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Transforming for Future Success: e&'s Strategic Shift and Diversification

e& Group CEO Hatem Dowidar explains the operator's transformation journey and market strategies.


To accomplish its strategic goals, e& is leveraging a vast customer base coupled with strong relationships to evolve into a dynamic holding group active in multiple verticals. This strategic shift allows the group to expand beyond connectivity services and cater to a wider range of customer needs.

In the consumer vertical, e& is focusing on innovative fintech solutions and content offerings, aiming to compete with banking institutions and streaming platforms. In the enterprise market, the operator is venturing into cloud services, IoT, and cybersecurity to rival consulting firms and system integrators.

While maintaining a strong commitment to providing core telco services, e& continues to invest in domestic and international markets. Taking a technology-focused approach, the group has also established the corporate venture capital arm e& capital to invest in startups that have the potential to reshape the industry.

By embracing change, leveraging its customer base, and pursuing diversified verticals, e&'s strategic transformation positions the group for future success. Through innovation and collaboration, the operator aims to remain at the forefront of the ICT and technology sectors.

Enriching digital life through content and fintech

Dowidar highlights e&'s investment strategy as key components of its approach to enriching digital life and competing in markets traditionally dominated by OTT players.

“So, we have a consumer vertical, which at the moment is focusing on fintech and content,” he says. “And we are competing against the banks, we are competing against Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the like.”

In terms of content, e&’s media and entertainment arm evision, which rebranded as ‘em’ on July 25, 2023, focuses on leveraging existing broadcasting platforms as one of the largest content aggregators in the MENAP region, with flagship entertainment services in several markets. The group has invested significantly in STARZPLAY Arabia, the leading regional streaming platform for international content, becoming the second-largest subscription service in the region and surpassing competitors like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney.

The strategic acquisition of STARZPLAY Arabia has allowed e& to achieve this position more efficiently than it would have by building its own platform from scratch over several years.

With e& money, the operator has developed its own digital payment solutions in the fintech arena, expanding financial inclusion by helping customers overcome barriers to accessing financial services. Aligned with the goal of scaling consumer digital offerings and accelerating transformation into a global technology group, e& has also invested in Careem's Super App, a digital platform that has grown rapidly into a network of payments, food and grocery delivery, and other digital businesses. Serving as a comprehensive marketplace for various services that cater to diverse customer needs, the app is a proven success in the UAE and e&’s investment will support its further expansion.

Dowidar emphasizes the importance of understanding and meeting customer needs while expanding e&'s customer base. In today’s open ecosystem telcos are working closely and collaboratively to offer over-the-top services (OTTs) across markets. To achieve this, e& is adopting open and scalable platforms that cater to all customers in existing and potential markets.

ESG and carbon neutrality

Focusing on the environment is essential for companies today as it directly impacts quality of life, the well-being of future generations, and the overall health of the planet. For businesses, it also presents numerous opportunities for sustainable growth and can help foster long-term resilience and competitiveness in a rapidly changing world. Governments also favor environmentally responsible companies, which in turn influences stakeholder perception, while investors prioritize companies that focus on ESG and the environment.

e& is committed to implementing ESG on a broad scale, including network efficiency, carbon emissions, governance, diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility.

Referring to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, Dowidar notes that, “We were one of the first companies in the region to announce carbon neutrality for Scope 1 and Scope 2 by 2030. And, not only that, we are working now on even beyond Scope 2.”

e& is also exploring opportunities to leverage its network and advanced capabilities to help other industries reduce their carbon footprint.

Collaboration with partners is critical to bringing down carbon emissions.

Partner capabilities that e& value include integrating renewables into equipment and, Dowidar says, “reducing energy consumption and energy needs of the equipment. And I think Huawei is working very actively on that.” Indeed, Huawei has made significant progress in reducing the energy consumption of radio access network equipment, as well as green development in other ICT areas.

e& aims to incorporate renewables more efficiently and supply towers with power based on minimal space requirements, particularly in areas lacking a robust power grid. By leveraging renewable energy sources, the group not only reduces its carbon footprint, but also extends connectivity to underserved regions, including certain African markets.

Enhancing user experience and sharing best practices

e& prioritizes user experience in its network operations across 16 countries, each at different stages of technological advancement. Data sovereignty concerns and regulatory requirements necessitate a country-specific approach rather than a centralized one.

By sharing best practices across the group, e& aims to deliver a superior user experience across e&’s network portfolio without universal deployment at the same time.

“It’s more about creating a way to transfer the learnings of best practices across the markets, and also testing once and deploying in several places,” says Dowidar.

As e& ventures into the realm of over-the-top (OTT) services, it is also competing with global platforms in the country-centric telecom industry. However, e& strives to apply methodologies that bridge the gap between regulated and unregulated services. It has tested self-healing networks in the UAE and leveraged the expertise of the group's specialists to assist other markets in deploying them. For customer services, e& has deployed predictive models in Egypt that anticipate the reasons for customer calls by analyzing network exposure, billing data, and past incidents. This enables its call agents to proactively address customer needs and provide faster solutions.

Empowering enterprise transformation with ICT

e& recognizes its customer base is its primary asset that serves as the foundation for its operations. In the enterprise sector, e& has evolved from just providing connectivity to offering three key pillars that cater to diverse business needs.

Cloud: e& specializes in providing cloud services that help customers seamlessly migrate to cloud and scale operations within a dynamic environment. Whether it is facilitating the transition of large corporations or establishing joint ventures to support smaller companies' digital transformation journeys, e& is committed to helping businesses harness the potential of cloud computing.

Cybersecurity: Through its specialized enterprise cybersecurity arm Help AG, e& helps safeguard companies against digital threats. Help AG provides comprehensive cybersecurity services, including fully managed solutions, that provide major government organizations and small businesses with DDoS protection as part of a connectivity package.

IoT and AI: By providing end-to-end support, e& enables customers to enhance their systems and operations with IoT and AI. e&’s integrated approach to IoT and AI deploys and orchestrates IoT sensors for customer, including developing the necessary infrastructure, hosting solutions in its data centers, and providing on-demand computing power on a scale required for AI development.

At the same time, e& actively collaborates with academic institutions to develop AI-focused programs, ensuring that curriculum evolve to meet future demands of the future. The company, for example, has established a graduate AI program in the UAE and offers internships to around 150 students annually. A few of the interns join the company, while others contribute their AI knowledge to various organizations in different markets.

Long-term partnerships

e& prioritizes best-in-class connectivity and has made significant investments in this area. Several of its markets ranking in the world's top 10 fastest countries, laying a strong foundation for a thriving digital economy. In that regard, Dowidar highlights e&'s 20-year partnership with Huawei, during which time Huawei’s advanced technologies and solutions have enabled e& to pioneer 3G, 4G, and 5G services across the region.

Huawei's exceptional research and development capabilities extend to mobile and radio technologies, as well as fixed and optical infrastructure. Looking ahead, Dowidar anticipates that Huawei will continue to support e& in developing technologies as the group transitions into a leading technology group.

Dowidar reiterates that e& also works closely with partners like Huawei to provide the latest hardware, which is developed with the state-of-the-art R&D capabilities to create solutions that meet the needs of both consumers and enterprises.