Living in the Middle East has played an indelible role in shaping me. This is my third time living here. The first time I moved to the UAE was 2003, when I didn’t know who or what would be waiting for me after I had shuffled my first tentative steps out of the single terminal DXB airport.
Dubai was already a parable of progress when I arrived. A desert kingdom of skyscrapers and commerce, emerging from barely three decades of sovereignty. Whilst if one were to write a history of the subsequent 21st century, then this region would take its place along with China and India as modern centres of progress and cultural relevance.
What I remember from working on ‘IT’ projects in the UAE, Saudi, Qatar and Jordan, of the early 2000s, was the warmth of new friends, and the challenge of learning to navigate the complexities of different cultures. Yet I also found a standard of IT consultancy that was not on a par with what I had experienced in Europe. The UAE was a place of staggering aspiration and achievement, yet oddly there seemed to be a willingness to accept second-class standards and practices from IT consultancies, even when everyone knew things could be done better.
I do not wish to upset anyone, or single out any organisation, but – right or wrong – that is how I felt at the time. There were sub-standard consultancies and digital agencies with skills and knowledge that simply would not have survived in London, Berlin, or New York. Why should the brands, citizens and economies of the Middle East settle for second-class practices from those found elsewhere in the world?
I love the middle east and always believed that such a land of aspiration and vision would be a perfect place to grow a digital agency catering to clients wanting to do digital transformation the right way. An agency that invested in the region, and offered skills the equal of anywhere else in the world. A place that encouraged employees to do the best work of their lives, in service of their clients.
In the years since I have worked in Malaysia, Australia and back in the UK, building a career in digital strategy, then as a Managing Director. In that time digital technologies have been a catalyst to industrial revolution in all regions of the world, yet because of their ability to wipe away the traditional barriers to entry, this revolution offers most opportunities to developing economies with ambition, like the middle east and India.
What I have experienced are ambitious economies and societies verging on the precipice of huge transformation change from digital. Change that can again inspire the world in its audacity. Transformation that can again make the region a parable of progress. Not another transformation of physical bricks and mortar, but progress built on skyscrapers of binary code and data. This land of diverse cultures, languages and histories is the perfect melting pot to re-imagine markets with machine learning, blockchains and personalised customer-experiences… but just as the physical skyscrapers needed the worlds best architects, so too does the region now need the best digital strategist, creatives and software engineers.
The governments in the region are investing in digital transformation (we have a minister for AI), the worlds best software vendors are focussing on the region, (just look at the growth of Sitecore over the last 3 years), and many local brands want to change their business models to embrace a digital economy. There are already some great digital agencies in the region delivering some outstanding work, but many brands are still searching for that digital partner who can strategise, design, and build world-class customer experiences for them.
An agency that takes pride in the craftsmanship of its code and the empathy of its creative design. An agency that knows what good looks like, and is willing to fight for modern DevOps, service design, data science, agile delivery, personalised content, experience-driven commerce, and other hard but transformational tactics.
I had wanted to make the move back to the Middle East for some time, but there are only a few agencies globally who had the reputation for quality that is needed here. Top of my list was Horizontal Integration, the first ever Sitecore Platinum partner. Speaking with Sabin, the CEO, in 2017 it was clear that he shared the same vision for his Middle Eastern and his Indian offices.
Sabin set up HI 15 years ago in America, but 5 years ago also started building operations in India and UAE. He too saw the gap for a digital agency that could act as a strategic Digital Transformation partner for brands across the Middle East, and in his homeland of India. My personal experience of India is less then the middle east, but on my frequent visits I again and again meet ambitious businesses wanting digital transformation, but being slowed down by a lack of strategic partners. Can you strategise, design and build the digital services that will cater to one of the worlds’ youngest and most mobile populations?
If anything, Sabin and I underestimated just how ambitious brands across the region are. Due to recent wins, we need to grow a tribe of HI’ers who are either in the region or want to be here. There are other great and capable digital agencies that are also working hard to deliver transformation, and we realise that great digital minds have many potential homes here, but I’m incredibly proud of what we are building at HI and I want you to consider joining us. We are going to do great things. We are going to deliver work that transforms our clients’ industries. If you come and join us we promise to do everything possible to help create an environment where you can do the best work of your lives. To help you deliver the most impressive achievements of your career, that always sit proudly at the top of your CV.
If you believe that customer experiences can produce competitive advantage…
If you are are already in the UAE or India, or are willing to come here to embrace, immerse and respect cultures…
If you work in digital transformation and have a relentless focus on quality…
Then why not LinkIn with me and tell me your story?