Raya resurgent as Egyptian market booms

Ashraf Sabry, vice chairman and CEO for the IT line of business at Egyptian powerhouse Raya, reveals how its system integration business is aiming to capitalise on both local and regional growth during the next year

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By  Published  October 31, 2006

CME: Who are the core vendors you partner with and how many people work in your systems integration business these days?
Ashraf Sabry: Being a system integrator we are working regularly with Sun, with HP, and sometimes with other vendors like IBM.

HP and Sun’s strategy is driven more towards alliances with partners rather than going direct to the market, which is IBM’s strategy.

We have almost 400 people working in the systems integration division.

I’d say Raya and IBM are the largest integrators in the Egyptian market.

IBM has its Global Services division in Egypt so I think that Raya and IBM are covering the majority of the market between them.

CME: How is the Egyptian market shaping up at the moment?
AS: I think we are lucky in that the Prime Minister of Egypt [Ahmed Nazif] comes from an IT background so he knows the value of IT in improving the level of service of the government.

One of the mandates of the government is its dependency on IT systems to improve levels of service and achieve economical gains.

The country increasingly understands that national databases, egovernment services and automation are things that will help the government achieve its economic and welfare objectives.

CME: What precise IT investments is the government making?
AS: It is upgrading its main infrastructure, but additionally it is doing more work on back-office systems and even front-office systems.

We are implementing an overall budget and budget execution solution with the Egyptian Ministry of Finance for example, and we are working with the Ministry of Administrative Development to provide full automation for the municipalities so that there are improved service levels for residents.

We have also been implementing a large project with the Ministry of Housing.

CME: Which vertical markets are investing in IT at the moment?
AS: I’d say that the three main sectors in Egypt would be the government, finance and telecoms.

CME: Which specific areas of your business are seeing the fastest growth at the moment?
AS: We are experiencing extremely fast growth in the infrastructure services area — security, high availability solutions, systems application management and voice applications.

Additionally we are experiencing significant growth in the business automation area with workflow systems and application integration with back-end systems — these areas are growing very nicely in the Middle East and Egypt.

We are automating businesses processes for different ministries in Qatar, Kuwait and Egypt, and sustaining that model.

CME: How much of Raya’s IT business comes from Egypt?
AS: It is a difficult question to answer because the business from outside of Egypt is only services — we are not doing any hardware.

If you compared services to services I think 50% to 60% would come from the region and the rest from Egypt.

But if you compared the overall business you’d find that the majority of the business is coming from Egypt.

CME: So you firmly regard yourself as a regional player?
AS: Yes, we are more of a regional company, definitely.

We will have revenues in the magnitude of US$15m from services in the regional market and something similar in the local market.

I think we are looking at a good 15% to 20% growth this year.

Rather than introducing new services we will focus on building more critical mass and value in the services that we are currently providing.

CME: What kinds of skills are in demand in the Egyptian market?
AS: ERP and business process automation skills are in demand, as is application integration and infrastructure services with data and voice communication.

Skill sets in high availability solutions, security solutions and multimedia solutions are all needed to address the market requirements too, especially with the aggressive growth that is happening.

CME: What expansion plans do you have for next year?
AS: I would say that most probably by the third or fourth quarter next year we will be more aggressive in the regional market in terms of infrastructure services.

We are currently focusing on business process automation and ERP projects, but next year we’ll start to look seriously at addressing services in the infrastructure part.

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