Middle East nations on digitisation drive providing new opportunities for Indian IT firms

Pune: The Middle East is emerging as an important destination for Indian IT companies as countries in the region step up digitisation initiatives, with Saudi Arabia alone presenting a potential $500 billion opportunity, according to industry estimates.

The region is diversifying into other areas and there is huge potential to digitalise such operations, executives and experts told ET.

Several Indian companies are in talks with local governments to drive these initiatives, they said.

India’s largest software services firm by revenue, (), which already has a presence in the region and was part of IT industry body Nasscom’s delegation to the country last month, said these countries are on a hyperdrive on digital transformation initiatives, both in the private as well as public sector.

“This has created a wave of demand in AI, robotics, cloud, cybersecurity, data analytics and other digital technologies. The governments are addressing this demand-supply gap with a very structured approach, addressing the immediate needs through extremely talent friendly visa policies and significant investments in the academic institutions to nurture the local talent for future,” said Rajiv Kumar, HR head, Middle East and Africa, TCS.

TCS already has a 1,000-employee all-women centre in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital.

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“The ‘golden visa’ and ‘premium residency’ types of innovative government initiatives have made the business environment even more friendly and created the right framework for talent hungry organizations to address their needs in a timely fashion,” he said.

Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in other sectors as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 program, a strategic framework to reduce the country’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors like infrastructure, tourism and education.

“Saudi Arabia is diversifying into other sectors as part of the Saudi Vision 2030 and there’s a huge need to digitalise some of the other sectors they want to grow, so we see huge potential there,” said Shivendra Singh, vice president and head global trade, Nasscom.

The country is spending an estimated $500 billion on Project NEOM, a new, technology-led smart city, he added.

Earlier this week, ANSR, which helps multinational firms set up global capability centres, said it was investing $100 million in the UAE as part of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) $545 million Innovation Programme to drive innovation and growth for global businesses.

Vikram Ahuja, CEO of Talent500 and managing director at ANSR, said the company was already working with a few

Series D+ Software as a Service product companies to help them set up a presence there.

“We are also speaking with multiple Web3 and crypto companies who are looking to scale from the UAE. In addition, we are working with a couple of market leaders from the Middle East in the banking, travel, aviation and retail sector to help them set up innovation and tech centres, which will collectively hire over 1000 professionals,” Ahuja said.

In addition to local market opportunities, the region also provides access to specialised talent from across Europe which makes it an attractive destination for SaaS and IT firms looking to set up operations there.

IT services firm Nagarro already does business in the region.

Its chief executive Manas Fuloria said that they would soon set up legal entities in the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“Our 2021 revenue growth from the region far outpaced our global average. We continue to see great prospects for growth. Many of our Middle East clients are banks and public companies, both of which are investing significantly in digital transformation,” he said.

With the local governments leading many of the new digitisation initiatives, Fuloria said that they may be wary of partnering with the very large, dominant firms that insist on owning rights to the data they will generate.

“These governments don’t want to pledge away this new ‘oil’ to domineering multinationals, which gives all kinds of companies a fighting chance to participate,” he said.


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