Hetarth Patel is the Managing Director, UAE and Vice President MEA at WebEngage, a customer data and analytics platform that helps businesses scale with insight-led operations. 


Hetarth, marketing technology has become increasingly important to the way businesses operate, irrespective of their sector. What are some of the key changes you have noticed?

Yes, the MarTech domain’s notable trend is how it is being perceived today. Businesses, irrespective of sector, view marketing technology as a valuable addition to their operations. That has been a paradigm shift in customer perception and that is a testament to the many quantifiable benefits of MarTech adoption. The uptake of solutions has been high in the Middle East due to a broad-based consensus on the need for automation, personalisation, and insights-led operations.

As well as this, MarTech customers are broadly geared toward maximising the utility of data at their disposal. Big Data presents ample marketing opportunities provided by the right technologies. Sophisticated AI analytics can deliver valuable insights to inform marketing strategies, optimise customer journeys, and orchestrate personalised campaigns across channels. In other words, insights-led engagement is the holy grail that MarTech customers are after. They are particularly inclined toward full-stack solutions that can further streamline different functions, reduce silos, and cost significantly less.

What are your thoughts on AI and how have you been using it in your particular field to spur future growth?

AI has been the cornerstone of WebEngage’s full-stack Retention Operating System from the get-go. We have since course-corrected and augmented it, staying in sync with the latest advancements. However, we aren’t merely jumping on the AI bandwagon; we are carefully assessing the real-world outcomes of a breakthrough before embracing it.

The includes accurate analysis of customers’ behavioural data in real-time; the interoperability with CRM and ERP, among other enterprise software; scalability of machine-based actions; and achievable ROI. We assess all of these before adopting the latest advancements. As AI and automation have strong implications for labour markets and customer experience, they should be implemented diligently, as we always have and will.

In May, WebEngage announced a partnership with Ikea Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Why was this significant and what is the wider impact you are having in the Saudi market?

The partnership with IKEA Saudi Arabia & Bahrain drew upon the furniture powerhouse’s objective to hyper-personalise its communications across multiple channels. Likewise, irrespective of the industry and objectives, the full-stack Retention Operating System has emerged as a go-to solution for Saudi businesses hoping to stay agile and future-ready.

The Saudi business ecosystem has found an admirer in WebEngage, and vice-versa. Following our official entry into MEA, we have added about 60 new clients to our portfolio each quarter — the majority are from Saudi. These clients are part of large groups, conglomerates, family offices, marquee logos, and household names. They are from entertainment to e-commerce, consumer electronics to CPG, real estate to retail, automotive to aviation, toys to transportation, and professional services to the public sector.

When it comes to customer engagement what are some of the issues that businesses have to overcome that are unique or particularly challenging to the Middle East?

Silos between marketing processes have been the biggest hurdle stopping businesses from achieving insights-led customer engagement. The lack of integrated strategies breeds inefficiencies and creates leaks in the sales funnel. The adoption of standalone solutions for things like data analysis and campaign orchestration fails to yield the desired results because of a lack of congruence between them. That has created an appetite for full-stack models where different tools such as journey designers, campaign orchestration, AI analytics and automation work in tandem to maximise marketing efficiency.

In fact,  in the Middle East, retailers were among the first to recognise the need for full-stack solutions. The positive outcomes they unlocked and documented paved the way for the industry-agnostic adoption of MarTech. Even pubic institutions are now embracing retention stack, hoping to optimise the delivery of administrative services to citizens. With this in mind, WebEngage has partnered with a few governing bodies in the UAE and KSA for insights-led customer engagement. By and large, across both public and private sectors, marketers are increasingly putting the challenges behind them and pursuing opportunities instead.

What do the next 12 months look like for WebEngage? How do you plan on scaling the business and where will your focus lie?

We witnessed an exemplary growth phase following our official entry into MEA. The operations in the UAE, KSA, Egypt, Kuwait, and Qatar made meaningful contributions to the company’s top line as we clocked a 120% YoY growth rate with an impressive annual recurring revenue (ARR) of $25 million and maintained profitability. That phase culminated in an expansion into South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Kenya. We intend to build on that momentum in the next 12 months, with more expansion on the cards. A pan-MEA presence is the outcome we are after.

As part of our expansion, we have built on-the-ground teams in Riyadh, Lagos, and Johannesburg. Soon, we intend to double our teams while focusing on customer success roles. Additionally, we have tied up with leading system integrators and digital media agencies and reformed our Partner GTM to better serve our customers in the region.

At the same time, we are approaching scaling and expansion methodically and strategically, ensuring every move is sustainable. To that end, we are more keen on engaging different stakeholders across our target markets, understanding their pain points, and analysing if our solutions are attuned to their expectations. It is paramount that our clients and channel partners fully subscribe to our vision of retention-led growth before joining hands with us. The MarTech revolution we’ve ignited in MEA isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. And we’ll get there slowly but surely.