Emad Henin is the founder of GamUp; an organization specialized in Gamification where they have occasional open courses in partnership with Gamification +LTD, UK. Emad is also a member in the steering committee of GamFed. Gamification refers to work situations where game thinking and game-based tools are used in strategic manner to integrate with existing business process.
Emad is also the Human Resources Business Partner for Minapharm Pharmaceutical organizations. Emad have a B.Sc. in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Ain Shams University. He is also accredited with MBA from ESLSCA Business School specializing in Global Management.
- How did the Egyptian Market respond to the concept of Gamification?
I will tell you first how we initially started as it will give you a clear idea about how the market accepted us. At the beginning I have used the game concept inside the company I am working in “Minapharm” as I am working in the Human Resource Department and mainly in “Ramadan” the holy month of Muslims; the energy of employees is weak also the working hours is fewer than the normal days especially there is no break. So, I thought of creating something that will make employees more energetic in that month.
So, I created a competition and called it Ramadan Riddles with the Ramadan Theme; I found it being approved by many. I started by sending small questions to the employees where anyone can get it from google then I realized that the questions have to be more deep so I started to customize the riddles to be tailored to “Minapharm” organization so that the employees can feel the relatedness to feel that these questions are only for them the process have changed from a year to another then it changed to be a training program where employees started to participate in a competition for a whole month and at the end they learn a lot from it.
This made me realize the power of games the idea of fun theory and that employees enjoy the working environment as here in Egypt it wasn’t taken into consideration, the concept of enjoying work as people perception about someone who is smiling or happy it means that he is not working but I have found the opposite ; as when employees are happy and satisfied in their workplace they achieve better and the communication between the departments gets better.
After some readings I realized that what I am doing is an established science called “Gamification” and by 2011 the term GAMIFICATION started to be known worldwide. A global definition was set by practitioners in addition to guidelines, procedures, and methodologies. In Egypt and the middle east, we were late to hear about it. So, I started to communicate with international Gamification practitioners and was able to get contact with “Pete Jenkins”; the founder of Gamification Plus.
He was giving courses abroad; so, I introduced to him the idea of working together and I showed to him my achieved projects then we signed a partnership. I have a partner Sandra Abadir and just the two of us do everything.
Our main challenge was to convince Mr. Jenkins to give the course under his name, however we convinced him to come to Egypt and give us the course here and he believed in us and in our work. Afterwards; he trusted us to give the course on his behalf.
Later; we started to go in the market and spread the idea of professional gamification. Our main objective was to seek differentiation as we are specialized in gamification. In Egypt; there were a confusion between the concept of gamification and the game-based learning approach; so, the market expectation was different from what we are providing so we started to face so rejection but later we found approval from the startups; corporates, and especially the new generations of entrepreneurs.
Another challenge was our fees as we are giving a course that is certified from the UK, but people started to know the importance of our product. But we see ourselves going in the right path and the Egyptian market is very promising and full of opportunities.
- Is Gamification in favor to the Employer or employees?
I see it as a win – win situation; the employer won’t do the task unless he sees that is has high ROI “Return on Investments” on the company; the employee won’t engage in the task unless he knows it’s in his favor.
So, the equation is that everyone is focused on the objective. What differentiates gamification from just games, badges, and trophies is that we do what we do for the sake of achieving business objective.
From the perspective of employers its always business objective, we always try to measure its effect on the ROI, we measure each project outcome before and after gamification. As for employee; it’s for sure when someone is enjoying his work and getting involved in the workplace; it reflects on the productivity and the revenue.
So simply it’s a win – win situation and if the equation is unbalanced so it’s an inefficient gamified project that had been implemented.
- The competition between employees can arouse some unethical behavior, how can the Gamification platform solve that issue?
Well Gamification methods are different as it creates a competition without aiming to a monetary or a promotion, but the main objective is making competition fun and effective. So, it makes employee participate in it voluntarily as they reach the state of loving it and willingness to be a part of it.
Also, there is a model which we apply, and it’s called “RAMP” which stands for “Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose” if the employee gets these four factors it will motivate him to participate in Gamification without doing any unethical behavior.
Relatedness means that the Gamification program is related to the employee and he perceive it as being a part of him or do social bonds with others and give him the opportunity to socialize with them.
These are the socializers; where their priority is to get in contact with others. Next is the Autonomy; which refers to the freedom of choice, the track is flexible for the employees to choose what’s suitable for them. For example; employees can choose their time and topic. So, this Autonomy makes the user interested to participate and makes him feel that he is not forced to be part of that.
Then the Mastery; in the program there is a module that the trainee can master a specific skill or can overcome a challenge; it motivates him to participate in the program and this fits more with achievers’ types who are always seeking for challenges.
The final prospective is the purpose; as there are type of people who love to do work for a purpose, they are also seeking to benefit themselves, others, or the organization they are working in. so when we provide these factors in the gamification program; it makes the competition attractive and related to the program so employees participate in it ethically, as they are not forced to it. Also, employees feel that they are in safe environment and they know that nothing harmful will happen to them.
- What are the challenges that you have faced in setting up your idea?
We faced many challenges, first challenge we faced was the start-up cost of our company including the fees of partnership with Gamification UK as mainly we started with the strategy of low- budget investment so to establish this partnership we tried to search for several alternative, the first one was to travel and attend this course but that would have cost us a lot, the other alternative was that we invite them to Egypt on our expense but we realized that this will also be expensive on us, so we came up with the idea of organising the Gamification course locally to be delivered by Pete himself . At the same time in UK they agreed on the idea, so it became a win – win situation as the course outcome covered the travel expenses
The next challenge was setting up the company, the advertising and the marketing campaign, and graphics so as working in human resources department we found out that these aspects are new to our field of expertise so we started to learn about web designing and web developing to start establishing our website and establishing ways to increase our audience; we also did everything ourselves. As my partner started to be very talented in designing so we started to save those expenses and do it ourselves. Then we started to attend events where we met startup corporations and entrepreneurs, so we started to increase our network and we communicated with them on one – to- one meetings, also we did the marketing and sales ourselves and we created the training materials customized to each customer as we are originally trainers and we deliver those trainings.
Another challenge was the culture difference between UK and the middle east as we started to tailor the trainings according to the middle east in the same time it had to be with the same content of UK and we had to get approval from the mother company on what we train. One of our main challenge was how to penetrate the market as whether we will target public or private corporations. Another challenge is that we are already employees in other organizations as we are still in the beginning and we cannot sacrifice the safe income now, so we work after working hours and in the weekends and we can stay for months without one day off.
- How do you deal with competition?
When we started our business, we faced two types of competitions. They are the ethical and unethical competition. The ethical competition represents the other certified licensed Gamification providers in the market.
As for me I enjoyed this type of competition, it motivates us to do our best; as the idea of being alone in the market doesn’t give any indication of to what extent you are good or not. On the other hand, we also have a collaboration between them and we share the knowledge together.
On the contrary comes the unethical competition, as you don’t know where the attack will come from and in which way. Despite that me and my partner are always focused on our work and on our objective and our response and we tend to be very practical in improving ourselves.
- Does establishing a new business need a large capital or there are other factors more important than money?
Money is the main factor to be considered when starting a new business, but it is not the factor that you will start with. First, you must get an idea for the new business, next you will search if the idea is needed in the market, then your qualifications are more important as money can be obtained from different ways.
If you don’t own the know- how of the business, money will be useless. As from our experience, we managed to start with no budget, we also have a good reputable name in the market and we relate to worldwide names, succeeded in doing global partnership.
People started to search for us, as they wanted to enter the middle east market through us. We started to collaborate with organizations that provide integration services for gamification. Success doesn’t come from money only; however, it comes from effort, dedication, and our passion in what we do.
- Do you encourage Egyptian youth to be entrepreneurs or just being an employee is better?
I want to give them some advice that they must take care of. First, they must have an idea where they believe in it besides thinking about the implementation method. Second; it’s not shameful to be an employee.
Everyone must know his skills, qualifications, goals in life and then take the decision. As for me I was scared to take that decision, I had a fear from change but once I took it I found out that I am happier and more satisfied about myself.
As now my passion drives me to achieve more as when you do the effort that you should do you generate its outcome. If you are a risktaker, and ready for more adventures so its time to be an entrepreneur. On the other hand; if you don’t want to get out from your comfort zone so be an employee and grow in the organization you are in till you be a director or CEO.
- How do you perceive the Investment Ground in Egypt?
Well I think that in the current time and in the coming years investment in Egypt is very promising, as it is obvious that the government is willing to attract foreign direct investments, facilitate all the processes needed for new business to be established.
The spread of one shop office where it contains all the authorities in one place where all the procedures are done smoothly. Moreover, the Egyptian population are very promising for the market needs as Egypt is considered a young country as most of our population are youth where they have the concept of accepting new ideas and technology in an easy way as they are also seeking new ideas and concepts.
Also, in Egypt there are communities for startups and entrepreneurs. People are helping each other, a lot of events where you can meet entrepreneurs from different sectors and who are willing to help and coordinate with each other. As recently there is an annual event called “RiseUp” which is very successful for all the entrepreneurs as more than 5000 attendees from many countries attended 2017 version and expect more this year.
- How do you see the future of “GamUp”?
Since I started a dream of making GamUp very large corporation, not just a start up. Our motto was that “Think Big”. In our initial start our target was to serve the MENA region, and we have already extended our services outside Egypt; as we succeeded in conducting many successful workshops – public and corporates- inside Egypt and abroad as well. Eventually we have been shortlisted for global award in international conference GamiCon, Chicago USA, and we participated through workshop in NASAGA 2018 Conference Rochester NY, USA.
Now we are competing in a European award in next November in Amsterdam “Outstanding Gamification Rookie”; this award will go to the individual who has joined the industry during the past 12 months and managed to deliver an outstanding project or spread the word about gamification far and wide.
Our mission is to boost your business up, enhance your learning process up, and improve your personal life up. We believe in our mission. We dream that we have an impact in Egypt, not just as training courses but for Gamification to reach the macroeconomics and the national projects to be Gamified and we have a lot of ideas concerning that.
We are also seeking partnership with more than one sector. Besides the British partnership we have Hungarian partnership for another service. I am also thinking of making GamUp as integrated service for Gamification and Game- based learning in the MENA Region and have several branches and partners in the MENA Region.