Happy New Year and 11 years since we started in DubaiJanuary 4, 2015 Elyas Suleman
The year 2015 has arrived and that marks the 11th year since Middle East Infoway started operating in Dubai. The past eleven years have been quite remarkable for us and the way we have grown. Similarly, Dubai has grown tremendously since we have been here where some changes have been good whilst other changes have not benefitted the majority of us and certain things never seem to change. It would take us forever to list all the milestones that have happened for us and for Dubai over the past eleven years so we thought we would mostly focus on the year 2014 and summarise everything in to three key categories:
- Achievements in Web Development, E-Commerce, Technology and Business.
- What we did not like about 2014
- Aspirations for 2015
Achievements in Web Development, E-Commerce, Technology and Business in 2014
- Rebranding of Middle East Infoway: We designed a new brand identity which comprised of a complete re-design of our brand which included a new logo and a new mobile-friendly website which is a fully responsive website design in addition to a complete overhaul of our E-Commerce system which allows clients to checkout and complete transactions faster. As we are the experts in both Web Design and E-Commerce Development (without sounding snobbish!) we can say with true authority that we know we have done a really good job of it as we have been inundated with compliments from our clients and for that we would like thank our entire development team – Well done to the Middle East Infoway Team!
- New Account Management System: We wanted to reward our clients with an intuitive client login and account management system which allows them to manage their hosting packages, business email packages, servers, domains, SSL certificates and other web hosting services. Many clients wanted a way to quickly renew their hosting services or domains without actually having to login so for this we had to combine a creative way to achieve this securely and we succeeded! You can now see the Renew Services button at the top of our website on www.meinfoway.com which allows you to do just that – express renewal of services without login and its 100% secure. Additionally, the renewal notices have a secure link directly to the renewal payment page so that saves you time if you wish to do it directly from your inbox. It cannot get any quicker and easier than this!
- New Powerful Servers and enhanced services: Not only have we improved our front-end and customer experience, we went all out and upgraded everything behind the scenes too which meant a deep overhaul of the entire hosting infrastructure at our data centre with new, improved hardware, latest software, new network technologies and state-of-the-art equipment. This has enabled us to offer better value for money to our clients and beat off competition to say the least. Kudos to our web hosting team yet again!
- Launch of Business Networking Events: The management team at Middle East Infoway has launched Dubai Business Networking which allows interaction and dialogue amongst entrepreneurs, marketing teams, businessmen, businesswomen, new startups and generally anybody wanting to start or grow their business in Dubai. The management team participates in these sessions which are organised and hosted by Elyas Suleman and Hassan Suleman, who are always on hand to advise young people and newcomers about starting up in Dubai as well as encouraging new business ideas. That is also how the Speed Business Networking sessions came about (a bit like Speed Dating but for business….obviously!)
- E-Commerce Boom in Dubai: Throughout 2014 we saw the launch and growth of many new E-commerce ventures in Dubai and this is something we loved about the year as its always encouraging for everyone to see technology and electronic commerce development particularly because we are in this industry and know that, for many businesses, the way forward is to sell online whether it is a product or service that you offer. Accepting card payments online has become easier for many businesses in Dubai now and that is something that we have vast experience in where we can facilitate the payment gateway integration and merchant account acquisition. We would like to mention a few names that are noteworthy of praise in E-Commerce:
- Although JadoPado have been around for a few years, the strides they made in 2014 were outstanding and they continue to impress with various innovations on their website;
- Souq.com has expanded and enhanced the shopping experience online. We are quite certain that their online sales increased during 2014;
- Desertcart.ae is a newcomer and stock a vast range of products that are hard to find in Dubai so this is surely bound for success;
- Gadalla.com continue to do well with the range of products they offer;
- CrazyDeals.ae has also been around for a couple of years but we only learnt about them recently and that is down to the efforts they made in 2014;
- Namshi became more prominent UAE market and they have been renowned as Middle East’s most happening online destination for fashion and footwear;
- Fashlink started up in 2012 and continued to increase the number of products during 2014. Hats off to Payal Patel for really revolutionising the way women shop online for fashion!
- Argoob.com is something new to the region having developed their online e-commerce presence in 2014 offering “big boys toys” online offering mainly accessories and parts for off-road vehicles.
- UAE Government Apps: The local government, especially Dubai departments, continued to make steady progress in 2014 towards the “Smart Initiative” program by developing and improving many mobile apps developed for smartphones. We would like to point out that while some of these apps have made it easier to do many government transactions from a smartphone, other apps are just informational which merely defeats the purpose of an app as you can access the same information from websites. A mobile app should be engaging and allow some kind of task or transaction to be done such as payment, submitting a document, obtaining a certificate or gaining approvals. An app should not just be a copy of your website, it is something that should complement it – in other words you need both in order to fully reach out to clients and customers.
As you can appreciate from above, it has been a wonderful and eventful year for us and for Dubai , Masha’Allah – which is an Arabic phrase used to show our appreciation for everything that has happened by the will of God.
What we did not like about the year 2014
There are many things but we don’t like to be negative so we only selected the two major ones which relate to Dubai mostly.
- Soaring costs of living in Dubai: This seems to have affected many people in terms of rising costs in rent and property as much as 40% in some areas. For real business this is bad news because it means that people are left with little to invest in business and for start-ups, in particular, it means a very high cost of entering the market and certain established businesses may look to cut costs elsewhere such as downsizing or replacing experienced staff with inexperienced ones in order to remain profitable which would have an undesirable effect on customer service. However the good news is that recently prices have gone down a little so let’s hope to see further decreases in 2015 which are more sustainable and realistic as we can’t keep accepting “Expo 2020” hype as the excuse for increasing the prices of everything!
- Telecom service woes: The local telecom providers still have a long way to go in offering better services and they need to be more honest and professional with customers. Unfortunately this is something that will not change until the real monopoly of the telecom sector ends. Although there are two providers for mobile lines, there is no choice in terms of landline and internet which means there is no healthy competition as some geographical areas are covered by either Etisalat or Du meaning that you cannot choose which telecom company you wish to use so you are forced to use the only one present in your area. Let me share a horrific incident we recently faced with Etisalat where we had all of our office telephone lines out of service, without notice, for four days towards the end of December. Upon contacting the business customer service team we were informed that it was due to a submarine cable snapping under the sea. Upon daily follow-ups with them that reason then changed to a problem in our building and Etisalat would send someone to fix that problem “within 2 days” – a deadline they missed! Following that they turned up on the 4th day and fixed the problem by replacing the copper lines with fibre optics for the phone lines. We don’t know the real truth in all of this but we already had fibre optical cables in our office for the internet so why couldn’t they quickly shift over prior to this occurring? Or was it just that they had planned to do this with a sudden “outage” strategy without considering the impact it would have on our business? Either way we it was a real nightmare for us as our clients were unable to reach our office by landline and we are not sure who had tried to contact us during that time as we receive 10 – 15 calls per day for new and existing clients who want to obtain our services or obtain support. Clearly the poor support from Etisalat resulted in a period of four days where we couldn’t offer support to our customers. Some may argue that as backup there are a few ways to handle this but each has its own caveat:
- Redirect calls to a mobile phone – first of all it takes 24 to48 hours to do this with Etisalat and requires a visit to their business centre with official company documents and an official letter from our company signed and stamped by the authorised signatory. We did this so we managed to rescue just one day from this but the other problem is that our main number has multiple lines to cater for high volumes of calls which are way too much for a single mobile number and the fact that we would be charged per second for each diverted call. This is something that Etisalat will not compensate!
- A notice on our website and an email alert to all clients – the problem with this is that not everybody will go to our website if they have our number stored and not everybody has subscribed to receiving emails from us or they may not read their email during that time.
In the end some clients must have thought we were closed early for the holidays and this can be classed as a loss of opportunity for us and can also be damaging to the reputation of the best of companies for no fault of their own. In other countries it would be worthwhile to complain to the management of the telecom company about such issues, but as we have learnt from Etisalat, we are wasting our time complaining as there is usually nobody available to take our complaint and when we submit a complaint online nothing gets done about it and this is the main underlying problem of a monopoly in this sector – improvements or consumer satisfaction will never be given any real importance.
However, we still love Dubai and still accept that the advantages of being in Dubai simply outweigh the problems faced here by far. Let us take the opportunity to say Alhamdulillah, which is a famous Arabic saying meaning “praise be to God” and this cannot be said enough for what we have as we are way more fortunate than others.
Aspirations for 2015
Insha’Allah (by the will of God) we hope for the following:
- Peace all over the world
- Lower cost of living in Dubai
- Improvement in telecom services in Dubai (see above)
- Continued growth for us and for all companies in Dubai and all of the other emirates.
We have kicked off the year with our new project on Food Online which promises to be a new online venture and we are fortunate to be part of such a big project to commence the year with. In addition to this we are looking forward to many more big projects through the course of the year.