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In a fast-paced era of advanced technology, adaptation and innovation are key drivers of business success. For e&, a company with a long legacy in telecommunications, embracing change and redefining its identity was not just a choice but a necessity in order to thrive in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Hatem Dowidar, e&’s group CEO, shares insights into the transformation journey that has propelled the company from a regional telecom giant to a global tech player, ushering in limitless possibilities to drive the digital future and empower the communities in which it serves.

A Vision Beyond Telecom

Traditionally known for its telecom services, e& has embarked on a path that extends far beyond its established identity.

“We bring a legacy of [more than] 47 years serving the connectivity needs of our customers. We are always defined by our progressive outlook and spirit of innovation,” says Dowidar. “With the world changing and the aspirations and needs of our customers evolving, we [believe it is] essential for us to stay one step ahead—as we always have been—by providing relevant solutions while enhancing our agility, responsiveness, and flexibility.”

In 2022, e& announced a new chapter in its evolution with a clearly defined business growth strategy, expanding its reach into various digital verticals, including cloud services, AI, IOT, cybersecurity, fintech, entertainment and content. This strategic shift was evident in e&’s series of acquisitions and investments over the past 18 months, showcasing its commitment to diversification and its ability to adapt to changing consumer demands.

“We did not set boundaries for ourselves—and that continues to be our strength,” says Dowidar. “We needed to have flexibility to enable hyper-scaling based on a deeper understanding of customer needs, which called for realigning our operations by creating a new, diversified business model.”

The inspiration behind transforming e& from a telco into a global technology group was driven by several factors and a clear understanding of the evolving business landscape.

As a telecom company with a strong legacy and market presence, e& recognized that the digital revolution was reshaping industries and customer expectations. It saw the immense potential in leveraging its existing infrastructure, expertise, and customer base to extend beyond traditional telecom services and explore new avenues for growth and innovation.

It made strategic investments and also expanded its footprint into multiple countries, particularly in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, tapping into new markets and opportunities.

"Fostering a culture of innovation and collaboration was key to its success. We actively sought partnerships with startups, industry leaders, and governments, co-creating solutions to address emerging challenges. Our rebranding to e& reflected a shift in our identity, signaling that we were more than a telecom provider; we were a global technology group. This transformation was underpinned by a commitment to upholding the UAE's sustainable economic development and diversification plans.”

“Our journey was marked by adaptability, agility, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. It's an ongoing process, and we remain committed to pushing boundaries and shaping the future of technology,” said Hatem.

The focus on value maximization across our operations and systematic expansion through both organic means and acquisitions drove strong performance and significant milestones and achievements in 2022.

The Brand Finance Global 500 Report recognized our telecom brand portfolio in the MEA region as the most valuable, valued at over $14 billion. Additionally, e& remains the strongest telecom brand across all categories in the MEA region and consistently ranks among the top three telecom brands globally, showcasing our impressive market reach and operational capabilities.

The transformation is an ongoing journey, and with its enriched, and better-structured business model, e&’s vision is to move forward as a customer-focused, technology-driven, and digitally oriented group empowered by next-generation technologies.

The company’s transformation was driven by establishing five specialized business verticals: etisalat by e&, e& international, e& life, e& enterprise, and e& capital. These pillars have diversified revenue streams, expanding e&’s presence across all geographic markets, fueled organic growth, and led to the exploration of new market opportunities and strategic ventures. Each vertical has an underlying strategy and focuses on ensuring e& continues to meet the needs of its stakeholders; listen to its customers, partners, and employees; and improve its offerings.

Staying Ahead of the Competition and Leading in Technology Innovation

As part of its new, diversified business profile, e& aims to deliver high-value solutions through cutting-edge technologies, such as 5G, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and IoT (Internet of Things).

The company has strategically invested in acquisitions in the technology and telecom sectors, forging partnerships with global technology leaders to drive innovation. These collaborations allow e& to develop new products and services, gain valuable insights into customer needs and preferences, and expand into new markets. Additionally, e&’s strategic partnerships with leading financial service firms focus on promoting financial inclusion and access.

Also read: e& Injects Innovation Into Distributed Edge Data Centers

e& envisions itself as a global technology group with a growth mindset, a progressive outlook, and an innovative spirit. The goal of expanding beyond its telco roots into fintech, IOT/AI, cybersecurity, and content aggregation is boundary-breaking growth and leading toward a brighter digital future.

Specialized business pillars like etisalat by e&, e& international, e& life, e& enterprise, and e& capital have been established to diversify revenue streams and expand reach. Further investment in these pillars will increase revenue and create a balanced geographical profile with higher non-telco contributions.

We closely monitor industry trends and emerging technologies globally, fostering a culture of innovation where employees feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things. We seek strategic partnerships and collaborations to access resources and expertise, accelerating product and service development.

Our focus is on the "segment of one," using data, analytics, AI, and automation to create tailored products, services, and strategies for meaningful customer engagement and improved user experiences.

We aim to expand our presence in new markets while growing our portfolio in existing ones through organic development and selective mergers and acquisitions. Our primary focus is meeting both traditional and innovative connectivity demands.

Global Expansion and Growth

Through its transformation efforts, e& is on a trajectory of unparalleled expansion, boasting one of the highest market capitalization worldwide while delivering value to customers and shareholders across 16 countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa and serving more than 165 million subscribers.

Mergers and acquisitions have played a pivotal role in e&’s growth strategy. “We have always believed in the power of partnerships,” says Hatem.

e& broadened its horizons with investments in Vodafone to enhance and develop its international portfolio providing an opportunity to expand into new markets in Africa, Europe and Asia as well as areas outside telecom. This was followed by the binding agreement to acquire a majority stake in PPF Telecom expanding into Central and Eastern Europe mainly Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia. The $400 million investment in Careem was another strategic move that was in line with our ambitious strategy, expanding our range of services and digital offerings for consumers while propelling our transformation into a global technology group.

Through strategic acquisitions like elGrocer, Smartworld, and a merger with Khazna, we're expanding beyond telecom into diverse sectors. STARZPLAY's acquisition demonstrates our commitment to international expansion in the entertainment and financial technology domains.

Beyond telecoms, we're strengthening our presence in fintech, entertainment, and SuperApps, simplifying digital interactions and shaping the future of personalized digital experiences worldwide.

Leading the digital transformation journey across the business sector, e& enterprise made considerable achievements with acquisitions and strategic partnerships to deliver the best technologies that empower businesses across the region.

e& enterprise acquired a majority stake in Beehive, MENA’s leading peer-to-peer digital platform, to tap into opportunities in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) lending market. This also marked the next step in e& enterprise’s expansion, as the move demonstrates its commitment to opening new avenues of growth across the UAE and in the region, while enabling Beehive to scale its business and expand its offerings.

Staying committed to the UAE’s vision of becoming a global hub for future industries, e& enterprise IoT & AI partnered with Maxbyte Technologies to deliver cutting-edge solutions for Industry 4.0, leveraging both companies’ combined expertise and experience.

Keeping in line with e& enterprise’s mission to drive digital transformation for companies across industries, it implemented engageX solutions for Audi from Al Nabooda Automobiles to automate their customer service support over digital channels.

Roadmap to Net-Zero Emissions

Our business today is committed to addressing global climate challenges and actively participating in the global climate action agenda. Notably, e& is the first private sector group in the UAE to join the "Independent Accelerators Project in the United Arab Emirates for Climate Change" (UICCA), underscoring our dedication to building a sustainable future.

We are delighted to announce our partnership with e& as a key technology partner for the upcoming COP28 conference, set to take place in the United Arab Emirates. This collaboration builds upon e&'s previously announced commitment during its participation in last year's COP27 conference. Our goal is to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in scopes 1 and 2 within the group's operations in the UAE by 2030.

This partnership marks a significant milestone in e&'s journey towards realizing its climate neutrality strategy within its operations. Simultaneously, we remain steadfast in our efforts to contribute to environmental preservation in the markets we operate worldwide. The COP28 conference holds particular significance for us, as it allows us to unite efforts and collaborate with partners in driving positive and tangible change. We aspire to set an exemplary model for other companies concerning contributions to sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability is at the core of e&'s mission, embedded in our commitment to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards. This commitment is integral to our overarching strategy and holistic vision for the future. We firmly establish a vital link between environmental and social governance alongside the technological advancements evident in our operations.

On the environmental front, e& has taken substantial steps to reduce carbon emissions. One noteworthy initiative involves deploying energy-efficient wireless equipment at our mobile phone network sites. This transformation has led to a remarkable 52 per cent reduction in energy consumption compared to conventional equipment. This translates to an annual decline of 7.6 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per site. By championing such initiatives, we aim to inspire other organizations to join us in creating a more sustainable future, a crucial step in accelerating global climate action.

In our commitment to community well-being, e& remains dedicated to aligning our efforts with our core values. Our mission goes beyond connecting communities digitally; it encompasses supporting and empowering these communities across various domains. We believe in our role in enhancing the lives of people across the globe.

As a testament to our commitment, e& has joined the "Edison Alliance" affiliated with the World Economic Forum. Through this alliance, we have pledged to impact the lives of 30 million individuals by 2025 positively. Our commitment entails improving network access, offering digital financial services, and providing technological education. This reaffirms our dedication to making a positive global impact by prioritizing digital inclusion to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This commitment is further exemplified through our collaboration with the global organization Code.org. We're actively supporting their programme to promote computer science and software education in markets where our group operates across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. This not only strengthens the role of technology in educational curriculum but also presents an opportunity for collaboration with partners to invest in future technologies, fostering innovative solutions that advance the educational sector.

Inclusivity and diversity principles are integral to our business across various sectors. Our support for the United Nations initiative to empower women, as evidenced by our adherence to its principles, underscores our commitment to fostering a positive impact at the local, regional, and global levels. This aligns with our strategy to achieve gender balance as we transform into a global technology group.

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