At a time when every dirham counts, where do smart entrepreneurs find the biggest bang for their limited cash? They might typically head to Gitex Technology Week looking for innovative solutions to help their start-ups grow quickly without being bogged down by steep infrastructure or maintenance costs. At this year’s event, which begins today and runs until Thursday at the Dubai World Trade Centre, you will run into more than a thousand entrepreneurs and 410 start-ups from 60 countries. They’re there to source, learn and support other start-ups as well as global players with nimble solutions for SMEs.
Increasingly, these innovations reside in the cloud. “The cloud is the great equaliser for today’s start-ups,” Bask Iyer, CIO and SVP of Technology and Business Operations at Juniper Networks told Entrepreneur magazine. “It is one of the few areas where a start-up can access the same resources as large corporations.”
No wonder software as a service (SaaS) is emerging as a powerful and liberating technology enabler for start-ups and SMEs. In a June report, The Insight Partners estimates SaaS will be worth $350.2 billion (Dh1.28 trillion) by 2025, a tenfold rise in value from $34.78 billion in 2015. Currently, almost 80 per cent of these SaaS deployments are in the cloud and are third-party-operated, with future market growth expected from developing economies in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and Africa. “SaaS enables smaller organisations access to world-class software services at cheaper rates,” the report adds. “The reduced capital and operational expenditures, combined with pay as per use, have attracted many SMEs to adopt the SaaS model.” This also frees up SMEs to focus on what actually matters to their business, besides cutting time to market for their products and reaching break even faster.
At Gitex, the likes of NEC are aiming to reach the smart enterprise. NEC says organisations are increasingly confronted with the question of whether to transform or be left behind. Its answer is a melange of services that cover virtual workspaces, communication servers, security, IoT and even facial recognition tech.
“At Gitex we are demonstrating how smart enterprises can leverage converged technologies to optimise business practices, drive workforce engagement and create a competitive edge,” says Domenico De Stefanis, Managing Director, Middle East for NEC Enterprise Solutions.
SAP too is in the fray with its HANA suite that, among other features, claims to enable “live decision-making” by integrating all data into a usable format. At the show, the software solutions firm promises to help more than 3,000 start-ups with free support from HANA experts. “The Middle East has produced highly valued start-ups across transportation and retail,” says Marita Mitschein, SVP and Managing Director, SAP Training and Development Institute. “We will use the Gitex Startup Movement to find start-ups that can transform industry verticals such as health care, education and sports.”
Meanwhile, Suse comes to Gitex with the promise of zero downtime environments and software-defined data centres (SDDC). Paul Abi-Chahine, Regional Director, Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa, Suse, believes there is a healthy appetite for open-source solutions in the region. “The ongoing digital transformation is redefining how enterprises do business across the globe and across verticals,” he says, adding that it is critical regional companies embrace the SDDC as a cornerstone of the digitised economy if they are to keep pace with global competitors.
Dubai’s Buzinessware, which provides local businesses with on-demand IT resources over the internet at pay-as-you-go pricing, has a bullish view on the region’s SME market and expects data security and digital innovations to play significant roles in driving economic growth in the UAE. “The connection of cities, companies and countries to the internet has become the most transformative way of igniting substantial growth,” says CEO Sajid Mulla.
As Christopher Schroeder, author and venture capitalist, observes, “One of the great stories of our time is near universal access to software and mobiles around the world. By the end of the decade, over two-thirds of humanity will have access to a smart device, bringing unprecedented connection, collaboration, knowledge and the ability to create products and reach markets at lower and lower costs.”
Reaching those consumers where they are will remain the challenge for businesses.