By Staff writer
As telecoms markets across the Middle East continue to deregulate at a rapid pace, a growing opportunity exists to offer operators support in the new competitive landscape being created. Dubai Airport Free Zone based Workz Middle East is well positioned to support network operator activities related to supply and retail chain management and is making good progress in helping operators make their processes more efficient.
Brad Taylor, Workz Middle East’s amicable managing director is clear with regards his company’s primary objective — to help advance Middle East companies from local operations to the regional arena and ultimately on to the global stage. It is a good time to have such an objective in the telecoms sector in the Middle East given the expansionary objectives of a number of the operators, and Taylor stresses the significance to his business of partnering with such organisations.
“We have a relatively small customer base, less than 35 customers, but these are deep relationships,” explains Taylor. “We are a telecoms focused organisation and our approach is to get to know the business of the operators we try to support in order to fully understand their requirements,” he adds.
Workz was established in 1998 and positions itself in the area of the telecoms sector where the activities of network operators, manufacturers and distribution, retail and return channels overlap. The company’s operations include supply chain execution and management, retail concept design, sales channels and logistics optimisation, high value electronics and accessory packing, and after-market service and warranty management to name just a few.
Having recorded revenues of US$24.6 million last year, Workz's message appears to be resonating with the operator community in the region. The company has established a major focus on professional services, helping to support network operators right from the manufacturer running through the operator's warehouse and provisioning activities, down to the retail outlets.
“We are a regionally focused organisation,” Taylor declares, believing that the establishment of deep relationships requires a deep dedication to a particular geography. “In our particular region deregulation and competition is occurring, which is a good thing. The performance of the entire sector is raised by this and certain companies will leverage strategic gains during this peiod.”
And while the outsourcing phenomenon is still one to establish firm roots in the telecoms sector in this part of the world, Taylor believes things are changing as operators look to focus more on their core businesses and allow third parties such as Workz to do the rest. “Pain flows throughout an organisation” is a phrase Taylor is fond of using in order to describe how organisations that have an inefficiency in one operation of the business often see the cost of that inefficiency impacting elsewhere. “We are interested in projects our partners do not have the time, resources, ability, or desire to manage, but are critical for their success,” Taylor adds.
Handset distribution used to be a significant part of Workz businesses, though this area is now being overtaken with Workz's consultation activity with operators. The company has a 25-member consulting team experienced in various business areas including telecoms, retail, and project management, and prides itself with working even closer with clients than more traditional management consultants. “We like to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty,” Taylor states. “Some management consultants come in, review the situation, give their appraisal and move on. In our case, our people are there to help implement our recommendations, and that’s a significant difference.”
As a privately held company Workz operates without debt, and remains enthusiastic to expand its reach and customer base further. Taylor describes the company's long-term objective as the logical extension of its current core competencies, customers and territories. “There will be no quantum leaps in our business strategy, we are going to stick to what we do well,” Taylor declares. “We find ourselves having to work smart and hard, but you won’t see us going into the IT distribution business or anything like that,” he adds.
Given the move of investment capital from the Middle East to Africa by a number of regionally based operators, Taylor is keen to help Middle East operators make that shift, as well as establish activities in its own right on the African continent. “You play in your own back yard before you play in your neighbour’s house, right,” Taylor quips, suggesting that his strategy is to consolidate Workz’s position in the Middle East before embarking on other geographic regions.
At this point, Workz is targeting geographies within a four-hour flight of Dubai, thus markets in North and East Africa are obvious early targets. Interest being shown by Middle East operators such as Etisalat International and MTC Group into Africa is a positive development for Workz given the relationships it has established in the region and is likely to help bolster its entry into the African market.
“As operators become service providers, we are geared up to assist them in their transitions,” Taylor states, and as the pressure from competition forces operators to improve their operations at home and seek growth opportunities abroad, Workz is successfully carving out a credible ‘one-stop shop’ niche to assist operators with this transition.
Taylor does not like to talk of any plans to take the company public at this point in time, preferring to focus on the ambitions he harbours to drive the growth of the business with new operators and into new geographies.
On the competitve landscape, there are companies that directly compete with Workz in one area of its operation or another, though Taylor believes that taken together, the breadth of Workz’s activities gives its a competitive advantage. “We have changed our focus from multinational objectives to supporting Middle East companies and manufacturers that want to work here.”