24 April 2024

Investing in new technology horizons

| The European |

A conversation with Hisham Itani, Chairman and CEO of Resource Group

Resource Group is a management group with a diverse portfolio of businesses that capitalises on technology and human capital for value creation. The group was established after years of focus on R&D innovation and by identifying value-added niche markets. The ability to anticipate demand in such markets is a main driver behind the milestones and success of the group’s subsidiaries. Resource Group operates across a range of sectors, including digital security, smartcard manufacturing, cybersecurity and secure communication solutions, mobile and virtual reality gaming, among others. Resource Group has earned the trust of governments and top-tier companies in over 50 countries across the Middle East and Africa. The European caught up with Chairman and CEO Hisham Itani to learn more about the strategies and ethos underpinning the organisation.

Having specialised in the tech sector for a number of decades, how would you say technology has shaped people’s lives and created new opportunities for organisations such as Resource Group?
Technology affects people’s lives on a multitude of levels including social, economic, environmental and health aspects. But it is mostly about improving the quality of service and ultimately the quality of life. If you look at the evolution of technology and of people’s behaviour in parallel, you can see that our actions and ideas are shaped by technological progress and innovation. These innovations are broad in nature, such as contactless methods for digital payments from anywhere in the world, or enhanced internet connectivity in regions that formerly had none whatsoever. The advances in technology hold the promise of bringing people closer together. Over five decades since its inception, Inkript adapted to technological advancements in the traditional printing space. By expanding into the digital security solutions, we bridged citizens’ needs for a technology that would develop as the industry grew. As a result of this, new verticals spun out and Resource Group was created to consolidate this drive for technological innovations. Our goal was not just to explore the vast opportunities in technology, but also to harness the existing talent on the local level and work together towards the advancement in problem solving on a regional and international level.

How do you embrace disruption at Resource Group, and do you believe that disruption contributes to digital transformation?
A long-time ago, I joined the family printing business. As I saw the potential in technology in Lebanon and the greater region, we started working in security printing, which was a need at the time, well before the rise of digital technologies. Recently, I have adapted a new setup whereby all technology and R&D units within the group follow a central profit-oriented mindset, a software hub, where best practices, governance and drive to innovate are optimised, instead of traditional decentralised cost centres within business units. So, disruption is not a discontinuity in your operations, it is about driving exponential growth through change. Additionally, digital transformation plays an important role in shaping the way businesses and governments respond to challenges and potential opportunities. The Covid-19 pandemic was disruptive in the sense that it prompted organisations to find solutions that allow them, the consumers, and the citizens to navigate the change and create solutions. Therefore, the digital transformation is the union of security, convenience, and the resulting technologies that make that all possible. We have seen this first hand with the positive results of the biometric payment methods, with Inkript being the first manufacturer of biometric payment cards in the region. When we look now at this technology that grew out of the need to adapt to the pandemic, we don’t think there will ever be a reason to go back to the status quo, and as such our overall attitude towards the nature of physical currency has been disrupted. We truly embrace the notion that technology can be disruptive, beneficial, and border neutral.

How does Resource Group maintain a culture of innovation and embrace change? And how does this culture help you navigate times of crisis?
Every day our team is tasked with solving a specific set of problems, and none of that is possible without maintaining a culture of open-mindedness, adaptability, and above all else, resilience. Innovation is the result of a serendipitous combination of trial and error. Success is achieved when we have shown the level of open-mindedness and adaptability to push beyond any setbacks in order to achieve that solution. That can only be done when your organisation embraces a resilient spirit. There is an old adage, “Get knocked down nine times; get up ten.” Resiliency is the basis of our culture because we understand that there will always be obstacles of some sort to overcome. Our role is to be a solutions provider to the problems that exist, and to constantly innovate and evolve to prepare for the challenges that we have yet to encounter. To reinforce this culture of innovation, we have endeavoured to create a software hub across the group where talented developers and engineers have access to more resources through synergy across teams independently of individual verticals. We have also taken the spirit of innovation to another level by investing in an incubation platform called Interform with a mission to seek and endorse bright entrepreneurs and help them develop the required technology through our software hub. We have placed this incubator at the heart of the group’s strategy for technological advancement and value creation. It has been shown that to achieve success in the Middle East and Africa, significant investment must be made beyond your borders.

It has been shown that to achieve success in the Middle East and Africa, significant investment must be made beyond your borders. How does Resource Group address this?
Resource Group believes that having true, strategic partners is absolutely paramount to achieving any level of meaningful success in this region and beyond. At the backbone of any strategic partnership, is a strict adherence to professional governance, compliance processes and industry regulations. World class vendors require specific and stringent standards and levels of compliance. Resource Group makes sure that we hold ourselves to these high standards, which is why we appreciate partnerships with world class technology providers such as Airbus Defense and Space, Huawei, and Idemia for example. In order to achieve such high standards, it is paramount to remain in pristine standing with all relevant regulatory bodies as we are working with government entities in the Middle East and the EU. This ultimately allows us to compete and create concrete value. As such, we are an accredited supplier for several international clients and bodies and are considered to have achieved the highest levels of compliance with industry standards. Inkript, a subsidiary of Resource Group, is also recognised by the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC) and is listed in ICAO and Interpol directories as a turnkey biometric travel document provider.

How do you see technology evolving over the next ten years, and where does Resource Group fit into this vision?
There is no predicting the future when it comes to technology. Just look at the innovations that occurred during the pandemic, we can see what happens when you put the brightest minds to work in the most challenging environment. Nobody would have predicted that level of productivity and that speed of disruption in general. For Resource Group, it is not just about being a solutions provider. We are investors and supporters of developing technologies and rising entrepreneurs. With the advent of remote working, we accelerated the adoption of new solutions for verifying online identities, which included biometric identification and authentication. There has been considerable demand through our digital security solutions provider subsidiary, Inkript, and we anticipate continued growth there. Moreover, the cybersecurity industry is an area of growing interest. The protection and securing of online identities, whether for e-commerce, travel identification, or countless other activities requiring secure verification, is of the utmost importance to ensure the safety of transactions for individuals as well as government entities. Virtual and Augmented Reality technology is another compelling area. We anticipate significant growth in the widespread adoption of this technology beyond entertainment and gaming spaces, into the Metaverse. For example, the field of education faced challenges even prior to the pandemic; I believe VR technology will be utilised to address these challenges, and it is just one such method to allow other cultures to really learn about each other without having to leave the classroom.

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