In our 5 minutes with profiles, MEF members talk about their business, their aspirations for the future and the wider mobile industry. This week, CEO, Dr. Ismaeel Makdisi introduces Intigral.
Who/what is Intigral?
Intigral was formed about four years ago in 2009 to fill the digital content gap in the Middle East market. About six to seven years ago, the region’s telecoms sector was undergoing massive changes. It was fast-expanding and there was an immediate need for focused digital media content services. The operators who were now moving to newer business models and expanding their services needed someone who could help ease their transition into the digital media space and support their migration from traditional environments to automated workflows.
We saw an opportunity here and established Intigral to address this need. Today, we act as the hub between telecom companies, media content producers, and end-users. We market, manage and monetize the digital advertising inventory across mobile, web, and IPTV/OTT platforms.
Intigral was formed through a joint-venture between Saudi Telecom Company (STC) and All Asia Networks (ASTRO) to bridge the gap between technology, content, and digital audiences. We provide a suite of digital content solutions to telecoms across IPTV, mobile and online; including convergence capabilities, video on demand, gaming, WAP, APPS, advertising, billing and monetization.
When did Intigral launch and what growth have you seen?
The joint venture was formalized and launched in 2009 and has been operational since.
Intigral is the Middle East’s leading digital hub with two core revenue streams i.e. Business-to-Business-to-consumer (B2B2C) and Business-to-Consumer (B2C). We work with most of the major telco groups in the region and independent operators as well.
Today we have operations in five countries in the Middle East, namely, UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan.
What are Intigral’s main goals?
Intigral has the know-how to leverage convergent applications, networks, and content to upgrade regional operators’ business and identify optimal means of providing an integrated user experience.
As the only full service digital hub in MENA, Intigral acts as a one-stop-shop for all digital content needs for telecom operators, content owners, application developers, advertisers and consumers. Our aim is to use this strength to raise the industry benchmark and be the leader and knowledge hub of the digital media world in the Middle East.
We leverage this knowledge and collection of insights to build profitable digital media services for our Telco partners and deliver innovations that can act as key differentiators.
Where do you see Intigral in three years’ time?
Intigral is on the verge of a period of intense growth as a company, and aims to expand its portfolio of telecom partners from seven to over thirty-five by 2014.
The rapid growth of the Arab world’s digital content market presents a significant opportunity for the region’s operators to capitalize on their non-voice revenues or VAS (Value Added Services), to boost ARPU (Average Revenue per User), and enhance customer loyalty and retention.
We see Intigral raising the standard of digital content – specifically locally generated Arabic content and becoming the partner of choice for operators who are seeking to leverage digital content in order to differentiate themselves in their local market.
We also see ourselves closely involved in contributing to the growth of the regional developer community. This is an area we want to help support and build in the coming years. Furthermore, to maintain our high level of innovation, we plan on launching a start-up incubator for the MENA region. This platform will offer entrepreneurs in the region access to our industry expertise and access to a revenue pipeline in the markets we are in. Overall, this will benefit the entire ecosystem.
What aspect of mobile is most exciting to you right now?
Well, everything! The Middle East region’s mobile industry has seen immense growth, both in terms of penetration and mobile ARPU, mostly fuelled by a “connected culture” brought upon by growth of smart devices, multi-device customer behaviour and availability of high-speed broadband.
Telecom operators are evolving from being focused on customer acquisition models to customer retention and now to customer experience management.
Operators in the region are working hard to lure smartphone owners to subscribe to data access packages by bringing down the entry barriers through various bundles, sachet pricing, off-peak allowances, and several other innovative tariff options. Moreover, to maximize the digital mobile services opportunity, operators in the region have been upgrading their networks to launch next generation LTE/4G services.
Middle East is also getting a lot of attention from vendors such as Apple, Nokia and Samsung who are working to “smart” up even the entry level devices and introduce feature rich smartphones at affordable price points.
These efforts are not just driving consumers towards mobile internet, but are also promoting adoption of more innovative and personalized service experiences. The media consumption landscape in the region is transforming with consumer’s desire to take advantage of latest apps and content services, and hence on-the-go infotainment and OTT services are becoming a reality. Unlike older days when people had little or no control over their media preferences, today’s consumer has complete freedom to choose and use the entertainment and information mediums according to his own requirements.
What’s the most critical issue that will hit mobile within the next 12 months?
The overall ecosystem will face change in the coming years; and some of this change can be challenging.
Consumer trends will force operators to move away from traditionally protected revenue sources. Increasingly discerning and technology-aware consumers will seek options outside of the telcos to satisfy their mobile lifestyle needs. Smartphone penetration will rise dramatically. Mobile tariffs will rationalize and availability of localized content will increase. Customer experience will be the winning factor – be it in terms of advanced technologies, localized and intuitive interfaces or custom-created content.
Owing to the interest/preference of users for local content, development of Arabic digital content mainly, digitization, translation and creation and reformatting from non-digital Arab content will seek huge demand.
To capitalize on this opportunity, operators will need to explore new customer engagement models, develop niche products for different customer segments, understand how to leverage an ever increasing mass of customer data, and harness new market drivers such as social networking and mobile advertising.
Apart from your own, which mobile companies most impress you?
There are several regional and global companies that are like beacons lighting the way. But if we have to highlight some that would be global majors like Apple, Samsung and Google who have been game changers in the hardware and software segments. They have created pioneering technologies and platforms that entire global ecosystems today thrive on – and in the process changing consumer lifestyles for ever.
Dr. Ismaeel Makdisi is CEO of Intigral – follow them on