry shopping, catering to both residents and tourists," he adds.

From words to results: The power of good communication

Maya Angelou once famously said: 'Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.' This profound statement continues to hold true in the present day. Women, often referred to as the fairer sex, have consistently confronted and conquered the myriad challenges that cross their paths. They have demonstrated an indomitable spirit and emerged as inspiring role models for countless others.Karolina Slowikowska-Jaworowska is a prime example of a successful woman who has made a significant impact over the past two decades in the fields of media and communication. With more than 20 years of experience as a communications specialist, she stands as a testament to what determination and expertise can achieve. In an exclusive interview with Adgully, Karolina Slowikowska-Jaworowska, Director-Brand Communications at amana, delves deep into her journey of success within the realms of media, content, PR, and finance. She shares insights into the evolving role of women in our predominantly male-dominated society. Furthermore, she discusses her passion for writing and public relations, highlighting how these two facets complement each other seamlessly. Excerpts:Can you please share your career journey? How do you think the role and scope of women leaders have widened in the current market ecosystem in the UAE?My career journey started nearly two decades ago in the field of journalism, where I had the privilege to work with some of the world's most distinguished journalists, including Pulitzer Prize finalists, at the renowned Reuters news agency.Around a decade ago, I smoothly transitioned into the realm of communications and media relations. It felt natural. I’m now working in the world of finance, which I’ve grown to consider the lifeblood of any economy.While it's true that women have not traditionally dominated the financial sector during my journey, I have been fortunate to work in environments that were exceptionally supportive and inclusive, regardless of gender ratios. I firmly believe that the dynamics of one's workplace depend on the people around you.Over the years, I have witnessed a notable increase in the representation of women in the financial sector—an encouraging trend. It reflects the success of educational systems in providing girls with access to finance, mathematics, and science-oriented education while actively fostering their interest in these subjects. This transformation benefits not only the economy but also corporations, which now have a growing pool of talented women in fields that were previously male-dominated.We are increasingly aware that diversity, particularly in terms of diverse perspectives and thought, is a crucial driver of progress and innovation. This evolution is undoubtedly a positive sign for the industry and society at large.You are Director of Brand Communications at amana as well as have been an Editor and play many other roles simultaneously. What drives Karolina Slowikowska to fulfill all this?My passion for journalism and communications is deeply rooted in my upbringing and personal experiences. Watching my father, a dedicated journalist, immersed in his work left a lasting impression. Those father-daughter trips to his newspaper, the print section with that unique smell of ink and paper that I still remember, all left me enamored with the power of media. Now, as the Brand Communications Director at amana, I carry forward that energy and understanding. I firmly believe that effective communication is vital in fostering trust within the financial industry. I'm driven by the knowledge that my team and I contribute significantly to our brand and company's success.What is your first love? Media communications or content strategy? What is the one topic that you really like to write about?Both! Media strategy and content strategy are two essential components of a comprehensive communications plan, each serving distinct yet common purposes.Media strategy primarily focuses on selecting the right channels and platforms to distribute content effectively. It involves decisions about advertising budgets, media buying, target audience analysis, and scheduling. The goal is to ensure that the content reaches the desired audience through the most appropriate channels, such as social media, TV, radio, or print.On the other hand, content strategy is concerned with creating and curating compelling, relevant, and valuable content. This includes defining the messaging, tone, and style, as well as determining the types of content (e.g., articles, videos, infographics) needed to engage and inform the target audience.The two strategies are intimately connected. A well-considered content strategy informs the media strategy by providing the content that will be disseminated through chosen channels. Conversely, the media strategy guides the content strategy by determining where and when to publish content for maximum impact.For a communications director, daily responsibilities involve overseeing both strategies. This includes monitoring content creation, ensuring it aligns with the brand's goals, and adapting media choices based on real-time feedback and data analysis. The director must maintain a delicate balance between the two to achieve optimal communication outcomes. This entails continuous evaluation and adjustment to keep the strategies intertwined and effective.What can you say about the dynamics of the communication Industry, especially in the MENA region? What can you predict about its future?We live in an incredibly fast world where change is practically constant. And this is also true of the communications/PR industry. The PR industry is dynamic, constantly evolving to adapt to changing media landscapes and communication technologies. It involves building and managing relationships between organisations and their audiences, utilizing storytelling, social media, and data analytics to shape public perception. Flexibility, agility, and adaptability are key in this ever-shifting landscape. With the recent emergence of AI, we’re entering an entirely new phase, where change is even faster and adaptability will be the absolute key.What is your mantra for maintaining a successful work-life balance?It takes a village! Achieving a healthy work-life balance for women and men, especially in senior or leadership roles, first requires the acknowledgment that ‘balance’ is an important part of our lives. There are a few ways that I think can help anyone achieve a better work-life balance:• Prioritising tasks and responsibilities• embracing technology to work remotely when possible• establishing clear boundaries by setting designated work hours and respecting personal time• regularly scheduling self-care and leisure activities• learning to ask for help from a strong network, including family, friends, and mentors.I have been fortunate to collaborate with incredible teams and exceptional managers over the years. I've witnessed a significant evolution in corporate culture during the last couple of decades, with companies, leaders, and managers increasingly prioritizing work-life balance and mental health. As someone who leads a team, I'm making every effort I can to live by the above rules. This includes setting clear boundaries, promoting flexibility, and actively encouraging a healthy work-life balance to ensure that my team thrives both personally and professionally.According to you, what makes women the best in crisis management?Studies suggest that women often exhibit qualities such as empathy, collaboration, and strong interpersonal skills, which are often crucial during high-pressure situations. Their communication style also tends to be more transparent and inclusive, fostering trust among stakeholders. Additionally, women leaders are often seen as more approachable and relatable during crises. While individual capabilities vary, these findings underline the valuable contributions women can make in effectively handling crisis communication scenarios.A good example of a study that provides insights into women's effectiveness in crisis communications is "Crisis Communication in Public Relations: A Test of the Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) in the Context of Female CEOs" by Audra Diers-Lawson and Julia L. Daisy. This research examines how female CEOs handle crises in their organizations. It found that female leaders tend to adopt more accommodative strategies and engage in proactive communication during crises, contributing to more positive public perceptions and outcomes.What are the five most effective leadership lessons that you have learned and would like to share with others?Leadership, in my experience, transcends authority. The top five lessons I have learned include the importance of emotional intelligence, building positive team relationships, practicing empathy, fostering a sense of common purpose, and continuous personal growth. True leadership isn't just about power; it's about connecting, understanding, and guiding others towards shared goals with compassion and emotional acumen.Is there anything in your career bucket list that you have yet to do?I would like to develop my own course or workshop, so I can share my expertise and knowledge, helping to empower leaders and individuals in mastering public speaking and effective communication. This also aligns with my long-term goal of sharing insights and knowledge through a potential book, enabling others to communicate confidently and authentically, fostering stronger connections and building better relationships with brands, people and/or institutions. One day, I’ll find the time!

Keventers' UAE odyssey: Agastya Dalmia on achieving sweet success

Keventers is a renowned legacy with origins tracing back to 1925. It is widely recognized for its delectable dairy products, which evoke a sense of nostalgia and a deep appreciation for Indian milkshakes. The brand experienced a hiatus during the 1970s but was successfully resurrected by Agastya Dalmia in 2014. Today, it is under the ownership of Super Milk Products Private Limited and boasts a network of more than 200 Keventers Milkshake restaurants and outlets across India. In 2021, Keventers expanded its presence to the Middle East, where it has quickly become the preferred choice for milkshakes among the local populace. In an exclusive talk with Abha Garyali Peer, Adgully, Agastya Dalmia, Founder and CEO, Keventers, opens up about the brand’s revival as well as its success in India and the UAE as well. He talks about the challenges that the brand faced and dealt with, to become a famous milkshake for the people of the UAE. Excerpts: Share with us your entrepreneurial journey? What initiated you to re-launch Keventers?My entrepreneurial journey has been an exciting one, characterized by a passion for the food and beverages industry. When it comes to Keventers, the decision to re-launch this iconic brand stemmed from a desire to bridge the gap between nostalgia and modern preferences. Keventers has a rich heritage dating back to 1925. However, with changing consumer tastes and preferences, we saw an opportunity to breathe new life into the brand. The re-launch was driven by the aim to reintroduce Keventers to a new generation of consumers while preserving the essence of quality and authenticity.How has been the Keventers journey? You must have faced some obstacles on the way. How did you overcome them?The journey of establishing Keventers has indeed been a challenging yet rewarding one. We encountered several obstacles along the way. These challenges include positioning the brand in a competitive market, changing consumer preferences, supply chain disruptions, economic fluctuations, etc.To overcome them, we implemented a multifaceted approach. This involved extensive market research to understand consumer preferences, expanding our product offerings, modernizing our operations, and leveraging digital marketing strategies to connect with our audience. Additionally, forging strategic partnerships and collaborations played a significant role in our success.You forayed into the Middle East with Keventers in 2018. What factors encouraged you to take the brand to the UAE?The Food and Beverage market in the UAE is among the leaders in the Middle East, with a constant influx of tourists all year around. Expanding Keventers to the Middle East, particularly the UAE, was a strategic move based on the region's promising market dynamics. The UAE market is lucrative and offers a diverse and cosmopolitan consumer base with a penchant for international brands.Can you please share the growth of Keventers in the UAE market?Our growth in the UAE market has been steady and promising. Since entering the market, we have seen a positive response from consumers who appreciate our commitment to quality and innovation. Currently, we have stores in JBR, Al Karama, Sahara, etc.Our expansion strategy includes opening new outlets in strategic locations, and engaging in marketing efforts to build brand awareness. We are optimistic about the potential for further growth in the UAE.Are you looking for Product expansion and diversification in the Keventers Portfolio?Product expansion and diversification are key strategies to remain relevant and meet evolving consumer preferences. We are always looking at innovating our product offerings. Recently, we launched new flavours of Bubble Tea and Fruit Tea in the UAE market. We have a lot of exciting things planned for the coming months!What business strategies have been undertaken by the brand for its success in the UAE?It involved thorough market research, localisation of products, effective marketing, and trying out different formats including Food Trucks. Based on the success received from our recently launched Food Truck in JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence), we are eager to introduce this format in new locations!Please brief us about the business expansions plans and the number of new outlets the brand is targeting in UAE?Our goal is to increase our presence in key locations across the UAE. We aim to reach a broader audience by strategically positioning our outlets in high-traffic areas, shopping centers, and prominent commercial districts. We aim to open 5-6 stores in the coming year in the UAE, sharing our love for all things sweet with newer consumers.Did you face any challenges in the UAE market? How did you overcome them?Like any market entry, we faced specific challenges in the UAE. These challenges encompassed adapting to local regulations, understanding cultural nuances, navigating competitive landscapes, and ensuring efficient logistics. To overcome these obstacles, we invested in comprehensive market research to tailor our products and marketing strategies to local preferences. Building strong relationships with local partners and suppliers was crucial in ensuring a seamless supply chain. Additionally, we remain flexible and responsive to the evolving needs of our customers in the UAE.

Lights, camera, streaming! Kareena Kapoor Khan shines in 'Jaane Jaan' on Netflix

Adgully is thrilled to announce the launch of our brand-new column, "Star Talk." Get ready for exclusive celebrity interviews, where we delve into the lives and stories of your favorite stars!In a dazzling shift from the glitzy world of Bollywood to the captivating realm of streaming, Kareena Kapoor Khan is poised to make her much-anticipated OTT debut with Sujoy Ghosh's thrilling creation, "Jaane Jaan," exclusively on Netflix. Joining her in this venture are the talented Vijay Varma and the enigmatic Jaideep Ahlawat.Kareena Kapoor Khan, known for her audacious career choices and an unerring knack for reinventing herself, reveals the compelling reasons that drew her into "Jaane Jaan." With a gleam in her eye, she says: "I have always strived to explore new horizons in my career. When I glanced across the landscape of the OTT world, I couldn't help but notice the incredible storytelling that was unfolding there. A thriller has been on my bucket list for quite some time, and collaborating with Sujoy Ghosh, someone I've yearned to work with, felt like a dream come true. 'Jaane Jaan' brought together all my desires in one irresistible package, so naturally, I couldn't resist."What's even more intriguing about this film is the synchronicity of the leading trio. Both Vijay Varma and Jaideep Ahlawat happen to be alumni of FTII, sharing a common journey through the corridors of cinematic excellence. Kareena candidly confesses: "When I discovered that my co-stars would be the formidable Jaideep Ahlawat and the incredibly talented Vijay Varma, I must admit, I was a tad nervous. I remember Saif advising me to be on my toes, warning that both of them are masters at improvisation during takes."With an illustrious career spanning over 23 years in the film industry, Kareena admits that her OTT debut has her feeling more jittery than ever before. She reflects: "The OTT space is distinct from the silver screen. As I watched the 'Jaane Jaan' trailer on my television screen, it dawned on me that the audience would see me up close and personal. There are no elaborate song-and-dance sequences to provide a respite; not even a popcorn break."Asked about the most challenging aspect of being an actor, Kareena, with her trademark confidence, remarks: "Actors are frequently asked what's tough and challenging in their profession. I find that nothing is truly tough because we're actors, and challenges make our craft all the more exhilarating. Besides, I believe the Kapoor Khandaan simply thrives in front of the camera."Despite her impressive repertoire of films, Kareena's fans often associate her with iconic characters like Poo from "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" and Geet from "Jab We Met." She explains: "I believe the youth connect with Poo and Geet due to their vibrant costumes, memorable songs, and infectious dance moves. However, the intense roles I've portrayed over the years hold a special place in my heart."While many of Kareena's contemporaries have ventured into Hollywood, she remains firmly rooted in Bollywood. She explains: "I don't feel the temptation to explore Hollywood at the moment. My children are still young, and they need me here. Besides, I have exciting projects in the pipeline. We've even dabbled in a small English film titled 'The Buckingham Murders,' directed by Hansal Mehta. It's a gripping atmospheric thriller, delving into themes of loss, closure, and the immigrant experience. What makes it even more exceptional is that it's one of the three Indian films featured at prestigious festivals."As the clock ticks toward the release of "Jaane Jaan" on September 21st, an auspicious date coinciding with Kareena's birthday, we couldn't help but inquire about her birthday celebrations. She smiles warmly and says: "It's less about extravagant parties and more about cherishing moments with my children and family."Kareena Kapoor Khan, the epitome of versatility, is undoubtedly set to captivate the OTT audience with her gripping performance in "Jaane Jaan." The countdown to this electrifying OTT debut has officially begun, promising a thrilling cinematic experience for viewers worldwide.

Haris Munif unveils the AI avatar revolution in UAE marketing

AI-driven avatars and virtual influencers are taking center stage in the UAE at a time when technology and innovation continually redefine marketing norms. Adgully sat down with Haris Munif, an Advisory Board Member of CMO Council Middle East and Co-founder of SPRK Digital, to gain insights into how these digital entities are reshaping the advertising and marketing industry in the UAE. Haris delves into their unique opportunities, successful campaigns, cultural sensitivities, ethical considerations, and future trends, offering a comprehensive view of this transformative landscape. A prominent figure in the UAE’s marketing landscape, Haris Munif says that marketers and brands should keep in mind the cultural nuances and diversity of the UAE, which is a confluence of various cultures. “It’s best to ensure that your AI avatar is culturally sensitive and to steer clear of cultural stereotypes. Embrace diversity and represent it authentically in your campaigns,” he says. Excerpts:How do you see virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars reshaping the advertising and marketing landscape in the UAE? What unique opportunities do they offer compared to traditional marketing approaches?The UAE has developed a reputation for always being a step ahead of the curve, so virtual influencers and AI avatars fit perfectly into this landscape. They have the potential to reshape the local advertising and marketing scene by adding a level of personalization and engagement that traditional approaches can rarely match.Traditional marketing is not enough in today's rapidly evolving digital world. Virtual influencers and AI avatars allow brands to create highly personalised and engaging experiences. Imagine an AI avatar speaking multiple languages to engage with the diverse population in the UAE. That's a game changer right there for the customer service industry.But, let's not forget, authenticity is still king. Even with AI and virtual influencers, authenticity and genuine connections matter in the UAE, just like everywhere else. It's about striking that balance between innovation and staying true to your brand and values.Can you share examples of successful campaigns or initiatives that have leveraged virtual influencers or AI-driven avatars in the UAE? What were the key factors contributing to their success?One such example is the NooNouri Virtual Influencer Burj Khalifa Virtual Shoot. The virtual influencer wore a stunning made-to-measure dress by Zuhair Murad for a virtual shoot in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, with the city’s stunning skyline in the background. The digital avatar, with more than 400,000 followers on Instagram, was created by CGI influencer Joerg Zuber and has also been featured in campaigns for big-name brands including Balenciaga, Dior, Miu Miu, Valentino and Versace. The key to success is always to put the audience first and leverage technology to enhance their interactions with your brand or product.In a region known for its diverse culture and values, how do virtual influencers and AI avatars adapt to local sensitivities and preferences? What strategies should marketers employ to ensure cultural relevance and authenticity?Cultural sensitivity is absolutely vital. Before launching any such experiment, it's essential to thoroughly research and understand the local culture, values, and traditions. The UAE is a melting pot of various cultures; so it’s best to ensure that your AI avatar is culturally sensitive and to steer clear of cultural stereotypes. Embrace diversity and represent it authentically in your campaigns. When done right, this approach can create a genuine connection with your audience and lead to long-term brand loyalty.What are the key challenges and ethical considerations associated with using virtual influencers and AI avatars in advertising and marketing, and how are these being addressed in the UAE?Maintaining authenticity is the primary challenge. It's imperative to be transparent about the virtual nature of influencers and avatars. Addressing this issue is crucial to foster trust and credibility among consumers, ensuring that audiences are well aware when they are interacting with virtual entities.As the UAE continues to embrace technological innovation, it remains committed to upholding ethical standards in advertising and marketing, safeguarding consumer interests, and fostering a thriving and responsible marketing ecosystem.With the rapid advancements in AI and technology, what trends do you anticipate in the evolution of virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars in the UAE's advertising and marketing industry over the next few years? How should businesses prepare for these changes?The future of virtual influencers and AI-driven avatars in the UAE's advertising and marketing industry is incredibly promising. A few such anticipated trends are:Enhanced personalization: AI avatars will become even better at understanding individual preferences and delivering highly personalized marketing experiences. Businesses could invest in data analytics and AI technology to gather customer insights and offer tailored content and products.Multilingual avatars: Given the diverse population in the UAE, we can expect to see AI avatars speaking multiple languages. To prepare, businesses should ensure that their AI avatars are capable of engaging with a wide range of cultural backgrounds.Virtual retail assistants: AI avatars will play a more prominent role in e-commerce, acting as virtual retail assistants. They'll help customers browse, recommend products, and answer questions. Businesses could consider integrating these avatars into their online stores.Interactive content: Virtual influencers and avatars will be used in more interactive content formats, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). Businesses should explore opportunities for such immersive experiences.Integration with social media: Virtual influencers will continue to proliferate within social media platforms. Businesses should consider collaborations with virtual influencers to reach wider and more engaged audiences. Miquela is perhaps the most prominent virtual influencer in existence, partnering with brands like Samsung, Calvin Klein, and Prada.

Changing the game for brands to win is our motto: Rohan Sawant

UN MENAT (UM), a creative media agency, believes that better science and better art deliver better outcomes to clients in the media campaigns that matter most. The company, with its 14 offices within the MENAT region and over 400 creative minds in its HQ in Dubai, delivers some of the most ‘out-of-the-box’ media campaigns. In an exclusive talk with Adgully, Rohan Sawant, Digital Lead, UM MENAT, the man behind the company’s digital campaigns success, shares more about himself, the company, and the future of the digital market scenario in the MENA region. Excerpts:Can you provide an overview of your career journey and how you've gained experience on both the advertiser and publisher sides of the digital advertising industry?My career commenced in 2009 as a management trainee for Logicserve Digital, responsible for SEM campaigns for SME businesses based out of the UK. While at Logicserve, I was also exposed to Affiliate Marketing and was involved in managing coupon code websites. I moved to Komli Media as Key Account Manager for SEM and Social campaigns for clients based out of India. Komli Media was an official reseller in India for several digital media and ad tech platforms like Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Adobe Adlens, etc. This exposure helped me develop meaningful relationships with Advertisers. The video OTT space in India had just started booming when I had the opportunity to join Disney Hotstar to manage Ad Operations on VOD and Live Sports content. Towards the fag end of my stint at Disney Hotstar, we were venturing into Programmatic. This exposure took me to Times Internet, where I consulted Advertiser campaigns, direct and programmatic, across the comprehensive inventory and audience coverage across Times network. I had an opportunity to join MCN / IPG group and move to the UAE in 2018 to manage MENA-based clients. Since then, I have been working on the agency side at UM MENAT.   Could you share a specific challenge you've faced and successfully overcome in your career?A gap in understanding the client's business, a crack in team skill or a lack of process or process non-compliance are the biggest challenges I had to face, and these are, of course, universal in the broader realm. The solutions to these may seem straightforward. However, it may take a while to get it right. For instance, to really understand the client's business, you should have no assumptions. Spend enough time with the client, ask questions, document what you uncover from your interactions and have recurring debrief sessions with your wider team. Walk in their shoes. Likewise, to cover the skill gap, most team members need to have a "let's figure it out" attitude. In today's internet age, with the likes of Chat GPT and Google, it is highly improbable not to find the correct answer or solution to a problem.Given your familiarity with terms like Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) and Supply Side Platforms (SSPs), how do these platforms contribute to the programmatic buying process, and what benefits do they offer to advertisers and publishers?Programmatic advertising has stood the test of time and emerged to be a strong, effective, and efficient media channel. The entire ecosystem has evolved, involving inventory partners, verification partners, data partners, viewability and attention partners to allow a robust channel for Advertisers. The benefits extend to publishers as well, with their ad inventory being monetized. DSPs and SSPs, which are two sides of the same coin, play a pivotal role in Programmatic Advertising. With DSPs, the advertiser has access to a platform that allows exploring inventory, researching audience segments, discovering creative formats, and running ad campaigns. SSPs are an ally for publishers, allowing them to integrate their ad inventory across multiple ad exchanges and generate ad revenue.Data plays a crucial role in today's digital advertising landscape. How do Data Management Platforms enhance campaign targeting and effectiveness, and what role do they play in optimizing advertising strategies in the MENA region?Digital advertising is heavily reliant on data for targeting accuracy and user engagement. This data capture is possible via cookies. Cookies are either first party (own data of Advertiser or publisher) or third party (accessed data by exposure to 1st party cookies). Data Management Platforms allow an Advertiser to harness its own data from multiple sources in an organized manner. In addition, DMPs have access to thir party cookies, which the advertiser can leverage to reach potential audiences with high affinity to his own data. DMP had a robust data utility and thus became popular in the GCC region. However, due to rising privacy concerns big players like Apple and Google have decided to phase out support for 3rd party cookies by early 2024. This is a huge setback for DMP as its overall utility is severely affected. DMPs can still be used to organize 1st party data and make it accessible for targeting in media platforms and personalization, however, licensing costs are an essential consideration factor for the Advertiser to gauge the viability of continuing with DMP. Advertisers in the MENA region are now focusing on increasing their 1st party data volume and moving to CRM platforms for data collection.How do you approach the management of digital advertising campaigns that span across different mediums such as display & video advertising, SEM, social media, and remarketing?To start with, a multi-channel approach is the RIGHT approach. As an advertiser, you wouldn’t want to miss any opportunity of engagement with your target audience. Broadly speaking, for mid and lower-funnel activations we ought to focus on effectiveness, whereas for the upper funnel we ought to focus on efficiency. To elaborate, for a campaign focused on reach and virality, it is necessary to be visible across multiple channels; however, the investment allocation across channels needs to be fine-tuned for maximum efficiency. At UM, we regularly use our best-in-class internal tools to identify audience overlap between channels to plan our activations with optimum budget allocation. On the other hand, channels such as Google Ads and Amazon Sponsored Ads need their own practices to deliver best results.As someone who has managed campaigns both as an individual contributor and as a team manager, what skills and qualities do you believe are essential for fostering a successful and collaborative advertising team?I believe discipline and the ability to figure problems out are most important for a team to function at its peak. Discipline is guaranteed to achieve standardization, which can stem from process compliance, ensuring the operational aspects are as streamlined as possible. The ability to figure out is an underappreciated skill. As an individual, being open to seeking answers from any source is inspirational for peers and superiors. More importantly, knowledge sharing is crucial for a team’s success.Digital advertising is constantly evolving. How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in the industry?I think staying up-to-date is a good challenge. There are a host of resources I depend on, such as platform specific updates and published case studies. At UM, we have a vast network or resources spanning the globe. While working for global brands, we can also access activations carried out in other markets. Lastly, I really enjoy finding insights and articles on LinkedIn, which can also be a good source of relevant industry information.Where do you see the future of digital advertising heading, and what emerging trends do you think professionals in this field should be prepared for?I see retail media growing well in the coming years in the MENA region, specifically in KSA, the UAE and Egypt. With all platforms integrating AI, the efficiency of optimization should improve. As professionals, we should be aware of the extraordinary work being done in the region, take inspiration from it and continue 'changing the game for brands to win', our motto at UM MENAT.

CTV, retail media, gaming: Equativ's Céline Gauthier-Darnis on Ad Tech future

In the dynamic world of business development, experience and expertise are paramount, especially within the intricate landscape of ad tech. Céline Gauthier-Darnis, the Executive Vice President of MENAT & APAC at Equativ, brings her extensive background in fostering growth and strategic partnerships to the forefront of the ad tech industry. With a deep understanding of market trends and a penchant for innovation, she has successfully navigated the complexities of this realm. In this exclusive interview with Adgully, Céline sheds light on her approach to bridging the gap between advertisers and publishers, her insights into Equativ's programmatic solutions, strategies for navigating the ever-evolving digital landscape, team management in a fast-paced environment, and Equativ's unique communication and marketing strategies. Furthermore, Céline delves into emerging trends and challenges within the MENAT and APAC regions, revealing her plans to tackle these issues head-on. Let us explore the dynamic world of ad tech through the lens of Céline Gauthier-Darnis, an industry trailblazer and a driving force behind Equativ's success.Can you tell us about your experience in business development and how it relates to the ad tech industry?Business development involves creating and implementing growth strategies to expand a company's market presence, increase revenue, and enhance profitability. My business development expertise is grounded in fostering growth, innovation, and strategic partnerships to thrive in a dynamic and competitive landscape such as the ad tech industry. It has also helped me understand market trends, form strategic relationships, and continuously adapting to the evolving needs of advertisers, publishers, and consumers.As the EVP MENAT & APAC at Equativ, how do you ensure that the interests of both advertisers and publishers are effectively served?In my role, its key is to act as a bridge between advertisers and publishers, ensuring that their interests are aligned and that the partnership benefits all parties involved. This involves proactive and transparent communication, strategic decision-making, and a commitment to fostering a healthy and sustainable ecosystem within the ad tech industry. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that the needs of advertisers and publishers may differ. I work closely with my team to ensure we create customized solutions to align with our client's specific needs and goals.Could you share some examples of programmatic solutions that Equativ offers to advertisers in the UAE?Thanks to Equativ’s holistic ad monetization platform (Adserver/SSP/Buyer Tools/DSP), brands can achieve greater efficiency through their advertising spend and publishers can act with certainty and have the control they need to provide the right blend of transaction models, channels, format (Display, Audio, Video, CTV, Mobile) and audience data to deliver true value path optimization to brands. On top of that, our programmatic solutions including PMPs, auction packages, and contextual targeting solutions, enable a more streamlined and accurate ad transaction across various platforms and screens and help our clients reach their target audiences with the right message in the right environment.How do you approach the challenge of connecting advertisers with their target audience in the ever-evolving digital landscape?Navigating the ever-evolving digital landscape requires a combination of data-driven insights, technological innovation, creative messaging, and a deep understanding of your audience's behaviors and preferences. Adapting to changing technologies, consumer behaviors, and industry trends are essential. Here are a few strategies we work with our clients to leverage:A holistic approach to tap into multi-channel strategies that span across a variety of formats, devices, and platforms to ensure a consistent brand experienceData-driven insights to gain deeper insights into their target audiencesAudience segmentation to leverage first-party data to create more precise audience segmentsContextual targeting to ensure ads are placed in relevant contextual environments so that ads resonate with their target audiencesMeasurement and optimization solutions to continually establish, track and optimize against KPIsHow do you effectively manage and motivate your teams in a fast-moving environment? Can you provide examples of how you have successfully structured and managed an office to optimize productivity and efficiency?In this fast-paced industry, keeping your teams motivated and engaged is essential. I tailor my management style to each team member's preferences and strengths, and coupled with my enthusiastic and hands-on leadership approach, I always want to ensure my teams are feeling motivated and inspired.Here are a few ways I ensure this:Clear communication (and a lot of it!). Transparency and open discussions are essential to making teams feel inclusive and part of the teamEncouraging autonomy and trustRecognizing and celebrating achievementsFocusing on professional growth and identifying new opportunitiesContinued education in ad tech for my teams (always changing!)And have fun! I want my teams to feel excited to come to work and feel they are part of contributing to the success of the company.Communication and marketing play a crucial role in the ad tech industry. How do you approach these areas to effectively promote Equativ's services and attract clients?At Equativ, developing a comprehensive communication and marketing strategy is vital in the ever-changing ad tech industry in order to promote our services, attract and retain clients, and build trust by clearly explaining our solutions and the value they can expect by working with us. I love working with our central marketing team and my local team of marketing specialists to come up with new and creative ways to not only establish a strong brand presence and showcase our innovative global solutions but also connect the Equativ brand with the local community in the APAC/MENA region by tailoring our data, insights and strategies. Whether it’s through thought leadership, content marketing, social and events, to me, it’s always about ensuring a customized approach!In your opinion, what are some of the emerging trends and challenges in the MENAT and APAC regions when it comes to ad tech, and how do you plan to address them?Connected TVThere is a growing demand from advertisers in the MENAT/APAC region for CTV advertising. Currently, we have successfully executed campaigns for various industries targeting American and European audiences, specifically in sectors like hospitality, tourism, and real estate. While the inventory in the Americas and Europe is robust, publishers in the MENAT/APAC region are still in the process of developing programmatic solutions. However, we maintain an optimistic outlook and anticipate that the market will soon catch up. Once this happens, we will be able to effectively target the local audience through CTV formats.Retail mediaEvery e-commerce player has a gold mine to uncover. With the end of third-party cookies, the market is exploring the power of first-party data to unlock new targeting opportunities. Equativ provides a privacy-first addressable solution for retailers to monetize their data. This technology creates a new revenue stream for advertisers and an alternative to cookies to run highly targeted campaigns. Advertisers are almost ready technically to unlock this opportunity.Gaming advertisingOver the past 18 months, Saudi Arabia has invested $8 billion in global game companies with the objective of positioning itself as the primary global hub for the games and esports industry by 2030. These investments have been made through the public investment fund known as Savvy Games Group, and they mark just the initial phase of their plans. The group aims to allocate a remarkable $38 billion to establish 250 game companies, including developers, publishers, and studios, by 2030. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the gaming industry is projected to generate a revenue of $6 billion by 2027.By 2025, the global esports audience is anticipated to reach 318 million enthusiasts, with the MENA region accounting for 15% of that figure. This substantial gaming audience presents a significant opportunity for advertisers to connect with the market and captivate their customers by offering innovative experiences.Moreover, there is great enthusiasm surrounding the potential achievements in this field. Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as the View Through Rate and the Click Through Rate tend to be higher, indicating the advantageous timing of engaging with customers while they relax and enjoy their favorite games.

Web 3.0, influencer marketing our core competencies: YAAP Senior Partner Arshad

YAAP is a new-age, specialized content and influencer marketing company with a presence across the middle east, India and Singapore. The agency has worked with the likes of Visit Dubai, Sadia, Disney Games, Dell, Apple, Lufthansa, Amex and many more. Recently, YAAP partnered with US-based Tagger Media as part of its expansion into the middle east and India markets. In this interview with Adgully Associate Editor BF Firos, Arshad Zaheer, Senior Partner, YAAP, talks about how the company brings together technology, data, and content to deliver high-quality creative solutions. He explains how the 3D philosophy of design, discovery, and distribution is woven into the company's organisational fabric, and how the company identifies social, economic, and technological trends to create an ecosystem aimed at growth and expansion. He also talks about how YAAP's partnership with Tagger Media is impacting the company's growth and expansion, and how YAAP measures the success of its campaigns. He discusses how YAAP is adapting to changes in the content and influencer marketing industry in the middle east. He reveals that YAAP is gearing up for the launch of a specialized market report on the UAE’s burgeoning influencer marketing ecosystem.Arshad, a luminary of advertising in the GCC region, is the brain behind Crayons Communications, which introduced digital marketing in the UAE, KSA and Bahrain. Following the company’s merger, he assumed the position of a Senior Partner at YAAP, the parent company. In a 25-year-long career at advertising agencies such as Euro RSCG, Young & Rubicam and Intermarkets Inc., he has left his mark on leading brands like Nissan, FitBit, TOMS, Estée Lauder, and Philips while gathering accolades from MENA Digital, Retail ME, and SPA, among others, for pathbreaking campaigns. Arshad is credited for the launch of a large, first-ever chopper-towed flying banner in the GCC region and the maiden corporate cricket league in the UAEExcerpts from the interview:Can you tell us more about how YAAP brings together technology, data, and content to deliver high-quality creative solutions?The 3D philosophy of design, discovery, and distribution is woven into our organisational fabric. This ecosystem strategy involves identifying social, economic, and technological trends that define a contemporary customer. We have also adopted design-research methods such as market studies, surveys, and experiments to shape an ecosystem aimed at growth and expansion. Concurrently, we are course-correcting our value propositions in line with the trajectory of marketing and Web 3.0 technologies. That has enabled us to create a sound interplay between technology, data, and content and offer high-quality solutions. What sets YAAP apart from other content and influencer marketing companies in the industry?Many companies have jumped into the influencer-marketing bandwagon in recent years, creating healthy competition in the industry. So, service/product differentiation is key to success in this industry. YAAP did not merely follow the trend; we built a robust technological foundation and an ecosystem of partners beforehand. For example, YAAP tapped into Web 3.0 platforms such as the metaverse, enabling multiple brands to set up shop. We invested years and plenty of resources into making Web 3.0 and influencer marketing our core competencies. So, when the time was right, it came down to just integrating both. How has YAAP's partnership with Tagger Media impacted the company's growth and expansion?It is too soon to delve into the maximum scope of our partnership with Tagger Media. In the short term, however, the partnership will lead to synergistic value creation due to the combination of YAAP’s local market expertise and Tagger’s best-in-class influencer-marketing platform. Our clients will witness the epitome of data-driven influencer marketing, characterized by nuanced social intelligence and insight-led processes. Such possibilities will certainly translate to the company’s growth and expansion in the long term. What have been some of YAAP's most successful campaigns, and what do you think made them successful?Some of the most notable campaigns by YAAP are by our India team, particularly for the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), an umbrella organisation for all retail payment systems in the country. This campaign was consequential because of its sheer scale and holistic nature — we had a comprehensive mandate, enabling us to fire on all cylinders: Digital media buying, content creation, and, most importantly, influencer marketing. It put our end-to-end competency to the test, prompting us to engage the who’s who of India’s influencer marketing ecosystem.The marketing element aside, the NPCI project enabled us to create a social impact by disseminating educational content on financial literacy and products to the masses. So, it was a profound experience. Similarly, the TOMS NFT project in Dubai — which, too, was geared toward social impact, with proceeds going to a reputable charity — was a resounding success. From conceptualization to development to execution on OpenSea, the TOMS NFT project brought out the best in us.How does YAAP measure the success of its campaigns, and what metrics do you prioritize?“Measurability” is central to our campaigns. So, we have effective KPIs in place. While measuring conventional, engagement-related indicators such as likes, reactions, shares, and comments, we also go deep into nuanced impression data. Our idea of conversion is not limited to sales; it includes referral sources, user engagement with CTAs, total page views, time spent on posts, etc. In essence, we aren’t disregarding any KPIs. Additionally, the integration with leading data-driven platforms such as Tagger Media has complemented our “measurability” importance. How do you see the content and influencer marketing industry in the middle east region evolving in the coming years, and how is YAAP adapting to these changes?More than half the population (about 55%) in MENA is under the age of 30, a demographic dividend that spells economic opportunities. This population sub-set carries high digital dexterity and a liking for Web 3.0 and other disruptive technologies. So, the logical conclusion is that influencer marketing will gain more traction in the region in the coming years. Taking stock of such opportunities and eventualities, we are adopting cutting-edge technologies, striking ecosystem partnerships, and gaining strategic exposure to certain domains and verticals. How does YAAP ensure that it is providing value to its clients, and what steps do you take to maintain strong client relationships? How does YAAP balance the use of technology and data with creativity and storytelling in its campaigns?Value creation doesn’t follow a specific rule. YAAP is in the business of providing customized services that constitute a client’s “perceived value”. That is to say, the value we offer is unique to each client. Accordingly, each client relationship involves bespoke management. At the same time, all relationships are built on a foundation of trust and transparency.  Contrary to popular belief, the increased adoption of technology and data does not undermine creativity and storytelling. Meaningful adoption, rooted in sound ethics and ethos, will make the art of storytelling all the more powerful and impactful. So, instead of treating technology adoption and creativity as opposites, we are concentrating on combining the two for higher efficiencies. Can you share any exciting projects or initiatives that YAAP has in the works for the future?We have several initiatives in the pipeline across our operational markets. They are inherently interesting due to the amalgam of influencer marketing and Web 3.0 projects where we are enabling brands to make a foray into the metaverse and mobilizing influencers to boost them. Concurrently, we are gearing up for the launch of a specialized market report on the UAE’s burgeoning influencer marketing ecosystem. The report, shaped by insights from leading CMOs, surveys, and empirical evidence, will be informative, clear the obscurity surrounding influencer marketing, and pave the way for further value creation.How does YAAP approach diversity and inclusivity in its work and team culture?YAAP has embraced diversity and inclusion from the start. We believe change starts at the top and trickles down. So, the board characterizes a balance in gender and ethnicity. The recent appointment of Sadia Akhter and Nandita Saggu as Partners is a testament to that effect.

Sila Insights CEO Paul Kelly on unlocking consumer intelligence with AI

In this interview,  Sila Insights CEO Paul Kelly tells Adgully Associate Editor BF Firos how the inspiration behind starting Sila stemmed from recognizing the untapped potential of consumer intelligence in the Middle East, especially in understanding Arabic-speaking consumers' unique needs and preferences. Kelly explains the role of AI in the consumer intelligence industry and how their unique Arabic-native AI sets them apart from competitors. He also discusses Sila's data collection and analysis methods, case studies of providing valuable insights to clients, and measures in place to ensure data privacy and security. Excerpts:Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Sila Insights and how it has evolved since its inception?The inspiration behind starting Sila Insights stemmed from recognizing the untapped potential of consumer intelligence in the Middle East, especially in understanding Arabic-speaking consumers' unique needs and preferences. Since its inception, Sila has evolved by continuously enhancing our data collection methods, refining our AI algorithms, and expanding our services to provide increasingly valuable insights to our clients across various industries.Can you explain the role that AI plays in the consumer intelligence industry, and how your unique Arabic-native AI sets Sila Insights apart from competitors?AI plays a crucial role in the consumer intelligence industry by automating data collection, analysis, and insights generation, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions quickly and efficiently. Our unique Arabic-native AI sets Sila apart from competitors by providing a deep understanding of the Arabic-speaking market's cultural nuances, language, and preferences, giving our clients a competitive advantage in the region. Our natural language processing, for example, can work natively in 20+ dialects of Arabic, rather than using translation methods like many platforms.How does Sila Insights gather and analyze data on consumer behavior, and what kind of insights have you been able to glean from this data so far?Sila Insights gathers data on consumer behaviour through various sources, including social media, online forums, surveys, and website analytics. Our AI algorithms then analyze this data to identify trends, patterns, and sentiment, and provide actionable insights to our clients. So far, we have been able to help businesses better understand their target audience, optimize marketing strategies, and develop more relevant products and services.Can you walk us through a case study where Sila Insights was able to provide valuable insights to a client, and how these insights impacted their business decisions?In one case study, Sila Insights worked with a leading FMCG company to expand their knowledge of important consumer segments. We analyzed consumer data to identify key demographics, preferences, and pain points, enabling the company to develop targeted marketing, NPD and advertising campaigns that resonated with their audience. As a result, the client has seen a significant increase in conversion rates and customer satisfaction. This also meant we were able to segment an audience efficiently and effectively.How does Sila Insights ensure the privacy and security of the data it collects and analyzes, and what measures do you have in place to prevent any potential breaches?At Sila, we take data privacy and security very seriously. We adhere to strict data protection regulations and industry best practices, including anonymizing data, encrypting data during storage and transmission, and conducting regular security audits. Also, we have a robust incident response plan to quickly and effectively address potential breaches.How do you see the consumer intelligence industry evolving in the next 5-10 years, and what role do you see Sila Insights playing in this future?We envision the consumer intelligence industry becoming increasingly data-driven and automated, with AI playing a central role in extracting actionable insights from vast data. Sila aims to be at the forefront of this evolution by continuously enhancing our AI capabilities, expanding our services, and providing unparalleled consumer insights to businesses in the Middle East and beyond.How do you foster a culture of innovation and continuous learning within Sila Insights, and what steps do you take to ensure that your team stays ahead of the curve in terms of technology and industry trends?We foster a culture of innovation and continuous learning at Sila Insights through open communication, cross-functional collaboration, and ongoing education. We encourage team members to share ideas, attend industry events, and participate in training programs to stay ahead of the curve regarding technology and trends.How does Sila Insights balance the use of technology with the need for human expertise and analysis, and what is your approach to striking this balance?Sila Insights balances technology and human expertise by leveraging AI for data analysis and pattern recognition while relying on our experienced analysts to provide context, interpretation, and strategic recommendations. This approach ensures we deliver our clients accurate, relevant, and actionable insights.What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the consumer intelligence space, particularly in the Middle East region?For aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start a business in the consumer intelligence space, particularly in the Middle East region, my advice would be to:(a) develop a deep understanding of the local market and cultural nuances,(b) continuously invest in technology and innovation to stay competitive,(c) prioritize data privacy and security, and(d) build a diverse and skilled team that can drive your business towards success.

Guruprasad Bangle on what made SolutionBuggy foray into the UAE

SolutionBuggy, which provides consulting and project management in manufacturing for the MSME segment, has forayed into the UAE market with its base in Abu Dhabi. The consultancy is currently executing a key soil-to-silk manufacturing unit in Abu Dhabi and is also in talks with a few projects in the organic fertilizers and pipes sector. In this interview Guruprasad Bangle, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, SolutionBuggy, tells BF Firos, Associate Editor, Adgully, about the reason for the UAE foray, challenges in its previous international projects, ensuring quality and transparency of services, the industries and types of projects SolutionBuggy is interested in, collaborations with trade bodies, etc. Excerpts:What inspired SolutionBuggy to expand into the Middle East market, and why did the company choose Abu Dhabi as its location for the new office?SolutionBuggy is India’s largest platform for consulting and project management in manufacturing for the MSME segment. Over the last six years, we have completed more than 3500 projects across India, and we have been well-recognised in neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal from where we are working on a few projects.The gradual shift of middle east Asia’s economy from an oil-based economy to a sustainable-focussed one has given rise to immense opportunities for SMEs and manufacturing in all sectors is booming. This means there is a huge demand for experts and consultants across sectors. This prompted us to expand our digital presence initially in the middle east sector. We are currently executing a key soil-to-silk manufacturing unit in Abu Dhabi and are also in talks with a few projects in the organic fertilizers and pipes sector. All this means we have to look for a physical presence in the UAE and hence we feel Abu Dhabi to be meeting all the criteria to have a presence in this market. The ADIO is also offering good incentives for Indian startups focussing on technology and scaling. The IT sector is also offering a global tech ecosystem as part of its Hub71 programme which will be beneficial for startups like us.Could you describe some of the challenges that SolutionBuggy has faced in its previous international projects, and how the company has overcome them as you enter the UAE market?Manufacturing consulting has traditionally been a forte only for the Big4 consulting firms. But due to the nature of engagement and the cost structure, Big4 consulting is not feasible for the MSMEs across India and the rest of the world. Most of the prior international assignments that SolutionBuggy has taken up before have been in the realm of international market entry, feasibility study and new market tech transfer projects. But when it comes to the setup of industries in the new countries, there are a host of issues to be dealt with. This includes handling local govt authorities, different paperwork procedures, cultural differences and finally showcasing that an Indian firm is equally competitive with its technical expertise and offers the best prices as compared to the other countries.Some of the key things that worked well in the UAE were: the cultural difference more or less disappeared as we were able to build trust instantly when we showcased our technology expertise. There was some mistrust created by some Chinese companies and we were able to immediately address these issues and this helped a lot in creating trust in us. Next, since there is not much of a cultural difference between India and the middle east, it was much easier to understand the working differences and the expectations were addressed in the initial days of the engagement. To help us with the local govt authorities, we had an Emirati firm handle this as a subcontractor to us. So overall we believe except for a few glitches here and there, the UAE market has been very warm and we are very eager to work with more such firms who are looking to set up plants in sectors such as food and beverage, aerospace and defence, drones, EVs, chemicals, pharmaceutical, renewable energy esp in biogas, bio CNG, biodiesel and ethanol units.How does SolutionBuggy ensure the quality and transparency of its services when working with clients in different countries and cultures?SolutionBuggy provides clients with access to more than 12000+ experts in all sectors of manufacturing. The model of PMC is very transparent as there are experts across different price points and due to the inherent structure of working, the right expert is hired based on the quantum and quality of work required. This remains the same irrespective of the country of operation as SolutionBuggy follows an approach of offshoring most of the deliverables and only for key aspects such as plant layout preparation or machinery installation etc the expert onsite. This allows flexibility to the client to reduce costs. The dashboard also allows the client to track project progress on a real-time basis and also gives payment schedules in a detailed manner, which allows proper planning for all the stakeholders.What industries and types of projects is SolutionBuggy most interested in pursuing in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa?Currently, SolutionBuggy is working on projects in silk manufacturing, hose pipe manufacturing, chemicals, and renewable energy in the middle east. In Africa we are bidding for a few projects in process improvement for a bamboo paper manufacturing, ethanol plant, cornstarch and corn flour making, Isopropyl alcohol and PCB manufacturing unit. In Southeast Asia we are working with a local firm to bid for an edible oil and essential oil extraction unit, a rubber pre-processing unit and a fish and prawn feed manufacturing unit.Could you talk more about SolutionBuggy's collaborations with trade bodies and consults in Denmark, Israel, Germany, Malaysia, and France, and how these partnerships benefit both SolutionBuggy and the businesses involved?We are working with quite a few trade bodies and consulates in India to help companies from these countries set up their units in India, search for a local partner for a JV, help them to sell their technology through tech transfer initiatives or in some cases even look for companies in India to acquire companies in these countries.In the case of the Israeli consulate, we are working closely in helping many Israeli companies with renewable energy, drones for agricultural and defence purposes, food technology, biodegradable packaging and biofuels to set up a joint venture partner in India.In the case of Danish firms, they are very keen to work with waste-to-energy management and have efficient technologies that can be implemented across the world. We are in discussion with the company from Nepal for a technology transfer agreement.With respect to the German trade body in India, we are in discussion to get a partner for a few MSMEs in Germany to expand their presence with a joint venture with similar companies in India and Malaysia. We are also getting some experts from Germany for an oil and gas project based in the middle east which has been facilitated through the trade body.

Delivering consumer-centric solutions is key: PivotRoots' Yogesh Khanchandani

“We were able to help a vast number of SMEs navigate the post-pandemic landscape with greater ease and confidence. Our templatized e-commerce solutions and consultation services proved to be a game-changer for many businesses looking to establish a robust online presence and capitalise on the vast potential of the digital market,” says Yogesh Khanchandani, Co-Founder & Chief Business Strategy Officer at PivotRoots.Pivotroots, currently present in India and Dubai, is a data- and technology-led full-service digital agency offering services across strategy and consulting, digital media planning & buying, UI/IX, social & content, data & analytics, and custom solution building. The agency has worked with over 60 brands, like EmiratesNBD, National Bank of Kuwait, Amazon Prime Video, Upgrad, etc. Pivotroots recently expanded its martech solutions under PivotConsult to offer clients cutting-edge custom tech solutions that are tailored to their unique business needs. “To achieve this, we acquired DEEPFLUX, a tech company comprising software engineers who work closely with our brand strategists to develop custom infrastructures that drive efficiency and effectiveness,” says Yogesh in this interview with BF Firos, Associate Editor, Adgully. Excerpts: In a competitive digital marketing industry, what sets PivotRoots apart from other agencies in the UAE, and how do you maintain your competitive edge?In today's industry, it is essential to possess talent, agility, and vision for the future in order to stay ahead of the curve. At our company, our unwavering focus has always been on designing and delivering consumer-centric solutions that are backed by an extensive, data-driven strategy. Over our seven-year journey of building PivotRoots, we have constantly evolved and innovated ourselves. Initially, we began as an end-to-end digital marketing agency, but we soon shifted our focus to become a martech-first digital agency. Today, as an integrated solutioning agency, we provide a more efficient and effective approach to problem-solving. Our commitment to our clients is to provide a comprehensive view of their business and deliver solutions that meet their unique needs.Can you walk us through a successful campaign you've worked on, highlighting the challenges faced, solutions implemented, and results achieved?One of our most successful campaigns was for Father's Day, which we executed for our client FnP last year.FnP, a global gifting brand, faced two significant challenges. Firstly, its audience were not aware that FnP offered more than just flowers as gift options, leading to a perception issue. Secondly, they faced slow growth resulting from the conventional gifting behaviour of the audience, where gifts were exchanged only during occasions, festivals, or personal and professional achievements.To tackle these challenges, a comprehensive strategy was developed after conducting extensive research on market behaviour and human insights. The primary objective was to communicate that every moment could be made special with a gift, and one didn't need to wait for a special occasion. The campaign, #FathersTurnToReceive, was based on the insight that fathers, irrespective of nationality or socio-economic status, always believe in fulfilling the needs and desires of their loved ones. They are like gifts that keep on giving, and Father's Day was the perfect opportunity to make them feel the joy of receiving a gift as an expression of love, gratitude, and respect.As a result of the campaign, the brand search volume for the word "fnp" increased by 50%, and there was a brand intent increase of up to 57% from the previous month. Furthermore, during the ten-day campaign period, close to 1000 purchases were made resulting in a major success for the brand!With the pandemic shifting consumer behavior and expectations, how has PivotRoots adapted its services to cater to changing market demands?In the aftermath of the pandemic, the entire industry was grappling with the challenge of rapidly accelerating their digital transformation. Amidst this X5 digital acceleration, we stepped in and provided crucial support to numerous small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through our templatized quick e-commerce set-up and consultation services.Our priority was to help these SMEs fast-track their digitization process and align with the evolving needs of today's consumers. By providing tailored consultation services, we enabled these businesses to adapt to the changing market dynamics and stay ahead of the curve.We were able to help a vast number of SMEs navigate the post-pandemic landscape with greater ease and confidence. Our templatized e-commerce solutions and consultation services proved to be a game-changer for many businesses looking to establish a robust online presence and capitalize on the vast potential of the digital market.How do you ensure that your team stays up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in the digital marketing landscape, and how do you encourage innovation within the company?At our company, we take pride in our strict in-house protocol for training and certifications, which plays a pivotal role in managing the upskilling of our talented workforce. We firmly believe that investing in our employees' development and nurturing their skill sets is key to driving our growth and success.Our comprehensive training and certification programmes are carefully tailored to the specific needs of our employees, and we closely link them to promotions and bonuses. This approach not only ensures that our employees are equipped with the latest industry knowledge and skills but also incentivizes them to pursue excellence and strive for growth within the organisation.Additionally, we maintain and encourage Joint Business Plans (JBPs) with all our media partners. Our JBPs focus on fostering innovation, exploring out-of-the-box solutions, and delivering exceptional value to our clients. Through these partnerships, we aim to stay at the forefront of the rapidly evolving media landscape and leverage the latest trends and technologies to drive impactful outcomes for our clients.What metrics do you use to measure the success of a campaign, and how do you ensure that your clients' ROI is maximised?At our company, we understand that each client has unique goals that are closely tied to their business objectives. For this reason, we always take a bespoke approach and tailor our media solutions to meet the specific needs of our clients.For example, for a retail furniture store, our focus would be on driving measurable footfall into their stores, which can be achieved through targeted and impactful media campaigns. Similarly, for D2C clients, we prioritise increasing their month-on-month revenue by leveraging a range of media channels and optimising campaigns for maximum ROI.For FMCG brands, our objective would be to improve their brand metrics through effective communication and targeting. This could involve developing engaging content, leveraging social media influencers, and utilising data-driven insights to target the right audience segments.Overall, our approach is driven by a deep understanding of our clients' unique goals and KPIs, and we work closely with them to develop customised media solutions that deliver measurable business outcomes. By aligning our strategies with our clients' business objectives, we are able to drive meaningful results and help them achieve long-term success.What future plans does PivotRoots have for expansion or diversification of its services, and what new technologies or trends are you most excited about?At our company, we recognize that technology is rapidly transforming the marketing landscape, and we are committed to staying ahead of the curve. That's why we recently expanded our martech solutions under PivotConsult to offer our clients cutting-edge custom tech solutions that are tailored to their unique business needs.To achieve this, we acquired DEEPFLUX, a tech company comprising software engineers who work closely with our brand strategists to develop custom infrastructures that drive efficiency and effectiveness. With a strong focus on data and technology, we are aggressively scaling up our verticals in areas such as ML/AI, CDP, audiences, and anomaly detection.Our approach is driven by a deep understanding of our clients' businesses and the unique challenges they face in today's rapidly evolving marketing landscape. By combining our strategic expertise with the latest in cutting-edge technology, we are able to develop innovative solutions that drive real business outcomes for our clients.Overall, our expansion into martech solutions under PivotConsult reflects our commitment to staying at the forefront of the industry and providing our clients with the best possible solutions to meet their business needs. We are excited to continue driving innovation and delivering value to our clients through the power of data and technology.What, according to you, are the effective marketing strategies for SMEs in the UAE? How conducive is the UAE environment for SMEs?My recommendation for SMEs would be to prioritise a consumer-centric marketing strategy, a fundamental and effective approach for businesses to adopt. It involves putting the customer at the centre of all marketing efforts and focusing on understanding their needs, preferences, and behaviours in order to deliver personalised and relevant experiences.By adopting a consumer-centric approach, businesses can improve customer satisfaction, increase customer loyalty, and ultimately drive revenue growth. This approach allows businesses to build stronger relationships with their customers by providing them with personalised experiences that are tailored to their specific needs and preferences.To achieve this, it is important to gather and analyse customer data in order to gain insights into their behaviour and preferences. This data can then be used to inform marketing campaigns and strategies that are designed to resonate with customers and drive engagement.In today's highly competitive marketplace, a consumer-centric approach can give businesses a significant competitive advantage. By placing the needs and preferences of their customers at the forefront of their marketing efforts, businesses can build stronger, more meaningful relationships with their customers and drive long-term success.

Baha Hamadi on how Keel Comms is revolutionizing the MENA’s PR scene

Keel Comms is the first and only 'purpose-driven PR & Communications, social media & content agency' in the Middle East and North Africa region with sustainability as the core of its operations. Keel Comms was founded by Baha Hamadi, a veteran publicist and communication professional in the region. Baha Hamadi is a board member of the Public Relations & Communications Association (PRCA MENA), and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Community of ESG Practitioners. He also serves as a mentor for Dubai Chamber’s Centre for Responsible Business.In this exclusive interview with's BF Firos, Baha Hamadi, Founder & Managing Director, Keel Comms, dwells on the rationale of introducing ‘Purpose Relations,’ his vision for Keel Comms, the growth potential and challenges of the PR industry in the UAE, the changing dynamics and the future of PR, etc."Keel Comms strives to imprint a corporate citizenship mindset in its clients’ DNA. Whether at the inception, early or maturity phase, we advise clients on how to incorporate ESG factors into their operations and branding, ultimately helping them communicate and accentuate their efforts genuinely," Hamadi says. The main challenge the PR industry faces, says Baha Hamadi, is the one-size-fits-all approach that most PR agencies adopt. "The need to differentiate your service offerings has never been more important. Also, as agencies reach greater heights of success and expand, there is a risk that the special one-on-one client care will be sacrificed for overly commercial tactics," says Hamadi. Excerpts from the interview: What is your vision for Keel Comms?Considering the growing Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) movement globally, as well as the Year of Sustainability and COP28 locally, we aim to empower brands and individuals to play an active role during the Decade of Action and contribute to the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.Regardless of the SDGs and the deadlines we set for ourselves, we are on an endless mission to help make the world a more sustainable place—one company at a time. This is an ongoing exercise requiring a lifelong commitment. Unfortunately, we will never live in a world without problems. What we can do is extend a helping hand and be consistent about it.Whether through research, taking action, spreading the word or advocating for change, companies of all sizes and individuals from all walks of life are capable of creating meaningful impact.What is the USP of Keel Comms?Keel Comms is revolutionizing the MENA’s PR, social media and content sector by introducing ‘Purpose Relations’—the new face of Public Relations. Adopting a purpose-driven communications approach will help businesses make lasting impact while creating meaningful connections with their audiences.How do you define Keel Comms as a purpose-driven and sustainability-focused PR & communications agency?Keel Comms strives to imprint a corporate citizenship mindset in its clients’ DNA. Whether at the inception, early or maturity phase, we advise clients on how to incorporate ESG factors into their operations and branding, ultimately helping them communicate and accentuate their efforts genuinely.We recommend ways in which our clients can contribute to the SDGs—either through co-creating initiatives or by facilitating partnerships with other entities within our network. For non-profits whose values align with ours, we offer discounted rates.How can brands strike a balance between being socially responsible and staying true to the brand's values, while still achieving the marketing objectives?Brands can strike this balance by considering how each marketing effort aligns with their core values—which is a given—while ensuring their campaigns deliver social or environmental benefits. Adding the sustainability component to marketing is becoming increasingly important for brands across all sectors.Another way to maintain a balance between sustainability, brand values and marketing effectiveness in campaigns is by leveraging existing partnerships or creating new ones with organisations that share the same commitment to social responsibility. Through capitalizing on complementary strengths, partnerships have the potential to deliver exponentially greater outcomes than could be achieved alone.How do you evaluate the PR and communication industry in the UAE? What are its key growth potential and challenges?PR and communication in the UAE is one of the most vibrant and rapidly growing sectors across the Middle East region, driven by a wide range of market enablers, including a booming economy and increased demand for integrated marketing services. Key growth factors for the PR industry include an ever-increasing demand from both public and private companies for more advanced services such as ESG communications, reputation management, digital marketing, media relations, content creation, branding, and influencer marketing.The main challenge is the one-size-fits-all approach that most PR agencies adopt. The need to differentiate your service offerings has never been more important. Also, as agencies reach greater heights of success and expand, there is a risk that the special one-on-one client care will be sacrificed for overly commercial tactics. In other words, it can start to feel like clients are being processed through a factory instead of receiving personalized service from their agency partners. The traditional media landscape is undergoing drastic transformation with digital media and influencers assuming prominence. How will these aspects change the dynamics of the PR industry in the Middle East?The shift from traditional media to new media has had an immense impact. Digital channels present a much larger audience, providing brands with access to more potential customers. In addition, content is more easily disseminated and managed digitally, allowing for greater control over how campaigns are executed.Influencers have become increasingly important for driving engagement and creating a two-way dialogue between the brand and its target audience. This has allowed brands to create deeper relationships with consumers, while also providing a platform to spread organic messages in an engaging manner.What will be the future of PR in the region? Can you predict key industry trends?The future of PR in the Middle East region looks very promising as businesses continue to invest in their reputations. Key industry trends that can be expected to gain traction include an increased demand for content creation, storytelling, and reputation management; the use of AI to predict trends, drive engagement and personalize messaging; and a greater focus on influencer marketing to engage with audiences authentically.How will AI-powered analytics play a role measuring the effectiveness of PR campaigns?AI-powered analytics will play a crucial role as a PR measurement tool. AI algorithms can be used to collect and analyze data from various sources, such as website visits, social media followers, ratings and reviews, sentiment analysis, and more. This data can then be used to gain insights into how effective a certain campaign is and provide actionable recommendations for improvement.AI can also help detect anomalies that could affect the results of a campaign and alert marketers accordingly. Analyzing the data collected over time can also help PR professionals make informed decisions about future strategies based on past performance metrics.Is the emergence of AI-supported tools like Chat GPT/ BARD a boon or bane for the PR professional? The AI engine revolution can be both a boon and bane for communication professionals. These tools provide us with unprecedented levels of efficiency in producing customized content, while offering valuable data-driven insights that can inform decision-making and shape effective strategies.However, there is a concern about the accuracy of data output through AI. The other drawback is that AI could be used to spread misinformation or manipulate public opinion. It is up to us to ensure these tools are used responsibly, maximizing the benefits while mitigating any potential risks they may bring.

We have 50% of leadership team driven by women; it’s a big example to many

Harsha Oberoi, Associate Director - Digital Marketing, Pivotroots.  speaks to BF FIROS, Associate Editor, AdgullyThe key to becoming a unicorn talent in the digital marketing industry is to be knowledgeable, adaptable, and always willing to learn and grow, says Harsha As the world celebrates Women's Day today, Harsha speaks to about the challenges as a woman leader, important digital marketing skills, the future of digital marketing, the challenging project she has worked on, the way she stays up-to-date with the latest trends, and gender-based stereotypes. In today's digital age, says Harsha, the demand for full-stack digital marketers is on the rise. “With businesses competing in a highly saturated market, finding individuals who can wear multiple hats and possess a diverse set of skills has become crucial for success. To stand out in the industry, it is important to do your research, stay informed on industry news, and continuously develop your skills,” she adds. Excerpts from the interview:As a successful woman in the digital marketing industry, what advice do you have for aspiring women in the UAE looking to advance in their careers?In today's digital age, the demand for full-stack digital marketers is on the rise. With businesses competing in a highly saturated market, finding individuals who can wear multiple hats and possess a diverse set of skills has become crucial for success. To stand out in the industry, it is important to do your research, stay informed on industry news, and continuously develop your skills.One way to stay ahead of the curve is by investing in your learning curve, continuously developing your skills can give you a competitive edge in the job market. Additionally, taking the initiative to be proactive can also set you apart from other candidates. This can mean taking on side projects or seeking out new opportunities for growth and development.All in all, the key to becoming a unicorn talent in the digital marketing industry is to be knowledgeable, adaptable, and always willing to learn and grow. By staying on top of industry trends and continuously developing your skills, you can position yourself as a valuable asset to any business.Can you share with us a challenging project you worked on, and how you overcame obstacles, if any, you faced during the process?Sure. Although each business comes with its own challenges, one of the cases to remember was with a well-known global credit card player in the market. The key challenge was to reach the right audience for their range of cards offered and reduce the overlaps between these audiences while increasing credit card purchases in the region.We initiated our go-to-market strategy with market penetration and growth opportunities; we tapped into the audience understanding and micro-segmentation for each product offered within the target market.Prioritization of the market and audience was the first step. This was further enhanced with competition analysis and seasonality uplift at the granular level. The change in audience mix based on trends and seasonality was the highlight, and the communication was also tailored to increase sales.To avoid any potential spillage, the planning details were meticulous. The results were astounding, with a 60% increase in brand SOV and a 50% increase in conversions. We followed a comprehensive and continuous research-insight-plan approach with a full-stack team structure as a process, but we were also ready for the agility to bring in the effectiveness from trends.How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and changes in the digital marketing landscape, and how do you incorporate these insights into your work?Staying up-to-date with the latest trends and industry landscape is the key to growth in the ever-evolving digital marketing industry. Being a regular at reading industry news, use cases and knowing the beta products of the marketing industry with their possible outcomes across the globe definitely gives you an upper hand.A good strategy is to thoroughly understand the company and its objectives before developing strategic business development plans that incorporate the most relevant industry trends, leading to result-driven campaigns. Not every new trend would be a good match and you will have to make hard choices at times.I strongly recommend a B-I-T-E approach for most of my clients. BITE stands for laying down your core Business KPIs to build Insight-driven strategy further bringing in well-researched Trend-fits and finally driving Effective Planning. At the same time, regular discussions and brainstorming with your marketing and data teams are equally important and helpful in checking on any blind spots. Regularly check-in your brand uplifts, audience mix change, and media landscape change for positive outcomes.What do you believe are some of the most important skills for a digital marketer to have, and how have you developed and honed these skills over your career?Honestly, as a digital marketer, you play many roles and each of them are actually markedly different from one another. While the list is long, personally, I believe in five key skills:  a. staying on top of your campaign's data and insights,b. paying close attention to details,c. having a firm grasp of the business, market, and competitors,d. being open to seeking input from others to identify any blind spotse. striving for growth and learning.In my career, I have shouldered different responsibilities for different businesses, and it was in my early years that I started picking up these skills. Thanks to the diverse clientele base and the exposure that PivotRoots has been able to provide, I have grown and am able to function strongly with these skill-sets to deliver a difference and bring positive growth to the businesses I have worked with.Adapt, unlearn, learn, and grow is the mantra!How do you ensure that your team remains motivated and engaged in their work, and what steps do you take to foster a positive and collaborative team culture?To be honest, it is equally essential to work as a team player while being a leader. This helps motivate your team by bringing in the feeling of belongingness and being heard. Providing them with the opportunity to speak up, share their opinions, and work in a team environment where there is collaboration is essential.As an effective step, I have always encouraged giving co-workers and team members room to work. Appreciations and healthy discussions boost their engagements in their day-to-day work. Besides, a healthy encouragement to push them for a balanced work-life has their heart in what they do. As a good leader though, one must have their decisions backed by clear logic while delivering thoughtful criticism when necessary, and being open-minded is very important.What do you see as the future of digital marketing, especially in the UAE, and how do you believe marketers can prepare for and adapt to these changes?Digital marketing as an industry is growing exponentially across the globe, and the UAE is no different. It is a visionary acceleration that all marketers are witnessing today in the industry within the country. The pandemic has strongly accelerated the growth of the digital ecosystem, and the industry is set to mark new records with digital investments taking about 70% of the share by 2026, with total marketing spends and growth CAGR of about 30% in the next five years.Mobile will account for roughly 90% of SOV, with audience expectations constantly changing. Marketers will need to up their game as they are now competing with the last best experience their user has had and not just another business or a product or service. Tech innovations will drive effective results and planning, and marketers must be able to apply and scale innovations to boost their business growth.Have you faced any challenges as a woman leader in an otherwise male-dominated domain? If so, how have you overcome these challenges?Honestly, it has always been comparatively harder for women to gain their seat at the table. It truly depends on the organisation, and there are still a few stereotypical companies out there, staffed by women but the leadership is always led by men at the top management positions. However, the times are changing, and we are seeing more women in positions of power. The change is visible, especially in young and dynamic companies.Luckily, as part of PivotRoots, a highly dynamic and young company that truly believes in women's growth and leadership and values their experience, thoughts, and capabilities, workplace stereotypes are something that I haven't come across. We have 50% of our leadership team driven by women, and I believe this in itself is a big example to many companies out there!Despite all the hype about gender-neutrality, gender-based stereotypes are deeply ingrained in societies transcending geographical boundaries. How pervasive such stereotypes are in the media industry? How do you think such stereotypes can be dealt with?Well, there are still gender stereotypes at play in many workplaces, primarily promoting men's growth in taking the lead while women are only allowed to take care of the team and remain a team player. This puts women in a difficult position.Moreover, men generally don’t get the struggle that women go through at times in order to be successful in business and life. Companies need to staff capable and prepared women and have faith in their talent. Offering equal pay and benefits and growth opportunities is surely weaving the way for organisational growth in the coming days. While professional women need to have each other’s backs, be cognizant of our interactions with each other, and allow our greatness to shine. After all – Together We Are Stronger.