Big data for bigger opportunities
The UAE is at the forefront of technological adoption, and naturally, utilisation of big data.
Dubai - Technology can be applied to practically any sector and would streamline businesses
Businesses in Dubai are not sparing any efforts to tap possible avenues to boost sales and growth, and the latest trend is that firms specialising in big data are unlocking opportunities to study customer preferences, loyalties and any segment that will help boost customer numbers.
Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data - both structured and unstructured - that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. But it's not the amount of data that's important: it's what organisations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analysed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves, according to the definition given by SAS Institute.
"Supported by the expanding millennial population in the UAE, smartphone penetration is very high in the country, resulting in generation of large amounts of granular data. This presents an opportunity for big data analytics to use the available data in a meaningful way," M.R. Raghu, managing director of Marmore Mena Intelligence, said. "Both the public sector and private sector have understood the importance of data analytics and have started making investments in them. The UAE government has been looking to use emerging technologies to improve their public services."
Big data could find applications in areas such as food security, water security and urban planning. Private-sector companies in the country have been proactive in adopting big data analytics to help understand customer requirements and usage patterns to customise their services and enhance customer experience and satisfaction, adds Raghu.
The UAE government is at the forefront of technological adoption and, naturally, utilisation of big data is happening more and more by entities.
"Over time the data [we handle] grew to reach over 3.5 million verified customers. We felt that we were not using the data we had to the potential due to lack of technology internally and hence we decided to associate with an external expert," said Shamlal Ahmed, international operations managing director at Malabar Gold & Diamonds. "The retail landscape globally continues to change every quarter and it has become a way of life. We do take steps to adapt to these changes but the fundamentals of retail still remains the same... so as long as you get the fundaments right, generating walk-ins will not be a challenge," he added.
Anjali Kumari, senior director for product at Capillary Technologies, which Malabar Gold & Diamonds had partnered with to deal with big data, said: "It is now becoming a reality that online and offline stories are going to co-exist. Customers who have merged the two have a better play. We are observing this with our customers... [the] focus is on providing a seamless omni-channel experience for the consumers. Given the above, there is a lot of focus now on big data to capture multi-channel data and make sense out of it."
According to the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2018, the UAE as seventh-most competitive nation globally, ranked fifth globally in use of big data and analytics. The UAE is the most connected country in the region with one of the highest Internet penetration rates in the world.
Ali Shabdar, evangelist at Zoho, said: "The UAE indeed is on its way to become one of the global hubs of big data. What started as a mere curiosity back in 2011 [when cloud computing was gaining ground in the region] has turned into a growing marketplace where international and recently homegrown companies offer big data management and analytics as a service to a wide range of organisations. More and more [local] data are being generated in the cloud every second and companies are tapping into this gold mine of information to understand and utilise the market better."
Karan Patel, head of commercial at Etisalat Information Services on big data, said: "According to predictions from Forrester 70 per cent of large enterprise in the UAE are expected to implement AI over the next two years, they will be likely to use the AI technology to analyse unstructured data and create actionable insights from it, for example and as a telco we not only supports billions of transactions everyday but also use our digital capability to continuously learn how to utilise this data on engaging and entertaining our existing and potential customers through data analytics marketing capabilities. Some sectors like telco, media, finance and insurance, airlines, medical and retail have already deployed big analytics to profile customers and send the customers customise offers , other sectors will catch up soon."
Big data has the potential to be employed in a variety of sectors as most things in this digital age revolve around data. Fintech players are tying up with banks to leverage big data analytics extensively to enhance customer experience and structure products and service according to their needs. Fintech startups also use big data analytics in peer-to-peer lending platforms to raise capital for SMEs.
The oil and gas industry is also one sector where big data is being deployed. Hospitality in the UAE has also benefitted from big data analytics in tailoring their loyalty programmes, points out Raghu.
Mechelle Buys Du Plessis, managing director for the UAE at Dimension Data, said: "Data is growing exponentially and as such, CEOs believe that the digital economy will have an impact on their business. We are seeing some traction of CEO's funding and executing on a digital plan. There is a need for organisations to change and to take on the challenge of disrupting, or being disrupted."
"Technology will play a critical role in the retail industry in the future but technology in isolation will not work either," Ahamed added. "As long as the retail industry is targeting humans, we will need talented humans to take decision using the information/insights provided by technology."