As usual, Merchants, took an innovative approach to solving the eGA’s problem – and found a client willing to be innovative, too.
In a first for the BPO industry, Merchants licensed to the NCC its extensive intellectual property (IP) gathered over 25 years of designing, building, operating, and transferring contact centres - in return for a 33% stake in the NCC, to be known as Silah Gulf. Merchants would also provide professional services to the JV.
“The JV has been a remarkable exercise on many levels, not least because it’s usually so difficult to serve the interests of a commercial organisation like Merchants as well as those of government organisation,”says the eGA CEO at the time, Mohammed Ali Al Qaed. “What we wanted was quality of service, employment of Bahrainis, and consistency of government services through one channel. For Merchants, a financial return had, quite naturally, to be a part of the deal.
“However, from day one, the Merchants team, including their managing director at the time, Adam Foster, was determined to make our economic development strategy a reality. They approached everything from a relationship point of view, and our understanding of one another has become continuously deeper and stronger over time.”
Because the eGA’s on-demand requirement called for technology not readily available in a scalable environment, Merchants brought in its parent company, Dimension Data, to provide Cisco’s On-Demand solution. This was the first sale of Cisco On-Demand outside South Africa.
In order to ensure successful delivery of Merchants’ IP – its operating model - a core project team of seven Merchants consultants worked in Bahrain for a year. They carried out a detailed design for the contact centre, sourced a location, planned and managed the fit-out, hired key staff and management, and documented and transferred operational, branding, and communication processes.
With the contact centre up and running, Merchants now provides IT support and management, including all change management, incident management, and new project development.
Silah Gulf CEO at the time, Joe Tawfik, said: “The value proposition that Merchants brought to the table is visible in every aspect of the business – from the way the technology fits together to the human resources, operational, and quality processes that ensured that we achieved consistent, standardised service levels from day one.”
Tawfik believed that Silah Gulf stands head and shoulders above its 700 regional competitors because it didn’t just address a customer’s transactional needs. “Our enhanced customer management actually creates strategic value. Customers that use us actually accelerate their growth and profitability.”
Tawfik and his Bahraini team have added to Merchants’ content and processes operational and content elements designed to appeal to an Arab target market. The entire Silah Gulf package has, therefore, attracted attention in the region and in the industry – and, within 16 months of going live, Silah Gulf landed two industry awards.
Adam Foster, Merchants managing director at the time, said that Silah Gulf gave the Kingdom of Bahrain a highly functional operational facility from which technology and services could be sold to the region on an on-demand basis. “What’s especially pleasing is that our intellectual property helped give the Bahrain government the means to de-risk the process of achieving its strategic objectives. The joint venture proves that, when governments have the will, there is always a way for private sector partners to give them the tools to restructure their economies to the benefit of all stakeholders.”