Panacea of the pandemic

Dubai-based Elixir, an investment conglomerate focused on technology and real estate investments, has forayed into AI and machine learning to tap futuristic technology.

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Published: Mon 21 Dec 2020, 5:19 PM

Noticing the high market potential of new technologies and its immense application in every industry, the group revealed an ambitious plan of automation through the artificial intelligence (AI) and related products for the UAE market in the first stage, and later on rolling out its expansion into the entire Middle East and South Asia regions. With a developing portfolio and wider geographic expansion, the company plans to diversify into the machine learning (ML), robotics, edge computing, internet-of-things (IoT), virtual reality and augmented reality sectors in 2021 and 2022.

Business & Technology Review caught up with Hunain Shahid, head of strategy and partnerships, to understand the market sentiment and Elixir Group's strategy going forward.

Why did you choose Gitex to launch Elixir Group?

Elixir was established as an investment group in 2003 in the UAE to invest in ventures that demonstrate high growth potential. It invested in different ventures ranging from real estate to technology during this time and reaped exponential returns from various investments. The group is currently focused on implementing certain technologies in the MENA and South Asia regions spearheading disruption through ML and AI.

Dubai is home to both Gitex and Elixir Group and shares ambitious and progressive plans of tapping the technology prowess to disrupt business for growth and bring a positive change in the life and the living standards in today's tech-savvy world. So, it was just natural to launch Elixir at Gitex, which is a perfect time to launch big technology ventures.

 In addition, Gitex, the world's leading technology exhibition, attracts technology providers and seekers from across the globe, and is an in-person event based in Dubai, exactly where Elixir is also located. During Gitex, Elixir had a number of interesting meetings with the exhibitors for future collaboration.

How has the pandemic disrupted the tech industry?

The over-hyped disruption across the sectors were already disrupted. The pandemic has just accelerated it. And, as we are observing the customer experience across all verticals has totally transformed during the pandemic. We can now see that the automation has and will play a key role in driving those experiences in the future moving close towards a sci-fi world where we will see flying cars as a new normal, commute in seconds, have smart gadgets at home, businesses are run by robots, and so on.

Can you describe the ways in which AI changes the business landscape in the UAE and the Middle East?

AI has the potential to completely transform how business is done today. Whether back office operations or front office interaction, automation will be the driver to lead an efficient organisation in the future. One example is conversational AI that can generate leads and answer customers queries for most B2B/B2C companies out there. MarTech, AdTech, PropTech and FinTech are few examples of disruption.

 The tech market has grown exponentially. It has now reached to $187 billion market size as we speak, which is divided into AI ($39.9 billion), ML ($8.44 billion), robotics ($41.23 billion), edge computing ($3.6 billion), IoT ($82.4 billion), VR ($10.32 billion), AR ($1.54 billion), thus totalling $187 billion, according to the Grand View Research Report 2020 and citations from various other reports.

As we see, the Middle East is a centre with diverse offerings but it has not been able to anchor modern technology that is needed here and we see how serious the UAE is by appointing the world's first state minister for AI. A PwC report says, the AI industry in the Middle East region alone can contribute up to $320 billion by 2030. AI will become a $15.7 trillion business worldwide, that will undoubtedly shape the global economy's future. Having the AI industry develop here would mean a colossal shift in the constituent industries contributing to this region's GDP. The numbers and the UAE initiatives reflect how AI is making inroads to the ways the business is done and life is spent.

What will the industries stand to benefit from the offerings by the Elixir Group?

The Conversational AI, chatbot, is one thing which is creeping fast into the retail and customer service sectors where we are currently focusing as we have already identified the potential. Most of the industries will benefit from the solutions provided by Elixir Group. This especially applies to the retail and food industries.

In the future, AI will be a big game-changer in the Gulf, with UAE and Saudi Arabia being amongst the world's top 60 countries on the Global Innovation Index (GII). We expect companies to embrace AI technology and start building their foundations on it. Innovation in industries like FinTech, will be the pioneer of paving the path for the other sectors. Labour-intensive sectors like education, public health, and retail will experience a significant boost in productivity. Automation will have a rippling effect throughout the economy, not just within AI-driven industries, due to the demand shift. Once the technology is in place, the $187 billion market size will rise exponentially.

Being in the real estate business, I discovered that more than 28 per cent of real estate businesses now use chatbots. That makes sense. This is the industry that profits the most from chatbot usage because agents have realized that chatbots can do most of the everyday work that the employees used to do. A chatbot saves time, resources, and ultimately money. If you are in this industry, setting up a real estate chatbot is a must as chatbot companies offer specific services that are specially designed for real estate purposes. 

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