How are you changing your portfolio of offerings and services to adapt to new technologies and demands?
CLAUDE J. BAHSALI As a group, we have traditionally operated under a 'value-added reseller' model. Under that scheme, we basically buy products and solutions from major IT brands, such as HP, Cisco, Canon, Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, and others, and we resell them providing added-value services, such as implementation and local support. However, the IT market is changing. This kind of model is old and will be transformed into something new whereby customers will buy technology differently. They do not want to buy IT products, manage them, install them, and have employees run and support them. They want to buy IT as a service. They need a credible company that has all of the skills and expertise to provide them with “managed services," though some people call that cloud-based services. There could be different names, but it is not a new idea; it is the concept of outsourcing. Today, many businesses find that complicated to handle IT internally. We are proposing services to manage customers' IT infrastructure, hence removing the IT complexity while improving their operations. They can focus on their core business, while we take care of their IT infrastructure and security. We have built data centers in Lebanon and can provide top-quality, managed services and solutions.
FADI SAMAHA We were pioneers of renewable energy for quite some time, operating from France as one of the largest suppliers of gas engines that 25 years ago were the replacement for diesel engines and were cleaner energy, if slightly more expensive. In the early 90s we moved into technology and came back as we had earlier engagements and experience in the region. Most of the construction in the entire UAE started with Lebanese businessmen and there are many Lebanese engineers and business people who have been operating since the start, before Dubai became what it is today. The doors were open for us to enter large-scale projects of technology, contracting, and power. Now, we are focusing on technology and one of our projects is the development of biometrics in partnership with the American University of Science and Technology (AUST). Part of our initiative to raise awareness of biometric equipment is a course in AUST for biometrics. It is targeted at government users in the security solution sector, allowing them to understand how to use the technology to its best. Governments are more sensitive and will allocate more resources to such areas. They are more sensitive to security, including the security of information, public security, and airport access.
What developments are set to come this year?
CJB We are always watching and assessing. In 2016, we were more in a mood of consolidation and restructuring what we have because, over the past few years, we made a number of acquisitions. We acquired one company that specializes in Microsoft customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions. It was a skill-set that we lacked, so we assessed that company and acquired a team of around 10 persons and integrated the CRM solutions within our software offering. The general situation during the last couple of years has not encouraged us to undertake more acquisitions. Rather, we are focusing on transforming ourselves to embrace the new trends and challenges. That is our priority. In parallel, we are assessing some companies that need the financial backup of a group like ours, and whose acquisition will expand our reach to more customers. M&A is something that is always in the back of our minds.
FS With the new president and government in place, we see a light of hope for the first time. We believe there is now an opportunity for companies like us to be more active and participate more in the country. The government wants the Lebanese engineering diaspora and expertise to return to Lebanon. It wants Lebanese companies, like Site Technology, that are overseas and have competencies and resources to return and do more in Lebanon. We plan to put more resources into Lebanon as we expect the economy to grow and the oil sector to open up after a long time. We expect the electricity sector to be expanded to develop the sector and the telecom and internet sector to be more open since we have the competencies.