Inspired by Dubai’s citywide implementation of smart city solutions, Waai Tek’s mission is to empower organisations to accelerate their operational efficiency and productivity by harnessing the power of machine learning.
The company also aims to help businesses and industries impacted by the pandemic to scale up their technological operations and capture the new business opportunities emerging as a result of the global shift to digitisation amid Covid-19.
In an exclusive interview with Arabian Business, co-founder Nita Odedra explains how the start-up aims to help companies make an impact through AI in the UAE and across the Middle East.
When did you come up with the idea or realise there was a gap in the market for the business?
Personally, I have always been passionate about digital transformation since starting my career with a Scandinavian software vendor and then working in the infrastructure and operations space at Gartner. Operational efficiency is what makes me tick as an individual and AI has the power to revolutionise all areas of business.
I was naturally interested in the conversation around Big Data over the last 10 to 12 years and saw how many companies struggled to make sense of it and harness the data to make decisions or automate tasks.
Then came along the AI buzz and machine learning, which was a vehicle to make sense of the vast amount of data that everyday people were beginning to have access to through their smartphones, computers, and other electronic devices.
What particularly interests me about AI is one of its key pillars, computer vision technology. Computer vision works by accessing high-level information from digital images and videos through sophisticated machine-learning programs.
This video analytics solution allows you to get real-time AI through your existing video monitoring and digital operating system, and I saw the value custom solutions can bring to organisations and their unique challenges.
What is your business plan?
The plan is to establish ourselves as a leader in AI in the UAE, continue to expand the team and then broaden our reach to the rest of the GCC. Our current funding will allow us to develop our key range of AI solutions and services and get them to market, such as an AI-powered customer journey platform and infrastructure smart solutions to support smart city initiatives.
Alongside logistics, manufacturing, retail and other warehousing industries, the smart city sector is definitely one of our priority industries. We have seen the work that the UAE government is doing to integrate the concept of artificial intelligence into everyday life and how this strategy is improving the way we as citizens and resident can access so many vital services and get help where and when we need it.
I want to translate the idea of the smart city into the business environment – that’s what our business plan is aiming to achieve.
Is the company bootstrapped or have you raised capital from investors? Can you take us through your funding journey?
Our primary funding has come from a private UAE investor who I previously worked with, who has experience in this sector and has an investment portfolio across the GCC, Europe and India. We will be raising funding again at the end of the year through an additional investor.
Why did you decide, during the middle of a global pandemic, that now was the right time to launch?
As we’ve seen both at work and at home, digital technology has taken over our lives since the pandemic began, and given us so much, providing us with the means to continue working, entertain ourselves, and speak to our colleagues, customers and loved ones.
I think the pandemic has also forced us all to be creative and resilient – a natural environment for entrepreneurship and new ideas to thrive!
During these challenging times when organisations in industries hardest hit by the pandemic were scrambling to remain competitive, we saw how AI could help improve an organisation’s operations efficiently and quickly.
AI has the capability to provide companies with easily understandable business intelligence that will help them make quick decisions about commercial opportunities, which will lead to enhanced returns on investment and long-term growth.
We felt that Waai Tek could provide solutions that could help businesses to mitigate operational risk and survive the ongoing uncertainty, so we wanted to take advantage of the market opportunity.
Where does the company operate?
Our home market is in the UAE, with whom we share a vision to revolutionise all areas of business through AI. The UAE really is the ideal location to launch a business centred around machine learning and AI innovation, thanks to strong government support for the sector.
Recent reports have suggested that the sector is expected to contribute close to 14 percent of the UAE’s GDP by 2030. The UAE also aims to become world leaders in AI by 2031 in line with its National AI Strategy.
The current global pandemic has slowed our reach in the surrounding region, but we plan to ramp up our activity in Q2 2021 once we have established our footprint in Dubai and across the UAE.
Where would you like to see the company in the next five years?
Within five years we hope to secure further funding to scale up the business across the region, particularly in Saudi Arabia where we will open an office by 2022. Saudi Arabia recently announced its own national AI strategy, through which they plan to develop the Saudi AI industry’s human capital capacity and start-up ecosystem, alongside attracting $20 billion worth of investment.
This is an exciting next step in the Gulf’s adoption of AI, and we want to tap into this significant growth potential.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Personally – You need not worry about the future, nor should you pay attention to the past. You only have control over the present, so live it to the fullest. Change is the law of the universe, and nothing remains the same.
Professionally – Do what you enjoy, enjoy doing it and everything else will follow. People recognise passion and you can only excel in what you are passionate about.
If you could go back, what would you have done differently with the company?
I would have factored in more time for administration, recruiting etc. My timelines for all these were far too ambitious in hindsight, it became demotivating to be slowed down by non-revenue generating activities. I’m one of those people who likes to hit the ground running, so this whole process has taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of laying a strong foundation for growth by focusing on the essentials of business first and getting those right, instead of launching prematurely before you and your product are ready.
Being patient has certainly paid off. Waai Tek launched our full range of AI solutions recently at Seamless Middle East, and we’ve received really positive and exciting feedback so far from businesses we’ve been talking to. We’re very excited to build on this momentum and take Waai Tek forward.
What is your vision for the company?
AI has the power to revolutionise all areas of business.
This belief is what underpins our vision and how we want to help companies to make an impact through AI in the UAE and across the Middle East, especially in crucial industries such as logistics and warehousing, manufacturing, hospitality and retail.