The Business Year

Mohammed Johmani

UAE, ABU DHABI - Telecoms & IT

AI potential in FMGC E-commerce

Managing Director, O2 Network


Mohammed Johmani is Managing Director of O2 Network.

“Customers will start trusting machines because they are more accurate than brains.“

What does a company need in order to stand out in the UAE market?

Relevancy is the main challenge that all our clients here and generally around the world face in their communication strategies. In order to become relevant to their audiences, one must start with the type of content. Brands face questions on how they can gain a space in the market and invest given the current takeover from social media in the communications world. Platforms such as Facebook enable anyone to add content and get data on who views that content. Thus, the answer to these questions lies in allocating money on content. This is how Careem moved from being a small player in the UAE to competing with global players such as Uber. The company received millions in funding, spreading awareness across the region through Smart Think and sharing videos across the web using the right personality. Careem thus represents a case study for the market, using the right content at the right time. Moreover, brands and clients in this region should look at Emirates Airline and how it embodies a perfect example of a local brand behaving globally. The key to its content strategy was sponsorship, which in fact translates into relevance. The third aspect, which is the most important, is using the right platform. Traditional media is not dead and newspapers are still the first source of decision-making. When this trusted source of media and news adapts to the new digital age, it will be an extremely successful medium of delivering the message.

What challenges do brands face in the UAE?

Companies that have not adapted to the digital age face challenges, both internally and externally. Certain firms, such as Al Tayer. recently started to adapt an online platform and to e-commerce. Chalhoub Group has not moved completely to e-commerce because it still believes in traditional malls, though it does not mean its business model is wrong. On the other hand, companies like Emaar have adapted to e-commerce through the acquisition of Namshi. Emaar has also had a huge in-house digital team for five to 10 years, and its challenges now are not adaptation but updating in line with new trends. The third aspect is how the government adapts to this trend and incorporates savvy employees to build frameworks for smart cities. For example, we are in the process of launching the first global Artificial Intelligence Readiness Index to test how prepared organizations, especially government ones, are in terms of comprehensively integrating AI. We want to reach out to IBM to be part of this project, especially to find a way to communicate the readiness of an entity to the market. Dubai Police has gradually implemented an accident reporting system through an app enabling people to become accustomed to it. When it felt the market was ready, it adapted a communications campaign to invite customers to adapt to its existing and functioning services.

Can you expand on the relevance of market readiness in launching innovative products?

The is a huge number of innovative applications that were invented years ago and are put on hold, waiting for the market to be ready. One of them is facial recognition software, which can be now used in supermarket check-outs, to determine if customers are satisfied. This adaptation is still probably 15 years away in the UAE, when the population will be younger and more willing to accept new technologies. The key to launching a product is finding a balance between organization and market readiness. This helps us understand the strategy behind certain decisions that look like they are just operational in their nature. For example, after being initially dropped by Apple, the company went on to reintroduce Bluetooth headphones to the market 15 years later. Apple is also slowly preparing client readiness to insert a chip inside the body. At the beginning it is about making gradual adjustments, such as Bluetooth headphones in the ear. Market readiness has to do with regulation, as there are disruptive companies that are reshaping, for example, the delivery business through drones, with no framework in place. Eventually, the government will have to ensure regulation is in place, as it has no option otherwise. As an entrepreneur, one must take risks and start with the R&D to be ready once the regulation is in place in five or 10 years’ time.

Which sector has the biggest potential for AI currently?

E-commerce for FMCG stands out. Five years from now, marketers will start sell to machines. The example provided by Echo, in this case, gives insights on how machines will make decisions on behalf of customers based on preferences. When a fridge runs out of milk, it will automatically order more. Customers will start trusting machines because they are more accurate than brains. The war on data started 10 years ago, and now it is the war on understanding and trusting it. AI-powered mechanisms will compare customers profile to find similar ones and apply a buying strategy based on price and personal characteristics. The key to understanding why people will not reject this system is the value of time: technology will save customers so much time that they will not be able to say no.



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