The Business Year

Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Deghaither

SAUDI ARABIA - Telecoms & IT

Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Deghaither



Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al Deghaither embarked on his new role as CEO of Saudi Mobile Telecommunications Company (Zain) in 2018. His first role at Zain Saudi Arabia was director of network planning, after which he was assigned a number of roles before becoming chief technology officer and then chief operating officer. Al-Deghaither, who holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and electronics engineering from King Saud University, will commence the strategic transformation of the company to fully utilize the tremendous growth opportunities available in the Kingdom’s telecommunications sector.

“It is extremely hard to compete on products, services, and prices these days.“

When this crisis started, what were you responsible for on an internal basis for all of your employees and the management of status quo at Zain?

Zain KSA immediately activated the business continuity committee, of which half of the management team is part of. We built a new strategy to adapt and accommodate the current situation, and it had three main phases. The first phase was adapting to the current situation to the best of our ability. The second, was stabilizing operations, conducting a stress test to the P&L, and protecting the cash flow. Finally, we prepared the rebound strategy on how we can return to the market stronger and with a larger market share. Our main priority now is to sustain our services at the highest quality and ensure an exceptional customer experience, as most of our customers are working from home, and the demand for telecom services is at its peak. In addition to that, we delayed the disconnection cycle for bills to ensure customers have enough time to pay their bills. And because we have a social responsibility obligation towards protecting the health of our employees and their families, we activated a work-from-home policy and reviewed all the policies and procedures within the company to adapt to the current situation. We even set up a direct hotline for all our employees and their families to respond to their needs almost immediately.

Where do your first half 2020’s financial results stand from this crisis?

The first half of 2020 was about scoring net profits, which accumulated to SAR164 million, as we continue on the 8th consecutive quarter to report a net profit while simultaneously reducing our accumulative losses. We saw many opportunities, considering we announced in December 2019 the completion of the largest 5G network not only in Saudi but across the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, landing the fourth largest roll-out in the world. Since COVID-19 emerged, we have offered promotions for data packages, in addition to our ongoing investment in our 5G network, as it is now available in all the kingdom’s 13 administrative regions and across 35 cities. We now have multiple use cases for 5G: fixed wireless access, where people enjoy an ultra-high speed, reliable connection in their homes, and mobility, for people to use on their mobile phones. We were already heading towards the digital transformation in Saudi as part of Vision 2030, but COVID-19 definitely accelerated our speed and helped us take bold decisions.

How did you modify your strategy to manage your customers and other external stakeholders?

It is extremely hard to compete on products, services, and prices these days. This is why we aim to be the best-performing business focusing more on customers and the things that matter most to them. In doing so, we tried to strike a balance between sticking to our original strategy and ensuring we are flexible enough to adapt to a modified one based on the current situation. In addition, as part of our humanitarian strategy, and as one of the largest Saudi companies we have a social obligation towards our customers and our people as a whole both citizens and expats. We launched several CSR initiatives, to name a few, we donated 30,000 data SIM cards to those who need to connect remotely for education purposes. We have also made education and health applications free of charge so customers can use them without consuming any data. We also provided those who were quarantined with a free Zain SIM and free data usage during the month of April to ensure they could connect with their families in their quarantined locations. In terms of solutions, we have launched our flagship cloud-computing service Zain Cloud that allows subscribers to take appropriate strategic decisions throughout a sophisticated platform that supports our vision in enabling IoT and AI functionalities. We also released Saudi’s first next-generation chipset technology solution, the embedded SIM card (e-SIM), which provides many œ–



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