The Business Year

Ahmed Hamdan, CEO of Unifonic

SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Ahmed Hamdan

CEO, Unifonic

Bio

As founder and CEO of Unifonic, Ahmed Hamdan is passionate about creating business solutions through the use of accessible and affordable cloud communications. In 2006, he started developing Unifonic, alongside his brother Hassan, in a response to a gap he found in the market during his studies at King Fahd University. The project quickly evolved into a business marking the first chapter of an inspiring success story, now known as Unifonic. Unifonic has gained traction in the regional market, they have earnt the trust of 5,000+ businesses and Ahmed has raised over USD146 million in Series A & B fundings during his time as CEO & Founder. Unifonic’s growth has enabled Ahmed to mentor innovative entrepreneurs and businesses in the region. With his passion for encouraging growth in the industry, Ahmed and Unifonic are aiming to venture into becoming a global pioneer for cloud communications in emerging markets around the world.

“Digital transformation and adoption have accelerated rapidly over the past few years. This new digital landscape provided Unifonic with opportunities to make a positive impact not only as a company but also in industry.”

TBY talks to Ahmed Hamdan, CEO of Unifonic, about the company’s main milestones, rebranding, and digital infrastructure in the KSA.

What were the company’s main milestones in the last year?

Digital transformation and adoption have accelerated rapidly over the past few years. This new digital landscape provided Unifonic with opportunities to make a positive impact not only as a company but also in industry. Now more than ever, our clients rely on technology to connect with colleagues, brands, and businesses. And our platform enables them to create a seamless experience across various channels for their customers. Having evolved quickly as a brand, 2022 was the right time to develop a new identity for Unifonic, encapsulating our vision of creating real moments of connection between people and companies. We announced our rebranding during LEAP, and continued to make an impact at other major technology events across the region. Developing cutting-edge products that meet people’s changing needs has always been key to our success. This year, we launched several new solutions, including Number Masking and Flow Studio. After developing it further and based on client feedback, Flow Studio now has native integrations with over 80 of the world’s leading sales, marketing, support, and operation platforms. Most recently, our Voice solution launched in the UAE, connecting teams and customers through turnkey voice experiences. Investing in opportunities that allow us to strengthen our offering, expand our influence, and deliver our growth objectives will always be part of our roadmap, and in October we announced our acquisition of Sestek. Sestek’s suite of AI-powered conversational solutions empower companies to deliver a superior customer experience, enhancing Unifonic’s product portfolio.

How do you differentiate yourself from other digital companies?

Building relationships with customers takes time, and while our B2B focus allows us to easily integrate with our clients’ ecosystems, it can still be difficult for clients to change. Our goal at Unifonic is to create great client experiences which result in increased customer engagement and more positive experiences. These same customer relationships allow us to monitor any pain points, which in turn help us to develop new products that solve the end customer’s real problems. Our approach in the local market is to be hyper-local, which also differentiates us from the international competition. We work across marketing, infrastructure, engineering, customer success, support, account, managers, and solution engineers. This ensures we truly understand how the products we develop enable our clients and their businesses to succeed and also creates a tight relationship where our solutions are heavily integrated with our client’s success.

What is the process of selecting which companies to invest in and which companies to partner with?

UnifonicX is Unifonic’s accelerator program targeting rising SaaS startups. We support the growth of startups in the region and accelerate their journey through a tailored program. We want to be part of the digital transformation of the region and we do so by sharing our journey with future entrepreneurs and start-ups, whether they are in investing, incubation, accelerator, or venture studio building phases. Earlier this year, we launched the latest cohort of the UnifonicX Accelerator Program in partnership with The Space and participated in the first investment through Unifonic X for the social commerce solution Slide. Additionally, we are investing in talent; if we are able to attract and retain the best people, we create a culture which is innovative and welcoming.

What is the main reason behind Unifonic’s rebranding, and what do you expect to achieve from it?

We have ambitions to diversify the offering of our products and to tap into new areas that have a wider customer experience at its base. We are also looking into new markets beyond GCC and MENA, such as Africa and Asia. Our plan is to have an IPO in the next two to three years. The timing was right for us to refresh the brand; we are still Unifonic, but with a vision that reflects us as we are now. As a company we want to keep focusing on more consistent communication that is more aligned with the clients that we want to target.

As a leader in the digital sector, what is your perspective regarding the advances needed in the digital infrastructure in the KSA?

We have workshops and discussions with many entities who focus on the digital ecosystem to evaluate how we can accelerate transformation. In the last five years, we have made great progress. However, we are continuously working to become pioneers and ensure we have the right policies to accelerate investments, adopt new tech, and the right balance between innovation and complying with national security. More work can be done in these areas and in the private sector, especially regarding start-ups. It is a space that can only flourish if the public and private spheres are aligned and have the same rhythm and goals. One of the key initiatives within Vision 2030 is to triple the contribution in the sector, which is why we launched several initiatives in the last three years. In approximately eight years, we see a different economic structure where the knowledge base and digital base contribute much more to the GDP, and technology plays an integral role.

Unifonic has offices in Dubai, Pakistan, and Jordan and is looking at further expansion. What are your regional ambitions?

Even when we internationalize, our approach is localization. We work with the local governments, we align with the compliance frameworks, data, and privacy frameworks, we hire local team members, we work with local universities to engage talent, and we make an effort to meet key people in the industry. We established ourselves in Saudi this way, and we want to replicate that in as many countries as we can. This works best in technology: thinking global but acting local. Technology is an important asset for any nation, and if you want to succeed as a private tech company you need to align with the ambitions of each nation. That is why we have this end-to-end hyper-local approach. We are launching in Pakistan and have made progress in the UAE and Egypt. We are in the process of looking into the right partnerships for the other countries.

What are Unifonic’s goals and priorities for 2023?

2022 was a year of growth and opportunity at Unifonic. Building on our success, we have big ambitions for 2023. We continue to strive towards improving communication and to allow our clients to engage with their customers on an omnichannel basis with more than five channels from one platform. Other important targets are finding SMEs to join our team, and developing a bandwidth service in the Middle East. We have made a great investment in building our core team that will be responsible for this. SMEs have great growth potential, and we offer an end-to-end approach. Our experience in the last 16 years has taught us that our clients are our best asset, as they create true connections between their customers and the market. A combination of the right features, along with a solid infrastructure and compliance frameworks, has allowed us to stand out in an otherwise crowded industry. Our approach is to work closely with potential and existing clients and exceed their expectations in the way that we deliver, develop, and bring products to the market. This is something that none of our competitors can offer, especially at our speed.

 

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