Apr. 19, 2016

Ali Ahmed Al-Kuwari


Ali Ahmed Al-Kuwari

CEO, Es’hailSat


Ali Ahmet Al-Kuwari is the CEO of Es’hailSat. Before this, he was Assistant Secretary General at ictQATAR. He also held the position of finance director at ictQATAR and was a member of the organization’s management team overseeing the strategic investment in the satellite initiative that became Es’hailSat. Al-Kuwari has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in financial analysis. He joined ictQATAR in 2004 following senior financial positions with RasGas and the Ministry of Finance.

What are some of the major accomplishments of Es'hailSat over the last year?

Es'hail-1 was fully sold by 2014. By 2015, we tried to expand the capacity on Es'hail-1 by leasing some spectrum from our partners, and re-leasing and operating it using our satellite. Fortunately, we were successful in doing so and we expanded our capacity, which was again fully sold. Now, we are looking forward to Es'hail-2. For me, 2015, in terms of sales and marketing, was a great accomplishment by expanding the capacity of Es'hail-1. In addition, 2015 has seen the great progress made on Es'hail-2. We have gone through the critical phases, such as the critical design review (CDR) and the preliminary design review (PDR). These are the critical phases of any satellite because they could delay of the manufacturing process. Fortunately, we have passed these without any risks or faults. Also, in 2016, we signed a contract with PromerQatar for the construction of our teleport and control station for Es'hail-2. Things are moving according to the plan. Hopefully, the project will move forward on schedule to start Es'hail-2 operations on time.

What was the strategy behind Es'hail-2, and what do you expect to gain by launching a second satellite?

Es'hail-2 is a complement to Es'hail-1. Es'hailSat, as a company, was established for different purposes: strategic and commercial reasons. Es'hail-1 has achieved the strategic vision, maybe 80%, and Es'hail-2 will complement that remaining part of the strategic and commercial objectives. Also, Es'hail-1 has a great return on investment (ROI), but Es'hail-2 will increase that ROI. Before we launch Es'hail-2, we have already received applications and requests for capacity. This is definitely based on the reputation that Es'hailSat has built in the market over the last few years in terms of quality and customer service. Fortunately, we have no problems or claims. So far, everything is as expected.

What are some of the challenges that you foresee with sales and marketing of Es'hail-2?

The challenge today is competition. The market is open. In the past, we had only a few satellite operators in the market; however, now we have at least four. Those have brought extra capacity to the market and new services. The challenge is to maintain the quality of service and also to maintain the price. When there is a lot of capacity, it can turn into a price war. The challenge is to control the prices. From the broadcaster's point of view, it could be a benefit. From the operator's point of view, it would be a disadvantage. We are trying to maintain the balance. We know there are some operators in the market, and we know that those operators, with many years of history behind them, have experience and well-established brands. They know the market, perhaps even better than us. However, we are trying to maintain a high level of quality because not all the customers are looking for price. Some customers are looking for independence, quality, and reliability. We are trying to account for all of these factors and work around them.

What does the partnership with SpaceX mean for the future success of Es'hail?

Honestly, the launch market is limited. There are limited players. We have French players, some Chinese, and also some from the US. When we decided to go with SpaceX and Melco, the Mitsubishi manufacturer, we decided to send a different message to the market and industry. When we floated the RFP for Es'hail-2, we received proposals from different manufacturers and launchers, and we decided to go with the best value in commercial and technical terms. We chose the best fit for our strategy and budget. Most of the satellite manufacturers met our criteria and most of them had similar prices. We have decided to go with a Japanese company to send a message to the market. The US and European companies control the market. The Japanese also have a successful rate of satellites, such as the ones built for the governments of Turkey and Japan. However, in terms of commercial activities, they have a limited history and now we are in the pipeline. Therefore, we have decided to go with a new player.