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Saudi Unicorns: KSA-Based Unifonic Is Offering A One-Stop-Solution For Businesses To Digitally Communicate With Diverse Customer Bases Targeting both major enterprises as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Unifonic caters to a wide range of industries, including retail, healthcare, e-commerce, and banking, among many others.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Ahmed Hamdan, is the co-founder and CEO of Unifonic, a conversational AI platform.

This article is part of a series covering enterprises that have been a part of the Saudi Unicorns Program, a national program by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), National Technology Development Program (NTDP), and the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (Misk), to enable and nurture successful and established tech companies to reach unicorn status in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The need to create customer engagement platforms that facilitate conversations across multiple channels was born largely due to the shift from brick-and-mortar retail outlets to online and hybrid options. In fact, multiple reports suggest that the term "omnichannel" was introduced to -and gained momentum in- the marketing world only in 2010. However, four years before that, in 2006, Ahmed Hamdan, founder and CEO of cloud-based B2B customer engagement platform Unifonic, had already begun to scratch the surface of this concept. "In 2006, the Middle East faced significant limitations in mobile internet connectivity and access to social media platforms," Hamdan recalls. "Traditional short message service (SMS) was the primary mode of communication, as even Blackberry Messenger had restrictions on the number of people an individual could message at a time. To address this communication gap, we developed Resalaty, a website enabling users to upload numerous contacts and simultaneously message them. However, we were university students who needed more business sense, financial plans, and a startup ecosystem to guide us. Despite these challenges, our platform gained traction and eventually rebranded to Unifonic. Today, Unifonic provides conversational artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, including SMS, WhatsApp, voice, chatbot solutions, and mobile push notifications to a diverse and extensive customer base."

Designed as a conversational AI platform and software as a service (SaaS) provider, Unifonic focuses specifically on customer engagement and communication. "Unifonic enables businesses to automate customer support, marketing, and other operations, further eliminating operational setbacks," Hamdan adds. "Unifonic's platform has been designed to cater to a wide range of clients, from large banks to on-demand service apps. The company's business model centers on providing a single, integrated platform allowing businesses to communicate with their customers through their preferred channels without coding. This is achieved by leveraging programmable application programming interfaces (APIs), which are sets of rules that enable different software applications to communicate with each other. The company generates revenue by charging its clients for the consumption and usage of its platform and services. The platform helps businesses generate leads, accelerate sales, and improve customer engagement. Additionally, it offers solutions for streamlining customer fulfillment and workforce operations."

Targeting both major enterprises as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs), Unifonic caters to a wide range of industries, including retail, healthcare, e-commerce, and banking, among many others. "We process over 10 billion transactions annually, each contributing to an enhanced experience for our clients and their customers," Hamdan adds. "In today's rapidly evolving landscape, businesses increasingly embrace innovative technologies like cloud solutions and seek integrated platforms to manage their communication needs. SaaS emerges as a pivotal player in this space by offering organizations a flexible, cost-effective means to access and utilize software tools, revolutionizing business operations by streamlining processes, boosting productivity, and fostering innovation. By leveraging our SaaS solutions, businesses can expand their revenue opportunities, ease the strain on customer support, and offer a better customer experience overall."

The Unifonic team. Source: Unifonic

Hamdan also believes that it is Unifonic's SaaS model that lends the company the opportunity to create a tangible impact in the industry it operates in. "Thanks to cloud communications solutions, what once seemed like a distant vision of seamless customer interaction is now within reach," he says. "Gone are the days when achieving effective customer engagement required a substantial up-front investment, a large development team, or a lengthy and complex project. You also no longer need to purchase expensive services from your telecom provider. Welcome to the era of integrated, cloud-based engagement! With our communication APIs, applications (including Chatbot Builder, Agent Console, and Multi-Channel Campaign), and a marketplace featuring connectors and other add-ons, and comprehensive technical support, you can test a new customer communication channel within 24 hours of sign up."

Related: Saudi Arabia's Economic Transformation: Educating For A Diversified Future

However, the founder notes that adopting effective technology and the subsequent ease of integration aren't Unifonic's only differentiating factors. "We proactively maintain a competitive edge by prioritizing several critical aspects of our operations," Hamdan says. "Firstly, we strive to function locally whilst adhering to global standards. This includes allocating additional technical, project, product, sales enablement, and marketing resources tailored to each market we serve. We aim to deliver a personalized, multilingual experience that aligns with regional cybersecurity protocols and data protection regulations. We recognize the unique needs of emerging businesses, requiring a deep understanding of market dynamics and challenges. There needs to be more than a one-size-fits-all approach in this context. Unifonic has garnered a reputable standing as the premier platform in the MENA region that seamlessly integrates with over 100 SaaS systems. Our broad client base also highlights the versatility and wide applicability of Unifonic's solutions. In the future, Unifonic aims to sustain its growth by expanding its geographic reach and enhancing its product offerings. The company plans to invest in cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to deliver even more advanced customer engagement solutions."

With such a thorough implementation of its vision, Unifonic has also laid a clear map for its journey to becoming a unicorn. With a team that has already crossed 400 employees, and having recorded consistent growth in its annual recurring revenue over the years, Hamdan believes his company already reflects two key traits of becoming a unicorn: scalability and sustainability. And enrolling in the Saudi Unicorns program has been exactly the catalyst Unifonic needs at this stage of its growth, with Hamdan describing it as "a truly transformative experience" for his team. "As a part of the program, we were mentored by leading entrepreneurs and industry experts, who helped us hone Unifonic's business model and operational strategies," he says. "The Saudi Unicorns program has also provided invaluable mentorship, networking opportunities, and access to resources that have accelerated our growth. The program has significantly impacted our strategic planning and operational efficiency, allowing us to scale more effectively. The mentorship and support have been instrumental in navigating challenges and seizing growth opportunities."

Source: Unifonic

With Saudi Arabia being the homeland of Hamdan and his fellow founders, Unifonic's story understandably began in the Kingdom. But Hamdan is quick to note that even when they were just starting out (i.e. in 2006), the growth potential of the Kingdom was clearly evident to those who already were a part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. "The country's quickly expanding economy and welcoming startup culture were highly beneficial," Hamdan adds. "The nation's advantageous and strategic location and robust government support for entrepreneurship, mainly through initiatives such as Vision 2030, created a favorable atmosphere for us to establish and expand our company. Our business objectives precisely align with the Vision's focus on fostering technologydriven companies and economic diversification.… We are proudly Saudi-born, and we chose Saudi Arabia as our starting market due to its rapidly growing economy and the government's support for technological innovation, guiding us toward a successful venture."

It is this focus on innovation that the Unifonic team found was highly encouraged within the Saudi Unicorns program. "It facilitated an environment that encouraged ground-breaking ideas, which helped us build resilience, while remaining steadfast in our commitment to growth and innovation," he explains. "The program nurtures an ecosystem rooted in innovation to pave the way for the success of emerging startups. Initiatives like Saudi Unicorns play a vital role in ensuring that newer generations of entrepreneurs are given the necessary support to thrive. To bolster the regional tech landscape, the program provides promising entrepreneurs with the essential tools and resources to ensure global competence."

And it is this confidence to go global that Hamdan hopes to keep alive within his company, as Unifonic slowly but steadily starts planning for international expansion. "In line with our commitment to pushing boundaries and fostering innovation, we are keeping close tabs on emerging trends in the digital transformation across the MENA region and globally while also adopting a cautious approach and focusing on fewer markets, where we can forge a more solidified position," Hamdan reveals. "We are pleased to have recently opened new offices in Cairo, Egypt, Lahore, Pakistan, and, in fact, our new head office in Riyadh, KSA, as part of our efforts to expand our footprint. We are eager to work closely with various businesses to help them achieve their goals and build successful customer relationships. At present, however, our main goal remains the expansion of our reach across Saudi Arabia and to unlock more opportunities in the GCC region. However, soon, we intend to grow into the USA and Europe."

Related: Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed Urges Entrepreneurs To Leverage Regional Strengths Over Replicating Foreign Models

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Editor, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is particularly keen on writing stories involving people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.


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