Large MENA enterprises seeking help from start-ups

An increasing number of MENA corporates and start-ups have been finding a common ground for fruitful partnerships.

More MENA corporates have been taking a deep dive into the MENA start-up scene, delving into the intricacies of corporate-startup collaboration.

Earlier this year Habib Haddad, founding CEO of Wamda, said at the launch of Collaborative Entrepreneurship, a MENA-wide platform to connect leading corporations with regional entrepreneurs: "Although MENA's ecosystem has grown rapidly in the past five years, one of the most common obstacles to start-ups remains access to markets, the kind of access that large corporates have been able to build over years,”.

“However, those large corporates are good at replicating a predictable business model, not at coping with the rapid tech changes and innovating around it. This is how the idea of merging the start-up and corporate world emerged.”

Regional corporations have lately opted to work with start-ups, believing in their commitment to researching and finding innovative solutions, and capacity to deliver high-value goods and services.

Aramex, the largest logistics and transport services company in the Middle East, recently cooperated with a New Zealand app developer LWA Solutions to re-invent its Windows Mobile e-courier solution.

Atta Elayyan, LWA Solutions chief executive, and his team spent a week in Amman, Jordan, to find out what Jordan’s courier drivers need to be hi-tech equipped.

He says that with the support of Microsoft they managed to win the pitch to re-invent Aramex’s Windows Mobile e-courier solution. They had to replace expensive, rugged devices in the field with a smartphone based bring-your-own-device (BYOD).

“To better understand the problem space we spent a few days as Aramex courier drivers. observing their daily routine gave us immense insight into the task at hand. Before embarking on this project, our design team had little knowledge on what a courier driver’s daily routine was or what their task management software should look like. It also didn’t help that we were the first team in the world to attempt porting such a solution to low end smart phones. But we did it.

“The huge win for Aramex is they don’t even need to supply their couriers with hardware anymore, they bring their own device. This completely transforms the way Aramex can scale their business as they are no longer tied to issuing hardware and dealing with massive hardware related costs.”

The app was announced last week by Aramex chief executive Hussein Hachem at the company’s annual conference in Dubai.

Other big companies have opted to acquire local or regional start-ups.

Earlier this week, SOCIALEYEZ, a Dubai-based digital engagement agency, announced on Sunday that it had acquired a 100 percent share in BSocial, an Egyptian digital communications agency.

SOCIALEYEZ’s acquisition of the Egyptian company, which started two years ago when they acquired only a minority stake in BSocial, is a sign of a rising trend of Emirati investments into Egyptian entities over the past year.

The UAE has pledged upwards of $5 billion in support of the Egyptian economy over the past year.

“We’re really excited about this acquisition, we’ve gotten to know the BSocial team quite well over the past years and we definitely share the same values of passion, dedication and creativity,” said Fadl Al Tarzi, CEO of SOCIALEYEZ.

“This deal will give us further access to the great creative talent available in Egypt and is only the start of a wider expansion strategy.”

After this acquisition the new SOCIALEYEZ will have a team of over 120 digital media professionals managing over 25 million social media fans on behalf of regional clients.

In March 2016, Careem, a UAE's home-grown success story disrupting the region's transportation sector, acquired Lahore-based car share and cab booking service Savaree. “We have acquired Savaree for the talent and immense local knowledge it brings along,” Junaid Iqbal, Careem’s CEO for Pakistan, told local media.

That is the latest of Careem’s many acquisitions in the past 15 months, after acquiring Saudi’s home delivery service Enwani in January 2015 and Morocco’s Taxiii in March 2015.

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