Ooredoo is a Qatari multinational telecommunications company, servicing over 120 million customers worldwide. It provides mobile phone, online content, wire and wireless internet and telephone connection, as well as various options for residences and business alike, worldwide (Kamrava 2015). The company’s headquarters are in Doha, Qatar. Due to the technological nature of the company and the high levels of competition in the international telecommunications sphere, innovation has a strategic purpose in the organization (Ooredoo 2019).
The objectives of innovation for Ooredoo include the improvement of customer convenience in all areas pertaining online, mobile, and Internet activities (Ooredoo 2019). The product and service innovation is achieved by supporting start-ups and innovators deemed prospective by the company, and providing them with resources necessary to produce functioning products. In parallel to these efforts, the company features its own R&D division to facilitate research to directly improve Ooredoo’s own systems.
The Role of Innovation at Ooredoo
The axiom of companies needing to “Innovate or Die” applies to Ooredoo as well. Many international companies around the world are engaged in developing the fastest internet provider network, minimizing expenditures while maximizing output, and developing various products for online and mobile use for their customers (Biemans 2018). Ooredoo is one of the leaders of innovation in Qatar, and achieves such results by collaborating with other large companies, while incentivizing independent start-ups through financial support and technical expertise (Ooredoo 2019).
The company showcases its capabilities in innovation at the Ooredoo Innovation Roadshow, which features the results of sponsored programs and collaborations with large international companies. Last year’s results featured 5G Internet, Augmented reality for tourism, as well as various 5G Tech, Payment, and Delivery applications available for tourists and visitors to the country (Ooredoo 2019).
Some of the innovative creations developed or sponsored by Ooredoo include.
Debit – a program that helps grocery stores track their customers’ payments and determine the success or failure rates of certain products (Ooredoo 2019). Another innovation includes DXwand, which is a sales chatbot capable of answering customer queries and facilitating e-commerce sales. ASAPP is a mobile application for stadium food delivery. Another software product, BFive, helps match clients with potential products they might like, based on big data services. Finally, Welfare is a startup for secure fund-sharing (Ooredoo 2019).
Ooredoo is engaged in a series of technological innovations aimed to satisfy the needs of specific industries. For example, it’s Internet-of-Things research inventions seek to improve network strengths and safety for gas valves, pipes, and control systems. It was developed in cooperation with Proximie and is implemented at Subol (Yu et al. 2016).
Internet solutions for Healthcare feature the RIMADS system, which is an interactive information database sought to connect doctors, patients, and insurers, reducing lag time and enabling long-distance health services (Ooredoo 2019). Internet security is presented by a joint start-up with SafeToNet, which is a cybersecurity family safety product for mobile devices and computers. It enables parents and educators to better control individuals with behavioral concerns. Finally, a notable start-up supported by Ooredoo is MaktApp, which is a system for online invoicing, allowing customers and companies to switch from paper to electronic invoicing systems (Ooredoo 2019).
One could notice that innovative practices by Ooredoo are aimed largely at the high-tech sphere of industry. New services and visualization/convenience technologies rule the day (Pavlik et al. 2018). However, while the company presents a variety of products, ranging from VR Air Taxi experience to food delivery apps on stadiums, it does not innovate as much in technological solutions for the renovation of its communication lines.
In fact, the majority of the innovation presented at the Roadway show considers software but not hardware. In terms of groundbreaking research, 5G is the only avenue of approach. However, the mass utilization of 5G Internet is ways ahead due to various issues associated with the signal bandwidth and the ease at which it is blocked. 4G Internet innovations do not see as much spotlight in Ooredoo (Pavlik et al. 2018). At the same time, the majority of start-ups presented as innovations by the company offer nifty and useful services, but do not offer anything that could not easily be replicated by competitors. These technologies serve small needs with a limited opportunity for marketing (Pavlik et al. 2018).
In terms of innovation of leadership, Ooredoo is behind other companies and corporations. This is an issue present in all Arab companies that are overseen by government leadership. Ooredoo’s largely owned by the Qatari government (68%) and enjoys beneficial conditions on its home turf (Kamrava 2015). As such, the need for change management and organizational innovation is diminished. The main types of leadership are transactional and authoritarian, which result in high turnover rates among employees and low talent retention (Richter et al. 2018). While token efforts are made to improve the situation, it is not enough to achieve change quickly enough and with the aim for a long-term perspective.
Based on these findings, it could be said that Ooredoo understands the importance of innovation to some degree. They acknowledge it as a competitive and strategic advantage and have enough resources to facilitate it. They are excellent at saving time and money by partnering with tech giants, such as Google and Microsoft. At the same time, they fund start-ups, which effectively places the burden of research on other small developers, while enabling the company to reap the benefits of their innovation.
Nevertheless, its own technological endeavors are hampered by the low predisposition towards change and subpar people management and leadership skills. The company should focus on these areas and facilitate innovation in the following manner (Richter et al. 2018):
- Review its existing personnel retention policies in order to reduce turnover rates and nurture talent;
- Improve on the existing levels of leadership by sending managers and employees to attend advanced classes in people skills and organization;
- Focus on hardware as much as on the software, to not fall behind the competition in developing its data transfer chains.
These measures would help Ooredoo maintain its competitive advantage through innovation In the future.
Ooredoo is a typical Arab telecommunications company in terms of innovation in business and technology. While possessing significant resources and sound strategies in the delegation of innovation, it has several significant flaws in terms of leadership and change management, largely associated with a lack of domestic competition and extensive government influence on the command structure. As a result, while the company managed to spread its influence in the region, its presence in other markets (Asia, Europe, America) remains modest. In order to facilitate further growth, the company needs to improve on its methods of change and innovation. Focus on hardware-based short-term and long-term projects as well as better training of managers and staff members is warranted. It would help Ooredoo prepare itself for the next big push associated with 5G Internet.
Biemans, W. (2018) Managing innovation within networks. New York: Routledge.
Kamrava, M. (2015) Qatar: Small state, big politics. London: Cornell University Press.
Pavlik, J. V., Dennis, E. E., Mersey, R. D. and Gengler, J. (2018) Mobile Disruptions in the Middle East: Lessons from Qatar and the Arabian Gulf Region in mobile media content innovation. New York: Routledge.
Ooredoo (2019) Ooredoo Innovation Roadshow showcases innovations and technology from around the world. Web.
Richter, N., Jackson, P. and Schildhauer, T. (2018) Entrepreneurial Innovation and Leadership: Preparing for a Digital Future. New York: Springer.
Yu, X., Nguyen, B. and Chen, Y. (2016) ‘Internet of things capability and alliance: Entrepreneurial orientation, market orientation and product and process innovation’. Internet Research, 26(2), pp. 402-434.