Human resources departments have always been more traditional than their peers. In the MENA region, this is perhaps doubly so.
While sales, marketing, and product development departments siphon away digital transformation budgets, HR is left behind. The average company spends only 6% of their technology budget on HR, and 76% of HR leaders claim their departments are overlooked in digital transformation projects.
This is according to Brian Habibi, the Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at employee benefits startup Bayzat, who spoke with the Abu Dhabi SME Hub to shed light on his company's cloud-based platform.
To this day, "70% of SMEs still use Excel and manual processes to manage their HR administration and benefits," he notes.
Human resources departments are due for a digital revolution of their own, and Bayzat wants to help in that regard.
Founded in 2013, Bayzat has raised $37 million to date. In 2020, the company recorded 30% growth in the total number of organisations using its employee benefits platform along with a 200% increase in monthly app usage, hosting more than 60,000 employees on its platform.
In his conversation with the Abu Dhabi SME Hub, Habibi shared in-depth insights into the trends shaping the HR landscape in the MENA region today, as well as his experiences as an entrepreneur in a pre- and post-COVID-19 world.
Brian Habibi, Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer at Bayzat
What was the driving force behind your business idea, and what market need were you trying to address when you created Bayzat?
Bayzat initially started as a financial comparison website for banking products. However, in 2014, we pivoted the business to capitalize on the introduction of the Dubai Health Insurance Law.
This reinventing of our business, from a financial comparison portal to an employee benefits platform, allowed us to effectively address core employer and employee pain points pertaining to HR administration, payroll, insurance, and employee benefits.
From an employer perspective, 70% of SMEs use Excel and manual processes to manage their HR administration and benefits. As a result, these companies face a myriad of productivity and compliance issues, and most importantly, are unable to optimize their employees’ experiences. Bayzat helps companies save both time and money by providing them with a localized platform that helps them automate their insurance, payroll, & HR administration. We are also hyper-focused on empowering organizations to deliver truly world-class employee experiences by enabling them to provide their employees with bespoke insurance, financial & other employee benefits.
Additionally, as an HR platform, we are able to acquire proprietary data sets that allow us to improve risk underwriting, product design and cross-selling which helps us in fulfilling our mission of making a world-class employee experience accessible to businesses of all sizes.
What are the most common HR challenges you've witnessed your clients face, and how have you helped solve them?
The average company spends only 6% of their technology budget on HR. 57% of HR professionals' time are spent on administrative tasks and 76% of HR leaders claim their departments are overlooked in digital transformation projects. This lack of investment creates major inefficiencies across HR administration, payroll, and insurance, leaving HR departments swamped with administrative tasks and prohibiting them from focusing on what truly matters; their people.
Furthermore, employee attitudes, expectations, and behaviours are continuing to evolve with 59% of millennials expecting employers to offer mobile-optimized technology and 32% of employees now stating that benefits are equally as important to their salaries, creating additional pressure on HR departments to find ways to improve the employee experience.
From our customers perspective, some core challenges that Bayzat helps solve for them are:
Reducing time spent on administrative tasks which frees them up to focus on what matters; their people.
Helping to improve the employee experience, through technology, with valuable employee benefit offerings.
Providing access to technology that offers companies the ability to access and use their insurance policy/policies in a more effective manner, which in turn helps them to manage costs.
Providing a variety of high-impact data insights across the pillars of HR, payroll, insurance and employee benefits, that empowers HR professionals to make more informed decisions.
One of Bayzat’s long-standing customers, Eat App, has realized significant increases in the efficiency of their insurance, HR, & payroll processes thanks to our platform. According to Sabahatt, Director of People and Culture at Eat App, “The high degree of automation that Bayzat’s solution provides has saved us countless hours and enabled us to refocus on more impactful areas such as taking care of our people. Not only do our employees value the convenience and ease of access that the platform provides, they also appreciate the range of insurance and employee benefit features that they have access to through the Bayzat application.”
Similarly, The Luxury Closet was able to free up on average 8 hours per week of the HR team's time and reduce the time taken to manage payroll from 12 hours to 1 hour using the Bayzat platform. According to the HR team, The Luxury Closet employees “now have the ability to submit reimbursement claims, easily change or manage existing payroll, and add a myriad of additions and deductions without compromising accuracy or time”.
By using Bayzat, how do companies save costs while providing their employees with a better experience?
Bayzat’s mission is to make world-class employee experiences accessible to every company.
From an employer perspective, we help companies save time and money by automating and enhancing their insurance, payroll and HR administration. The data generated by our platform can also prove invaluable in helping companies identify and address areas to enhance employee experiences that drive down operating costs.
For example, data captured by our platform found that even through 2020, fuel (27%) and travel (20%) expenses were among the top three most requested reimbursements. Given countless reports which have highlighted that more time at home, and reduced travel time have been some of the most valued consequences of the remote working paradigm, organizations can use this payroll data to redirect funds into digital collaboration tools such as Zoom and Slack. These have proven their ability to drastically reduce employee travel requirements, which in turn leads to greater productivity and enhanced job satisfaction.
From an employee perspective, digitalization has largely driven up their expectations. Digitally-native Millennials and Gen Z employees are used to the flexibility and autonomy that technology provides in their personal lives. As such, the level of digital sophistication they have access to at work has taken on a newfound importance with 93% of millennials citing modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace.
Through the Bayzat app, employees are provided access to a range of employee benefits, which a lot of UAE companies are not able to provide to their employees directly, such as click of the button mental health support, access to telemedicine, online pharmacy delivery & exclusive discounts across a range of products & services.
46% of employees claim that Covid-19 has made them reappraise the value of the benefits available to them when deciding to stay with or join a new employer. Through the Bayzat app, employees have access to impactful employee benefits from the convenience of their smart devices.
What specific challenges have you faced on your entrepreneurial journey so far - any unique to your industry or business model?
Entrepreneurship forces you to constantly confront challenges and adapt quickly. Very rarely are two days the same!
Depending on where you are in your journey, as you tackle specific challenges, new ones arise. In this way, I think entrepreneurship is one of the most humbling professions out there.
From a business perspective, one specific market challenge we face is the reluctance to ‘break habits’. The Bayzat platform touches on so many aspects/functions of an organization (i.e. HR admin, payroll & insurance) and for a company to use Bayzat effectively, that means they have to move away from what they are currently doing, even if what they are currently using is inferior (i.e. tedious manual and/or error-prone processes). In this sense, Bayzat’s greatest competition isn’t Excel or an inferior process per se ― it is habit.
You were among the first 4 start-ups to set up in Abu Dhabi's Hub71. Why did you decide to set up a presence there?
Being part of Hub71 has given us access to many opportunities from capital raising and learning & development, to public & private partnerships.
Being part of the most unique tech ecosystem in the region has been a truly rewarding experience and has also offered the intangible benefit of enabling us to build valuable relationships with like-minded entrepreneurs.
What impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on your business of handling employee benefits, and what HR trends did you witness emerge within the UAE?
For Bayzat, Covid-19 was a mixed bag of unforeseen challenges coupled with fantastic growth opportunities.
As a company that provides a cloud-based HR platform, common objections that the sales team faced pre-Covid seem laughable today.
For example, one common challenge that our sales team faced was convincing companies using an on-premise software solution to switch to a cloud-based platform. This objection became obsolete once government-imposed lock-downs came into effect.
Additionally, not having software to help eliminate cumbersome HR, payroll, and insurance processes via automation is tedious and challenging during the best of times. Throw in the complications brought about by a pandemic, and HR & Finance departments across the UAE were suddenly under immense pressure to streamline operations.
In a nutshell, Covid-19 did something even our best executed marketing campaigns could not, by forcing companies to live through the myriad of challenges that arise when they refuse to leverage technology to streamline core HR, payroll, and insurance processes.
On the flip side, UAE-based SMEs, our primary customer base, were hit hard by Covid-19. While we were able to significantly grow the business in 2020, our growth rate was impacted, despite our unique value proposition.
Coming into 2021, we have seen the demand for cloud-based technologies such as Bayzat continue to grow. But a key trend we have noticed is the importance that both employers and employees now place on employee benefits. For example, data from a recent Cigna survey showed that the majority of UAE employees (69 per cent) expect more mental health support from their employers. This was something we picked up on at Bazyat and which drove us to provide mental health support to company employees as and when they need it through the Bayzat app.
What's the next step for Bayzat moving forward?
Over the next 18 months, we plan to double our customer and revenue growth. We will continue to introduce high-impact features and employee benefit offers, and will roll out third-party integrations such as with industry-standard accounting software. Bayzat also plans to begin market expansion across the GCC and international territories.