United States-based communications company Avaya provides the unseen technology behind your telephone call to etisalat call centre or SMS text message to top up your mobile phone. The firm also offers local businesses an all-in-one IP (internet protocol) telephony package for all their telephone, e-mail, video and voicemail needs to communicate with customers.
Its Middle East and North Africa business is co-ordinated from its headquarters in Dubai, which provides the corporate activity to drive double-digit growth in recent years.
Charlie Ill, Senior Vice-President for Global Sales (pictured above), tells Emirates Business that the UAE and the region is growing 10 times faster than Avaya’s core revenue stream in the US and as a result investment in the region will double every six to nine months.
Avaya, which provides communications for more than one million businesses worldwide, including more than 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies, counts National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Burj Al Arab as its high-profile clients.
Avaya Emea has more than 6,600 employees, working in 33 countries with 1,600 business partners. The firm runs seven training centres and 11 global delivery support centres.
Ill says the company was instrumental in the smooth merger between Emirates Bank International and the National Bank of Dubai last year.
How is Avaya’s business developing in the region?
We have been growing across the region in solid double digits for some time. In the past six months we have doubled our resources in this region and will continue to do so on a consistent basis because the opportunities are tremendous. We have great strength in financial, healthcare and hospitality industries, but our customers span all sectors – National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Burj Al Arab and other hotels. We provide contact centres and IP telephony to them. Our deals can range anywhere from $100,000 (Dh367,000) to several million dollars.
Can you describe your relationship with major clients in the region?
Our largest contact centre in the UAE is etisalat. When you call etisalat helpdesk for enquiries or they text message you, they use Avaya technology. We typically join a partnership with companies such as etisalat and go after customers and supply them with things that etisalat supplies – such as carrier services – and [things that] we supply – such as telephony capabilities. Etisalat has two call centres, one in Ajman and one in Abu Dhabi.
They have 700 or more agents, all using our technology – from sending customers text messages to recording telephone conversations. Emirates Bank has continued to be our flagship partner and today they have the biggest contact centre in the UAE financial sector. We helped merge its contact centres with [those of] the National Bank of Dubai.
What are your plans for investment in Avaya’s local business?
We have doubled our investment in the Middle East and North Africa three times over the past four years, which is set to continue in the foreseeable future. This includes adding people to the team, investing money in marketing, education and training. The UAE is like a magnet for businesses and a place where we can supply customers in a way that many companies cannot. In the future, I expect investment in this region to double every six to nine months because of the tremendous growth here.
The Middle East and North Africa make up three per cent of our overall business. It is 10 per cent of Europe, which is about 35 per cent of the total revenue for Avaya. Although 50 per cent of our business is from the United States, the growth here is 10 times more than in the US.
What is the main service you provide to businesses in the UAE?
We take communication applications and integrate them into business processes that drive business and this is at the heart of what we do. We also concentrate on customer care centres, which is the centralised interface that companies have with their customers calling for support.
Or for companies to call customers to sell some products. Another piece of what we do is core IP telephony, [which involves] communications capabilities across an organisation. A lot of companies now use unified communications, which allows you to integrate e-mail, instant messaging, voice, video and voice-mail in one common user interface. Not just on your desk phone, but on your mobile phone or any communication device.
Is Avaya planning any acquisitions in the region as part of its expansion plans?
We are always looking for acquisition opportunities – in the form of organisations that can enhance our capabilities in services [or] software applications we offer that can increase our sales in an inorganic way. It might be small service companies that have a skill set in the telephony space or an application we want to add to our portfolio to increase our growth.
PROFILE: Charlie Ill, Senior Vice-President for Global Sales, Avaya
He has full revenue accountability for Avaya’s global business and boasts 25 years’ experience in the IT industry. He joined the firm in February 2005 as Vice-President of Global Business Partners and Sales Operations. Prior to this, he was Executive Vice-President and President of Sales for BEA Systems, leading the company’s direct sales, business partner sales, sales operations and strategic alliance teams. It was during his tenure that BEA reached the milestone of breaking the billion-dollar mark in annual revenue.
Ill began his career at IBM and worked in a number of sales and marketing executive positions, including key roles in Europe and Asia. In his last role at IBM, he led worldwide sales for its $13 billion (Dh47.7bn) software business. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration (Finance) from Lehigh University and currently serves as a board member of the National Defense University Foundation, a non-profit organisation that supports one of the premier centres for learning and thinking about America’s national security.
Avaya: regional growth 10 times faster than in US