Dinis Guarda interviews Shameer Thaha, Global CSO and CEO of Accubits MENA about blockchain, his views on the MENA region and the opportunities that bring digital transformation.
Shameer Thaha is a serial entrepreneur turned business leader who builds highly efficient and performing teams focused on innovation and emerging technologies. He is the CEO of Accubits (MENA), a technology company that focuses on AI and Blockchain. In fact, Shameer Thaha believes AI & Blockchain have the capability to augment our abilities to innovate and push this world forward for good.
About Shameer’s background. I grew up in the Middle East. I went on to Singapore to continue my studies and graduated there. My first experience in the entrepreneurial world in a Chinese firm providing supply chain services for the Beijing Olympic Games. After that, I had to set up their operations in India As a fresh B school graduate, it was an interesting opportunity. After that, I moved to India widening my horizons on the business and technology side building more companies relating to these topics.
I moved to Dubai 7 years ago and have been here ever since. My main goal right now, as I have learned over the years and through my experience, is to build better customer experiences, and technology can help us do so, especially AI and blockchain. That is why every project I have been involved with or created has that background of helping others and enhance businesses worldwide, regardless of size and resources. And I was approached by Accubits precisely for that.
This is important as my core vision is having a mission for the company. Accubits as a company has seen phenomenal growth since its inception 8-10 years ago. It worked for companies like Nasa, USGS, building custom capabilities and blockchain systems. It has a very audacious goal which is the core with which we operate. The idea is that we believe any tech has the capability to get humans out of mundane tasks. With that in mind, every project that we have touched to date has transformed lives. That’s my journey.
About the cultural differences between MENA and Asia. Each region has its fair share of advantages. Singapore is a phenomenal market for fintech startups, VC’s, and is a meltdown of cultures. Especially for product innovation for the ASEAN market. India, on the other hand, is a massive opportunity because there are so many problems and so many creative ways of solving them. Over the last few years, we have seen radical changes in the country, most of them for the better. There are different ecosystems across the country that actually accelerate the startup community. So we see a lot of students and talent moving into the startup space and becoming entrepreneurs. Even during the pandemic, there is a massive success, especially in the Electric company.
About the internet, social media and blockchain. Blockchain for me represents the next wave of technology. Blockchain is a layer on top of these existing platforms and apps and it can be used and integrated into every sector that uses digital means for their business. Fintech is just the best example of a sector being boosted by blockchain as blockchain’s many characteristics would allow for faster, more secure, and more efficient transactions.
Social media plays an important role in people’s lives and they offer us a way to connect to each other but also to gain visibility for our businesses. They are a powerful tool that needs to be used wisely and with purpose.
From your experience working on the technology, government and financial side of blockchain, what can you tell us about the evolution of blockchain. There are still many people who cannot see the difference between blockchain and crypto, which are different things. And that's one of the things that I always try to highlight, the separation between the technology and the product. Understanding this is the beginning of truly widespread blockchain adoption.
One of the use cases we have done in Singapore is building a blockchain platform for the University of Singapore to help the University to issue certificates on the network, that had nothing to do with crypto, for instance.
About how to make blockchain and digital transformation mainstream. That is indeed the challenge. They are concerned about who operates the data. How do you communicate with the enterprise. These are the things one has to think about. When you talk to a goverment, the challenge starts. You got to start by working with those legacy systems. That’s step 1. Step 2 is about interoperability. It can be put on to action for the mainstream purpose. There are so many things involved for a new system like blockchain to actually happen. Data in today’s world is really important so dominating the data has become critical for many businesses. But understanding data is even more important than gathering it. AI processes help with that, blockchain will probably come after.
The narrative around blockchain is changing too. Research and different projects at a national level are helping industries, businesses and governments to change their feelings towards blockchain and it sheds light on future widespread adoption of blockchain.
About your book and the similarities/differences between the Financial Crisis of 2008 and today’s crisis. The book was focussed on the financial crisis and how the IT managers took their decisions during this time and how it impacted their business. How it safeguards the business operations of the future. But today, with the pandemic, people are calling Covid-19 as a black swan event. We know that there is a sequence with how this outbreak situation happens. It isn’t a black swan thing at all. It just tells you that the government is not prepared.
One of the challenges coming out of this crisis is remote working. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation as a whole but employee relations and management is being disrupted by this crisis. It would be really interesting what comes out of this and what solutions companies implement to make sure that productivity and wellness are met.
In Acubits for instance, we looked at how do we look at it not just internally but also externally. We launched a product called ‘rebuild the chain’, for governments to look beyond human to human, but human to surface, and manage the pandemic solution.
For a company in a crisis, the options come down to two: you or either shrink or expand. Expand is a bold step but can pay off if done right whilst shrinking can help you navigate mitigating these risks.
Your views on cyber security. We are seeing a lot of movement from investors to fund cyber security-based enterprises. As we go to work from home, it is really important that employees are prepared and have the tools to identify cyber security threats and work securely remotely. These are the real challenges in the near future.
About the projects you have been involved with. One of the projects that come to my mind is an Indonesian conglomerate which was manufacturing tires. And they have their own NBFC banks, their own distribution arms… it was a consortium project but within the same ecosystem. So when they approached us it was kind of a blessing for us as we saw huge opportunities to help them. What we did was basically to ensure the full traceability of the entire supply chain from the raw material to distribution. Thanks to our solution they were able to provide financial assistance too almost in real time. And everything working on blockchain.
About the Dubai Land Department, they were looking at different use cases and one that is already implemented is called a developer use case where an investor purchases a piece of land, that change of ownership needs to be reflected in a record network. In my opinion, this has been one of the most ambitious projects that the Land Department has done. Alongside this, we were also part of another project regarding I.T. subsidies. We built this system for them. As of today, they have done more than 75,000 transactions and have onboarded banks, investors, developers to pilot this particular project.
The satellite enterprise is one of our most ambitious projects to date. We did the launch announcement earlier this year in January and we have our launch happening in early 2021. It is an enterprise blockchain on a satellite and the idea is to go extraterrestrial in terms of the network so we have significantly more security. This is very valuable for enterprises, governments that have very sensitive data that want to keep safe. Think about healthcare data, consumer data, it can be used as a document vault, etc.
Shameer Thaha has over 15 years of industry experience and is passionate about building high performing teams and improving efficiencies. He is a published author and a speaker at global conferences. Shameer is an advisor at the Global Skill Development Council and also selectively advises high potential companies with their ICO, Blockchain or AI implementations.
Shameer Thaha holds an MBA from S P Jain School of Global Management and a bachelors in Engineering from Kerala University. He has worked with corporations such as Infosys, Microsoft and has transformed businesses from concept to multimillion enterprises.
As the CEO of Accubits, he supervises the company, which has become one of the world leaders in Blockchain and ICO technology with operations in Middle East, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and USA. Accubits had the distinction of being featured in the Inc42’s Startup Watchlist as one of the top 13 Blockchain companies to watchout for in 2018 thanks to its futuristic products. Some of the company’s most notable clients are NASA, USPS, Landmark group and Dubai Smart Government.