Sunday, December 9, 2012

Digital Media and Strategic Analysis of Football Clubs in Qatar

Foottball is very popular in Qatar, with large number of clubs located across various regions such as Doha, Al Rayyan etc. In the next ten years Qatar will be conducting the biggest Football event, the world cup in 2022. Govt. is seeking huge investments to develop state of the art infrastructure. Preparations for World Cup 2022 coupled with a young demographics and high per capita income will further boost the popularity of the game.

Keeping all this in mind the article has been prepared. The purpose of the blog article is to provide across the spectrum analysis of Football clubs based out of Qatar. The information in the report could be used to consult Football clubs devising their digital strategy besides managing their brand image and sponsorship deals as well. Findings in this report were drawn from online resources such as club websites, sponsor’s websites, club social media pages, web analysis tools such Alexa, local newspaper websites and other Football related websites and blogs.

1.0 Qatar: a brief introduction
Qatar is one of the richest nations in the world. The small gulf state with a population of 1.8 million has been blessed with immense amount of petroleum resources. The overall current GDP is 182.98 Billion USD and per capita GNI (Gross national income) is USD 80, 440.
As a part of its long term strategy Qatar is diversifying its economy into other alternate areas such as tourism, sports, real estate etc.

Fig 2: growth of internet penetration in terms of percentages of population for Qatar. Source: World Bank.
                            Fig 1: GDP growth rate of Qatar. Source: World Bank

Qatar: Demographics
The estimated population is around 1.8 million, with population skewed towards the younger population. Around 22 percentages of population is aged below 14, whereas more than three fourth of the population is aged between, 15 and 64. Only 1.5 percentages of population is aged above 64. The median age is 30.8- 32.9 for males and 25.5 for females. Qatar also has a very high urbanization rate with 96 percentages of inhabitants living in urban area.

Qatar: Mobile and Internet Consumption
High GDP growth rate and per capita income coupled with a young population has resulted in high mobile and internet penetration for Qatar. According to World Bank, it is estimated that around 81.6 percentages of population have access

Fig 2: growth of internet penetration in terms of percentages of population for Qatar. Source: World Bank.

Internet is primarily used in Qatar for social networking and connecting with friends. According to a survey conducted by and YouGov, 94 percentages of respondents have a Facebook account. 72 percentages of respondents spend more than three hours online. Other important activities include watching video clips and listening to music.  

According to, Qatar’s mobile penetration stands at 182 percentages, compared to the world average of 76. Qatar is seeking huge investments in the ICT infrastructure.

Qatar: Sports  
Qatar is transforming into sports capital of Middle East. It has made huge investments in developing state of the art sports infrastructure.
Its efforts in transforming into a sporting hub of international repute, paid off in December 2010, when it was declared that World Cup 2022 will be conducted in Qatar. In the coming years, the gulf state will be seeking huge investments to develop state of the art stadiums, hotels and infrastructure. Qatar is also hosting Hand Ball World Cup 2015. In the recent past it has organized Asian Games 2006 along with international level annual Tennis, Golf and Motor Race events.  It has also bid unsuccessfully for Olympics 2020
Basic Observations

Some of the basic observations that has been observed are-
a)      Clubs are cash rich in Qatar and most of them have a healthy mix of local as well as foreign talents- both in sporting as well as managerial work force.

b)      It appears that many clubs may not have a very clear sponsorship strategy in place. It can be assumed from the fact that, many clubs do not feature the name of their sponsors on their website. Neither much about the sponsors can be gathered from the internet.

c)      Newer forms of media such as web, mobile and social media are transforming the existing media space. For countries like Qatar, young demographics coupled with high internet and mobile penetration further intensifies the significance of newer media. It appears that some clubs are still not aligned well with web, mobile and social media platforms. This can be partly explained from the fact that many of them are missing out on using polls, forums and shopping carts in their websites. Many clubs do not have focused social media strategy. Also there could be lot of other innovative techniques used such as QR codes, which can help engage fans better with the help of mobile platforms.

d)     Many of the clubs do not have bilingual websites. It may be difficult to understand, as Qatar has large number of expat population. Also as many clubs want to have international standing in near future, having website in English is unavoidable.

e)      It calls upon the some clubs to use more and more corporate social responsibilities in the form of health and fitness awareness programs for the local populace. This will help them engage better with the local populace. Also CSR should be well represented on the club website.
Image Credit:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

African Telecommunication Market- Key Insights


Besides digital media, telecommunication is one of the sectors that have always excited me. Partly it is due to the close relationship it has with the digital media and partly because I have been offered some research assignment on telecom sector in the recent past. Based on my readings I have been doing recently, I have tried to build a small snapshot of the emerging telecom landscape in African continent. Most of the readings are derived from Com World Series blogs.

Mobile penetration in Sub Saharan Africa will reach 54% by the end of 2012, up from 28% in 2007.

Africa is the fastest growing mobile market in the world. By 2015 the overall investment in the telecommunication sector is expected to reach USD 1.5 billion.

African telecom market is considered to be a very high competition intensive market.

96 % of Africans are on prepaid traffic.

Often mobile is the sole mean of communication.

SMS is very popular. Integration of SMS and OTT can offer a great area for exploration.

Fraud and error result in 15% of revenue loss in Africa. In contrast it is just 1% and 2.8 % in Europe and North America respectively.

Revenue per customer is low.

The Inter Operator Rate (IOT) is very high in Africa. It eventually results in high international roaming rates in the sub continent.

In African context, music is one of the very important contents.

The overall smart phone penetration in Africa stands at 15 percent, half of the global average of 30 percent. However it is picking up in many low per capita income countries as well. Also many of the countries have started exploring LTE (4G). This includes Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia and South Africa. It is expected that by 2015, the overall LTE subscription will be around 11.15 million in Africa

Technology and telecommunication services in businesses and SME are considered to be high growth segment.

The overall smart phone penetration in Africa stands at 15 percent, half of the global average of 30 percent. However it is picking up in many low per capita income countries as well. Also many of the countries have started exploring LTE (4G). This includes Egypt, Libya, Kenya, Nigeria, Namibia and South Africa. It is expected that by 2015, the overall LTE subscription will be around 11.15 million in Africa.

As of 4Q, 2010 the biggest African market in terms of subscribers is Nigeria. This is followed by Egypt, South Africa, Algeria and Morocco.

As of 2Q, 2011 the Seychelles has the highest mobile penetration of 181 percent. This is followed by Botswana (133), South Africa (115), Morocco (110) and Tunisia (108).

South Africa is one of the biggest markets in the continent in terms of high end services. It accounts for more than 50 % of the fiber optics. In 2013 it will be focusing more and more on high end services such as video streaming, video conferencing, electronic newspaper and money transfer.  

Egypt is the biggest market in the North African region with 8.82 million mobile (100% penetration) and 7.62 million 3G subscription as of 2011. North Africa’s strengths lay in its youthful and colorful people, high purchasing power (compared to Sub Saharan Africa) and growth prospects in data services. Its challenges lay in intensive competition, saturated market and political uncertainty.     

Telecom service providers should offer a basket of service from which consumers can select desired services. Coming to business customers, they need to play a strong consultative role. 

Image Credit:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Singapore: Digital Media Statistics

My interest in Singapore is based on three factors. First, I have been impressed a lot by the unprecedented growth it has registered in the last four decades. Once a sleepy town which was expelled out of Malaysia due to various reasons; it has come a long way to evolve as center for trade, tourism and innovation. Second I was commissioned a consultancy assignment early this year, which involved devising a social media strategy for an organization based out of Singapore. This helped me understand the nuances of digital media consumption for Singapore. Third and perhaps the most important reason is my recent association with Jade Magnet, an India based creative crowd sourcing platform. Jade Magnet has a white label brand called id8on particularly created for the Singapore and greater Asia Pacific region. A part of my role with Jade Magnet involves doing some marketing and branding exercise for id8on.

This small analysis has been prepared to give a snap shot of the digital media consumption behavior of Singapore. It could be helpful for digital media consultants, research agencies, business strategists and business owners.

The population of Singapore is 5.184 million. The overall GDP is estimated around USD 239.7 billion and per capita gross national income stands at USD 42, 930 (high income group).
Singapore is a leader in global innovation and ranks 3rd in Global Innovation Index after Switzerland and Sweden.

Internet penetration stands at 78.5 percent with over 3.6 million inhabitants having access to internet.

The overall mobile penetration stands at around 150 percent as of late 2011. Over three fourth of the mobile subscription comprises of 3G networks.

Smart phone penetration stands at 88 percent, i-Phones are the market leader in smart phone segment with around 73 percent market share. Android based operating systems account for 17 percent of the market.

Smart phone usage is more or less equally distributed across different age group, gender and income level.

Internet access via Wi-Fi and 3G network is more or less equally split with Wi-Fi and 3G accounting for 45 and 55 percent access respectively.
Google is the leading search engine with 77 percent market share.
In 2010 the overall e-commerce in Singapore was worth over a billion USD, unlikely for a small country where things are available nearby. It is expected to be fourfold by 2014, according to research conducted by PayPal.
28 percent of the e-commerce activities are from the travel sector followed by fashion (13), IT/electronics (13) and gifts and collectibles (11).
In 2011 m-commerce accounted for 23 percent of online spend. The overall value of m-commerce was USD 382 million where as the spend each mobile shopper was around USD 354.
The city state is adopting Near Field Communication (NFC) faster than any other country. Presently there are over 20,000 shops and taxis accepting NFC.
In April 2010, an average internet user spent 10.5 hours watching video averaging 130 videos. The most engaged demographic segment was 15-24 age group watching 192 videos.

4 out of 5 internet users have a Facebook account. Five most popular Facebook pages include- LAMC Productions, Singapore Flyer, Resorts World at Sentosa, Justin NG Photography and FlyScoot. 
You Tube accounts for over 61 percent of the multimedia traffic.

Image Source: Apple

Monday, November 12, 2012

Qatar: Digital Media Insights

Following are the “Key Insights” derived from the Qatar Digital Media Report 2011. (The report is based on a survey conducted over 633 respondents from Qatar.) It could be helpful to media companies, researchers, strategist and web and mobile entrepreneurs.

·         Qatar's digital media is considered to be in its nascent stage. However double digit growth is expected for another four years, pertaining to high investment in Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure, young demographics and higher technology adoption rate.

·         95 % of the very large businesses (> 500 employees), 68% of large businesses (>100 employees), 40 % of medium (10-99 employees) businesses and 6 % of small businesses (fewer than 10 employees) in Qatar have web presence.

·         Overall internet penetration in Qatar stands high at 82%. Mobile broadband penetration has increased by 130 % during the time period 2009-10.

·         Majority of internet user fall under low to mid income groups. More than 90 % of users at least have a high school degree.

·         One fifth of the internet users, which include students, housewives and retired person are not involved in labor market.

·         Internet users in Qatar use internet through multiple mediums such as laptop, desktop and mobile phones. 75 % use laptops, 51% use desktops and 24% use mobile devices to access internet.

·         Majority (89%) of users, access internet from home.

·         Most popular sites in Qatar include social media, search engines, e-newspapers and news channels.

·         Most popular social media is Facebook (28.3 % penetration) followed by Orkut and Twitter as distant second and third.

·         The most popular search engine is Google followed by Yahoo and MSN.

·         The most popular e-newspaper website is Gulf Times followed by Al-Sharq and Al-Raya.

·         Internet users in Qatar do not tend to watch TV programs or listen to radio songs over internet. However technologies enabling better video streaming can change the trend in near future.

·         42% of internet users have their native language as Arabic. In spite of this, there is a dearth of good quality Arabic contents both in Qatar as well as in the Middle East region.  

·         Outsourcing of website is very popular as 69 % of companies with website host their website with external vendor. (44% use a local provider where as 25 % use  international provider)

·         Online marketing and e-commerce are gaining popularity. However online advertisements are not very popular. Only 14 % of organizations use the web media to promote their products and services. 40 % of large organizations use online advertisements compared to just 11 % of smaller ones.

·         Internet security is a major concern as 43 % of users are not assured of the security features over the internet. 

Friday, August 31, 2012 MENA's First Crowdfunding Platform

In the present scenario where the gloom of global economic crisis is yet to be over and banks are tightening their purse strings; alternative fund raising methods like Crowd Funding are picking up fast. It is the method of attracting investment from a crowd of people- each of whom takes a small stake in the business idea by contributing towards an online funding target. In contrast to angel investment where a single (or a few) individual or institution provides majority of investments; Crowd Funding seeds capital from a number of investors. This alternative method of raising capital was 1st popularized in USA by Crowd funding is not just restricted to the realm of business and can be effectively translated into creative designs and charities. According to, an organization involved in tracking the industry trends, a capital of US $ 1.5 Billion was raised in 2011 through 450 crowd funding platforms worldwide.   

Crowd funding has following advantages:
·         Can be successfully used for fund raising for multitude purposes such as: businesses, creative projects, product development, disaster reliefs, creative design etc.
·         Ensures safety as the process is very transparent and democratic.
·         Helps in accessing capital from a wide range of sources.
·         Helps in garnering useful feedbacks from the backers.
·         Helps turning investors into brand ambassadors.
·         Facilitates learning for small investors under the guidance of big and veteran investors.
·         Effective usage of internet, social media and online payment technologies help in negation of legal, psychological and logistical challenges for money solicitation.

Along with advantages, crowd funding is not insulated from some potential threats as well. It can expose an innovative idea to a large number of potential copycats. The tax and regulation involved in a crowd funding system can be sometime difficult to work with.

Eureeca is the 1st ever crowd investment platform in the MENA region, which brings together entrepreneurs, investors, business experts under one umbrella. Started by former investment bankers and entrepreneurs, Chris Thomas and Sam Quawasmi, Eureeca is aimed at transforming the SME funding landscape in the region, so far dominated by traditional venture capitalism model. It will help entrepreneurs to source investment from a vast pool of investors, which in return will get equity in the venture. The minimum investment criteria have been kept as USD 100, so that a high degree of involvement and democracy in the system can be realized.

Considered as a very technology and legal heavy system is being incubated since the last one year. It has get past its beta stage last month in June and will be officially launched in the 1st week of September in Dubai, UAE.

How it Works
Eureeca will work as a step by step simple process. It appears that, the overall system has been tried to make as democratic and transparent as possible. Initial stage requires entrepreneurs to sign up and submit a proper business plan with exact capital required. The plan is reviewed by an application team. The application team will look into how professional and organized the plan is, and once verified it will be carried forward to the third party compliance team. They will conduct a background check up that will include legal and credit history. In the subsequent step, the business plan will be assigned a template in the Eureeca moment website. This is the stage, when the plan goes live in front of public, which includes investors (both big and small time) and business experts. The investors can communicate directly with the entrepreneur, discuss and vote on the plan. Not to mention, share and discuss with other investors. 
The proposal remains live for the next three months, in which it is required to raise the desired capital. The window of three months prevents against any overnight decision on part of the investor. Investors can understand the overall plan thoroughly and based on that take a call.

In the overall process Eureeca will get 5 percentages of the transaction amount. This is subject to the investment being materialized completely.

Safeguard of investor’s interest

Crowd funding is associated with the threat of exposing the idea to a large number of potential copy cats. In order to contain the problem, gating system has been introduced in Eureeca. Initially the entrepreneur can show a little information to a large pool of investors and gradually when the trust builds, further information can be shared with the interested few.
Another remarkable feature is, approval of proposal is subject to raise of exact capital required in the original business plan. If it fails to comply that, the plan is rejected. For instance suppose  a plan requires an overall funding of USD 500,000 but ends up collecting 450,000 USD, it will not get materialize. The philosophy behind the idea is again about safe guarding investor’s interest. Lack of required capital may not be good for the business and hence jeopardize the investments made by early investors.

The Way Ahead

Presently there are more than 200,000 SMEs in UAE alone, generating up to 46 percentage of GDP and 86 percentage of employment. In spite of playing a vital role in the economy, SMEs are facing various challenges. Biggest of them is lack of funding. Many SMEs with sound ideas are wiped off due to lack of capital. In such a situation a crowd funding platform like Eurrecca, which leverages on the strength of 2.2 billion internet users spread across globe, for funding can become a game changer. 
It can provide the necessary capital for many of the brilliant ideas in the MENA region, hence helping the blooming start up culture in the region. Along with entrepreneurs, there is a huge incentive involved for investors as well. They will be exposed to wonderful ideas and get chance to invest in them. Moreover many small investors can be in touch with more experienced bigger investors and business experts, which can be a great learning experience for them. This will further escalate the entrepreneurial atmosphere in the region.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

MENA: a fertile ground for entrepreneurs to flourish

                                   Oasis 500: a leading start-up incubator based in Jordan                       

Global trade & commerce are undergoing rapid transformation. In this newly integrated & globalized world, a new wave of change is being witnessed across various regions & geographies. Equipped with education, technology & better credit – a new generation of entrepreneurs are emerging across the globe. One of the regions, which have made strides in the given direction, is Middle East & North Africa (MENA) - a region traditionally known for oil revenue.  In the recent past, it had witnessed a lot of young entrepreneurs coming up with new game changing ideas.

Though entrepreneurial culture is in its initial phases, its overall economic & social significance is expected to undergo a rapid escalation, in the near future. This expected escalation- could be explained with the help of inherent strengths – associated with the social-economic & demographic structure of the region. MENA has some unique features that make it a fertile ground for entrepreneurs to flourish. The given analysis will discuss some of the features in details.

 Common Language
One of the biggest strength of the region is the usage of a common language. Arabic is used for communication across the region. A single language coupled with common cultural heritage, makes the entire region an integrated market. A successful business concept in one country could be successfully replicated across other countries as well.

Strategic Location

MENA’s geographical position is a bridge head between the East & West. This makes it a suitable ground for expats to come from different parts of the world- Europe, China, Indian Subcontinent, and South East Asia etc. For instance UAE is home to 206 different nationalities. This ensures confluence of diverse & innovative ideas providing intellectual capital.
Favorable strategic location of MENA region can also ensure access to bigger emerging markets such as Europe, India & China.
 Strategic plans & initiatives
 MENA economies are realizing the importance of economic diversification. Across the region , ambitious plans such as Dubai 2015, Abu Dhabi 2030, Qatar 2022  etc are being rolled out.
These plans are aimed at diversification of economies into various sectors such as – tourism, ICT, heavy industries, real estate’s & SME etc. A common feature across all such plans is to support entrepreneurs by providing financial as well as intellectual support. Once being realized, these plans can be very impactful in driving an entrepreneurial culture throughout the entire region.
Along with such ambitious strategic plans there are also a large number of initiatives such as – Oasis 500, Wamda, Khalifa Fund, SME Evolution, YallaStartup etc. These initiatives are aimed at providing across the spectrum services to Start Ups & SMEs such as funding, incubation, consultancy & training etc.

Young Demographics

Across the MENA region, population is heavily skewed towards the youth. In Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) countries, 60 % of the population is aged below 35. Similarly in Egypt & Tunisia youth constitutes a large part of the population. Youths are generally open to new ideas & quickly adopt new technologies. Hence a young demographic is conducive for the growth & development of entrepreneurship.

Foreign Universities

Foreign universities are expanding rapidly in the MENA region. For instance Doha Education City, Qatar is home to some of the best educational institutes such as Carnegie Mellon University, Texas AM University, Virginia University etc. Similar expansions are happening in places such as KSA & UAE. Countries like Jordan has witnessed emergence of top quality local universities imparting level of education similar to their Western counterparts. Together, they are expected to exalt the level of education to new heights. This will eventually groom a lot of individuals for innovation based entrepreneurship.

High Mobile Penetration

The entire region is marked with high mobile penetration. According to ICT Statistics Newslog by the end of 2012, in Middle East alone, the number of mobile subscription will pass 250 Millions. The average mobile penetration rate is also expected to cross 100%. In the richer GCC, people tend to have multiple handsets, leading to a 100% plus penetration. According to research conducted by “Alexandra Tohme” from Ogilvy- high percentages of users are inclined towards buying applications & surfing internet from their handsets. More on this can be found over here- Smart Phone Users Research. 
Such factors make MENA region an optimum place for mobile & web technologies based companies to flourish.

This is surely an interesting phase for various MENA start ups & business ventures. Governing authorities, individuals & consumers, all are willing to experiment. Due to their collective efforts, the region has witnessed many successful start-ups in the recent past such as- Jabbar Internet Group, Net Advantage, Maktoob, Nahel & Brick 2 Click  etc. But much more is required to be done. The whole affair is not insulated from challenges. Many of the countries, both in the Middle East as well Maghreb region are undergoing political transitions – a situation which at least in the short run may not be very conducive for start-ups to flourish. Literacy levels are high in many of the countries; but a lot of reforms are required to streamline existing education system with job market. Above all one of the impending challenges for many of the nations is to provide employment to a huge young population ready to join the job market soon.

Eventually solution for such problems lies in the development & encouragement of entrepreneurship across the region. This will not only result in wealth & job creation but also transparency & knowledge creation.

Source: Wamda, ICT Statistics, Insights- Mena, The next web

Image Source: LAURI’S BLOG

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Analysis of Mobile Payment in MENA

All around the globe, mobile phones have become an integral part of our daily lives.  There are presently 5 Billion mobile phone users across the globe. The role of a handset is not just restricted to talk. It is being used for diverse purposes- text messages, photographs, surf, social network, multi media consumption etc. Another area, where mobiles have made headway in the recent past is payment. Usage of mobile devices to, transfer money or make purchases are mounting up across the globe. The emergence of sophisticated smart phones has given it a further boost. Presently there are 1.08 Billion Smart Phones users around the world.  M-commerce- as it’s commonly known- can be done either by linking the handset to the bank account or by simply topping up. The later part is more popular in many of the emerging economies in Asia, Africa & Middle East- regions marked by high mobile penetration but low penetration of bank accounts.

Fig 2: shows the growth of Mobile-payment or M-Payment over the last ten years in us $ billions. Source: Inter Bank Financial service infographics.

Types of mobile payment

·         Mobile as a point of sale: with the help of a dongle, merchant’s mobile phones can be used for processing credit card payments.

·         Contactless payment: works on the NFC technology. NFC, or near field communication is set of protocols, which allow smart phones to communicate with each other or other devices, with in a very small distance. Credit card info or some other loyalty program info could be loaded into the mobile phone – which could be eventually used for making the payment at the point of sales.

·         Direct Carrier billing: phone number is shared with the merchant & the charge appears on the mobile bill. Is costliest among all the existing solution, but ensures a very high degree of security. It’s used more in selling digital goods & applications.

Table 1: Shows the list of various companies active across various types of Mobile payment. Source:

Major Players involved in M-Payment

·         Payment processing network companies- companies like Visa, MasterCard & American Express are digitizing their wallets. They are also collaborating with device manufacturers to develop NFC enabled mobile payment.

·         Banks: with the help of mobile phones, banking operations such as balance inquiry, payment & transfer of money can be done over the mobile phone. The initial form of Mobile Banking, initiated via SMS was known as SMS banking. Advent of better technologies eventually lead to advance version such as WAP & web based banking. This further graduated to installation of advanced banking application on the mobile phone. These applications ensure better user interface & experience, enhanced security & pre stored user data.

·         Technology startups- lot of application developers & technology startups such as- Square, Zong are emerging with high end technological solution, designed for the mobile payment landscape. Some of the leading players are as follows –

a)  had developed an application to process credit card payments through phone. One needs to hold the credit card up to the phone. The camera in the phone will read the details in the card & authenticate the payment without involving any typing.
b)      Zong: a carrier billing solutions, where the phone number is shared with the merchant & the charge appears on the mobile bill.
c)      Square: are dongles attached to the merchant’s smart phone our tablet & can process credit cards.

·         Network Operators- operator led money transfer can be an additional source of income for operators. It can be implemented either by linking the network with a bank account of credit card or with the help of top ups. The top ups do not require existing bank accounts.

·         Web Companies- web giants like Google are also entering into the rapidly evolving market of mobile payments.
Present industry scenario

As discussed, due to the increase in popularity of M-commerce, many big financial institutions, web companies, payment companies, application developers are jumping on the bandwagon.  Visa has made strategic investment in Square (mentioned above)- a mobile payment platform.  Google has launched “Google Wallet”- a mobile payment system. The 3 giants in USA- AT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile have joined hand to incubate ISIS- a mobile payment space, expected to be piloted in mid 2012. PayPal has acquired mobile payment provider Zong (mentioned above) for US $ 240 Millions.
Fig 3: shows figures for credit card & mobile payments. Source: Visa 2011 annual report. Values are in US $ billions.

Mobile Payment in the Mena region

Middle East & North Africa Region (MENA) is one of the most fertile grounds for Mobile Payment. It basically has two types of market base-

·         High end customers residing in Gulf countries & other parts of the region, with sophisticated smart phones & high disposable income.  

·         Unbanked individuals which includes vast population in North Africa & Levant as well as expat workers living in GCC.  They can use mobile phones for money transfer, remittances & payment. Mobile technology in convergence with financial institutions & network operators can be a very effective tool for financial inclusion. Such model has been extremely successful in Kenya in the form of M-Pesa & requires neither a sophisticated handset nor a bank account.

Advantage Middle East & North Africa

·         High mobile penetration: MENA has an overall mobile penetration of around 90%. By the end of 2012, it’s expected to see 250 Million mobile phone subscriptions. By 2016, additional 100 Million phone subscriptions are expected to be added. In terms of volume Iran is the biggest market, followed by Saudi Arabia. 

Fig 4: Shows mobile penetration for some of the selected mena countries. (Multiple handsets have not been considered). Source: Insights Mena  

·         Expat Work Force: In Gulf countries, a large percentage of population comprises of expat population- large no. of which are part of industrial work force. A large volume of remittances are send through them. Saudi Arabia itself witnesses an annual outflow of US$ 100 Billion as remittances. Mobile payment can be a suitable option for money transfer as well as payment, for such workforce- given the fact that many of them do not have bank accounts. 

·         Users comfortable purchasing through mobile phone: In MENA region people are credit card shy. Cash & carry culture predominates over credit cards. Fortunately it goes off the mark, in case of mobile payment. A research conducted by Plus 7 on 4000 smart phone users in the region, shows that individuals intend paying by their mobile phones. 

Fig 5: shows the percentage of respondents for various countries; comfortable purchasing products on their phone. Source: Plus 7. 

Other than the above factors, there is lot of other factors- conducive for the growth of Mobile Payments in the MENA region. One of them is the young demography in the MENA region. A vibrant younger population ensures quick adoption of newer technologies.
Given the fact that MENA is a fertile ground for Mobile Payment, many companies, across the globe are entering or planning to enter in to the market. Some of them are Mi-Pay, Mobibucks, and Gemalto etc. The given list table shows, some of the companies –

The unique socio-economic factors, coupled with the young demographics in the region makes the MENA region optimum for M-commerce & M-payment to flourish. Many consumers have jumped directly from cash payments to mobile payments, by passing the credit card mode. For many merchants, inclusion of a M-payment system is not just optional but indispensable. But there are some bottlenecks as well. Not all local banks are well equipped to provide M-Payment gateway. There is also, a very serious dearth of local Arabic applications. A lot more needs to be done to consolidate MENA as a strong base of M-Payment. In order to realize this- network operators, technological solution provider, financial institutions & regulators- all need to work in convergence.

Source: Read Write Web,, Mashable, Digby, IBFS, Zawya, Wamda, DailyMenadeals, Thenextweb,  Zawya, Wamda, Insights MENA, Venture beat.
Image Source:
 Table 2: shows some of the M-payment providers in the region. Source: Zawya, Wamda