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Build-up to the digital age

It’s time to get updated, and online. Karim Helal, CEO of Protenders.com, talks to Lorraine Bangera about the growing role of technology and online media in the construction market and how companies need to keep up to be noticed

In an age where every solution is found on Google and online media is the best networking platform, the construction industry are not far off from embracing the change. In this region, private construction companies might be slow to adopt the change but that doesn’t mean progress has been minimal. Websites like Protenders.com help bridging the gap between the old and the new. The UAE-based company acts as an e-bidding and marketing platform for the construction industry. It has been used by banks, developers and consultants from 2009 to process bids worth more than US$12 billion.

The launch of its mobile version last month aims to push the industry to enhance company profiles on the platform and help find better partners. Karim Helal, CEO and Co-founder of ProTenders.com, is thrilled about his website now having a mobile version. It enables the website’s users to consolidate their search and engagement activities in one platform and conveniently.

Helal says that they chose to launch the mobile product as a response to the increasing amount of traffic ProTenders.com have received from mobile search queries. “At least 25% of search is now done through mobile.”

He admits that launching the mobile version was encouraged by Google’s recent updated algorithm which ensures mobile optimised sites to rank higher in their search results.

Boosting the digital platform

“Most construction companies have outdated websites,” says Helal. These websites use obsolete technology such as flash which don’t adapt to the mobile device. “Thus, you lose potential business.”

Helal says that if a company hasn’t adapted to the new mobile landscape, even advanced searches won’t be able to find a company’s website unless it upgrades or has a profile on websites such as ProTenders.com.

According to ProTender’s recent Global Construction survey, 80% of construction companies are regularly looking for partners. Most companies admitted to be constantly trying to drive business growth. Helal says that majority of these companies still use word of mouth or recommendations to find their partners. Traditionally this would be executed by business development staff or by distributing paper based profiles to potential clients. Thus making the search for the right construction partner and subsequently engaging with them very time consuming requiring a lot of information collection from different platforms.

Helal says that ProTenders.com exponentially increases the competitiveness of an organisation by eliminating manual and laborious tasks distributed over people and systems. “We’re also adding value to the industry as a whole by providing a single platform where you get consistent and well-designed information, whenever you want and on any device.”

ProTenders.com, Helal says, makes it much easier and more efficient for companies to be found and to scale their business growth objectives by creating online profiles. “By using websites like ProTenders, companies don’t have to worry about maintaining their own websites, listing on dozens of different directories, restrict growth based on cost of human resources.”

ProTenders.com offers companies a central place from where they can quickly build their profile and reputation, be found by issuers and manage their tendering and bidding process. Helal says: “The profiles are visually stunning and optimised for search queries on Google, Yahoo, and Bing.”

Although companies have profiles up on ProTenders.com need to play an active role to reap maximum benefits. According to Helal, companies who maintain their profile and take the time to fill in comprehensive information, receive four times more profile views than others.

Rise of the digital age

Helal says that even though the construction industry has been slow in adopting technology, he has noticed many starting to see the efficiencies that technology can bring to all parts of the value chain.

In terms of other sectors within the construction industry, he says that they are currently seeing an upstick in the use of building information modelling (BIM), smart systems being used in facilities management and a lot more green technology to make buildings more sustainable.

In construction, Helal says, there are a lot of risks as projects are worth millions or billions of dollars. “Anything that can help in increasing the value of a project whilst reducing risk and reducing delays in the timeline is going to be adopted quite quickly.”

Helal observes that previously in this region cash was abundantly available to finance construction and so was the demand for the end product. “However, after the financial crisis in 2008 and as the market matures, companies have shifted and now are adopting technology to ensure they remain profitable and competitive.”

In terms of embracing technology, the Middle East is not too far behind. Helal says that technological advancements in the UAE public sector are particularly ahead of the public sectors in the West. The private sector on the other hand has been slower compared to global markets. He says that this is probably because it is not quite as competitive as international markets, but that’s changing. “The advantage we have here is that the public sector is seen as a trusted authority so any change in direction there will cause ripple effects to the rest of the industry.”

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