Dubai: Al-Futtaim Group embarks on digital transformation

Conglomerate seeks to harness latest technologies to boost customer experience


Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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The Al-Futtaim Group headquarters in Dubai Festival City. — Supplied photo
The Al-Futtaim Group headquarters in Dubai Festival City. — Supplied photo

Published: Mon 24 Jul 2023, 8:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 24 Jul 2023, 3:49 PM

Dubai-headquartered Al-Futtaim Group has embarked on a digital transformation journey, aiming to become data-driven intelligent organisation, that is adaptive to the evolving needs of its customers.

Established in the 1930s as a trading business, Al-Futtaim Group today is one of the most diversified privately-held regional businesses headquartered in Dubai.

Structured into five operating divisions; automotive, financial services, real estate, retail, and health; employing over 33,000 employees across more than 20 countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, the company partners with over 200 of the world’s most admired and innovative brands.

Himanshu Shrivastava, Chief Technology Officer, Al-Futtaim Group, spoke to Khaleej Times about the conglomerate’s digital transformation journey and plans ahead. Excerpts from an interview:

What are the top priorities in Al-Futtaim Group’s digital transformation journey?

In our digital transformation journey at Al-Futtaim Group, we are laser-focused on achieving our goal of being a data-driven intelligent organisation, that is adaptive to the evolving needs of our customers. This translates into key priorities of delivering exceptional customer experiences, fostering innovation, and ensuring operational excellence by leveraging the latest technologies. Let me elaborate on these areas.

By adopting cutting-edge technologies and implementing user-centric strategies, we aim to provide seamless, personalised experiences that deliver customer loyalty. We constantly seek opportunities to harness emerging technologies like AI, machine learning, and data analytics. By optimising our processes, making data-driven decisions, and spotting new business prospects, we stay deliver startling products, services, and solutions.

Data and analytics help us unlock new possibilities and drive value. We wield the power of data to make informed decisions, personalise experiences, and supercharge our performance. Our digital infrastructure is built with security in mind. We invest in top-of-the-line cybersecurity measures, robust IT systems, and scalable platforms to handle our expanding digital empire. Our top priority is safeguarding our customers’ data privacy and security, and we leave no stone unturned.

We actively seek relationships with tech partners, startups, and industry firms. By joining forces, we explore new horizons, leverage expertise, and co-create groundbreaking solutions.

What steps are being taken to enhance the customer experience at all touchpoints by leveraging digital?

We’ve taken innovative steps to meet evolving customer needs and embrace the digital revolution across all our businesses. In the retail sector, for example, Al-Futtaim IKEA offers a convenient ‘click & collect’ service, aligning with the booming trends within omnichannel commerce. Our automotive business launched a unique digital-led car subscription business called Moov, designed to deliver a fully digital customer experience. Our automotive brands offer online solutions like e-purchases and at-home test drives. Our real estate business provides virtual walkthroughs, VR experiences, and advanced CRM tools, empowering buyers and sellers with immersive decision-making. Our health hub business provides convenient digital tools to patients to manage various aspects like appointments, quick access to medical records and prescriptions etc.

Himanshu Shrivastava - Al-Futtaim Group CTO. — Supplied Photo
Himanshu Shrivastava - Al-Futtaim Group CTO. — Supplied Photo

What is the role that the new Blue programme is expected to play in this journey?

The Blue programme is a game-changer in our digital journey at Al-Futtaim Group. Blue was initially conceptualised as a rewards programme . We have now evolved into a digital customer engagement platform that brings the best of the Al-Futtaim group to the customer. It is a data-driven platform that leverages analytical insights to provide personalised experiences and offers to our customers. We are enhancing the value proposition by bringing an ecosystem of partners that complement our existing portfolio of offerings.

We recently launched the new Blue app, which is fuelled by data insights and personalisation to provide curated experiences and. In addition to the cashback on transactions (across our extensive retail network and selected partners), customers can earn Blue points through several activities, engaging in in-app games, referrals, and more, and redeem them for a wide range of rewards.

We have launched the Blue credit card in partnership with FAB, which provides several rewards to customers. With the Blue Wallet feature, customers have a convenient mechanism to pay at our outlets, send digital gift cards, enjoy seamless checkout, and effortlessly track their cashback and points balance. But this app isn’t just about rewards; it’s about having fun too. Interactive quizzes, challenges, and gamification make it an engaging app.

The development of the new Blue Rewards app showcases our commitment to digital innovation. We are at the start of our journey with more exciting features and capabilities planned for later this year and beyond!

What partnerships are being worked on to support your digital transformation journey?

One major collaboration is with SAP, helping us lay a solid technical foundation for the future and strengthening our operations through RISE with SAP, a robust and extendable core digital platform for our businesses and group functions. This powerful SAP alliance gives us complete visibility and the ability to obtain actionable insights.

Another key partner for us is Microsoft, especially in our journey to the cloud and in laying our strong data foundation. As advancements continually happen in artificial intelligence, having strong partners like Microsoft allows us to understand better and leverage opportunities that can give us operational and competitive advantages.

Additionally, we have partnered with Technology services partners like IBM to support us on the digital agenda, particularly the development of the Blue Mobile App.

What are the plans for Al-Futtaim Group’s digital journey?

As we look to the future, we will continue investing in innovative digital solutions that enhance the customer experience across the board and help us drive operational excellence. We are looking at opportunities to leverage technologies like artificial intelligence to enhance customer engagement and improve operations across various functions. We will continue focusing on doing more in digital commerce and delivering more robust omnichannel experiences. Blue will continue to evolve to drive even more exceptional customer experiences and unlock value for our partners.

As we all know, sustainability is a critical national priority, and digital / technology can play an essential role in achieving sustainability goals. We will continue to look at new ways in which digital can enable this critical priority for us.

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