Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement

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Updated 03 July 2022

Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement

Dubai firms board the metaverse to improve customer engagement
  • Realty major Damac has invested up to AED367 million to develop and monetize a metaverse

DUBAI: Top Dubai-based companies are racing against time to build metaverse or immersive virtual worlds to bolster their sales prospects and disrupt customer experiences in their respective industries.

Realty major Damac has invested up to AED367 million ($100 million) to develop and monetize a metaverse that could allow potential customers to check into their luxury properties virtually, choose an apartment, explore furniture options and toy with the paraphernalia on offer.

Called D-Labs, the metaverse platform will create digital replicas of their top projects, including Damac Hills, Damac Lagoons, Safa by De Grisogono, and Cavalli Tower in Dubai. It will also host other notable projects such as Damac Tower Nine Elms in London and the upcoming Cavalli Residences in Miami.

So, how does this work? First, a potential customer in any part of the world can meet up with the sales agent of Damac Properties inside the metaverse instead of connecting over a Zoom call. Then, inside the metaverse, the prospect can tour the apartment and pay for the unit during the checkout.

“We sell around AED100 million monthly over Zoom calls without any immersive technology. With the metaverse, we can sell AED700-800 million a month to any customers in California, New York or Miami,” Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac and CEO of D-Labs, told Arab News.

The company, which has been annually clocking a business of $5 billion in real estate, expects to rake in $6.5 billion a year using the metaverse, added Sajwani.

We sell around AED100 million monthly over Zoom calls without any immersive technology. With the metaverse, we can sell AED700-800 million a month to any customers in California, New York or Miami.

Ali Sajwani, general manager of operations at Damac

Potential to disrupt

Metaverse owes much of its success to its disruptive nature that displaces traditional ways of looking at a category and creates a new business model. Gone are the days when real estate buyers would close deals based on brochures and project plans.

Instead, they are not only engaging in real-time with the property, but they now have the option to shop for things during their virtual tours. In the case of D-Labs, customers could also pick a host of non-fungible tokens or scarce digital objects on offer and sell them for a better price on a future date. The company, for instance, will soon be offering a variety of NFTs, including digital wearables and jewelry.

“The idea is you own your real estate and virtual assets. As part of our De Grisogono relaunch, we will also be offering digital jewelry. However, the goal is to convert that customer into an owner of real assets, not just digital ones,” Sajwani said.

According to management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., more than $120 billion have been globally invested in building metaverse technology and infrastructure in the first five months of 2022. That’s more than double the $57 billion invested in 2021.

The company recently surveyed more than 3,400 consumers worldwide and found two-thirds are excited about transitioning everyday activities to the metaverse, especially when it comes to connecting with people, exploring virtual worlds, and collaborating with remote colleagues.

“Our bottom-up view of consumer and enterprise use cases suggests it (metaverse) could generate up to $5 trillion in impact by 2030,” said Eric Hazan, senior partner of McKinsey in the study.

Strategy in motion

To make this groundbreaking concept a reality, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum recently announced the Dubai Metaverse Strategy, which aims to increase the contribution of the metaverse sector to the emirate’s economy to $4 billion by 2030.

Given the government’s proactive role, companies are now looking at ways to develop metaverse platforms that could launch pilot activities, study consumer behavior, learn from the real-time interactions and nurture the business model.

Emirates Airline, another early adopter of the metaverse, also announced that it would soon offer a slice of immersive technology, where the customer could virtually relish the travel experience aboard the premium airline.

“These projects will allow customers to transform their entire processes, whether it’s a business operation, training, or sales force, into an interactive experience in the metaverse,” said Emirates Chief Operating Officer Adel Ahmed Al-Redha during a press roundtable.

These projects will allow customers to transform their entire processes, whether it’s a business operation, training, or sales force, into an interactive experience in the metaverse.

Adel Ahmed Al-Redha, Emirates chief operating officer

As part of its metaverse offerings, the customer can tour the aircraft and experience economy, business, and first class, besides selecting their seats and the food and beverage of their choice.

“The customers can also tour the airport, do their duty-free shopping and buy their items while sitting at home, which can be delivered to them at home or in the aircraft,” he added.

It wasn’t a new idea for Emirates to digitize. Still, they did not have the technology to do so and are currently cooperating with different technology companies “to ensure we get the right thing,” Al-Redha said.

Al-Redha is among the league of forward-looking business executives reaping the fruits of the first-mover advantage. It will be interesting to see how they use this fresh produce technology to disrupt their business models and create newer avatars of consumer engagement.


Saudi jeweler L’azurde posts 22% profit jump in H1 on strong retail sales

Saudi jeweler L’azurde posts 22% profit jump in H1 on strong retail sales
Updated 13 sec ago

Saudi jeweler L’azurde posts 22% profit jump in H1 on strong retail sales

Saudi jeweler L’azurde posts 22% profit jump in H1 on strong retail sales

RIYADH: Saudi jeweler L’azurde has reported a 22 percent profit rise in the first half of 2022 on the back of higher retail sales.

It reported a profit of SR22.2 million ($5.9 million) in the first half compared to SR18 million in the same period last year, according to a bourse filing.

The results were helped by higher revenues, higher gross profits, and reduced financing costs.

Saudi retail revenues surged 12.6 percent over the same period last year following the easing of precautionary measures regarding COVID-19.

In Egypt, retail revenues rose 5 percent due to an increase in revenues at the same stores, the opening of new outlets in the past year, and the increase in selling prices to counter the lower exchange rate, it said.


Red Sea International reduces $80m capital to write off accumulated losses 

Red Sea International reduces $80m capital to write off accumulated losses 
Updated 7 min 54 sec ago

Red Sea International reduces $80m capital to write off accumulated losses 

Red Sea International reduces $80m capital to write off accumulated losses 

RIYADH: Red Sea International Co. said its accumulated losses have dropped to zero, following an SR298 million ($80 million) capital reduction.

The Saudi-listed construction firm brought down its capital to SR302 million from SR600 million, by canceling nearly 30 million shares, according to a bourse filing.

The purpose of the transaction was to extinguish accumulated losses, which amounted to almost 58 percent of the capital, or SR346 million, as of June end.

Most recently, Red Sea International reported that its net loss widened by 7 percent to SR67 million in its financial results for the first half of 2022.


Saudi annual inflation rate rises to 2.7% in July driven by high food prices

Saudi annual inflation rate rises to 2.7% in July driven by high food prices
Updated 28 min 45 sec ago

Saudi annual inflation rate rises to 2.7% in July driven by high food prices

Saudi annual inflation rate rises to 2.7% in July driven by high food prices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s annual inflation rate accelerated to 2.7 percent in July, from 2.3 percent in June, according to the recent data released by the General Authority for Statistics, also known as GASTAT.

The uptick in the Consumer Price Index, as it is called in technical terms, is driven by a rise in food and beverage prices, GASTAT added. 

According to the report, food and beverage prices showed an annual increase of 3.9 percent, while meat prices surged by 5.1 percent. 

“Food and beverages prices were the main drivers of the inflation rate in July 2022 due to their high relative importance in the Saudi consumer basket with a weight of 18.8 percent,“ said GASTAT. 

Transport prices increased by 3.6 percent, mainly due to the increase in the purchase of motor cars prices which went up by 4.2 percent. 

The GASTAT report further revealed that personal goods and services prices in the Kingdom also increased by 2.1 percent. 

Restaurants and hotels prices increased by 6.3 percent, due to the increase in catering services prices, which went up by 6.5 percent, the report added.


Saudi IT firm solutions by stc gets approval to acquire Egypt’s Giza Systems

Saudi IT firm solutions by stc gets approval to acquire Egypt’s Giza Systems
Updated 15 August 2022

Saudi IT firm solutions by stc gets approval to acquire Egypt’s Giza Systems

Saudi IT firm solutions by stc gets approval to acquire Egypt’s Giza Systems

RIYADH: Arabian Internet and Telecommunication Co., known as solutions by stc, received approval from Saudi Arabia’s General Authority For Competition to buy a $158 million stake in Egypt's Giza Systems Co., a bourse filing revealed.

The Saudi-listed company had earlier entered a binding deal for the takeover of an 89.49 percent stake in Giza Systems in addition to 34 percent of its unit, Giza Arabia.

Subject to other regulatory conditions, solutions by stc said the transaction is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2022, adding that any developments will be announced in due course.

 


Iran’s top automaker sets sights on Russian market

Iran’s top automaker sets sights on Russian market
Updated 14 August 2022

Iran’s top automaker sets sights on Russian market

Iran’s top automaker sets sights on Russian market

TEHRAN: Iran’s leading automaker is seeking to prioritize exports to Russia, its CEO said on Sunday, as both countries reel under Western economic sanctions.

Iran Khodro unveiled the latest model of its crossover Rira vehicle at its factory west of Tehran, where CEO Mehdi Khatibi announced the manufacturer’s ambitions for the Russian market.

“We are going to pay special attention to the Russian market, and we are also thinking of partnering with Russian investors,” he said.

“We have held good negotiations with Moscow. The Russian market, with its capacities, will be one of our important markets,” Khatibi added.

“We will begin exporting this year” to Russia, he said.

Iran Khodro had previously exported vehicles to Russia, notably between 2007 and 2009, Iranian media said.

The two countries have responded to the sanctions by boosting cooperation in key areas to help prop up their economies.
The company’s vice president, Kianoush Pourmojib, struck an optimistic note on Sunday, pointing to increased exports to Azerbaijan over the past five years.

“We are ambitious about improving the quality of our vehicles,” he told AFP.

He added that while the manufacturer hopes to compete in markets such as Azerbaijan, Oman and Iraq, “in volume, it is of course Russia that is the most important.”

“This year, we will produce more than 500,000 vehicles and our goal within three years is to export 100,000 vehicles annually,” compared with fewer than 20,000 currently, he said.