SUPPLY AND COMMAND

Oman 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Firas A. H. Al-Abduwani, Founder & CEO, and Mohammed Al-Abduwani, COO of Hussam Technology Company (HTC), on making Oman a better place to do business, meeting an ever-expanding customer base, and diversifying one's project capacity.

Firas A. H. Al-Abduwani
BIOGRAPHY
Firas A. H. Al-Abduwani, Founder & CEO of HTC, has over 10 years of experience in building, developing, and leading teams along a clear strategic vision with emphasis on adding value and competitiveness to Oman. HTC has grown to be a reliable and innovative system integrator in the ICT and renewable energy sectors and has played a significant role in the private network market of the Sultanate. Al-Abduwani holds a PhD in petroleum engineering from Delft University of Technology, an M.Eng in petroleum engineering from Heriot-Watt, and a B.Eng in mechanical engineering from Imperial College. He is an alumnus of IMD and the National CEO Program.
Mohammed Al-Abduwani
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed Al-Abduwani is the COO of HTC and has over nine years of experience in managing end-to-end projects from design, commercial, technical, implementation, and handover. He holds an MBA from The University of Strathclyde and a BEng in mechatronics and robotics from The University of Leeds.

What are the core areas of HTC's operations?

Today, HTC operates in two distinct areas, the ICT and renewable energy sectors. In the mature and competitive ICT scene, it has carved out a niche in private networks, where it enjoys a leading position in the Sultanate. In the emerging renewable energy market, where market segmentation has not surfaced, HTC is participating in all key segments: engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC), consultation, advisory, and development. Our common vision is enhancement, people, and competitiveness. Whatever solution or service we provide has to have an impact in enhancing a critical aspect that our clientele defines. We at HTC have to have impact on people whether it is HTC's members, our clientele, or society at large.

What telecoms-related projects have you developed for other sectors?

HTC at its inception focused on wireless technologies. These are less capital intensive, require less permitting, and, as an SME, were more attainable. As such, we deployed one of the GCC's first wireless mesh networks with the Sohar Industrial Estate in Oman in 2006. With prototyping help from The Knowledge Mine, today called the National Business Centre, we were able to sell our first network through a local partner in Dubai to Zabeel Palace. We managed to deliver many more such nomadic networks to our clients. We then entered the high bandwidth market by becoming Oman's first Telecommunication Regulatory Authority-approved free space optics supplier and scored multiple wins. Our first win was with BankMuscat to whom we supplied 2x 1Gbps link between its head office and disaster recovery center. We are extremely proud that we supported BankMuscat for close to seven years with one of its most critical links. With this win, we were able to directly and indirectly offer a number of similar high capacity links to the financial and corporate sector in Muscat. HTC played a critical role in eroding the prices offered by the fixed-telecom operator for short high bandwidth leased lines, bringing them closer to regional prices, which enhances the capabilities of local companies and makes Oman more attractive to perspective foreign companies.

How did HTC offer its clients these innovations in the telecoms sector?

HTC operates in a client-centric manner, and our offerings can be broken down into two categories—customized and commoditized solutions. We always focus on scouting the market for common pain points that are not being addressed by commoditized off-the-shelf solutions. We would select a client with whom we can safely propose out-of-the-box solutions and iterate the design with them jointly until we reach the solution that best addresses their needs and is applicable to a wider customer base. This solution we would then standardize and propagate in the market, in effect commoditizing it. We repeated this cycle over time, which allowed us to introduce several technologies into Oman while maximizing value gains and cost savings to clients.

What solutions do you offer regarding HTC's involvement in the renewables market?

HTC is primarily a B2B solution provider, with strengths in engineering and project management. As such, we naturally gravitated toward the commercial and industrial segment. We are targeting the 10kW- to 10MW-size projects, whether grid-connected, off-grid, or hybrid. While our first solar deployment took place in 2007 for our Medco Energy concession private network, we only entered the market after Shell Development Oman (SDO) announced its gift to the nation for 2015-2019 in the form of Solar into Schools. The nature of this initiative is to create a safe sandbox for willing Omani SMEs to utilize their engineering ingenuity to design solutions, guiding them commercially and supervising their on-site delivery of solutions. This is a far safer prototyping environment than we had available to us in the telecom sector, and we pounced on this opportunity with full determination. Being awarded two of SDO's first phase schools was a great learning opportunity, which helped us strike our roots in the EPC segment in Oman.