Ahmed Refky Interview with Ahram Alaraby UAE on Gulf Expansion

“Our acquisition of Gulf CX is a step towards leadership in the Gulf market…”

As 2021 comes to a close, a year in which the business sector faced the global challenge of the continuing   COVID pandemic, some companies achieved significant success despite the massive global crisis. One of the most prominent examples is Raya CX, a subsidiary of Raya Holding for Financial Investments.

Engineer Ahmed Rifqy, CEO of RCX, spoke to us about Raya CX’s strategic expansion, and its presence in the UAE    specifically, and in the Gulf region in general.

In light of Raya CX’s strategy, what’s the significance of your recent acquisition of Gulf Customer Experience?

Expansion into promising markets is our top priority. The acquisition of Gulf CX will create opportunities for enforcing our presence in the UAE and Saudi markets, but more specifically, the Gulf market as a whole, one of the biggest globally. Additionally, the acquisition reflects Raya CX’s technical and financial capabilities both in the region and internationally.

Tell us more details about the Gulf CX acquisition deal.

We’ve acquired 85% of Gulf CX’s shares with a value of nearly $12 million (187 million EGP). It’s been decided that we’ll acquire the remaining shares over the next few years. We relied on self-funding for the deal and Gulf CX accepted our offer, which we submitted last May, for the acquisition of 100% of the company’s capital holdings.

How was the choice made to initiate the deal with Gulf CX?

As I mentioned earlier, we always target promising markets and companies.  The outstanding performance of Gulf CX is what drove our choice. Gulf CX is one of the biggest companies in the field of contact center services and was named as the top service support provider in the Middle East in 2018. This was achieved through over 800 professional employees providing outsourcing services, 90% of them native to the Gulf region.

Gulf CX serves more than 40 customers from various sectors in 10 countries worldwide. The geographic scope – which supports Raya CX’s plans for expansion in the Gulf – was another driver for the acquisition. Gulf CX operates through three branches in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which will allow Raya CX more room for expansion and presence in the region.

We plan to strengthen our presence in the Saudi market in 2022, during which we’ll launch a new center in Riyadh as an addition to our existing one in Al Khobar.

How are the new expansions reflecting on Raya CX’s revenues?

In the first quarter of 2021, Raya CX achieved a net revenue of 2.04 million EGP against 10.3 million EGP during the same period in 2020. The net revenue of Raya Holding for Financial Investments was 35.8 million EGP against a loss of 68.8 million EGP in the first quarter of 2020.

The decline in revenue during the current year in addition to the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic led to the company’s investment in various areas, especially the enhancement of human resources and the development of the company’s infrastructure to allow for more growth in line with the company’s transformation plans.

And indeed, indicators show that the revenue curve is on the rise, thanks to the flourishing companies that were carefully selected.

Obviously, expansion is an important strategic pillar for Raya CX. What are the other strategic pillars?

Raya CX relies on three main pillars.

Firstly,  building up our current customer portfolio by improving performance and increasing customer satisfaction.

Secondly, developing our digital infrastructure, whereby the company plans to expand in providing technical services in addition to its regular voice services. The company’s statistics already reflect the outcome of its digital development; our services during the current year are divided into digital services (42%), voice services and 58% digital) compared to 90% voice services and 10% digital services last year.

The company is working to provide a comprehensive portfolio of services that includes voice and non-voice services as well as customer support services via social media.

Thirdly, geographic expansion. The company currently has 8 branches in Egypt, one branch in the UAE, one in Poland, one in the US. In addition to its programs for facilitating remote work. Raya CX has also taken the first steps for expansion in the Gulf market through the acquisition of Gulf CX.

Considering the fierce competition and fast-paced technological developments in the outsourcing sector, how is Raya CX developing its technologies in order to achieve its long-term goals?

The company is focusing on data analysis and artificial intelligence in order to provide the highest quality services as well as better understand customer needs. The company has begun to provide a number of services such as chatbots via social media platforms as part of our digital transformation process.

How did Raya CX begin and where is it today?

The company began its operations in 2001 and we were one of the first companies to invest in this sector. Today, we have over 7,000 employees and provide our services in 25 languages. We have over 140 clients who are some of the biggest companies worldwide, all of whom depend on Raya CX as a key partner in their business growth and customer service.

Raya CX is also introducing a new concept in outsourcing services where its contact services centers, administrative services, internal sales channels offer and business process services for its customers in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and North America in over 25 different languages.

Raya CX currently manages its operations through 8 sites in Egypt (3 in 6th October City, 2 in the technology area in Maadi, one center in the Smart Village, a center in Abbasiya, and one in Hurghada). In addition to two centers in Dubai, one in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain respectively, one in Poland that serves the European market and one center in the U.S.

As we come to the end of 2021, tell us about the most important achievements and developments witnessed by Raya CX.

2021 was a year of achievements and developments on every level for Raya CX. The most important was the company changed its name from Raya Contact Center to Raya Customer Experience, which reflects the new direction we’re taking in terms of customer service geared towards improving the customer experience and increasing customer satisfaction.

Raya CX has also witnessed many achievements in terms of geographic expansion and entrance into new markets. Also, developing the company’s technology infrastructure as well as focusing on our human cadres by training and developing their skills according to the highest standards in outsourcing and customer service.

The company also won a number of prestigious awards. The most significant was its placement on the Top Global 10 list, which includes the top outsourcing service providers worldwide, and is considered a key network hub for outsourcing professionals in the U.S.

This honor is a global achievement and important addition to Raya CX’s success story and its outsourcing services worldwide.

RCX has also been included in the Everest Group report as one of the most important companies in the outsourcing sector in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa – making it the only Egyptian company included in this prestigious group.

Has Raya CX taken concrete steps towards new areas of expansion?

The company currently has a presence in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, with a target in 2022 of opening a new service center in Riyadh as part of our plan for extensive growth in Saudi Arabia. The company also opened its first headquarters in the U.S. in 2021. We chose to expand specifically in the U.S. as it holds 35% of the global market share for services and outsourcing. The company’s strategy for 2022 also includes more plans for expansion which will be announced in the future.

Raya CX is a company that gives top priority to its human resources. What are your most important achievements in this area?

We believe in the importance of developing the capabilities of our employees, who exceed 7,000, to keep pace with the successive changes in the outsourcing sector. This is done through training programs to build future skill sets. The company has developed a training program for its employees and young people who want to work in the outsourcing market. Last year, 150 young men and women graduated from the program and successfully joined the labor market following their training.

In 2021, Raya CX strongly entered the realm of providing support for startups. Tell us about your initiatives in this field.

Raya CX embodied its initiative to support startups and entrepreneurs by partnering with the American company Øpenner, where we launched the FutureTECH Business Accelerator to provide innovative and advanced technology solutions to emerging companies from various industries to improve customer experience.

Immediately after its launch, the accelerator attracted nearly 120 local startups. 8 were chosen for the pilot phase where the accelerator will work to support their business growth. This first cohort of startups is expected to graduate in the first quarter of 2022.

It appears that the COVID pandemic could be coming to an end. What are the lessons learned from running the business during the crisis and does Raya CX plan to adopt different business approaches in the future?

Raya CX has adopted a flexible business system for its employees. The pandemic has proven our ability to achieve flexibility by establishing a work-from-home option. We’re looking into the possibility of extending the work from home option in the future for people living in remote areas – especially women. This would also attract new qualified talent from all provinces so that our talent pool is not limited to the main provinces alone.

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