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SA22_IN_AEC Ziad Al Musallam

SAUDI ARABIA - Industry

Ziad H. Al-Musallam

CEO, Advanced Electronics Company (AEC)

Bio

Ziad H. Al-Musallam is a seasoned corporate executive and technologist in the defense electronics and high-tech industry with a 30-year track record at AEC. He has been president and CEO since 2021. He is also a member of the industrial committee of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce. He has a master’s degree in electrical engineering from King Saud University.

"The pandemic expedited many processes, and many things that people thought were impossible to do remotely proceeded as usual."
TBY talks to Ziad H. Al-Musallam, CEO of Advanced Electronics Company (AEC).
AEC accelerated its digitalization efforts during the pandemic and is focused on its clients in the defense sector, cybersecurity domain, and beyond.
How are you aligning your objectives with Vision 2030, and what progress are you making toward this goal?

The company is more than 30 years old. Having started as an offset program in Saudi Arabia, it has experienced tremendous growth throughout its history, and is currently 100% owned by the government. Since day one, we have focused on some key fundamentals, such as Saudization, becoming a high-tech company, diversifying our business, and increasing our added value, profitability, and revenues. These elements are entirely in line with Vision 2030. We are playing a major role as a provider of products and services to the defense forces of the nation and also contributing heavily to the digital transformation journey of our customers. In terms of localization, we are now 83% Saudi and started hiring women four years ago, who now represent 12% of AEC’s workforce. All these efforts contribute heavily to achieving the objectives of Vision 2030.

What main challenges did AEC have to navigate during this period, and did any opportunities emerge despite the difficulties?

AEC was affected by the pandemic just like any other company. Still, the safety and well-being of our employees was our number-one priority. We ensured we had a solid system in place to protect our staff. We had a small percentage of staff working in our factories in shifts to ensure we could meet the commitments to our customers. We also enforced remote working, which helped our business continuity significantly. We implemented social distancing, mask mandates, and cleaning procedures and reduced our on-site staff to the minimum possible. On the business side, we provide many IT and digital solutions to our customers, and we saw high demand for IT services, including work-from-home solutions, remote communication, and remote monitoring for data centers and IT issues etc.

Digital acceleration, which normally would have taken over five years, occurred in just a year. How did this impact AEC’s capabilities?

The pandemic expedited many processes, and many things that people thought were impossible to do remotely proceeded as usual. We handle many professional services for our customers, typically done physically on their premises, but after the pandemic we created remote centers to monitor and support all these services. Our customers were also pleased not to have people coming to their premises, while we could ensure continuity of support.

What is your customer base like, and how has it evolved?

We are particularly active in defense, and our primary customer is the defense sector. We are also a major player in the ICT sector and also have business in the cybersecurity and energy sector, serving customers like ministries and certain large semi-government organizations. We provide high-tech products and solutions, and also provide managed services to support our customers’ operations. We are now wholly owned by the government, so our emphasis is on supporting ministries and the government sector, but we will also cater to smaller-scale companies and private organizations. Our headquarters are in Riyadh, and we have 20,000sqm of factory space. When we started, our factory only measured 6,000sqm, but we have had two major expansions and have plans to expand further in the next few years.

What are your priorities for the next six months?

AEC has a five-year business plan, and we also have a roadmap for technology development, investments, and business expansion. In technology, we are focusing on strategic domains in defense like radars, C4I, mission systems, optronics, and UAVs, and in the digital arena we will focus on cutting-edge technologies like AI, machine learning, big data, and blockchain, where we will continue to invest, build capabilities, and drive profitability and organizational growth.

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