Adriana Usvat is the chief executive of FLC Marketing, a company she cofounded in 2009 to help local companies implement efficient marketing campaigns. Ms Usvat, 36, who was born in Romania and formerly worked for Lukoil, arrived in Dubai in 2002. Her company’s client portfolio includes Proctor & Gamble, Samsung, Paris Gallery, Sharaf DG, Al Futtaim and the Landmark Group.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

I like to go paddle boarding, meet up with friends, watch movies – an action movie or romantic comedy that you can relax in front of – and read books. Since we are in marketing and events, there are obviously lots of things happening over the weekend so I always have my mobile next to me, but it does not mean that you cannot enjoy some time off as well.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

Paddle boarding, especially around Kite Beach in Dubai in the early morning when there are not so many people around. Being in the middle of the water on a paddle board, you do not have your phone with you and it is quite peaceful; it gives you an opportunity to think and plan.

What can’t you live without?

Friends, a good laugh and new opportunities.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

Hard work and a slice of luck. When we started the company we saw a need in the market. It was at the beginning of the recession and what was happening was that the first department to be rationalised in local companies was the marketing department. My business partner and I were able to handle the full marketing activities, including online and digital strategies. We started approaching companies to work for them on an outsourced basis, and were successful. Of course, there was a lot of hard work involved when we were starting out, but also there was a bit of luck.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Be prepared to put in the hard work, and have a proper business plan. When you start up you need to know where you are going and what you are going to do. You need to understand what your niche is and what makes you different from others. If you start a business thinking you are going to do everything it is not going to work. You need to understand what you are excellent at; there are lots of good people in the market and you need to be better than them to succeed. Be confident in your own skills, surround yourself with competent people, have a consistent growth strategy, stay calm, have friends with similar interests and be ready to work hard as well as sacrifice most of your spare time at the beginning.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

Delegate and closely monitor. We only have 24 hours in a day and unfortunately even if we wanted to do everything we cannot. One needs to have a strong team on which to count on and then start delegating. In addition, if you really enjoy what you are doing you cannot really call it work.

How do you relax after the working day?

Reading a book or a newspaper, watching TV, and sometimes meeting up with friends. I do yoga twice a week, and sometimes a bit of running. My phone is always on though. As soon as you turn your phone off you start to get more stressed about what is happening, so it is better to keep it on all the time.

If you were not running your business what else would you be doing?

I do not really see myself doing anything else other than this as it fits me perfectly. Whatever else I would do, I still like to be in charge, I do not think I would go and work for someone else, I enjoy the day to day activities of running my own business. I have got a number of things I would like to do such as opening my own hotel. Maybe 10 years down the line I would like to do something a little more laid back – I would enjoy travelling the world – but I do not see myself being completely outside the day to day running of a business.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

BARCELONA // The market for wearable technology such as fitness trackers and smart watches in the UAE remains deeply uncertain, according to the chief executive of Sharaf DG.

Nilesh Khalkho said the electronics retailer’s newly refurbished Times Square store in Dubai will have a dedicated section for wearable technology, including smart watches and fitness trackers.

But Mr Khalkho, speaking to The National at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, admitted that the long-term viability of the market remains unclear.

“A lot of the initial euphoria around wearable technology has died down,” he said. “They’re certainly being used by fitness enthusiasts, but it’s too early to say whether it’s going to be a lasting mainstream trend.”

Such concerns are shared by the industry itself, according to Idris Mootee, HTC’s chief marketing officer.

“About nine out of 10 of the products in this space are just toys,” he said, following the unveiling of the HTC Grip fitness tracker, developed in conjunction with the sportswear manufacturer Under Armour.

“People tend to wear them once, twice, maybe for a week and then put them aside.”

The industry analyst Gartner forecast that the market for wearable electronic fitness devices will grow 6.7 per cent to US$9.13 billion this year, with much of the increase to come from smart watches.

Huawei and LG both showed off two new smart watches at this year’s Mobile World Congress, days after Apple announced the launch event for its Apple Watch would be on Monday.

While smart watches are increasing in quality, the viability of the market remains unclear in the longer term, said Mr Khalkho.

“We’ve seen some very nice watch designs here, like the LG Urbane, and it’s going to be interesting to see what Apple comes up with next week, but it’s a big debate on what mainstream impact these devices will have,” he said.

“If I’m wearing a nice watch like a Rolex, am I really going to be persuaded to take that off and wear another device? At the end of the day, nobody wears two watches at the same time.”

Mr Khalkho predicted that Microsoft may be the one to watch in the UAE’s smartphone market this year, even though Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have dominated the headlines at the congress in Barcelona.

“I think Microsoft will be extremely aggressive in the second half of the year in terms of promoting Windows 10,” he said.

“They are going to especially emphasise the ecosystem that it offers, which will work seamlessly across your phone, your Surface tablet, your PC and your Xbox.”

Microsoft’s head of devices Stephen Elop this week said the company would launch a Windows 10 device later this year.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

BARCELONA // BlackBerry took observers by surprise on Tuesday when it announced plans to launch a dual curved edge smartphone, one of four devices the company plans to launch this year.

The unnamed device, shown off for mere seconds in Barcelona, has the same curved glass screen sported by Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 Edge, with a slide out keyboard reminiscent of the 2010’s BlackBerry Torch.

The company gave no indication as to when the device would be launched, or how it would be priced.

The first of the company’s four new devices to hit the shelves this year will be the BlackBerry Leap, a five-inch mid-range smartphone targeted at “career builders and companies who value security and privacy when pushing their productivity to the next level.”

The handset, which will run on BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system, also offers up to 25 hours of battery life on a single charge.

Ron Louks, BlackBerry’s president of devices and emerging solutions, told The National that the Leap would be launched in the UAE in April as part of the first wave of roll-outs, with a recommended price of US$275.

He said that the company also plans to launch a keyboard-based device product in the summer, and a high-end device in conjunction with Porsche, giving no further details.

The announcement comes a day after BlackBerry announced it would make its full Blackberry Experience Suite, including services such as Documents to Go and Secure Work Spaces, available to iOS, Android and Windows Phone users.

The opening of its software to other operating systems was interpreted by many as representative of the company’s new emphasis on software, with hardware development expected to take a back seat as a result.

BlackBerry’s share of the smartphone continues to dwindle, standing at just 0.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, down from 0.6 per cent in the same period last year.

BlackBerry chief executive John Chen said at the Mobile World Congress that the company’s finances are stabilising, and that it was ahead of schedule on its two-year programme to turn its strategy and finances around.

“We’ve generated cash and that was a big deal for us because we’ve been burning cash for some time,” he said.

Mr Chen declined to comment on sales of flagship devices BlackBerry Passport and Classic, noting that the company is in a quiet period in the run up to the release of its quarterly results later this month.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

BARCELONA // Etisalat’s group chief executive has stressed the key role of public-private partnerships in helping achieve universal broadband access, in a high-profile summit at the Mobile World Congress on Monday.

“Etisalat believes that access to broadband is a basic right for everyone and it can be served smartly, where needed,” said Ahmad Julfar in his address to the Mobile World Summit in Barcelona.

“But providing universal access to broadband poses a challenge for telcos because network investments not only have long payback periods and capex on infrastructure today yields diminishing returns.”

Mr Julfar noted that although the economic, social and environmental benefits of increased connectivity are clear have been known for some time, there remains a clear digital gap, with some 60 per cent of the world’s population unconnected up to now.

Closing this gap will require new competitive models that will allow operators to focus on market value creation through collaboration between private and public sectors, to distribute more choice, affordability and welfare to citizens, he commented.

In addition to his role at Etisalat, Mr Julfar holds the position of vice chair of the GSM Association (GSMA), organisers of MWC and industry body for more than 800 telecoms operators and over 250 companies operating within the mobile sector worldwide.

Attendees at the invite only Mobile World Summit included her Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, in her capacity as United Nations Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, together with GSMA chairman and Telenor Group chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas, and Ann Cairns, President, International Markets, MasterCard.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

BARCELONA // Etisalat’s group chief executive has stressed the key role of public-private partnerships in helping achieve universal broadband access, in a high-profile summit at the Mobile World Congress on Monday.

“Etisalat believes that access to broadband is a basic right for everyone and it can be served smartly, where needed,” said Ahmad Julfar in his address to the Mobile World Summit in Barcelona.

“But providing universal access to broadband poses a challenge for telcos because network investments not only have long payback periods and capex on infrastructure today yields diminishing returns.”

Mr Julfar noted that although the economic, social and environmental benefits of increased connectivity are clear have been known for some time, there remains a clear digital gap, with some 60 per cent of the world’s population unconnected up to now.

Closing this gap will require new competitive models that will allow operators to focus on market value creation through collaboration between private and public sectors, to distribute more choice, affordability and welfare to citizens, he commented.

In addition to his role at Etisalat, Mr Julfar holds the position of vice chair of the GSM Association (GSMA), organisers of MWC and industry body for more than 800 telecoms operators and over 250 companies operating within the mobile sector worldwide.

Attendees at the invite only Mobile World Summit included her Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, in her capacity as United Nations Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, together with GSMA chairman and Telenor Group chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas, and Ann Cairns, President, International Markets, MasterCard.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Microsoft confirmed its focus on the mid-range smartphone segment yesterday in Barcelona, with the launch of two new handsets, the Lumia 640 and Lumia 640 XL.

Stephen Elop, the head of Microsoft’s devices business, told delegates on the first morning of this year’s Mobile World Congress that the new devices would be on the shelves next month.

A Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed that the UAE would be one of the first launch markets.

The 640 sports a 5-inch 1280 x 720 screen display, and an 8-megapixel rear camera with LED flash. The 640 XL has a 5.7- inch display, with a 13-megapixel camera.

The 640 will retail at €139 (Dh571) for a 3G version, with the LTE version costing €159. Its larger cousin will cost €189 for the 3G version, and €219 for the LTE version.

This year’s presentation in Barcelona marks the second consecutive year that Microsoft has focused its attention on the mid-range smartphone segment of the market, following the launch of its ill-fated Nokia X Android range last year.

However Mr Elop insisted that Microsoft had not given up on the high-end market, saying that it would announce a new premium device this year timed to coincide with the launch of Windows 10.

Shipments of devices using Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system rose by 21.6 per cent to 10.7 million in the fourth quarter of last year, according to the industry analysts IDC.

However the operating system’s market share continues to slip at the expense of Android and Apple’s iOS, falling to 2.8 per cent in the fourth quarter, compared with 3 per cent a year earlier.

Microsoft also announced the launch of its Universal Foldable Keyboard, a portable keyboard that will work with Apple and Android devices as well as Microsoft devices.

Pricing for the keyboard will be about US$100, with general release expected in July.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Sony claims its latest tablet can offer users longer battery life during video playback as it takes aim at Apple’s market share.

It launched its Z4 Android tablet at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona as a rival to Apple’s iPad Air 2.

The launch comes amid increased questions about Sony’s future in the mobile space, where the manufacturer has been hurt by amid weak device sales and mass layoffs.

Sony claims that the Z4 is the world’s thinnest and lightest 10 inch tablet, weighing in at as little as 389 grams compared with the iPad Air 2’s 437g.

The company also claims that the Z4 will offer 17 hours of video playback on a single charge.

Perhaps most interesting is the option of Sony’s BKB50 Bluetooth keyboard, which connects physically to the Z4, to offer a laptop-like experience on the device.

The launch of Sony’s first laptop-esque tablet keyboard comes just over a year after Sony announced the sale of its underperforming Vaio laptop segment to Japan Industrial Partners.

“We have carefully crafted and considered every aspect of the Z4 Tablet to meet even the most demanding lifestyle,” said Dennis van Schie, the senior vice president of sales and marketing at Sony Mobile.

“With standout entertainment and smart productivity features, the Z4 Tablet is an extraordinary tablet that fits perfectly into your day-to-day life.”

The Z4 will retail for about €549 for a Wi-Fi only version, with an LTE version available for about €649. The keyboard will retail separately for about €180, Sony said.

A Sony spokesman said that the devices would be available this spring, giving no details about when the devices would be rolled out to the Middle East.

The Z4’s launch comes amid tough times for Sony’s mobile devices businesses, with its tablet lines facing struggling in particular.

The Sony chief executive Hiroki Totoki said in December that tablet sales accounted for just five per cent of the company’s mobile device sales in 2013, and that this figure could drop to as low as three per cent by next year.

The company was reported in January to be considering a further 1,000 layoffs from its mobile devices division in addition to the 1,000 announced last year, leading to rumours that the company was preparing to exit the mobile sector.

“They make good-quality phones, but they tend to be priced quite high,” said Nabila Popal, a research manager with the industry analyst IDC in Dubai.

“People tend to think, ‘If I’m spending so much money I might as well go for an iPhone or a Samsung phone instead.’ The Sony brand doesn’t seem to justify that higher price point anymore.”

Sony’s only smartphone launch at MWC was the M4 Aqua, the latest in its mid-range waterproof device range. The company claims that the new handset, expected to retail for about €299, can last for two days on a single battery charge.

The M4 Aqua also sports a 13-megapixel rear camera and offers full waterproofing without the need for a USB port cover.

The handset, which will also be launched in spring, will be available in white, black, coral red and silver.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

HTC surprised tech observers in Barcelona with the announcement of its entry into virtual reality content delivery, as part of a partnership with Valve, the developer of popular online gaming portal Steam.

The agreement will see the Taiwanese device manufacturer launch a virtual reality headset, named the HTC Vive, which the company says will be launched commercially before the end of the year.

“Vive creates an exciting opportunity for all developers and content creators, to help us bring virtual reality into the mainstream with an end-to-end solution that completely redefines how we entertain ourselves, communicate with each other, learn and, eventually, how we become more productive,” said HTC’s chairwoman Cher Wang.

A version of the headset, which comes equipped with two wireless handheld controllers, will be launched for developers from this spring, with an early version available for testing at this week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

“Our collaboration with HTC is driven by the companies’ shared desire to produce the most compelling and complete VR experience,” said Ken Birdwell of Valve. “Delivering content creators with the Vive Developer Edition is an incredibly important milestone in our efforts to achieve that goal.”

HTC and Valve have also begun working with content providers including including Google, HBO, Lionsgate and the National Palace Museum in Taiwan to offer non-gaming virtual experiences.

After having been largely written off as a consumer technology some time ago, virtual reality has seen a resurgence in recent years, prompted largely by the development of the Oculus Rift headset by American start-up Oculus VR.

The company was acquired for $2bn by Facebook in March of last year, and is expected to launch commercially later this year.

Samsung threw its hat into the ring in September with the launch of its Samsung Gear VR headset, with the South Korean manufacturer announcing an updated version on Sunday.

Microsoft in January unveiled its HoloLens virtual reality headset, which it plans to launch later this year.

The announcement of the Vive headset came after HTC unveiled the HTC One M9, the latest iteration of its flagship smartphone range.

The M9, which has a largely similar crafted metallic body that of the M7 and M8, comes equipped with an enhanced 20MP camera, and is available in dual-tone silver and rose gold, single-tone gunmetal grey, single-tone gold and dual-tone gold and pink.

The HTC One M9 will start shipping internationally from mid-March.

The company also announced the launch of the HTC Grip, its first fitness tracking device, developed in conjunction with American sportswear maker Under Armour. The device will go on sale in the USA this spring, priced around $199, with no details as to when it will be launched internationally.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Samsung has unveiled its new flagships handsets the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, rounding off a day of high profile device announcements from the likes LG, Huawei and HTC in Barcelona on Sunday.

The South Korean manufacturer, the world’s largest smartphone maker, has gone back to the design drawing board for the two devices, after last year’s S5 prompted a slump in sales, attributable to its plasticy design and little perceived difference between it and its predecessor.

The S6 sports a glass and metal finish, giving the device a more premium feel, while the S6 Edge, sports two curved edges, which can be used for notifications and shortcuts.

Both handsets come with wireless charging built in, together with redesigned front and rear cameras, which Samsung claims capture low-light images that are superior to those taken with Apple’s iPhone.

The S6 will be available in white, black, gold and blue, while the S6 Edge will be available in white, black, gold and green.

Samsung also announced the launch of Samsung Pay, a mobile payment system developed in conjunction with MasterCard.

Unlike rival payment systems such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet, Samsung Pay will use near field communcations technology and also be compatible with older magnetic-stripe card terminals.

Samsung is hoping that the S6 and S6 Edge and services like Samsung Play will help it wrestle back market share from archrival Apple, which enjoyed bumper sales of its iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices in the second half of 2014.

Apple’s share of the global smartphone market rose to 19.85 per cent in the fourth quarter of last year, just behind the 20.01 per cent share Samsung had at the same date.

Samsung has also been squeezed in the mid-range and lower priced smartphone segments, where Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi have made significant inroads.

While Samsung’s devices have impressive hardware specifications, the manufacturer’s devices fall down on their software ecosystems, according to Roberta Cozza, research director at industry analysts Gartner.

“They look and feel like high end products, with the improved design, but we need to see more coming in terms of the ecosystem,” she said.

“It’s all very well to say that you’re improving the camera and the battery, and it’s good technology, but while it’s interesting to see their pay system, we need to see much more development of their software and services, as well as the hardware.

“The likes of Sony and HTC are catching up and are also offering more innovative hardware, especially in camera technology.”

The S6 and S6 Edge will be launched across 20 countries from April 10. Samsung did not disclose whether the UAE was one of these markets. The country was one of the first markets to launch the Galaxy S5 last year.

No details were given as to pricing.

jeverington@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter

Barcelona // Smart watches and wearable technology are set to be the talk of the town at the Mobile World Congress, with a series of device launches timed to pre-empt the release of the highly anticipated Apple Watch next week.

LG was first out of the gate with the launch of its Watch Urbane and Watch Urbane LTE devices on Sunday morning. China’s Huawei followed shortly afterwards, launching its first ever smart watch, simply titled the Huawei Watch.

Huawei also announced the launch of the Talkband N1 and B2, its second and third fitness tracker devices.

The Taiwanese manufacturer HTC followed suit just hours later, with the launch of its first fitness tracker, the HTC grip, developed in conjunction with the clothing maker Under Armour.

Huawei and HTC’s announcements come after Apple said on Thursday that it would launch the Apple Watch next Monday in California.

The Apple Watch is forecast to breathe life into the smart watches market, which, despite a number of positively received devices, has not yet translated into sales.

Fewer than one million smart watches were sold worldwide in 2014, according to the industry analysts Analysys Mason.

However Apple’s entry is forecast to drive total smart watch sales to 13.6 million worldwide by the end of the year.

“Other manufacturers – such as LG, Motorola and Samsung – will eventually benefit from the increased interest in smart watches as a credible device type, but we do not anticipate any vendor matching Apple’s market share in the short or medium term,” the analysts wrote in a research note.

Smart watches are forecast to become the largest segment of the wearable devices market by next month, with the entire sector expected to be worth $22.9 billion by 2020.

jeverington@thenational.ae