|Lebanon can be the India or the Ireland of the Middle East in software industry|
|Some of Lebanon’s largest software companies underlined the local advantages of the industry at a forum chaired by Intel.
In search of a highly skilled and cost-effective workforce, Lebanese-owned firms operating out of Europe and the United States claimed they had moved substantial parts of their business back to Beirut.
Sponsored by IDAL, the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon, the forum hosted software houses like Murex, which counts JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers, and HSBC among its claim to 120 clients across 30 countries.
The French financial software maker has 500 employees, seven offices worldwide, and a customer base stretching from Sweden to Japan - but no clients in Beirut, according to managing director Salim Edde.
“Our Lebanon office is essential because of the technical expertise it provides,” he said. “Apart from personal reasons, me being Lebanese, it is the quality of personnel and the several languages spoken here that are essential to any business as international as ours.”
Soft Solutions, which supplies merchandise management tools to European retail giants such as Carrefour and Gallery Lafayette, said it had moved its research and development office from France to Lebanon for similar reasons.
“We realized that not only are we finding good engineers in Lebanon, but the time required to develop products was faster,” said Antoine Hage of Kube, which develops “100 percent” Lebanese-made content management systems for U.S. and European markets.
He said local technicians could rival fierce competition from India in terms of “quality, efficiency and price.”
“There is more value for time,” said John Kayat of Data Flow, which has done outsourcing for the French and Lebanese governments.
Joe Faddoul of Istisharat, which produces software for the global banking industry - including Goldman Sachs and Citibank - said locals were not “as cost-effective as Indians” but could more easily identify with Europeans on a cultural level; in addition to being free from long time delays over the telephone.
“With the right support, Lebanon can be the India or the Ireland of the Middle East,” said Beirut MP Ghinwa Jalloul, the chairwoman of a parliamentary committee on information technology.
She said the government would soon pass long-awaited laws on e-commerce by 2005, including a bill authorizing electronic signature transactions.
“Lebanon has companies that have excelled at providing software to Europe, the U.S. and South America,” said Dave Ryan, Intel’s marketing director for software enabling in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Beirut,01 31 2005