On 21 October, the global information technology and innovation fair ‘GITEX Technology Week’ ended in Dubai, and 13 companies from Latvia were among the participants. Their desire to be leaders in ICT is by no means too ambitious: in 2020, the export value of the ICT sector was 849 million euros or 19.4% of the total exports of services from Latvia.
In the Middle East region, smart city solutions are in high demand. Several Latvian companies are operating in the industry, and special attention is also been paid to electricity consumption monitoring solutions created in Latvia. The experience at ‘GITEX’ proves that we are able to surprise the world. As a proof for that we have several concluded agreements, positive feedback from visitors and a wide range of new contacts.
Latvia’s competitiveness instrument
“The exhibition was well attended, and in general our companies gained a lot of new contacts, and now we need to continue working with these contacts and strengthen potential cooperation. The success of ‘AdvanGrid’, a developer of electricity monitoring solutions for industrial consumers, should be highlighted as a particularly good result. They have an agreement on two pilot projects in the restaurant sector already underway,” says Inga Ulmane, Head of the LIAA Representative Office in the UAE.
She points out that it is essential to be present at such events like GITEX to expand Latvia’s export horizons. The visitors come to fairs for different reasons, but professionals mostly have a particular purpose: they ask for a list and descriptions of all Latvian companies represented in the fair, get acquainted with them carefully and then address specific ones that interest them.
In general, the ICT sector covers almost every area of activity in both the public and private sectors, which is why the Latvian stand at the exhibition also featured solutions for waste management and more efficient urban planning, as well as employee well-being, drone solutions and other technological innovations.
“As experience shows, we can compete in this industry with all our products, solutions and services. But our capacity might be an issue, because in the Middle East region, trade volumes are much higher than we are used to seeing in Latvia. However, as a special advantage of Latvia, I would like to highlight the solutions of smart cities, which are rapidly becoming more and more in demand all over the world. Latvia already has great work in this direction, which is offered by such companies as ‘AdvanGrid’, ‘MOBIO’, ‘getUgo’ and ‘LMT’,” says Inga Ulmane.
Investing in future ideas
‘Efectio’, which aims to globally promote employee involvement in the company’s processes to increase productivity, has just won a co-creation of B2B solutions in the hackathon ‘Born Global’. It was organised to address the key challenges of Latvian exporting companies by leveraging digital solutions. ‘Efectio’ offers a comprehensive solution that creates a positive work culture and helps companies achieve their goals. This platform is the only one that incorporates employee well-being, learning opportunities, socializing with colleagues, and goal setting. Artūrs Bernovskis, Head of ‘Efectio’, says – the Middle East is an interesting market, and getting to know it has been very useful. Will it be useful in practice – time will tell.
“Our biggest benefit was understanding this interesting and solvent market. So far, we have not found a specific perspective for our solutions here, but we will definitely keep it in mind for the future. Probably, such large fairs in general are more useful for companies that have been working for a long time in an industry and have established their business model. But with fairs alone you will not achieve anything. The Middle East is very interested in health innovation in the broadest sense, whether it is medicine, healthcare or wellness, so there are certainly great opportunities here for companies working in this direction. Another very important aspect – everything is taking place so far from Latvia. So both the service and the company itself must be available locally. If an entrepreneur is willing to operate and invest in this way, it is really worth doing in the Gulf region. Will this experience be useful to us? Maybe not now, but in the future,” explained Artūrs Bernovskis.
Innovation is more important than price
‘AdvanGrid’ offers electricity monitoring solutions for industrial consumers that make it possible to significantly reduce electricity bills and diagnose and eliminate problems in electricity networks for distribution network operators. The company’s executive director Oskars Gūtmanis reveals that they did not expect miracles from the fair, therefore they have done their homework thoroughly, arranging meetings with potentially interested partners in advance. Maybe that’s why the fair was a great success: close contacts have already been established and new opportunities have been seized.
“We did the homework the Latvian ICT Cluster gave us and used its offer to attract a local expert who gave us valuable advice and helped with new contacts. We also met with six potential partners before going to Dubai. Trade Mission that was organised with the help of the Cluster included visiting other Emirates, meeting local organisations and gave us a clear picture about the limitations and specifics of the market. This also helped us understand the business model we should build – before actually going there and talking to people, it’s hard to understand all these things. We also have a lot of interesting contacts from the fair, but there is a lot of work ahead to sift through them and understand if and who might be interested in us,” says Oskars Gūtmanis. He admits that it is essential to prepare in advance, and the cooperation between LIAA and the Latvian ICT Cluster was one of key success factors.
During the fair, ‘AdvanGrid’ faced amazement from the locals as to how a small country like Latvia can offer such a wide range of innovative technologies. “It is a developed purchasing market, thirsty for everything new,” says Oskars Gūtmanis. “They are not interested in price, but the newest, freshest, and most innovative technology. If we can take our technologies from Latvia there and successfully present them, there is great growth potential. Of course, we focused on what was relevant to us, but they are interested in everything new. The largest market in the region is Saudi Arabia, but the United Arab Emirates is also trying to fight for the status of a financial and technological centre. Therefore, if you get to know this market, there is a great opportunity to go further – to Saudi Arabia. Also, now that everyone is aiming for Egypt, it is important for Latvia to show itself in this region too,” said Oskars Gūtmanis.
ICT – a fast growing and competitive industry
5.7% of GDP and rapid growth – exports of ICT products in the amount of 1.42 billion euros, which has increased by 23% compared to 2019: this is a brief description of the industry in 2020. According to the Central Statistical Bureau, in 2019 there were 7,021 ICT companies operating in Latvia, of which 115 companies were working in the production of ICT products, 530 companies – in the wholesale of ICT products, but most, namely 6376 companies provided ICT services, of which 5505 were engaged in programming and data processing, while 500 companies were involved in telecommunications. In total, the ICT sector employed 37,000 people in 2019, and the total turnover of companies in the sector was 4.1 billion euros.
This year, ‘GITEX’ brought together more than 4,500 world-class companies, technology industry leaders, IT and start-ups to showcase their latest solutions, ideas and innovations. Latvia was represented by 13 ICT companies: ‘CatchSmart’, ‘Efectio’, ‘getUgo’, ‘Latvijas Mobilais Telefons’, ‘MOBIO’, ‘Raden Solutions’, ‘SAPIDUM’, ‘SOLAVI’, ‘SWH SETS’, ‘Tapbox’, ‘TestDevLab’, ‘AdvanGrid’,and the Institute of Electronics and Computer Science, demonstrating ICT solutions suitable for various industries. Most of them also continued to participate in the EXPO trade mission from 21 to 28 October, which focused on making new contacts by promoting their products or services to foreign partners. Until now, the main export markets of the industry have been Lithuania, Estonia, Germany, Poland and Russia, so expanding the horizons and getting to know new markets is a logical step for the fast-growing industry.