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SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Fahad I. Aljutaily

CEO, sirar by stc

Bio

Fahad I. Aljutaily holds more than 20 years of ICT industry experience. In addition to his wide experience, he has authored a vast number of articles in information security domains. Prior to joining the Advanced Technology and Cybersecurity Company in 2021, he was the Vice President of the Cyber Security Business Unit at STC Solutions, leading the cybersecurity business and managing the cybersecurity portfolio/capabilities. He delivered 700% growth in less than three years and captured a 23% market share to become the leading managed security service provider (MSSP) in the KSA region through an aggressive client acquisition program that initially aimed at large public organizations and penetrated the consumer segment, with additional expansion into the GCC. Prior to joining STC Solutions in 2017, he was the lead for Cisco Advanced Services Business in Saudi Arabia, leading the AS business delivery for the enterprise market segment. Prior to assuming business leadership roles, he was working with Cisco Advanced Services as a cybersecurity solutions architect and technical lead. He holds a master’s degree in management information systems from King Saud University, Riyadh and a master’s of business administration from Dar AlUloom University, Riyadh. He is also certified as a double CCIE (security and routing & switching), CISSP. He was consultant member of King Saudi University Advisory Board, a consultant member of Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University Industrial Advisory Board, and he was a consultant member of the MBA program for Dar Aluloom University. He has received the Scientific Excellence Award from His Royal Highness, Prince Faisal Bin Bandar Al Saud, Governor of Riyadh.

"We will continue to maintain our leadership in the market by bringing new capabilities to our work."

TBY talks to Fahad I. Aljutaily, CEO of sirar by stc, about the company’s mission, demand, and competition.

Can you elaborate on the mission of sirar by stc?

With aspirations towards becoming the preferred and trusted platform in the digital economy, our mission is to create cutting-edge cyber solutions with the purpose of educating, enabling, and protecting partners in the Kingdom and MEA region. In expanding our digitization efforts, the vulnerability landscape increases as well, potentially leading to greater risks and threats that may impact critical infrastructure services offered within both private and public sectors. It is therefore imperative that we ensure the safety and security of our systems and information. As a leading digital enabler in the region, stc Group is committed towards maintaining its position as the nation’s digital champion. As part of stc’s portfolio, we had a strong focus on cybersecurity and therefore, created a cybersecurity business unit with the aim of positioning ourselves as a leader within the cybersecurity domain over the span of three years by providing outstanding product and service offerings via our most proficient capabilities. In 2020, we embarked on the journey to spin-off this business and establish a separate company, sirar by stc. This decision is reflected in stc’s expansion strategy, which includes enhancing capabilities, markets, and growth areas.  Our mission is to be the trusted platform for the data economy. Based on this, we plan on building world-class capabilities by offering state-of-the-art cyber services and products to both public and private sector customers with plans for growth within the region.

 What specific drivers are currently underpinning the demand for your services?
When we talk about economic activities in the cyber domain, it’s a specific area that involves both demand and supply. Unlike other IT domains or industries, cybersecurity doesn’t have tangible aspects and yet holds immense value. Initially, it was a challenge for us to identify market demand, particularly in the cyber industry. However, over to the span of three years, we noticed an increase in demand due to two factors; First, the National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA), which is the regulatory body for cybersecurity, released the first essential cybersecurity controls and regulations, which require compliance from the entire government, semi-government, and critical national infrastructure (CNI) sectors. Additionally, as organizations expand their digital services, the risks and threats they face increase. They need to react to incidents only after they occur. Therefore, we have seen demand created by organizations learning the difficult way. This has been a material driver in the market, but now, there is an increased maturity in understanding the need for cybersecurity as an enabling tool within organizations. In sirar by stc, we proactively built capabilities in anticipation of future digitization requirements and are ready for the future capabilities we anticipated would be necessary in this journey while actively pushing our cybersecurity offerings into the market and creating demand. As a relatively new domain, we expect competition to rise, but we have our own unique differentiators. Ultimately, it is our deep understanding of market needs regarding threats and risks that sets us apart. Our anticipation for the future and our readiness today positions us well for success, and being part of stc, which currently handles 70% of Saudi Arabia’s ICT infrastructure, gives us a competitive advantage both locally and regionally, as our intelligence and visibility-related offerings are unique and provide us with a competitive edge that no one in the market possesses.

In a market characterized by increasing competition, how does the company shape its competitive advantages?

The knowledge we possess is essential in supporting and enabling the market to gain a deeper understanding and maturity when dealing with these risks. Without accurate information, taking action could be based on assumptions and result in wasted efforts or even accountability for misguided actions. We’re committed to sharing this knowledge to build the market’s capability and fulfill our role and commitment to our country. On the other hand, the cybersecurity domain is relatively inexperienced compared to other industries, so the challenge lies in finding the right talent.  As there’s a global labor shortage in cybersecurity, with an estimated 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide, and we are part of this challenge. At sirar by stc, we have a highly skilled team in Saudi Arabia that we have developed, trained, and educated over time. We are truly proud of their capabilities. We have over 300 professional certificates in cybersecurity. Another differentiator for us is our agile approach to doing business. This allows us to respond effectively to market dynamics and gives us a competitive advantage. We take pride in being at the forefront of empowering women and promoting diversity in our workforce, which has resulted in more than 30% of our team at sirar by stc being women. This is a significant contribution compared to the World Economic Forum’s estimate of 25% female representation in the cybersecurity industry. Being a magnet for cyber talent and an employer of choice for cybersecurity consulting is one of our strategic objectives. As part of Vision 2030, one of the key initiatives is to support the local workforce across various domains, including cybersecurity itself. We’re working on different initiatives to build Saudi capabilities, such as education and training investments. Additionally, we are utilizing the resources of the stc academy to assist us in building these capabilities. As part of our initiatives, we are proud to be one of the leaders in the Saudi domain. This is in terms of providing cybersecurity services and fostering cybersecurity communities. We also contribute to local content development in this field. We support local content development through organic initiatives and partnerships. And while some of our partnerships are in-house, the majority are external due to the cybersecurity industry’s nature. We’re actively looking for new potential areas to tap into in efforts to stimulate the cyber industry. We have launched initiatives related to incubation, making us one of the pioneers in this field, specifically within stc.

What are the priorities for sirar by stc for 2023-24?

We will continue to maintain our leadership in the market by bringing updated capabilities to our work. over the coming period, we have identified specific areas in which to develop innovative solutions that will become products and services for the market, and since the dynamics of the cybersecurity domain are vast, encompassing not only the business itself, but also the risks associated with threats and emerging technologies that are driving demand for cybersecurity solutions. Previously, the issue was blockchain while today we are addressing risks associated with AI and the metaverse, focusing on how to secure these upcoming areas. We are constantly monitoring these new domains and preparing ourselves. We aim to maintain and sustain our growth and position in the market for greater brand position.

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