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In Conversation With...Paul N Berry, Obeikan Education

This month we speak to Paul Berry from Obeikan Education, first time exhibitors to GESS Dubai to find out more about their company, the products that visitors can source and their experiences of the Middle East market.

Tell us a little about your company and products.

Obeikan Education was formed as a division of Obeikan Investment Group in 2004 and was formed as a result of the combination of the Obeikan family’s desire to improve educational standards in KSA and the deep involvement Obeikan had in the worlds of publishing and bookstores, many of whom’ s customers were educators, schools/colleges and students.

Since that formation Obeikan Education has grown in to one of the largest providers of education solutions in the Middle East and North Africa.  Indeed that is our mission statement – ‘To be the leading provider of education solutions in MENA”.  Currently Obeikan Education operates across the full spectrum of education, from Early Childhood, through Schools, Vocational Colleges, Higher Education and Workplace education and has long term partnership contracts in these areas in KSA, Qatar and Bahrain as well as discussions underway in the Emirates and many other parts of the Arab speaking world.

The heart of Obeikan’s success has been the ability to take best practice, best partners and best products from other parts of the world e.g. US, UK, Europe and make them wholly relevant to the needs and challenges of education in KSA, the Gulf and across the region.

The essence of Obeikan Education’s differentiation is a combination of strong education experience in the team – many of our staff have deep academic roots combined with, a sensitivity in handling the right way to adapt education material to improve its cultural relevance and impact.  With the core of most educational programs still requiring print assets but increasingly adding digital components, Obeikan is well placed with a pedigree in print and eLearning team in Amman to bridge this difficult transition with our clients.

At all education levels and in all countries in which Obeikan operates we see similar challenges – how to improve education outcomes for students, how to equip them for lives in the 21st century and how to appropriately introduce technology to support these aims.

About the Middle East Market

Other than Ministry of Education events in KSA, Obeikan has not previously used exhibitions as a focus for its customer activity, however, with the increased focus on education in the Middle East and the growth of significant events like GESS we feel that is time to reach out and use GESS 2015 as a platform to have broader customer conversations. 

The nature of the work that Obeikan Education undertakes, whilst based on core principles and modules, is consultative in it early phases and so we see GESS2015 as a chance to broaden the conversations we are having to other countries and their ministries as well as the private sector.  In the run up to the event Obeikan will reach out to attendees and our existing clients to invite them to meet at GESS and talk about how together we can improve education standards.

There is no substitute for market knowledge!  In previous roles I had global responsibility for sales and marketing in the education technology space and the differences between markets could make or break success.  Any company wishing to be successful in the Middle East, and in particular in KSA, needs the local knowledge and expertise of companies like Obeikan.  Obeikan has commercial partnerships with Cambridge University Press, Laureate and Smart Technologies and a range of smaller partners that allows Obeikan the ability to deliver best of breed international solutions with an appropriate local flavour.  So my advice to anyone wishing to operate in these markets is find the local partners like Obeikan who can bring the cultural nuance and contacts to be successful.

With a solid base of contracts and successful implementation in KSA, Qatar and Bahrain, Obeikan Education is seeking to take this expertise and work across the Arab world.  Conversations are already underway in the Emirates, Jordan and Oman and we see our attendance at GESS as further raising our profile for these opportunities.

As delegates we have attended GESS during the last few years and have seen the event mature, and the audience develop to a point where we and GESS are at the right level to increase our presence.  Key for our business is the delegates – a maturing event is attracting the right audience and we want to be present to talk with them.

The nature of our business is not about products or product launches.  We will showcase some of the tangible elements of our offerings, for example, textbooks, digital content and systems, however, our main focus will be on inviting people to come meet with us, share the challenges they are facing and let us find ways to help them achieve their goals.  Dr Ahmed Rafea will be speaking on “The Theory-Practice Gap in Curriculum Reform: Science Education as an Example” explaining how an 8 year project to reform Math and Science in KSA has been managed by Obeikan and the challenges and results of such an undertaking!

We look forward to welcoming visitors to our stand F20!  GESS 2015 will be Obeikan Education’s first exhibition at GESS – I am sure it won’t be the last!!