MARWAN BSAT

Saudi Arabia 2021 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Marwan Bsat, General Manager of Lenovo Saudi Arabia, about the difficulties brought about by the pandemic, regulatory changes, and Saudi Arabia Vision 2030.

The pandemic has been difficult, but has driven sales of electronic devices and demand for services. How have you adapted during this unique time?

The challenges of 2020 continued, in varying degrees, into the new year. Nevertheless, as a global company operating in 180 markets and with more than 30 manufacturing sites around the world, the outlook for 2021 remains positive. The new global norm of work, study, and play from home will continue to drive long-term and sustainable growth trends in device demand and infrastructure requirements. We have experienced an increase in sales across many of these domains, as businesses and individuals alike seek to invest in PCs, desktops, tablets, and monitors to remain productive from wherever they may be. Our channel partners have been instrumental in ensuring that products and advice reach end customers, helping to guide purchase journeys. At the height of the pandemic, we extended warranties on all Lenovo products, understanding that it was not always possible for customers to visit physical stores. Since then, we have also focused our efforts on advancing digital engagements, through virtual product launches, access to experts via collaboration technology, and more. In terms of services available to enterprise customers, we have Premier Support, an optional add-on that grants access to dedicated 24-hour support, a single point of contact for troubleshooting, and rapid case management. For any individual starting out their business with a single device and the average consumer, we also offer our Premium Care service. With this option, our customers can gain access to assistance on hardware, software, and peripherals to get the most out of their investments. We also provide an annual PC health check to keep devices in optimal condition.

What are Lenovo's key lines of business in Saudi Arabia, and which saw the best performance and growth in 2020?

Our focus is on creating smarter technology for all, which means having a diverse portfolio of devices to cater to every need. We continue to see growth across specific categories such as gaming, especially in Saudi Arabia, where our Legion series has been well received by local communities. In recent months, we have introduced a series of new features, upgrading our lineup with ultra-responsive TrueStrike keyboards and industry-leading cooling technology, known as Legion Coldfront 2.0. SMBs form the backbone of the local economy, and during the pandemic, no community was more greatly affected. Ensuring continuity and growth for such a sector requires technology that is not only reliable, but also affordable. To cater to such needs, we are also continuing to upgrade our series of ThinkBook PCs. Our premium devices are also receiving great traction locally, such as our Yoga series of PCs. In December, we also introduced a new concept to the Saudi market, with the launch of the ThinkPad X1 Fold, the world's first foldable PC. We look forward to seeing how users across the Kingdom leverage this device to accelerate their own achievements, and we are confident in the positive impact it will make.

How has your cloud business evolved over the past year, and what have the Kingdom's regulatory changes meant for this business?

For the past few years, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has focused on advancing digitization, through measures such as a cloud-first approach. As working from home became essential, reliance on multiple workloads reached new heights and caused businesses to invest in cloud infrastructures to securely collaborate with highly distributed workforces. We witnessed a clear paradigm shift, where cloud investments went from being a best practice and nice-to-have, to a fundamental requirement. A successful cloud strategy must consider the whole lifecycle, from securely and rapidly migrating data to managing it and helping it grow with the business. Cloud solutions may soon be the norm for all kinds of businesses, but there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every business must consider workloads, infrastructure, and overall organizational needs. Lenovo engineers hybrid cloud solutions from top to bottom, to work as a cohesive system, regardless of whether a business chooses public, private, or hosted solutions and server or software. We are continuing to ensure that our cloud solutions deliver a truly end-to-end approach. We integrate security, scalability and agility to maintain a seamless IT environment.

Technology remains at the center of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 plans, and regulation has moved rapidly in the Kingdom. What key regulatory changes have impacted your business overall?

We commend the work of the government in advancing regulations policymaking at a rapid pace, benefiting industry, businesses, and individuals alike. The introduction of framework to regulate e-commerce and retailers, for example, indicate a clear focus on ensuring that service providers remain transparent and protect customer transactions and data. Such policies are deeply embedded in our practices, but we welcome the formalization of the market as well as more players coming in from onboard. The G20 TechSprint Initiative further echoed the focus on regulatory improvements, designed to showcase the potential for new technologies to resolve operational issues in areas of compliance and supervision. The three winning firms illustrated a clear focus on tackling issues such as information sharing, monitoring, surveillance, and regulatory reporting, backed by the government and Saudi G20 Presidency with cash prizes of USD50,000 for each problem solved. Beyond the G20 Presidency, the national agenda overall also encompasses many investment themes, including the development of digital content and media, expansion of the telecommunications industry, and the creation of new high-tech and smart industries via digitization. Technology is the ultimate driver in enabling continuity, growth and innovation, and this is true whether we consider education, healthcare, logistics or even startup environments. Lenovo devices are empowering people across these industries and more to maximize their potential, working with greater agility to aid business growth. Saudi Arabia is a crucial market for every technology company today due to the sophistication of the market and the pace at which it transforms and the backing of government entities is driving meaningful change. It is also great to see the government supporting small and medium businesses, which constitute up to 99% of all private sector organizations in the country, account for 70% of employment, and contribute 20% of the Kingdom's GDP. The country has plans to grow this contribution further, and new regulations and opportunities for SMEs will help make this a reality. As a company, we are also focusing on empowering small businesses across the Kingdom.