Group CEO Hatem Dowidar on how e& is spearheading the world’s transformative tech space

Diversifying its business and creating robust pillars are key to its continuing success
Group CEO Hatem Dowidar on how e& is spearheading the world’s transformative tech space
e& Group CEO Hatem Dowidar

Moving with agility and purpose, e& has successfully transformed the way it operates to achieve its ambitious goal of becoming a global leader in transformative technology. Group CEO Hatem Dowidar shares insights on how e& is navigating its journey and the reasons for its continuing success.

Founded in Abu Dhabi over 48 years ago, e& has a rich legacy of innovation as the telecommunications pioneer in the UAE. Today, its footprint spans 16 countries across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, making it a leading player in the technology industry.

As the business landscape in which it operates experienced unprecedented changes, e& embraced a progressive outlook to seek ways to transform into a global technology group. While telcos are enduring businesses, fulfilling an important purpose in the rapidly evolving landscape, characterized by disruption from next-gen communication technologies, they are also called upon to constantly adapt, lest they fall into the trap of irrelevance.

With this in mind, e& focused on realigning its business by creating a diversified business model with robust business pillars.

Transformation journey

“Our transformation journey comprised challenges as well as many strategic highs. These included aligning internal stakeholders on adopting a growth mindset, creating a future-ready business model, focusing on value creation, and leveraging our customer base in the context of the rapid digital revolution,” said e& group CEO Hatem Dowidar.

According to Dowidar, e&’s financial performance demonstrated resilience as it focused on driving value from its core. This it accomplished through diversification as well as further digitalizing and developing innovative solutions. This also meant building stronger regional adjacencies organically and through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). He added, “We took massive strides in entering strategic partnerships and made several acquisitions for future business growth. We were driven by our commitment to providing innovative solutions for the benefit of our customers. In addition, we also wanted to offer long-term sustainable investments for our investors.”


Global leader

Driven by its ambition to become a global leader in transformative technology, e& focused on expanding its reach beyond telecommunications and into diverse sectors. This unlocked attractive growth opportunities and empowered the company to offer cutting-edge solutions to individuals and businesses. This approach has accelerated its digital transformation across new markets. “We’ve significantly broadened our footprint and empowered communities. We’re strategically positioning ourselves in key markets to extend our impact. Moreover, we also want to push the boundaries of what is possible by delivering measurable results that make a difference in people’s lives,” Dowidar continued.

Two years after starting its transformation journey and launching the e& brand, the company today is still the Most Valuable Brand Portfolio in the Middle East and Africa (MEA), with a brand value exceeding US$17 billion, according to Brand Finance. It also recognized e& this year to be MEA’s Fastest Growing Technology Brand in its Global 500 2024 Report. Meanwhile, etisalat by e& has retained its position as the strongest telecommunications brand in the world with a AAA rating on the Brand Strength Index (BSI).

ESG commitments

Delivering on its Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) commitments has had a significant positive impact during its transition. e& has made significant advances in embracing ESG standards. This has led to integrating sustainability into its fundamental operations.

e& has joined the World Economic Forum’s Edison Alliance. Through this alliance, e& has committed to positively impacting the lives of 30 million people by 2025 by improving access to networks, providing digital financial services and offering technology education.

Dowidar commented: “We are forging global partnerships in the form of our Innovation Hub, a platform that aims to drive the decarbonization of the telecoms industry. To date, we have attracted 39 telecom– operators from 30 different countries and a range of solution providers to innovate, share expertise and collaborate on sustainable practices.”

e&’s progress as a global technology group is underpinned by ESG principles that ensure efficient and sustainable operations across its markets. It is committed to reimagining a future where technology and sustainability work in harmony to positively impact livelihoods, human mobility and security. These efforts demonstrate its unwavering commitment to bridging the gap between digital progress and climate change, following in the footsteps of the UAE to create a greener, conflict-free and safer world for all.

Read: Group CEO Hatem Dowidar: AI and sustainability fuel e&’s growth beyond telecom

Diversified business model brings added value

Today, e& has a diversified business model with robust business pillars. With the technology sector being a broad terrain, it is important for e& to maintain its focus and to have accountability to bring that added value to the business.

The establishment of focused business verticals has increased organizational agility in areas of priority, set targets and strategies transparently, enabled the seamless execution of mergers and acquisitions where desired, and attracted relevant strategic partners and investors in line with the business vertical’s focus. This structure has also helped attract and retain the desired talent as well as drive better synergies across the Group.

The telecoms business in e&’s home market, the UAE, upholds the group’s rich telecoms heritage, bolsters its strong telecoms network and maximizes value for the Group’s various customer segments.

Meanwhile, e& international is focused on growing an extensive network of world class, modern, digital telcos by empowering our customers with the best connectivity, inclusive financial services, rich entertainment experience as well as seamless business transformation. Through acquisitions and digital transformation, it is embracing the opportunities across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. e& life has empowered customers by putting the digital world at their fingertips through new technologies, smart platforms, and apps in entertainment, retail, mobility services, and fintech.

With e& enterprise, e& is enabling organizations across multiple sectors to maximize their digital potential by providing advanced digital capabilities that continuously transform and enhance how companies do business by designing, delivering, and operating impactful, intelligent, and secure end-to-end digital solutions.

At e& capital, e& has invested in ideas and people. It continues to acquire and support visionary tech businesses that are moving the world forward.

Comprehensive solutions

“To grow, we need to move from being perceived as a connectivity supplier and stake our claim to the comprehensive digital solutions we’re providing to solve problems in the everyday lives of people and businesses,” Dowidar said.

e&’s group CEO also admitted that, “We learned a lot from recent disruptions in the telecommunications industry. Over the years, we’ve grown and developed our model, however, considering the dynamic nature of today’s business environment, which is driven by constant technological changes and evolving customer demands, it was essential to refine our business model. This strategic shift aimed to broaden our revenue sources and enhance the value we provide to our stakeholders. Our next steps necessitated the recalibration of our organization, embracing change, and generating new, meaningful services. No matter what business you’re in, it is crucial to not be complacent – you must be prepared and agile enough to change the business model.”

Recognizing that telecom providers and tech companies have long been the key to digital transformation across various industries, e& restructured its business on the conviction that it can deliver a profound impact and act as catalysts for change for its customers in these verticals. The US$400 million acquisition of Careem exemplifies its commitment to shaping the future of personalized digital experiences.

AI’s immense potential to business

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has significantly transformed various aspects of e&’s operations, enabled the development of smarter and more advanced products, improved user experience, and automated processes bringing meaningful insights into its businesses. It has surged forward in people’s consciousness in the last year, although it has been deploying AI applications and technologies for some time.

Secondly, e& views AI as a tool to further improve its efficiency. While it has immense utility for businesses, AI also brings challenges related to data privacy, ethical considerations, and the need for skilled professionals to implement and manage AI technologies effectively.

For Dowidar, true progress lies not in fearing the unstoppable. The Skynet scenario is a stark reminder of responsibly developing best practices, where AI’s capabilities augment, complement, and amplify human strengths while mitigating potential risks.

“This necessitates prioritizing ethical considerations at every stage of development and deployment. By moving beyond simplistic notions of AI dominance and embracing human-centered design principles, we can unlock its true potential to solve complex challenges, drive sustainable development, and create a more just and equitable world. This journey requires more than mere technical expertise but also philosophical depth, social awareness, and a commitment to responsible innovation,” he added.

Disruptive business models

AI is already automating processes and streamlining workflows across every pillar of e&’s business.

“We are using it to drive sustainability in areas such as resource allocation and energy efficiency optimization. In line with our ambitions and transformation journey, we created the Group AI & Data Department and appointed a Group Chief AI & Data Officer. This department will infuse AI into every facet of e&’s operations, maximizing its innovation potential across our operations and nurturing the next generation of data scientists to drive AI initiatives,” said Dowidar.

e&’s philosophy is to embed AI at the heart of everything that it does, thus revolutionizing the way it operates, innovates, and builds solutions for customers. In 2023, its UAE operations initiated a major Corporate Digital AI Transformation program and deployed more than 400 AI use cases, with many more in the pipeline.

AI applications and versatiliy

Its AI-powered Customer Value Management (CVM) program focuses on creating tailor-made customer propositions and contributed to more than 18 percent of its consumer revenue in 2023.

In smart cities, e&’s Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies monitor energy consumption, water usage, air quality, and traffic patterns, helping authorities make informed decisions regarding resource allocation, infrastructure, and traffic management.

Applied in this context, AI can improve the quality of life for people residing in smart cities and transform urban environments by making them smarter, safer, and more sustainable.

In finance and banking, AI is supporting more secure, convenient, and innovative customer services. Meanwhile, in the banking sector, it is crucial that operations involving AI – such as digital payments and data management – work in line to give customers the most powerful and secure financial tools.

In healthcare, the predictive capabilities of AI are transforming disease prevention and patient care. e&’s AI solutions can predict disease outbreaks by analyzing health data and historical trends, facilitating early interventions, and optimizing the allocation of healthcare resources.

hatem dowidar

Digital transformation unlocks true business potential

For e&, it is important to define the ‘why’ from the start as it can lead to isolated efforts and misaligned outcomes.

Having a clear strategic vision and investment in time, resources, and expertise is most crucial for progress. Leadership must champion the journey with conviction and digital fluency, avoiding decision-making paralysis. To truly transform, organizations must bridge the communication gap, clearly articulating the “why” and “how” to win over all stakeholders. Only then can digital transformation shed its superficiality and unlock its true potential.

One of the biggest hindrances to digital transformation is internal resistance. An example of this is employee aversion to new technologies like AI and automation. Addressing this with clear communication, training, and fostering a culture of change, learning and agility is extremely significant.

“In our home market of the UAE, e& considers itself fortunate to be part of a society where the leadership is the primary force driving digital transformation. The results of their efforts are all around us in our everyday lives. They are the true changemakers. But this isn’t the case in most parts of the world. Indeed, it is the opposite – the private sector drives innovation and digital transformation,” continued Dowidar.

e& enterprise has partnered with governments, large-scale enterprises, and corporates to accelerate digital transformation and the adoption of new technologies. This has helped entities reimagine work and operations with digital transformation strategies centered on automation, cybersecurity, cloud, data, AI, and customer engagement.

An excellent example is engageX, e& enterprise’s Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS). This customizes any end-user customer experience journey with seamless, multi-channel communications delivered through cloud computing.

e& at Mobile World Congress

As the world continues to march towards a more interconnected future, Mobile World Congress (MWC) remains an important platform for technology players like e&.

“MWC is about collaboration and discovery. We’re excited to return to Barcelona to join key industry players for deep discussions and impactful solutions that address the world’s most pressing challenges,” said Dowidar.

With 5G being one of the event’s key themes, e& is keen on showcasing its latest innovations in this space.

Dowidar explained, “For many years, we have been working on progressing 5G and 5G advanced technologies in the region. Beyond just delivering faster download speeds, 5G promises to transform the way we interact and communicate. This cutting-edge technology enables sophisticated uses like remote medical diagnostics, driverless car initiatives, and advanced industrial projects. These help foster a more innovative, interconnected society.”

5G-Advanced technology

e& is using 5G-Advanced technology as a crucial step towards the future development and deployment of 6G networks. Its implementations of the latest advancements in 5G technology go beyond providing immediate benefits in speed, reliability, and efficiency to establishing the technological and infrastructural foundation needed for the eventual transition to 6G with device positioning and AI and machine learning integration for better network performance.

At MWC, e& is keen to explore these future advances that will define the next phase of connectivity. It is committed to advancing connectivity, with achievements such as Voice over New Radio (VONR) and network slicing, 5G SA for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), to offer companies and consumers quick, dependable, high-quality connectivity. At MWC, e& wants to demonstrate its accomplishments in this space and engage with its peers to share key learnings.

As e& remains focused on becoming a global AI market leader, it is making a lot of investments in AI and offering it as a service to its enterprise customers. Additionally, it is moving from just connecting individuals to the more ambitious objective of connecting everything. “At MWC, we will also be showcasing our AI and IoT solutions that allow us to enable nations, cities, and businesses to become safer, smarter, and future-proof. Our focus on real-world use cases across various industries. These include smart and sustainable cities, safe cities, industry 4.0, digital healthcare, aviation, manufacturing, logistics, oil and gas, utilities, and eGovernment, which we will showcase at the event,” Dowidar ended.

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