Sunday, November 27, 2011

IFSEC Saudi: Religion As Brand Identity

I couldn't help but to compare what I had observed in the two Islamic stronghold countries that I had visited, Iran a few years back, and Saudi Arabia just last week. 

Wearing of headscarf is compulsory for all women in Iran but their pieces of clothing and headscarves can be fashionable and colorful. This headscarf ruling is applied to foreign women too. But black is the only permitted color for women in Saudi; they put on black headscarves, black veils, shapeless Abaya black gowns covering from head to toe, exposing only a pair of flickering eyes, and some even covered their eyes with black veils too. But for foreign women, while headscarf and veil are not enforced, black gown is obligatory. With Saudi men wearing their traditional white robe and their women put on the black ones, such contrast is so eye-catching in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi, and located in the middle of Arabia in a desert environment.

Alcohol is forbidden and entertainments are scarce in both countries but you get more Western TV channels in Saudi than in Iran. Facebook is banned in Iran, but I could gain access in Saudi. It had made my stay in Saudi slightly entertained.

Segregation of different sexes is a common scene at the food corners in Saudi. All shops are closed during prayer times which did not happen in Iran.

Segregation of sexes at the food corner

Generally, Saudi women are not allowed to work and they are not allowed to drive by law. Even at the women cosmetic counters at the shopping mall, only salesmen were around to serve you. The IFSEC Arabia observed the similar scenario, the religion extended its grip to bar all female exhibitors from entering the hall, making the exhibition the all-male show.

IFSEC Arabia was relatively small, occupied only a small hall with less than 100 exhibitors. Since FingerTec is a famous biometrics brand in the Kingdom of Saudi, and we already have a few active and performing resellers, our participation's purpose was mainly to meet with them and to understand this unique market better. 

Visitors gather at our booth
ItQan's Mr. Mohammed Naiem Ewidah (right)  and Mr. Mohamed Adbulmoniem Abdul Mustafa (left)

To name a few who came include Global System's Technical Manager, Mr. Mohamed Abdelatif from Jeddah who came on the first day, ItQan International's Project Manager and Sales Engineer, Mr. Mohammed Naiem Ewidah and Mr. Mohamed Abdulmoniem Abdul Mustafa from Dammam who came on Day 2 and 3 to help us at the booth. We also had a good conversation with ZulTec’s Sales Manager Mr. Mohammad Munir and SecuTech Arabia’s Pre-Sales Consultant and Sales Manager Mr. Mohammad Shahzad and Mr. Rauf Anwar Mohammad and Proline UK’s Assistant Manager Mr. Nasiruldin Y. Sulaiman who dropped by our booth. We also took the opportunity to meet Innokat Saudi’s Deputy Managing Director and e-Business Director Mr. Ali S. Al-Farhan and Mr. Naser Abu Al-Haji who become our partner this year, and active in government projects in Riyadh.

Islam was originated in Saudi Arabia in the 6th century, and spread fast to the Middle East and later to the rest of the world. With over 1.5 billion followers as of 2009 or over 22% of earth’s population, Islam is now the second largest and one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.

Over centuries, the major religions have evolved an astonishing ability to extract loyalty, unswerving devotion and financial contributions from their adherents, which must make them a fairly appealing business model to emulate as to yield brand identity and brand loyalty. 

The iconic tower, Burj Al Mamlakah or Kingdom Centre

And, if we see FingerTec in a religion perspective, the logo as the religion symbol; the philosophical ideology as a fundamental principle; the global reseller program as a basic teaching; the online resources as a doctrine to instill beliefs; and the resellers as evangelists, we have no doubt why our brand has religiously spread in over 120 countries.

The different of Islam between Iran and Saudi, and in other different countries, as Graham E. Fuller, a political scientist has put it, there is one Islam, but many different ways Muslims live and interpret it that differ greatly from country to country, age to age, issue from issue, person to person. In fact, Islam is what Muslims think Islam is, as well as way they want it to be. And they differ, as do adherents of other faiths.

And I see our localization efforts and product customizations to fulfill certain requirements fit into this explanation, but FingerTec still remains as One Brand. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Economic Crisis Yet Again?

All eyes are on Euro Zone crisis. If the dangling Greece debt turmoil could not find its way out which seems quite likely, the crisis which has been plaguing the Euro Zone could be spiralling as an enormous hurricane that would hit the world's economy anytime soon. This pessimist analysis by some experts masks the world's economy with a layer of dark clouds.
Belt tighten during downturn?

When some companies look out the window, frown at the gloomy skies and decide to cut costs to prepare for their years ahead, thankfully our plans for next year would not be affected.

We have hired more programmers to speed up our research and development works; aggressively preparing for new software and hardware products for the coming years. We continue to recruit a few more technicians and we have extended the support hours to include midnight to early morning, and with this decision, we have reduced the gap of 'support staff unavailable online' to three hours a day, and prolonged the technical assistance to 19 hours per day.

If the sky is gloomy, it's alright, have your umbrella ready. We are not immune from the economic slowdown. When the subprime crisis hit in 2009, our turnover was recorded only slight increase as compared to the previous year, but while being prudent we carried out all activities like normal and we didn't even cut the annual trip to Shanghai.

This year, as usual, our staff who receive an incentive trip to Gold Coast, Australia is about to depart this evening. On advertising and promotion, we just signed up for advertisement packages on two prominent security magazines, A&S International and Detektor International for the whole of next year, and we plan to take part in more than ten tradeshows worldwide.

More new products are in our pipeline, with one particular 7-inch touch screen new iKiosk that runs on Android platform to excite everybody and I. This would mark a new milestone to our product line, because besides the bundling of standard applications, customers can now have more control of their own terminals, and download Apps they feel useful from the Google Android Apps Store. It would serve as an amazing administration kiosk that does multiple purposes for office environment.

Artist impression for our upcoming new iKiosk

When you are a start up company, struggle is normal even during the economic booming years. But for established companies, if you are only making good money during good times and losing money, having to cut costs and retrench workers during bad times, then I don't think you are competent enough companies.

To continue making money during bad times, a company should take various aspects other than only sales figures into account during good times. Instead of focusing on only sales growth, one should think of its biological growth as well. Without one holistic perspective, your business field may remain barren even during the harvest season.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ