EAST MEETS WEST

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | TRANSPORT & AVIATION | INTERVIEW

Saudi Arabia's geographical location is prime for logistics companies and Saudia Cargo is cashing on it to stay ahead of the global competition.

Omar Hariri
BIOGRAPHY
Omar Hariri was appointed CEO of Saudi Arabian Airlines Cargo in February 2018, bringing with him close to 15 years’ diverse experience in logistics management at globally renowned express courier and cargo air transportation operators. He holds a master of science degree in procurement, logistics, and supply chain management from the University of Salford’s Business School in Manchester, UK, and served in various positions in DHL Express, SAF Group, and Abdul Latif Jameel Logistics, the licensee of FedEx Express in the Kingdom.

What are Saudia Cargo's main strengths?

Saudia Cargo ranks among the world's leading airfreight carriers, and has left an indelible mark on the Middle East as it was the first to venture into this industry. We are uniquely positioned to provide a bridge between East and West via a wide global network and our three main hubs in Saudi Arabia. This gives us a unique competitive edge with increased flexibility, allowing us to move cargo with minimal handling time. We are currently undergoing an organizational transformation. Our strategy is in support of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 to make Saudi Arabia a leading freight and logistics hub for the region by leveraging its geographical location. In line with that, my aim is to focus on our five strategic pillars: safety and security, service quality, people, customer experience, and profitable growth.

The flip side to privatization across the industry has been the loosening of regulations and the introduction of foreign competitors. Is this market disruption healthy for the industry?

Competition is inevitable in an open market. We view it as motivation to become better in what we do and provide better service to our customers. According to a Boeing analysis, in the coming 20 years, world air cargo traffic will grow 4.2% annually. Overall, world air cargo traffic will increase from 223 billion revenue ton kilometers (RTK) in 2015 to 509 billion RTK in 2035. As far as Saudia Cargo is concerned, our strategy under 2020 initiative will make us more than ready to take on global competition.

Technology has been driving the goals of Vision 2030 across the economy. How is Saudia Cargo adopting technological solutions to further its goals?

Technology enables transparency and makes transactions faster in different industries. The airfreight industry benefits significantly from this, as customers are able to track shipments in real time. At the same time, it makes booking easier and faster. This is transparency at its best, and we intend to invest further in our IT infrastructure for the benefit of our customers. Saudia Cargo is digitalizing to enhance its customer experience. The world has become smaller, and it is now heavily dependent on technology. Whether we like it or not, the digital age will catch up with the airfreight industry. The fourth industrial revolution, generally known as Industry 4.0, is already here, and the earlier we embrace technological advancements, the better.

What are some of your goals and ambitions for 2018 and in the longer term?

My goals include transformation by 2020 that will eventually cater to Vision 2030. I focus on investing in our IT capabilities, people, machinery/equipment, and facilities. Saudia Cargo is heavily investing in infrastructural development. We have signed agreements with three major companies to construct a new cargo handling facility with a total investment of SAR1.4 billion (USD373.5 million) for both Jeddah and Riyadh. The current 35,000-sqm facility at Jeddah's King Abdul Aziz International Airport (KAIA) will be upgraded to a 75,000-sqm, state-of-the-art cargo handling facility with special focus on cold chain, pharmaceutical, and dangerous goods handling. The first phase of the project will start in September 2018 and is expected to end in November 2019, while the second phase will begin in June 2020 and is projected to end by December 2021. Riyadh's King Khalid International Airport facility will be fully refurbished in phases to buid a new 23,600-sqm unit with special focus on e-commerce and special handling. In 2018, we also inaugurated the cold storage facility for medical and pharmaceutical products at KAIA Cargo Terminal to meet the increasing demand for temperature-controlled shipments. The refrigerated warehouse was opened in conjunction with the launch of FlyPharma, a product designed specifically to meet the growing demand for the pharmaceutical and life sciences sector.