How did I fall in love with the saudi market

16 lutego 2019

The story begins a few years before I was delegated to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Piotr (founder of Crafton) was out of nowhere invited by a Takamol Holding to the Dubai. But it wasn’t a blind shot. Crafton was providing innovative solutions for the global market for over a decade. We mastered User Experience a few years before the trend boomed. We were listed as one of the best software houses according to Clutch, so we were a reasonable choice. We started to work together on the next day after the meeting. It was our first cooperation in the Middle East and it was done fully remotely. In order to avoid unpleasantness related to remote work, we developed our own methods, based on the clarity and trust with clients. They were able to monitor our progress all the time. This solution strongly affected our discipline. The best example is the story of one of our designers. On the last day of one sprint, he was sitting till night and rearranging one section of the site. He was so determined to create the perfect interface that we found him the next morning sleeping in his chair. And indeed, the section was perfect. We learned a lot, and everyone in the team became at least a little bit more perfectionist. With Takamol we did multiple various projects and we still cooperate. However, at the time we realized that one-shot project in the country with so much unexploited potential doesn’t satisfy us. A quick digression about the Middle West market of interactive services. They do have plenty of companies, which covers their needs for development. At the same time they lack firms specialized in User Experience and User Interface Design. Our objective was not to just fulfill clients' technical needs but to enhance the experience of users and usability. It increases happiness both of companies and their customers. We wanted to make the world of digital service better. And in innovative KSA there is a place for that. Nevertheless, to break through to the market, we had to understand it. Who helped us and introduced us to this very different world was Abdullah. We met him when he was working for Takamol. But he saw potential in us. “What you do, the way you solve problems is the future of the KSA” - he once said. Not much later he encouraged us to open Crafton Middle East in Riyadh and became our partner. And we “settled” there. Having an office with a team of five people on board, and gathering another fifteen locally. The team was built of technical PMs and Business Development Managers. They were helping us to cross the gap between our civilizations. We have even prepared internal documents for employees to learn more about this culture and proper behaviors.   When I was boarding the plane, my head was full of pessimistic thoughts and stereotypes that my friends filled me with. I was afraid of the culture I didn’t know, the social context I wasn’t familiar with. Before the first meeting, I had a lump in my throat, which almost didn't let me speak. This is the feeling that everybody knows - from being examined by a teacher, through a first job interview, to the business meeting that will change your life. How big was my confusion when instead of a cold voice, I was welcomed with a warm smile of my interlocutors. At this moment I felt like the weight was taken off my chest. The aroma of the tea was spreading all over the room. On of them, <name> put a hand on my shoulder and looked deeply into my eyes. Like he was trying to recognize this apprehension of mine. Do you feel well? - he asked - to be satisfied with our cooperation we need to care about ourselves. I this was the usual politeness I was receiving during my monthly trips. However, the business is not done with nice words and compassion. You still need to find your target. After a few blind shots, we figured out, that the biggest potential lays in the governmental and the private sectors. Our great advantage over the other local companies were excellent UX and UI design solutions. By completing new projects for GAZT, STC Solutions, Thiqah, Taqnia Space and others we were getting more and more credibility. In this time our team has grown to 40 people. We also found out that this market has a huge need for videos and animations, and we set up our child company, Craftoon. Not much later we introduced blockchain services with Craftchain. What I personally enjoy the most is an opportunity to take part in one of the greatest and most ambitious projects of all 21st century. Our goal is to prepare an interactive background for changes that Saudi Vision 2030 will bring. The magnitude of this idea still impresses me. Saudi Vision 2030 is not just about reducing Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil. It is the step into tomorrow, a plan to build a nation that was seen only from utopian tales. It represents some aspirations that Europe failed to fulfill. This is the vision, we want to help with. When we decided to set up Crafton Middle East, we were full of uncertainty. Especially the picture that is drawn by mass media raised all negative presumptions. But from my experience, they turned out to be false. The work we do in Saudi Arabia changed us in the (positive) way, that no one even expected. At the end I want to shortly sum up Crafton Middle East’s condition at this moment. Despite of our office in Riyadh and my regular trips, also our employees in Poznan come here from time to time with me. To give their knowledge and understand the culture. Like Ania, our Head of UX. She provided several UX Workshops and had an unique opportunity to see Riyadh from the point of view of a car driver. We know that to get ones’ attraction we shouldn't only fit in our client needs or expectations. We decided to understand this world. Because we want to be treated not as an alien body but as Saudi-Polish company. That’s the origin of Crafton Middle East. Last but not least - we know not only our business goals but also those personal, coming from the idealism we keep inside. We want to be part of the Saudi Vision 2030 and lifting the standards of User Experience in the world of digital services.