Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

Unlocking Success: Ayaz Afandi, Managing Partner, Novum Information Technologies Ayaz Afandi, Managing Partner, Novum Information Technologies, discusses how his startup's move from Azerbaijan to Dubai has laid the groundwork for its international expansion.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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

Ayaz Afandi, Managing Partner, Novum Information Technologies

While it is today a part of the UAE's booming digital ecosystem, Novum Information Technologies (Novum) was founded in Azerbaijan in 2016 as a data analytics and reports automation company. "Back then, we were a team of only three people," Ayaz Afandi, Managing Partner, Novum, recalls. "From there, we evolved into a full-scale information technology (IT) service provider, focusing on development of enterprise-level data warehouses with business intelligence-driven reporting, as well as software development services."

Novum's primary goal, therefore, is to transform complex data into a useful and digestible form for businesses. While most of the startup's initial years were spent in Azerbaijan, it opened an office in Dubai in 2021 with hopes to expand its services to the global market. But even before this geographical move, only a year into its launch, Novum found itself getting recognized by tech giant Microsoft.

"In 2017, we initiated a partnership with Microsoft, and dedicated ourselves to growing and learning by developing our competency in multiple streams within Microsoft Cloud, such as artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and independent software vendor (ISV) solutions," Afandi says. "Novum then became a Microsoft Gold Partner in 2019, and later evolved into Solution Partner in Data and AI and Digital and App Innovation, which is the title we currently hold."

According to Afandi, the lessons learnt through being affiliated with Microsoft have helped shape Novum into the entity it is today. "Currently, our services include providing consulting for digital transformation, which include but are not limited to data warehousing, business intelli- gence tools/reporting, and custom software development based on tailored requirements," he says. "In our offerings, we use services/applications from Microsoft, as well as our own custom-build solutions. Using this approach, we can advise not only established and mature companies for their digital upgrades or shifts, but also companies that have no advanced IT solutions, on how to build things from scratch."

Related: Continuing Amid Crisis: Endurance Matters

But Afandi is quick to add that his enterprise's ability to look deep into what its clients require -on a case-by- case basis- makes Novum much more than just a regular tech enterprise. "We are not like those traditional IT companies that only focus on solution sales, or deliver only what customers want, or think is suitable for them," he continues. "We help to work on requirements, plan IT budgets for our clients, adjust licensing costs, and try to be as flexible as possible in order to support their daily operations and payments. We believe looking into the needs of clients, and understanding their business is the most important factor for success."

But while Afandi is confident such an approach can help Novum grow internally and externally, he remains acutely aware of the knowledge gaps that first need to be filled in order to fulfill his enterprise's vision. "We are working on expanding our services for digital transformation consulting beyond what the traditional services offer, but what the market currently suffers from is that there are always lags between consulting and the implementation of those consultations," he says. "When you get into the actual work, you face different challenges and obstacles that were not considered or assessed. This then increases tension on the customer side. This also creates complications when customers want certain things, but they do not have a solid foundation to build it."

A big reason for this glaring gap, Afandi says, is the tendency among businesses to rush into digital transformation journeys without first understanding the technologies behind them. "For example, certain companies want to build data warehouses, without having proper enterprise resource planning (ERP), or even capturing data at an ERP level," Afandi explains. "Building a data warehouse in such a situation renders it useless even if it is executed properly. With the next era of AI and machine learning (ML) coming in, there are many companies that want to build AI and ML models without incorporating proper historical data and data warehouses. Sometimes, they just rush into the trend, and then realize that certain required elements are not there. Unfortunately, some IT companies still push for such things, and the consequent failure leads to mass detachment, or trust issues with partners and customers. I would therefore advise business leaders to carefully consult with proper compa- nies, look into references, and really understand the technological and data needs first before taking any decision on such matters."

But while paying attention to the technological infrastructure has been one aspect of Novum's operations, there's been equal importance given to the human element of business as well. And according to Afandi, being based in the UAE has proven to be the ideal location to marry those two approaches. "Dedication is the only key to success, no matter where you are in terms of region and constructive approach, but one of the most important things to be mindful of wherever you are is culture," Afandi says. "If you work in the UAE, you have to be able to understand different cultures. as the country is very much multinational/multilingual. The ability to communicate and interact on a daily basis with Emiratis, for instance, can be a very big advantage, and it can help you understand how things work in the UAE. Personally, I have been friends with many Emiratis and exposed to the culture for quite a long period, and I've always found them to be very welcoming and supportive people to be around. So, the ability to understand cultures is something that I consider a very big add-on value to success."

However, Afandi makes it clear that startups need to be patient whilst seeking results. "For any business, on an average, it could take up to three years to understand the market, and to be able to achieve anything," Afandi says. "And despite all the points I've mentioned earlier, the main thing for success is that you have to deliver! The work and performance must be there; otherwise, there is no room for success. No matter what you do, or how you do it, this is ultimately the ultimate key to being successful- if you can't deliver results, then the above listed points are just mere add-ons."

Related: The UAE's Crypto Powerhouse: Munaf Ali, Co-Founder And Group Managing Director, Phoenix Group

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.

Side Hustle

The Side Hustle He Started at Age 15 Led to a $4 Billion Boon for Small Businesses: 'They Would Take a Chance on Me With Their Hard-Earned Money'

Nic Beique asked his local barber, gym and more if they'd like him to build a website for their businesses.

Starting a Business

How to Find the Right Programmers: A Brief Guideline for Startup Founders

For startup founders under a plethora of challenges like timing, investors and changing market demand, it is extremely hard to hire programmers who can deliver.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Scarlett Johansson 'Shocked' That OpenAI Used a Voice 'So Eerily Similar' to Hers After Already Telling the Company 'No'

Johansson asked OpenAI how they created the AI voice that her "closest friends and news outlets could not tell the difference."

Starting a Business

Five Tips For Achieving Co-Founder Alignment

Being proactive in making a regular commitment to review your strategic leadership of the business is the best way to avoid terminal blow-ups.

Social Media

TikTok Launches Its First-Ever Global Social Impact Creator Elevation Program, TikTok Change Makers Program

TikTok unveils its inaugural global list of TikTok Change Makers, comprising 50 purpose-driven creators from around the world, who advocate, inspire, and educate their communities to drive collective change on TikTok and beyond.