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e&: driving transformation through collaboration, culture, and innovation

Brand Finance
17 January 2024

e& group’s telecom vertical, etisalat by e&, has retained its position as strongest brand in the Middle East and Africa as well as the strongest telecom brand in the world with a score of 89.4 in the Brand Strength Index. The telecom operator has benefited from being part of a larger technology group, e&. Since the launch of the e& brand, the group has been branching out into new territories with its Partner Market scheme as well as undertaking some high-profile acquisitions and investments such as Careem, Vodafone, El Grocer and StarzPlay to provide new services to customers and returns for its investors.

In addition, etisalat by e& and the e& group at large, have been investing heavily in a communication campaign around the launch of the e& brand. Both the communication investment and group activities have resulted in improvements in the brand investment measure in the Brand Finance Brand Equity Monitor research, as well as feeding through into higher consideration and ultimately the highest BSI in the region. Various activities contributed to this success, such as its continued activation of the Manchester City Football Club partnership, network leadership in 5G, innovative customer experience initiatives, and participation in global events including the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and COP28.

Discover more about e&'s continued success in a new interview with Brand Finance and Hatem Dowidar, GCEO of e&.

Hatem Dowidar, GCEO,
e&

Collaboration and partnerships have become crucial elements in today's interconnected world. How has e& fostered strategic alliances, and what role have these partnerships played in driving brand value growth?

We believe in harnessing the power of collaboration and building ecosystems with partners whose synergy aligns with our growth vision to stay nimble, adaptable and future-ready.

Through partnerships with private and public sectors and investments in startups, we have brought diverse perspectives and expertise to every area of our business growth, from leveraging new-gen technologies to driving sustainability. Together, we are co-creating solutions that drive innovation.

In 2023, we broadened our horizons with investments in Vodafone, followed by the binding agreement to acquire a majority stake in PPF Telecom expanding into Central and Eastern Europe. Most recently, we expanded our operations in Pakistan with the 100% acquisition of Norwegian telecoms company Telenor’s local unit to serve the growing South Asian telecoms market. This combined the strengths of PTCL and Telenor Pakistan, creating synergies for innovation, market strength, and broader customer reach, accelerating their digital transformation journey.

Additionally, The $400 million investment in Careem expanded our range of services and digital offerings for consumers while propelling our transformation into a global technology group.

Further acquisitions of elGrocer, Smartworld, and a merger with Khazna, highlight expansion beyond the telecoms sector, while the acquisition of STARZPLAY's reinforced our commitment to international expansion in the entertainment and financial technology domains.

We are also strengthening our presence in fintech, entertainment, and SuperApps, shaping the future of personalised digital experiences worldwide. Leading the digital transformation journey across the business sector, e& enterprise made considerable achievements with acquisitions and strategic partnerships.

e& enterprise acquired a majority stake in Beehive, MENA’s leading peer-to-peer digital platform, tapping into opportunities in the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) lending market. Marking the next step in e& enterprise’s expansion, this showcased its commitment to opening new avenues of growth across the UAE and wider region, while enabling Beehive to scale its business and offerings.

Our venture capital arm, e& capital, led the investment in companies like almentor, which excels in Arabic content for video learning, and Ikigai Labs, focused on democratizing and enhancing accessibility to AI.
Another collaboration focus for e& is sustainability and green technologies. We recently launch the 'Innovation Hub' in partnership with the GCC Sustainability Alliance.

This is a central ecosystem to lead the efforts in decarbonising the telecom industry. We also collaborated with Huawei to deploy the region’s first net zero 5G Massive MIMO site across the Expo City Green Zone, powered entirely by renewable energy.

As part of our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) standards, our collaboration with the global organisation Code.org aims to promote computer science and software education in markets where our group operates across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Employee engagement can significantly impact brand perception. How does e& involve employees in contributing to and aligning with the brand's values and goals?

With people at the heart of our success, e&’s human capital and talent are core drivers focused on creating a purpose-driven culture with a competent, engaged and diverse workforce at every level. This aligns with our human capital vision to transcend the organisation to enable a healthy and agile culture that drives accelerated performance.

The future will be transformational, with a dual focus on performing and transforming’ by allocating equal time, energy and resources to both. More importantly, e& will keep digital at its core by embracing breakthrough technologies.

We recognise the central role that our employees play as change agents in our business transformation. We have brought their efforts closer to e&'s global vision, modernising our HR technology portfolio with blockchain and introduced AI-powered solutions, chatbots and blockchain-powered HR credentials, focusing on a technology-leading employee experience.

Our commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion principles has produced tangible results, with a 50% increase in women in senior management positions at the VP level and above. In addition, 65% of management positions are now held by UAE nationals.

We have also introduced flexibility and inclusivity benefits such as the 'Work from Anywhere' programme. Recently we also announced a four-day workweek trial across three departments in etisalat by e&.
Our initiatives to train staff in Emirati sign language and develop web extensions for those with autism also underlines our commitment to being inclusive and globally responsive. We are modernising our workplace strategies, and with that, our employees’ contribution to the future of our business.

Given the rapidly evolving tech landscape, which technology trends will have the most significant impact on customers and their behaviour in the near future? What is e&’s strategic approach to stay ahead of emerging trends?

For telecom providers, opportunities for the future lie in moving from connectivity to providing comprehensive solutions. This has been the foundation of e&’s evolution from a telco to a technology company. As digital technologies such as AI, IoT and cloud take centre stage, we believe that there is a lot of room to extend our remit in several directions.

For example, we are harnessing the power of digital technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In line with our ambitions and transformation journey is the recent creation of the Group AI & Data department at e&. This will accelerate AI and Data Analytics strategies across the group to become an AI first organisation revolutionising both the way we operate internally, as well as how we solve the evolving needs and demands of our customers.

This department will integrate AI into all aspects of e& operations, leveraging its full potential through agility and innovation.

It will achieve this by forging impactful alliances while simultaneously fostering the next generation of data scientists to lead and execute these AI initiatives.

At e&, we are in a unique position to reshape the industry’s future, and we are investing in these  technologies to develop new products and services that leverage them. 

Building a more sustainable future remains our priority. We have followed the UAE’s sustainability ambitions, 
resulting in e&’s commitment to a net-zero emissions mandate for its UAE and global operations by 2040.

Through collaborations with industry leaders, not only do we aim to reshape the sector, but we also want to inspire others to embrace the dynamic changes within the telecom landscape and evolve profitably and sustainably.

About the Author

Brand Finance is the world’s leading independent brand valuation and strategy consultancy. Headquartered in the City of London, we are present in over 20 countries.

For almost 30 years we have helped companies and organisations of all types to connect their brands to the bottom line.

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