Karim Helal is a successful entrepreneur, having founded and managed a wide range of startups, ranging from Import/Exports to online web applications, the latest of which is the construction technology platform. Under Karim’s vision and direction, ProTenders grew to be the leading digital construction platform across the Middle East.
What does ProTenders do?
KH ProTenders is the leading digital construction platform, empowering thousands of Developers, Consultants, Contractors, Suppliers and Manufacturers around the world to showcase their companies, and find new leads and partners, securely and efficiently. ProTenders has over 40,000 member companies and 57,000 listed projects, and has processed over USD 35 Billion worth of bids.
What are the benefits of using ProTenders?
KH ProTenders is the only platform that combines tools (tendering) and data (project intelligence and company profiles) in a single platform, making us unique in how much we can help the industry streamline. Ultimately, when a company subscribes to our platform, they can go outbound for business through Construction Intelligence solution, generate incoming interest through our Company Profiles solution and even be invited to bid directly through eTendering solution. This is what sets us apart from another intelligence tool, from the rest of the market.
From a renowned and successful family business to launching your own start-up, what did you see that others did not?
KH Working in my family business which is still very much active and successful today, I wanted to do something different and achieve something not for me but for the construction industry. While the rest of the industries have adopted and embraced technology in all aspects of business, the construction industry was and is still slow paced on that front. Soon after joining the family business, I realised that the problem was the complex processes within multiple stakeholders leading to delays in even starting a project. Tendering traditionally involves stacks of proposals that involved an innumerable quantity of paper and multiple weeks or months of time investment to review and award bids. Seeing that this affected productivity and time management in the industry, which further delayed other processes, I launched the first phase of ProTenders which was eTendering.
What urged you to introduce other integrated solutions like intelligence and profiling on your platform?
KH With the positive reaction for a digitalised tendering process, we also saw there was a need for companies ‘to know and be known’ in the construction industry. Traditionally, it used to be word of mouth networking which was a lengthy process, and eventually to reduce risks companies would have to search the right partners to get the job done. To this, we created the element of companies profiling which was made to streamline the process of identifying the right partners and expertise to execute the job. The intelligence element was then created to further allow companies to identify the opportunities that exist through project insights at various stages. A full-fledged digitalised construction intelligence platform in addition to the existing e-tendering phase was officially launched in 2016.
What do your customers have to say about the platform?
KH For ADCE, they have found significant benefits on the tendering side. Besides reducing their usage of paper by 80%, ADCE have been able to issue tenders to the market much faster and accelerate their decision-making process because of easy bid analysis reports. They’ve also been able to enjoy increased visibility across the country and set a new benchmark for enhanced customer experience across the region.
For the intelligence solution, another top customer of ours, Sylvania who is the global leader in luminaire lighting solutions uses ProTenders to increase their team productivity because the platform offers easy access to the complete history, current status, facts, timelines and most importantly, project participants details of any project.
Being an entrepreneur has several challenges. What were the challenges you faced when the platform was launched in 2011?
KH I believe you’re not an entrepreneur if you’re not ready to face risks as opportunities. Over time, I learned that while the risks might be small or major ones, the vision shouldn’t blur. A few challenges that I faced in the past were competition, and trust in my product. Also, one of our daily challenges is that as the company continues to grow, our customer base also grows, and we continuously strive to keep our customers at the forefront of our product offering. Previously, it was challenging for us to re-emphasize the benefits of a cloud based solution as a safer and secure means for processes. And everyday, we tackle this by proving that ProTenders is a trusted platform, and we have processed over USD 35 Billion worth of bids with high profile construction clients like DAMAC and ADCE.
Does ProTenders have other offices across the Middle East?
KH Yes, ProTenders is actually headquartered in the UAE in Abu Dhabi with offices also located in Dubai. Soon, we will be opening up an office in Saudi Arabia as well. We have a network of established re-sellers internationally to support ProTenders’ presence in target markets.
What’s the next step for ProTenders?
KH In addition to continuing to grow our intelligence database, ProTenders is also working on bridging the gap between how Developers do their tendering and how that cascades down through the different players. We aim to leverage blockchain distributed ledger technologies together with smart contracts to streamline the end-to-end aspect of the whole value chain. From the tendering phase where all the project scope and payments are agreed to the release of the payment when milestones are achieved, we hope to contribute to fix one of the most endemic problems the industry is facing and increase the chances of projects to succeed on time efficiency and seamless payment.
What do you envision of ProTenders’ partnership with TPG Media?
KH Partnering with TPG media will definitely show positive results since the readership is our target market. Working with TPG media will benefit the publication’s audience to enhance their business practice in the construction industry and find key stakeholders for any upcoming projects or gain market insights. From this partnership, ProTenders’ outlook of helping companies grow in this industry will definitely prove to be positive.