Pundits predict growth for Saudi services

A number of Saudi Arabian IT companies are beefing up their service offerings, both in terms of the number of consultants they have and the skill sets they offer, to serve the Kingdom's growing market.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  June 2, 2003

A number of Saudi IT companies are beefing up their service offerings, both in terms of the number of consultants they have and the skill sets they offer.

Al Alamiah, for instance, currently has around 380 staff in the Kingdom that specialise in installation and support, turnkey projects and consultancy, while Specialists for Computer Systems (SCS) is focusing on adding value to its implementations through its services arm.

Another company that is ramping up its service operations is Alnafitha Information Technology. The Microsoft partner already serves more than 200 clients throughout Saudi, but in the coming months it will be expanding its service offering to target the Kingdom’s small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs).

“For the coming year, we will focus heavily on software and solution services. We want to be a unique company that provides professional services for SMBs. We are investing in the area, by building our team and looking at things like 800 numbers, to make it happen,” says Mohammed Muhtasib, managing director of Alnafitha.

Key to this services drive will be Alnafitha’s new initiative, called the ‘affordable services model.’ According to Muhtasib, this is services with a minimum charge whereby smaller companies can receive high quality help at a price they can afford.

“If a company has only 25 PCs or so then instead of hiring a person to manage those, and yet another person for their help desk, they can come to us instead. We will be able to support all their needs at an affordable cost so that they will be able to benefit from implementing IT,” he says.

While the SMB services market remains largely untapped in Saudi Arabia, there are signs that the Kingdom’s larger organisations are opening up to the idea of outside assistance. Ifitkar Nadeem, senior e-business analyst at the Centre for Economic & Management Systems, King Fahd University for Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM), believes there are a number of reasons for this growth.

“The biggest chunk of IT services in Saudi Arabia is [still] implementations and support. The reason for this is the complexity of many projects and the lack of expertise,” he says.

“Many companies do not do not have the capacity inhouse for these projects because maintaining the [necessary] skills is costly. Also, some companies cannot hire a person for specific projects because it is difficult to recruit people, due to the local skills shortage and other things such as visas [for foreigners],” he continues.

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