Seizing the opportunity to make an irreversible impact on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) technology sector, Midwam Edutainment entered the market just over three years ago, offering both the government and private sector something that they never had before: virtual reality (VR). Having already achieved an annual turnover of $100 million in such a short time, while acquiring significant partners and clients along the way, the technology company has reached the position where it is not only the principle VR leader in the Kingdom, but can also export its products and expertise.
We speak to Midwam’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Khalid Al Muawad – arguably one of the most important tech influencers in the Kingdom – about how the company has worked hard to establish itself as the leading VR provider in the country and the sound business practices that have made this all possible.
Midwam’s technology offering to the Saudi market can roughly be split into VR and Augmented Reality (AR) solutions, immersive displays, gesture systems and holographic displays. This technology has been adapted to serve the needs of a growing number of sectors which today includes medical, industrial, education , vocational training and, as the company’s forward-thinking name suggests, the growing trend of ‘edutainment,’ as well as sports.
The company’s solutions span from AR wearables such as Google Glass, EON AR and the Oculus Rift, to a variety of multi-sided immersive environments and interactive mirrors.
A recent study has shown that 3D solutions have the potential to increase students' attention levels by up to 92 percent and increase test scores by as much as 35 percent, which goes to show that Midwam’s focus has the potential to make a positive effect on the society through educating them digitally.
The company’s complete solution for the oil and gas sector represents the best example of its industrial offering and covers the whole process, from exploration, to planning and production. Its applications provide simulation-based training which improves the transfer of skills and also increases knowledge retention.
Solutions such as these enable companies to equip personnel to perform their jobs more safely, quickly and effectively. Companies can also potentially reduce their costs associated with infrastructure, travel, and time, not to mention any costly accidents that can occur through on-site training.
When used in a medical context, Midwam’s VR solutions enable students to experience a range of therapeutic processes and operations without posing any risk to patients or staff; costs associated with this type of compensation, not to mention those involved with sourcing are eliminated, along with complications arising from the presence of red-tape.
Al Muawad explains just how forward-thinking Midwam’s offering to the KSA market was when it first started: “When it comes to technology, the Kingdom has received a lot less exposure than markets like the US and the EU or even Dubai. We are the only company in Saudi Arabia that provides turnkey solutions in the form of interactive hardware, software and content development. We entered into the market at a time when people first began to have smart devices and now almost everybody does.”
The decision to enter the market at that particular time enabled the company to immediately provide turnkey solutions opposed to merely providing customers with solutions in an experienced market, he explains: “We have quickly learned that customers were looking for complete tech packages, for example science labs or classroom experiences. We provide solutions that address a specific issue for each particular industry.”
Having gained regional notoriety, Midwam entered into a partnership with Eon Reality Inc – a leading VR and AR company with a presence in 12 key markets across the world and an impressive roster of world-leading clients.
Al Muawad explains that this relationship was mutually beneficial: “We have massive capacity to provide solutions in the KSA, so we became partners who work on VR and AR for them. They work closely with us and gives us all the required case studies to help us educate people. They are global leaders which makes it easier for us to showcase our work abroad; they have shown a great effort in the past ten years on how to add value.”
Al Muawad highlights the fact that Midwam’s uniqueness in the KSA market was initially problematic when it came to bringing in the right talent and convincing local business and government institutions of the relevancy of interactive VR technology. But in just a short time the company was able to tackle both of these issues and transform them into aspects that it now leads the Kingdom in. He classes his workforce of 200 as some of the leading lights in the Saudi tech space.
He says: “It was difficult, especially at first, to recruit local Saudis into this industry; we always strive to be a company that hires locals in line with government guidelines. The investment to train our talent on the latest VR and AR methodologies was very high but it made a lot of sense to ensure that locals could get this knowledge.
“We have sent our employees as far as the US, Europe and the Far East to learn with our partners out there. We are also proud to support employing women in the company because they too have the right skill sets; they now make up about 40 percent of our talent base.”
He is also keen to stress that the company’s unceasing focus on remaining innovative was supported by its passion for establishing a VR tech industry in the country, he says: “We play a big role in supporting the creative economy in Saudi Arabia and are looking for a partner to support us so we can do even more.
“The company declared from day one that we will aim to incentivise every effort our employees make. As our company grows and our knowledge increases, we also try to grow our incentives –even growth in forming new partnerships is incentivised. Rewards are also there for extra special personal efforts.”
Midwam has also cemented its position at the forefront of the technology industry in the KSA with the construction of a Interactive Digital Center which enables potential customers or even those with just an interest in VR to come in and experience the latest developments and to see the company’s role as a pioneer in the country.
Al Muawad explains: “Our $15 million interactive digital centre connects and showcases high-end technologies when it comes to AR and VR in the country. We did this to educate people on how to use the technology and because the culture in the Kingdom is less exposed. This technology can be very difficult to explain or present unless you have experienced it yourself.”
Having effectively introduced an entirely new industry to the KSA, Midwam is focused on ensuring that its products and expertise penetrate as much of the market as possible while remaining at the forefront of technological innovations and ensuring that its talented workforce is best placed to perpetuate its success.