In an exclusive interview with ArabAd, Nehme Lebbos, digital transformation strategist and CEO at NELCOM Group talks about why Lebanon still has a highly underdeveloped digital services sector and what could be done to change all that.
What can you tell us about the misfortunes and successes you’ve had throughout your career in the digital sector thus far?
You could say that I’ve had my fair share of both. However, what still baffles me, is how almost a decade later, when I try to offer cutting-edge digital services that could easily help evolve some of the country’s biggest industries further, I am met with utter resistance. What I am saying is that for this technology to become mainstream, everyone involved has to take part, which will not only open new and significant revenue streams for all, but will also boost the economy due to the number of jobs created.
What are the obstacles still hindering this kind of progress?
We need to upgrade the existing infrastructure. Also, new legislation needs to be created in support of e-commerce, which will jump-start many dwindling sectors. Add to that the lack of awareness and you’d understand what is happening, or rather, not happening. To clarify, we need to start somewhere. It will not matter whether we fail or not because in due time, we will succeed. However, that will never happen unless we give it a shot. Another reason why adoption, adaption and implementation is moving at snail-speed is the dominant mentality dictating the general view. The major decision makers who command the cash flow are still thinking on a minute scale instead of opening themselves to the existing possibilities.
What other suggestions can you offer to further develop Lebanon’s digital industry?
One way would be to create variously sized hubs throughout the country. This will generate local jobs within the respective communities, decrease traffic congestion flowing in and out of Beirut, as well as decrease the individual carbon footprint. Also, today we have a huge diaspora living outside who long to return but have not been able to secure a job. Sadly, and irrespective of client, most, if not all, are unwilling to bank on such innovative initiatives unless the project is considered ‘a sure thing’, which is truly discouraging. Yet, despite all the aforementioned obstacles, the potential is tremendous and quite achievable with the required financial backing coupled with forward thinking.
What would then be the next step?
We then will be able to implement ‘Big Data’ strategies by collecting, organising, and analysing data that is aggregated from internal and external sources. Based on these findings, hyper specific recommendations can then be made and shared with a content, communication, and process strategy teams. Next, they adapt the platform’s process with the client and all the dedicated channels connected to the company. In other words, we can predict the future because we know what will be expected before it is expected.
So how are the existing industries and brands using digital?
Instead of optimising the users’ experience, the existing local industries, who pride themselves on having a digital footprint, are second-guessing themselves at every turn. This not only is literally ridiculous, but also counterproductive to the entire growth process, especially when faced with constantly dwindling budgets. In other words, these companies are operating on hope rather than science!
The main problem remains, it’s not what you know, rather who you know, you know!?
So, for the record, and in conclusion, allow me to clarify. We are a fully-integrated digital entity offering holistic solutions. We study behaviour and in turn, based on the collected data, can adjust the communication, strategy, and approach, in real-time for the best fit, which is what a digital agency does. Our network is comprised of three agencies, Proximity (a behavioural digital agency), Social Aim (a content marketing agency), and Sketch (an advertising agency). Ironically, both Proximity and Social aim are registered as ad agencies because the category they happen to fall under does not exist in Lebanese law!