Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Robotics firm Automation Anywhere seeks to free Mideast workers from boring tasks

The Softbank-backed company opens first Middle East headquarters in Dubai

In addition to its office in Dubai and headquarters in San Jose, the bot firm has offices in Boston, Mumbai, and Seoul, among others. Courtesy Automation Anywhere
In addition to its office in Dubai and headquarters in San Jose, the bot firm has offices in Boston, Mumbai, and Seoul, among others. Courtesy Automation Anywhere

Automation Anywhere, the Softbank-backed US software company, opened its first Middle East headquarters in Dubai to help companies automate routine processes as it seeks to capitalise on growing regional demand and governments' adoption of AI technology.

The San Jose company, which counts Goldman Sachs and Saudi-backed Softbank Vision Fund among its investors, is targeting customers in oil and gas, finance, retail, fast-moving consumer goods and the government, Milan Sheth, Automation Anywhere's executive vice president for India, Mideast and Africa (IMEA), said on Tuesday. The privately-held company is also in talks with airlines and telecom providers in the UAE.

"There's tremendous interest, we have 50 customers in the region, and if customers are seeking our products then we need to be closer to them and to be part of AI evolution in this part of world, driven by government policies," Mr Sheth told The National.

Automation Anywhere's software performs repetitive mundane tasks such as data entry to free up human employees to tackle more creative work, which the company says can boost productivity and save time. The software-powered bots, or so-called "digital workers", record triple the productivity of humans in terms of time and activities done, according to Automation Anywhere.

The nine-year old company, valued at $2.8 billion (Dh10.3bn) after a series-A funding round last year, raised $550 million from investors including Goldman Sachs, Softbank, General Atlantic and New Enterprise Associates.

It plans to raise more capital than last year to fuel its fast-paced expansion and meet growing demand, Mr Sheth said, declining to provide a timeline or amount. Automation Anywhere plans to double its annual revenues year-on-year until 2022.

In the region, it targets growth to 100 employees by June 2020 from 20 currently. Its customers are dotted in UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, with plans to cover the Levant and Egypt within two months.

"We want to double our sales every six months in every region we operate in and we hope to continue the same journey here," Mr Sheth said, declining to reveal revenue targets.

The move to open headquarters in Dubai in June is also partly driven by the UAE's position as a regional financial services hub, allowing the company to serve more banks where its software can reduce human errors, minimise bias in decision-making and improve customer experience by cutting waiting times.

Mr Sheth said the company's robotic process automation technique can help with the country's Emiratisation goals by training young locals and creating new types of job opportunities.

"The data-entry roles get replaced by building, managing and updating bots," he said. "It's a transition from a certain type of role to future-ready roles."

The company is in talks with UAE government entities to set up "innovation labs" to aide the country's shift towards digital transformation in areas such as smart transportation initiatives.

IMEA is among the company's top four markets for revenue-generation globally, after the US, Japan and a tie with Europe.

Globally, it has 2,800 customers, among them ride-hailing giant Uber, Citibank, UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Schlumberger, and regionally, Dubai-based Emirates NBD and Dubai Assets Management.

The company, which began selling its bots in 2010, employs about 2,200 people and operates in 50 countries.

The cost per bot ranges from $2,000 to $10,000 depending on the type, function and machine-learning modules.

Automation Anywhere competes with other software vendors such as UiPath, Pegasystems, Blue Prism Group and Kofax.

Updated: July 16, 2019 05:04 PM

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