Why the Middle East Smartphone Market continues to Saturate, without Apple
Recent weeks and months have seen an upswing in the numbers of mobile operators looking to exploit what is rapidly becoming one of the world’s hotbeds for smartphone uptake, though Apple appears to be somewhat slow to join the trend.
Perhaps this is a deliberate strategic move, as budget smartphones are exploding in popularity with phone makers looking to hit a price point below that commanded by the luxury of Apple, who needn’t take the risk of producing lower-end devices.
This said, there are rumours afoot that the American technology giant is looking to build its largest ever store in Dubai.
There will always be space for luxury-end devices, but the real challenge for Apple’s competitors is to create something which many will see as affordable luxury at the higher end of their ranges, which is exactly what is beginning to happen.
Indian companies are sensing an opportunity in this respect, underlined by XOLO releasing a range of six smartphones and three to four tablets, targeting the mid to premium end of the market with prices varying from 150 to 1,200 dirhams.
An iPhone 6 Plus will set you back a minimum of 3,000 dirhams.
Another Indian firm, Obi Mobiles, headed up by Apple’s former CEO John Sculley no less, is releasing five smartphones ranging from 99 to 799 dirhams.
Chinese companies are also in on the act, with ZTE launching its three new smartphone devices at this year’s Gitex Shopper.
Ning Tian, Regional Director of MENA, ZTE Mobile Device, said: “The UAE, one of the leaders in the global telecommunication industry with sophisticated growth in 4G network market, is one of our most concerned markets.
“In order to strengthen ZTE’s pioneer position in the GCC market, we see Dubai as an access to integrate into the wider Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region. We will launch premium products in this region through open channel and operator channel.”
Whatever the price point, targeting the Middle East is certainly a sensible move when basing judgement on penetration statistics.
According to Google’s Our Mobile Planet, in the UAE “smartphone penetration has risen to 74 percent of the population and these smartphone owners are becoming increasingly reliant on their devices”. This is up from 61 percent in 2012 and is now among the highest in the world, above the likes of many European countries.
As the competition continues to grow with luxury becoming ever-more affordable, Apple could be forced into rethinking its strategy in the region.
However, the Middle East still houses some of the wealthiest demographics on the planet who will still see value in owning the sleekest smartphone experience money can buy.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”