An old face returns with new promises

The fiercely competitive Middle East enterprise landscape now has another competitor to deal with after France-based IT services giant Atos Origin announced it would return to the region after a four year hiatus.

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An old face returns with new promises Atos Origin — led by regional boss Samir El Awadi.
By  Andrew Seymour Published  November 7, 2010

It wasn't that long ago - 2006 in fact - that Atos Origin sold its Middle East operations to local management, stating that the majority of business was being done with local clients and did not "provide support for Atos Origin's international clients on a material scale."

That business, which had a strong track record in the oil and gas sector, was subsequently bought by HP 18 months later.

Now, however, Atos Origin feels the time is right to make its return to the region in a bid to "capitalise on the predicted growth in IT investment over the next few years".

The Paris-listed firm is planning to set up offices in the GCC and Egypt to better serve its customers, with the Egyptian centre reportedly starting out with a workforce of 100 employees. It is also said to be opening an office in Riyadh in conjunction with one of the region's largest investment companies.

Man with a plan

Atos Origin, which boasts an annual turnover of US$1.5 billion and employs 49,000 people worldwide, has appointed Samir El Awadi as CEO for the region and he will be responsible for driving Atos' local strategy. He has held a number of senior roles at Atos Origin, most recently as VP of sales in the company's Dutch office.

"My goal is to increase our business in this region achieving profitable growth," explained El Awadi. "I look forward to working with our global and local experts to deliver the high quality services and solutions that will help organisations further accelerate business growth and stay one step ahead of the competition."

Atos Origin is looking to El Awadi - who will report to Francis Meston, executive VP for systems integration - to ensure the company meets its aggressive goals, according to Charles Dehelly, senior executive VP at the IT services giant.

"Atos Origin has an ambitious growth plan and setting up operations in Egypt and the GCC countries is a clear example [of that]," said Meston. "Samir's international sales experience and his extensive political and cultural knowledge of the region and its markets will be a considerable asset to accelerate growth in this strategic and growing market."

Jumping hurdles

Whether Atos Origin's return to a very fragmented and hugely competitive Middle East IT services sector proves to be plain sailing remains to be seen. Ed Thomas, senior analyst at research firm Ovum, warns the company will have to overcome a number of hurdles.

"Despite recent advances, the outsourcing market in the Middle East is still relatively immature, and as such vendors should not expect to see immediate returns on their investment," he said. "Atos Origin in particular might be hampered by the importance that end-users in the region place on personal relationships, which take time to build up. The company will need to demonstrate not only that it is committed to succeeding in the region, but also that it is willing to work hard at building up trust with potential clients."

One challenge for Atos Origin will be convincing customers that after pulling out of the region before, it is in it for the long haul this time around.

Thomas suggests one way the company could make up ground on competitors that can lay claim to a much more consistent presence in the region is to explore local alliances.

"An important step for Atos Origin could be partnering with one or more local vendors, which would not only help to reassure a sceptical market but could also open doors with clients that might otherwise be unreachable," he advised. "The vendor's European rival, Capgemini, has taken this approach, forming a relationship with local systems integrator Itqan," added Thomas.

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