x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sounds of success at Gitex

Gitex 2011: Much of the focus at Gitex is on the showroom floor, but many business deals and important networking events occur offsite. We visit a few.

At the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise awards in Dubai, some of the company's business partners were recognised for increasing sales. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
At the Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise awards in Dubai, some of the company's business partners were recognised for increasing sales. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

When it comes to movie soundtracks, the Superman theme music certainly stirs the senses. Hardly surprising, then, that the technology company Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise used the track six times on Monday night before handing out awards to some of its top-performing business partners.

The company's underlying message was clear: there's ample room to increase revenue even more before next years's Gitex show.

With more than 3,500 companies expected to be vying for new partners or clients at the Dubai expo this year, there are high expectations that the region's largest technology exhibition will help to generate big business.

But much of the wheeling and dealing, and encouragement that drives partners to keep expanding their revenues, occurs off-site and away from distracting showroom antics such as a dancing gorilla and a Johnny Depp look-a-like who walks about dressed as the Pirates of the Caribbean character Captain Jack Sparrow.

Some companies have preferred hosting private shindigs at nearby hotels to help to boost business in this uncertain economy.

At the Empire restaurant at The Monarch Hotel in Dubai in an invitation-only affair, a number of Alcatel's business partners were recognised for increasing sales by more than 200 per cent in the past year.

"We are investing a lot on this specific event. It's very key for us," said Alain Penel, the vice president of sales and support for the Middle East and Africa at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. "Their success is our success."

FVC, a technology distributor based in Dubai, was to host a similar gala last nightwith awards for its top-performing partners. Companies from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco were also in contention for a splash of recognition.

FVC planned to use the event to introduce new technologies to its partners and allow them to network and build business with each other. But it also wanted "to motivate partners to sell more", says KS Parag, FVC's managing director.

Other companies have tried to increase sales by creating a quiet oasis away from the noise and commotion of exhibitors, who spill across more than a dozen halls at Dubai's International Convention and Exhibition Centre. The computer maker Lenovo, for example, has been treating some of its key partners to sales sessions in a relaxed atmosphere high in a private suite of the World Trade Centre tower.

Then there are economic agencies and organisations whose business it is to help technology companies grow during Gitex. Some of these firms recently benefited from tips about market opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

On Monday morning, over croissants, fruits and warmed breakfast goodies, dozens of Canadian tech company representatives joined a Gitex networking event at a hotel to learn about hooking up with local partners and easing the start-up process here.

"They can match up [and] go piggyback with some people, and maybe in a year or two start their own business," says Tejinder Sethi, a Dubai businessman and membership director at the Canadian Business Council (CBC) of Dubai and Northern Emirates. The CBC hosted the event along with the government of Ontario and the Consulate General of Canada.

"I founded two companies like that myself," he adds.

Creating a business, especially here in the Emirates, is all about relationships, says David Macadam, the regional director for Mena at Jones Lang LaSalle and chairman of the CBC.

"It's at events like this that people build relationships and meet new people, who just talk, and by talking they can figure if there's something they can work on together," says Mr Macadam.

A key guest speaker also helps. Gareth Abel, a group director at the telecommunications company Etisalat, spoke to eager businessmen and businesswomen at the breakfast event.

"We are very keen to work with companies that can give us … interesting propositions, interesting technology," he said. "If you are a company that can help us on that journey, then we'd like to talk to you."