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Better everyday technology: Hatem Bakheet

When the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its Vision 2030 – a grand strategy to diversify the country’s economy and lower its dependence on oil – it unleashed billions of dollars in government contracts to the Saudi private sector.

Dr Hatem Bakheet, CEO of Brmaja Group

The year was 2016 and this influx of funds was to build new cities, islands, resorts, mosques, malls and renewable energy facilities. Businesses around the country and from every sector mobilised to carry out this national vision, not least among them Brmaja – one of the Kingdom’s leading digital media marketing services providers, which has become a technological powerhouse leading many multimillion-dollar projects for large global brands.

Brmaja was founded as the in-house digital marketing and information technology arm of the Saudi Bugshan Group. This family-run conglomerate was formed in Saudi Arabia in the 1920s as a textile business, but quickly diversified into consumer brands.

It now has 40 businesses spread across three continents and is involved in diverse sectors such as FMCG, automotive, education, technology, shared services, perfume, investment, health care and real estate.

The company’s first task was to lead the digital transformation of the group of companies – a project that, says Dr Hatem Bakheet CEO of Brmaja, set the stage for its eventual independence.

Over the past few years, the digital marketing industry has had to keep up with the constant state of technology changing and how people are changing with technology.

“As part of the Saudi Bugshan Group, Brmaja implemented a digital transformation by setting up advanced tools for collaboration and connectivity, a call centre, a cloud data centre and advanced security functions,” Dr Bakheet says.

“This process of digitalisation saved us time, effort and cost, and added value to all of our businesses. The new online platform even made it possible for all of our business customers to keep working remotely during the lockdowns and restrictions caused by the pandemic.”

In 2019, after that initial successful project, Brmaja spun off to become an independent outfit aimed at helping brands within the Saudi Bugshan family and beyond expand into new markets and undergo further digital transformations.

In its partnership with technology leaders such as IBM, Microsoft, Infor and Oracle, Brmaja has created customised solutions for clients in countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria. Leading the Brmaja team from his office in Jeddah, Dr Bakheet, who holds an MBA and a DBA from leading universities in the region, explains that the recent developments in technology which enable Brmaja to serve its clients around the world would have been simply unimaginable to him a decade ago.

Dr Hatem Bakheet, CEO of Brmaja Group_2

“Things were much simpler 10 years ago. Just think about the fact that with smartphones, there were only a few to choose from and the worldwide web really wasn’t that wide or as connected as it is now,” he says.

“Fast forward to 2020 and you literally have thousands of website options to help you make a decision about any one product or service. “Over the past few years, the digital marketing industry has had to keep up with the constant state of technology changing and how people are changing with technology,” he says, citing trends such as assignment selling, predictive lead scoring, personalised videos and product-focused videos, not to mention long-form videos, SEO voice search and omnichannel marketing.

“At Brmaja, the vision is to create a better everyday technology, and digital services for people and enterprises,” Dr Bakheet says. “We help our customers to simplify technology and the digital environment so that they can always deliver exceptional efficiency.

“We help them to transform into businesses which are customer-centric so their customers can find and discover online services.” At every point in his distinguished career, Dr Bakheet has been driven by the constant desire to achieve goals that to many would seem out of reach.

After 11 years as an IBM consultant, he went on to direct the Center of Excellence at Saudi Airlines, managing 13 strategic business units and overseeing two IPOs. After nine years in that role, Dr Bakheet ascended to his first CEO role at SAB Holding Group, the local partner to FedEx and several other global companies within Saudi Arabia.

It was this top job which led to his current role at Brmaja as company CEO. “It’s fair to say that I have shown I have the necessary experience and knowledge to successfully lead and manage IT and innovation companies and a portfolio of projects and clients,” he says.

“I am also able to provide them with solutions and services to business challenges beyond the basics. I have learnt through experience. My career journey has made me who I am.”

Dr Bakheet lives by a number of mantras: think big and move fast; focus, focus and focus; never give up, keep on trying and working; and always stay positive and motivated. Every morning, Dr Bakheet says he wakes and thinks, ‘How far can I push this company in the next 24 hours?

Dr Hatem Bakheet, CEO of Brmaja Group_3

How can I help those who are performing poorly to perform well and help those who are performing well to perform even better than they are already?’ He does this through continuous engagement with his team, customers and business partners.

In daily meetings, Dr Bakheet and his team develop long-term strategies and set new KPIs and revenue goals with the aim of increasing shareholder value. This requires maintaining an awareness of the competitive market landscape, opportunities for expansion and industry developments, and this is what Dr Bakheet believes sets Brmaja apart.

“At Brmaja, we don’t have any confusion between opportunity and vision, so our business radar is always tuned according to this vision and, consequently, our tactics are leveraged to support these strategic directions,” he says.

We help our customers to simplify technology and the digital environment so that they can deliver exceptional efficiency.

“Our people, our experience, our processes, our technology, and our brand all give Brmaja a truly competitive edge in an age of change in the areas of digital transformation and marketing, technology and innovation.”

Brmaja’s proven track record of success and customer satisfaction belies the obstacles the company has had to overcome in order to get to where it is today. At times, it has been a challenge to stay one step ahead of the game.

“Our main focus today is to have the agility, readiness and mobilisation at the necessary capacity to address the tremendous speed of demands driven by the ambitions of the new leaders of this region,” Dr Bakheet explains.

Software Solutions

MobiMed – a social healthcare platform that connects users, doctors and service providers. The platform was founded to transform emerging medical technologies into advanced software solutions ready for the medical industry. The app, designed by Brmaja, can be used to store family medical records securely, search and book appointments with a doctor or radiology lab, transfer medical records to your doctor of choice, save medical prescriptions and reports in a clear and proper manner, order medications and diagnostic services, and perform payments online. Delivery Shop – a shipping platform that provides various delivery services to companies and fulfilment solutions for ecommerce platforms operating in Cairo, Giza and Alexandria. It supports companies and ecommerce platforms by ensuring fast deliveries of goods, documents and cash. Operations will be expanded to the Delta and Canal regions by the end of 2020. Brmaja has designed app functionalities for shipment tracking, refunds, shipment storage and 24-hour delivery. XYZ Circle – a platform that helps recruiters and project managers hire freelancers for any job online. Users can post projects for free, browse freelancers’ profiles, arrange them by cost and offer jobs to selected freelancers. The platform, designed by Brmaja, provides various payment options to allow recruiters and freelancers to collaborate in different countries. Freelancers can use the platform to search for jobs that suit them. XYZ Circle enables communication between freelancers and the formation of freelancer groups able to take on projects of any size. Users can now run their own companies almost exclusively through XYZ Circle. Arabie – a platform that links non-native Arabic speakers to language tutors and hosts Arabic lessons online. Students can choose their own teachers based on ratings, reviews, cost per hour, availability and number of previously taught lessons. Designed by Brmaja, the platform allows students to track their progress and set personal goals, as well as access audio and visual options for learning in the comfort of their own homes. Truxoo – a B2B and B2C transportation platform that aims to reduce costs for shippers, introduce transparent pricing structures and provide shippers with reliable carriers. Its technology, developed by Brmaja, empowers drivers by improving their efficiency, boosting their earnings and creating new job opportunities. Multiple vehicle types at various pricepoints are available through the Truxoo app. E Mall – a platform through which users can set up their own ecommerce stores with unique domains and identities. Designed by Brmaja, it offers users every service required to start and manage an ecommerce business with no need for previous technical experience. Users can track and manage inventory easily, receive insights about sales and customers, invoice electronically, create user databases, offer promotions and make and receive payments securely.

Recently, these demands have been exacerbated by the economic turmoil wrought by the pandemic in many places where Brmaja operates, slicing into the company’s revenue and ability to generate new business.

Slower growth has forced the workforce to shrink. Lower oil prices in Saudi Arabia and neighbouring countries have stifled the willingness of local businesses to invest in digital transformations.

In response, Dr Bakheet has sought to grow Brmaja in the few areas where growth is still possible. Domestic and foreign investment continues to flow into non-oil-related industries, which have shown an interest in both expanding their business and strengthening their brand with the help of Brmaja’s products and services.

Moreover, a strong rise in ecommerce and other online services presents Brmaja with another avenue towards new business, with potential clients that would be even more interested in its ecommerce platform design and web development services.

Our main focus today is to have the agility, readiness, and mobilisation at the necessary capacity to address the tremendous speed of demands driven by the ambitions of the new leaders of this region.

“The COVID-19 pandemic posed a major setback to Brmaja’s transformation programs, impacting the availability of hardware and software, costs and productivity,” Dr Bakheet says.

“Fortunately, we managed this adversity through the provision of digital technologies to businesses and program teams, thus enabling us to work and collaborate remotely from our homes and continue running the business as well as spearhead program deliveries.

“At some point, every leader has to deal with setbacks, conflicts and challenges. It comes with the territory. However, one has to be careful and ensure that minor setbacks do not cause major losses of time and productivity. One of the things that separates good leaders from great ones is their ability to adapt to and successfully manage adversity. The best approach to manage challenges effectively is through maintaining perspective, working through them, keeping a level head, inspiring confidence in your team members and involving them to help you come up with creative solutions, learn from the issues, see the opportunities to excel and take ownership of the problem while finding a solution.”

Having successfully weathered the worst of the pandemic and with his business as sturdy as ever, Dr Bakheet has set his sights on continuing the company’s growth and expansion.

Over the next three years he plans to expand Brmaja’s footprint to more regions, adding new services and products focusing on blockchain, AI, finance technology and IoT industry-specific solutions. Dr Bakheet also intends to increase market share and concentrate more on SMEs, while developing efficiencies and simplifying a variety of processes.

Dr Hatem Bakheet, CEO of Brmaja Group_4

“There’s a digital revolution taking place, especially in MEA countries, and we have every intention of being a part of it,” he says. “We aim to direct our attention to the shared economy and API strategies helping enterprises develop omnichannel and digital marketing.”

Brmaja plans to expand into logistics to handle last-mile delivery for online platforms and with its growing global network of customers and business beneficiaries, Dr Bakheet hopes to leverage these partnerships to build an incubator-accelerator program for innovative startups.

It’s these initiatives, Dr Bakheet predicts, which will position Brmaja to be the leading and preferred partner for systems integration in the Middle East and beyond. The CEO also hopes to hold an IPO for the company. Looking back, Dr Bakheet recalls the lessons he’s learned along the way.

“Technology rollouts are never completed on time and within budget, executing a digital transformation is always a worthy investment and there is no good reason to wait before investing in IT,” he says.

“However, making money is no longer my primary goal. My interests lie in transformative business and in fundamentally changing the future of humanity. Being the CEO and Executive Partner in building an ambitious organisation such as Brmaja with the right foundation for both growth and success is my proudest achievement to date.”

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