Etisalat Digital- Accelerating transformation

Salvador Anglada, Etisalat’s CBO on how Etisalat Digital aims to double its market share
Salvador Anglada:"By providing platforms, Etisalat Digital enables businesses to get access to a services model, instead of having to invest in the whole platform."
Salvador Anglada:"By providing platforms, Etisalat Digital enables businesses to get access to a services model, instead of having to invest in the whole platform."
Etisalat delivered the entire digital infrastructure for Dubai Parks and Resorts.
Etisalat delivered the entire digital infrastructure for Dubai Parks and Resorts.


Salvador Anglada, Etisalat’s chief business officer on how Etisalat Digital aims to double its market share in the digital space by 2021.

Aiming at a multi-billion dollar worth digital transformation market, Etisalat launched its “Etisalat Digital” business unit, which it unveiled officially during Gitex technology week 2016. While currently the unit manages to contribute to around 5% of the revenues of Etisalat UAE, the aim is to double the same in the coming three-four years, says Salvador Anglada, Etisalat’s chief business officer.

Anglada is of the opinion that there’s a huge opportunity in the market, especially in the UAE, for digital services. The government’s push for innovation makes the country an incredible destination for everything digital. The combination of Etisalat’s vast experience in the field of connectivity with enhanced agility for digital innovation led to the formation of ‘Etisalat Digital’, he adds. The prime aim of the unit is to enable digital transformation of enterprise and government customers. 

Etisalat Digital has to its credit strong references such as Dubai Parks and Resorts. This project has set a benchmark as one of the most successful projects in the entertainment space in the region. Etisalat delivered the entire digital infrastructure for Dubai Parks and Resorts, including  digital channels, different smart services (such as smart parking, smart ticketing, connected transportation and connected food and beverage), in addition to other smart solutions around the park such as video surveillance, real time marketing and analytics.

Etisalat Digital is also actively working on several interesting projects related to health, education and security. The business unit has industry experts as well as digital assets and platforms including data centres, cloud platforms, digital and mobile payment platforms Internet of Things platform and big data and analytics engines. 

By providing platforms to its customers, Etisalat Digital enables businesses to get access to several technologies through a services model, instead of having to invest in the whole platform. This accelerates the digital transformation of the businesses. The unit is further strengthened with  24X7 security operations centres and IoT command and control centres in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for fully managed solutions and proactive monitoring. 

Though Etisalat Digital is currently involved in a plethora of exciting projects, Anglada says the most important one would be Expo 2020 Dubai. With an aim to make the Expo 2020 Dubai site one of the fastest, smartest and best connected places in the world. Etisalat has global rights as the Expo’s official telecommunications and digital services partner. That comes with a great deal of responsibility, Anglada adds, since it means collaborating with all the stakeholders to create a seamless digital experience throughout. 

Yet another interesting engagement of the business unit is in the start-up space. Etisalat Digital aims at partnering with global start-ups to solve critical business challenges within different segments, such as health, education, smart cities and others. The Dubai Future Accelerators is the world’s largest government supported accelerator, which pairs top start-ups with the Dubai government entities allowing them to build, test and deploy solutions for 21st-century challenges. 

Etisalat joined the programme in its second round and have already launched different challenges. Selected start-ups get the chance to be on boarded in the Etisalat Scaleups programme  where they will be given access to Etisalat Digital resources and experts, office space, and support to deliver pilot projects to effectively demonstrate the value and future potential of the partnership and technology. 

Additionally, Etisalat Digital has partnered with Emirates and GE to launch Intelak, the first travel, tourism and aviation incubator in the region to nurture local talent, redefine the travel experience and contribute to the growth of the aviation and travel sectors. 

In other exciting developments, Etisalat Digital has launched its Internet of Things platform that facilitates a range of capabilities and tools including application development, connectivity, machine learning, augmented reality and integration with devices and sensors. These capabilities are combined to deliver IoT technology solutions that enable companies to securely connect assets, create applications and generate insights for better decision making.

Recently, the unit successfully launched M2M in-vehicle WiFi solution, as a result of which Etisalat business customers can now enable WiFi connectivity on the move to all their fleets and vehicles.  The in-vehicle M2M WiFi solution is fully compliant with the regulatory requirements set by TRA UAE. The new business solution also enables customers to have real time visibility of the WiFi data consumption. The in-vehicle solution is supported by Etisalat’s M2M control centre and nationwide M2M connectivity. 

Leveraging its state-of-the-art  digital wallet platform, Etisalat is offering the first mobile wallet service in UAE and is transforming its subscribers’ experience by enabling them to use their smartphones to pay utility bills, top up airtime, pay for parking in different cities or purchase a broad range of goods and services, Anglada adds. 

Healthcare and education feature as the priority verticals for the business unit. A recent success on the healthcare side has been the deal with Prime Healthcare Group.  The agreement entails Etisalat to provide an end-to-end managed services solution for the group’s entire network infrastructure to enable their digital transformation. 

In line with Etisalat’s strategy to keep people and corporate culture at the heart of strategy, Etisalat Digital is also focussed on making the maximal investments in human resources, Anglada says. He stresses that people are equally or even more crucial than platforms when it comes to digital. The unit currently employs around 200 personnel. However, there’s a constant look-out for people with specialised skillsets like data scientists, data architects, subject matter experts across each vertical, he adds. In addition to hiring new resources, Etisalat is constantly engaged in re-educating its existing workforce. 

Anglada further draws attention to the fact that, focusing on ‘go digital’ hasn’t meant Etisalat taking its attention off ‘being digital’. He says that the group has a strong digital agenda around internal transformation, wherein, it continues to invest in developing digital capabilities, transforming operating models to become more agile, and adopting, trialling, and rolling out next generation technologies. 

He says that transformation efforts are in full swing across various areas, like the transformation of networks to be more software driven, transformation of digital channels to improve user experience, big data analytics to design personalised offers, and increased automation of business processes to add agility and improve time to market for new services. 

No discussion around digital is complete without the mention of ‘security’. “Digital and security go hand in hand,” Anglada says. “You can’t go digital without understanding the risks considering that your business is going to be much more exposed. Reputation also comes under scanner. Investment in security is hence absolutely  critical.”

Talking about Etisalat Digital’s security preparedness, he says that the unit has a very comprehensive offering. The approach comprises of four pillars: assessing and defining your security requirements, predicting risks specific to the organisation, preventing and detecting attacks with minimum business disruption and quickly responding to incidents. In addition to a portfolio of cyber security and network security solutions, Etisalat has deployed one of the most advanced security operation centres in the Middle East to provide managed security services, Anglada adds. 

While Etisalat is undoubtedly striving to transform from being just a connectivity provider to a platform or digital service provider, the path surely isn’t smooth. Anglada says, the ultimate aim is to provide the best customer experience. Where does it stand compared to digital players like Google, Facebook or Amazon which have set really high benchmarks when it comes to experience? “In some cases we compete with them, while in others we collaborate together. However, we are definitely learning from them. They are inspiring us in the way they do things, the way they collaborate, and the way they practice agility,” he adds. 

Looking ahead five years down the line, Anglada sees Etisalat positioned as a strong player in the digital space. In the next 12 months the unit’s main focus will be to continue growing the digital business by tapping into potential market opportunities and securing key wins in various digital domain.  “In parallel with that, we will be enriching and expanding our digital solutions portfolio by introducing new digital propositions such as Video-Surveillance-As-A-Service (VSaaS), mobile cashier and digital signage solutions. We will also complement our digital offerings with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics capabilities presenting an extra value to our customers,” Anglada adds. Happy with the pace at which the unit is progressing with its projects, Anglada is confident the billion-dollar chase for digital revenues is achievable.

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