Technology firms revive SME focus

December 3, 2014 10:05 am

Technology and telecom giants are focusing on the small and medium enterprises as the sector is growing by leaps and bounds in the region.

According to government estimates, 98 per cent of companies in the Emirates are classified as SMEs and the sector contributes 40 per cent of Dubai’s GDP.

Hany Fahmy Aly, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Business du, says: “SMEs represent the fastest growing segment for us, and we believe that this segment has huge potential for growth. From our experience we have seen that they are early technology adaptors.”

Microsoft and du recently announced a partnership under which du will become the first telecom service provider in the UAE to offer Office 365 cloud-based productivity applications and services directly to its small and medium business customers in the country.

The Office business plans from du are targeted at SMEs with up to 100 employees.

“Office 365 is the crown jewel of our SME offerings,” says Ihsan Anabtawi, regional director, Microsoft Office Division, Microsoft Gulf.

“The SME sector is very important for us. This partnership with du helps us to serve our products to the sector on a better scale,” adds Anabtawi.

Office 365 was made available in the UAE nearly three years ago. The business plan packages to be provided by du include services such as business class email, shared calendars, instant messaging, conferencing, and access to 1TB of storage in the cloud.

Microsoft Office 365 packages are offered by du across all their mobile, device and broadband portfolios starting from 20AED/month.

In its efforts to revamp its business and focus on SMEs, Microsoft has more than doubled the number of its channel partners in the last two years. “Office 365 has at least more than 300-400 channel partners in this region,” says Anabtawi, adding “We may tie up with Etisalat later.”

However partnering with a huge channel partner such as du has its own challenges as well.

Anabtawi explains why the project with du took more than 12 months to launch: “The integration procedures for telecom companies are different. Say for example, they want to integrate it with more of their back end systems such as billing, positioning and integrating with their value added services such as devices, voices, data.”

“It took over 12 months to integrate all these. The interest and intention was there early on, but to turn on the facilities in a large company like du and execute the full integration is a time consuming process,” he adds.

Boston Consultancy Group surveyed 4,000 small and midsize business decision makers internationally and found that Microsoft products are the top choice of tech savvy SMEs.

According to the survey, tech savvy businesses outperform their peers in the market place.

“UAE was not part of the research, but we see similar trends in the region,” says Anabtawi.

Ninety-five per cent of tech savvy SMEs use Office compared to 43 per cent Office usage among small and midsize businesses using little technology, the survey says.