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August 31, 2023
In early June, I met Mr. Obaid Bokisha, the Group Chief Operating Officer of e&, and we discussed e&’s transformation from a regional telco to a global technology group. His presentation of e&’s transformation strategy and plans were insightful and also highlighted learnings for other operators undergoing transformation.
e& headquartered in the UAE is one of the leading global technology groups today. Founded in Abu Dhabi over 47 years ago, the Group has a rich legacy as the pioneer in telecommunications in the UAE. Today, its footprint spans 16 countries across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, making it a leading player in the industry. Over the last few years, the group has evolved from a regional telecom giant to a global technology and investment company. Its transformation into a global tech group is a story of ambition, innovation, and growth while highlighting its role in upholding the UAE’s sustainable economic development and diversification plans.
My discussion with Mr. Bokisha focused on the role of telecom service providers in the development of the digital economy. With the telecom network an essential component of the digital world’s infrastructure, he stated: “We need to invest in the backbone and infrastructure to provide the necessary support from our side.”
This is why e& has continued to invest in 5G rollout and fibre network enhancement. According to the company’s report, e&’s CAPEX intensity ratio in 2022 was 15.3 per cent, and the ratio in 2023 will remain in the range of 15-17 per cent. These investments in the network have played a key role in improving the overall experience for customers across e&’s footprint. In the UAE last year, etisalat by e&’s fixed and mobile broadband speeds have increased substantially over the past few years by 83 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively. In other international markets, including Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, the network experience was enhanced by 4 per cent to 30 per cent.
e& has continuously invested over the years in building digital infrastructure and implementing the latest technologies. Through partnerships with other industry players, e& has become the market leader in the Middle East and Africa for wholesale DC (data centre) operations and will build the largest pure player in cloud-managed and professional services in the METAP (Middle East, Turkey, Africa, Pakistan) region. e& also established an AI Centre of Excellence in collaboration with the best-in-class AI players, such as DataRobot, Snowflake, etc.
This advanced infrastructure became a key enabler for developing the digital economy and a solid foundation for e& Group’s transformation towards a global techco.
e& is moving beyond the telecom service sector, Mr Bokisha pointed out. “Not only is a cloud solution very critical to providing the right capacity and the right services to different industries, but we can also provide services based on the data through our AI digitalisation journey,” he said. To expand the business and transform every industry, e& has set up new business verticals, including e& enterprise to accelerate digital transformation for customers with cloud, cybersecurity, IoT, and AI.; e& life to create a leading consumer digital ecosystem player, particularly in fintech and entertainment areas; and e& capital to acquire, grow and support visionary tech businesses.
So far, e& life and e& enterprise have built an extensive ecosystem. e& life’s fintech services have emerged across the entire financial services value chain and achieved exponential growth in MENAP in the last two years. e& enterprise has built a strong partnership ecosystem that includes some heavyweight players like Microsoft, Oracle, Google, etc. In addition, it also established two joint ventures for data centre operations and cloud-managed services, respectively. As stated previously, the JVs have gained momentum in their respective markets.
e& has strengthened cross-sector collaboration and promoted cross-regional collaboration with other telecom players. e& has been participating in various industry forums. “We are leading in certain forums in which we must collaborate in order to serve our customers in the right and best way,” Mr. Bokisha said. Through the collaborations’ knowledge sharing, e& can gain a better understanding of customers’ requirements. This could enable the operator to manage capital expenditures more efficiently while maximising opportunities for revenue growth.
As Mr. Bokisha was travelling to Shenzhen, the location of Huawei’s headquarters, we also discussed the partnership between e& and its suppliers, particularly with Huawei. He lauded the collaboration with Huawei. According to him, the company’s outstanding customer service and focus on the customer, facilitate the expansion of e&’s business.
e& is transitioning from a regional telecom player to a global technology company. It has adopted emerging technologies such as AI, IoT, etc. to facilitate the transformation. At the same time, a high-performance and dependable network is always essential to the digital economy’s infrastructure. Cross-sector and cross-regional collaborations are crucial to the transformation journey to expand the ecosystem and develop new capabilities. All e&’s transformational experiences will be beneficial to other telecom companies undergoing transformation. I’d like to appreciate Mr. Bokisha for the insightful conversation.
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