UAE is a launchpad for British tech firms looking to expand
Blis is a UK advertising tech company with an office in Dubai that uses powerful geo location data to allow companies to precision target potential customers.
The firm, which recently became a member of the UK government’s Future Fifty development programme, uses software that allows advertisers to identify customers through the places they visit.
For instance, football fans read reports on matches, visit hospitality venues that show the games and sometimes go to stadiums. Knowing their whereabouts can help ad firms to target their marketing.
Puja Pannum, Blis’ managing director for the Middle East, says Blis opened its Dubai office in January 2016 and has been seeing business soar in the region since then. The Middle East is home to huge numbers of malls, shopping centres and car showrooms, for example, and it is essential for advertisers to get accurate data about audiences’ offline behaviours and habits.
“It’s really important in this region. Advertisers who are relying solely on what content is consumed on a device are not understanding audiences’ offline behaviours. What is happening in their online world may be very different to how they actually behave in real life. Accurate geo targeting bridges that gap, providing advertisers with a much clearer picture of their consumers,” Ms Pannum says.
Blis provides advertising agencies with deeper insight into how ads are targeted. It has been able to hire local Arabic talent and provide an Arabic creative service that puts the firm ahead of other international operators.
The firm aims to expand this year. “Last year was all about brand building for Blis, starting revenue streams and partnering with agencies. This year is about expansion and partnering with agencies across the region, for example in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait,” says Ms Pannum.
Trak Global Group is a telematics data company that has been trading in the GCC for four years, working with its UAE-based partner group Al Futtaim. Telematics is a branch of information technology that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerised information.
Back at home in the UK, the company, also a Future Fifty member, has just been named as the growing small business of the year, in part because of its rapid international expansion.
Trak Global is also making a considerable contribution to improving road safety in the markets in which it operates with systems designed to monitor drivers’ styles and build a better database of safe road speeds.
In the UAE Trak Global’s in-car boxes are used to track vehicles for security as well as safety, particularly in the car rental and fleet sector. There are also plans to help bring some of the safety solutions that Trak offers younger drivers, via insurers, to motorists in the Arabian Gulf.
Trak Global already has about 20,000 of its tracking devices installed in cars in Dubai. It has three members of staff on the ground in the UAE, but still does a lot remotely from the UK.
Two of Trak’s brands, Trak and Carrot, are gaining interest from insurers looking to work with the firm on young driver behaviour. Carrot will shortly be launched in the United States. The business is also launching a smartphone app, meaning there will be no need to have a box in-car.
“Being a part of Future Fifty is great for us because it raises the profile of the business,” says Alan Cottrill, the commercial director at Trak Global and a founder of the business. “We are reasonably established now and very well known in the insurance sector in the UK but Future Fifty will really help us in recruiting. The challenge in our business is turning the data that we collect into information of value. To do that we need strong tech skills.”
Mr Cottrill and Dave Turnock, who has taken over running the UAE business, are hopeful that Trak systems can help the GCC region to become a pioneer in improving road safety. Along with other globally countries, Dubai, for instance, has a target of cutting the number of deaths on the road to zero by 2020.
Tracking every car might sound like a drastic solution but it could be the right one for the GCC and that would be good news for Trak Global.
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Updated: March 7, 2017 04:00 AM