ESMAEEL AL BLOOSHI

Northern Emirates | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Esmaeel Al Blooshi, General Manager of RAKTA, about the challenges the local transport authority had to overcome during COVID-19.

What were the main challenges that Ras Al Khaimah's transport authority had to overcome during the pandemic period?

One of the main challenges was to continue providing service to our customers. We need people to move safely and smoothly, and operate bus, taxi, and licensing services for our customers. The second challenge was to provide a safe environment for our employees and continue their work remotely or on site. Furthermore, we needed our service to be digitalized and on solid digital infrastructure. RAKTA worked with relevant stakeholders to put in place protocols that state that 50% of buses should be operational, while taxis should have a maximum of two passengers per car with masks to be worn in the vehicle. RAKTA sterilizes buses after each trip, and customers are subject to a temperature check at all bus stations. Taxi drivers must ensure that their vehicles are sterilized daily with high-quality equipment. For licensing we have sought to digitalize our services and go online, to let our customers and investors complete their transactions remotely and to reduce the number of visitors in the customer happiness center. Internally, RAKTA has implemented number of preventive procedures, including daily sterilization procedures, remote work and meeting system, PCR test every two weeks and other procedures to provide a healthy work environment for employees.

How does RAKTA make use of technological tools to improve its services?

We set up a digital transformation strategy for 2020-2025 that is aligned to our main strategy. And to ensure and provide a solid digital infrastructure, RAKTA provided an ERP system represented by Microsoft Dynamics 365 which includes all financial, administrative, HR, and procurement procedures and processes. Where this digital transformation aims to simplify and digitalize procedures and processes and facilitate access to databases at any time and from anywhere. RAKTA has also provided a variety of internal digital platforms that contribute to enhancing corporate values and employee knowledge which includes the digital innovation hub, digital knowledge hub, Injaz hub (administrative follow-up), and internal intranet hub which enables the employees to view all news and events.

In October 2020 you launched the RAK Smart bus. What has been the progress and success of this venture?

As part of its strategy for smart transformation and to provide distinguished, smart and prestigious services to customers, RAKTA has developed the "Rakbus" application, in line with the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis and in support of the precautionary measures implemented in the UAE. The application has enabled many features, including the ease of bus trip booking, seat and trip timing from the customer's location. The application also provides electronic payment methods and features such as trip tracking and providing feedback on the trip and bus. It is worth noting that this application is considered the first of its kind in the UAE, and RAKTA is currently working on developing the second phase of the application to include other additional services. The application has attracted more than 6000 users and more than 69,000 reservations since the launch of application.

RAKTA introduced the smart surveillance system in buses and taxis. How will this raise safety levels for passengers?

RAKTA announce and launched the new strategy 2020-2025 and the related projects in January 2020. The smart meter and camera project was one of the main strategic projects to improve the customer journey. RAKTA has invested in these technologies to take advantage of big data and forecast and artificial intelligence in forecasting to enhance customer experience, develop a smart operation for taxis, and to conduct an analysis of this data which will help improve the quality of services and improve the performance of our drivers. It will also help to maintain security and achieve safety for all transportation users. Where these technologies allow to identify the most demand locations and smart guidance for drivers to reduce random driving that wastes resources (Time, fuel and maintenance) and track drivers' behavior while driving. Moreover, the cameras and smart meter are integrated with the main operation control center (OCC) which is monitored and controlled by professional data analyst.

What role do you see RAKTA playing in the post-pandemic world and how are you contributing to the recovery plans?

We worked with our strategic partners in their recovery plans such as RAK municipality, Ministry of Health, RAK Airport and others. Among the most important initiatives implemented with the mentioned entities, transport recovering COVID-19 patients from hospital to their destination in and beyond RAK for free, deliver medicines to the patients, especially to the elderly, or those at high risk. Furthermore, implement an evacuation campaign to deliver over 60,000 passengers from all emirates in cooperation with RAK Airport. Moreover, RAKTA provide and implement several initiatives in partnership with international companies such as (Careem “smart taxi and limousine e-hail service”, FENIX “smart e-scooter”, Microsoft “ERP system”, Al Bosala app “smart training”, and Intertec LLC “Online service”. In addition, RAKTA was aligned with all new decisions and procedures issued by the National Emergency Crises and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) to ensure the business continuity and service.

What are your immediate goals for this year and the next?

During the year 2021, RAKTA seeks to complete the smart cameras and smart meters project, and the authority is currently working on establishing a smart control and monitoring center for all transport fleets. The authority is also currently working on launching the first phase of the internal public transport project, in addition to developing transport buses across cities by adding new buses to achieve distinguished services for customers, launching the digital services platform (online service), and the authority is currently working on the smart rental service for vehicles.