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The perfect vision: Omar Hariri, Saudia Cargo

Saudia Cargo’s newly appointed CEO, Omar Hariri, is confident in the freighter’s capabilities to make significant contributions to Saudi’s Vision 2030.

Aviation is an undisputable steering force when it comes to developing economies. It remains the quickest mode of transportation to connect cities, countries, and continents, and its role in boosting a nation’s GDP is apparent to all.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long recognised the aviation sector as a means to drive economic growth and talent development, while elevating the Kingdom’s position on the regional and global stage. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 wholly supports the industry and understands the role aviation plays in achieving their goal of an oil-independent country.

The Kingdom’s national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines—better known as Saudia—is the third largest airline in the Middle East in terms of revenue. With a market presence of more than seven decades, Saudia has grown from a single twin-engine DC-3 (Dakota) HZ-AAX given to King Abdul Aziz as a gift by then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, into an organisation that today boasts of 149 aircraft, including the latest and most advanced wide-bodied jets presently available: B787-9, B777-268L, B777-300ER, Airbus A320-200, Airbus A321, and Airbus A330-300.

In mid-2015, the airline launched a transformation program — the SV Strategic Plan 2020 — which was designed to develop the performance of the national carrier, raising overall efficiency through investment in state-of-the-art modern aircraft, new onboard products, and talent development. The strategy has extended well into the achievements of the airline since 2015, and the its freight subsidiary, Saudia Cargo, has followed a similar path of success.

One of the most recent announcements from Saudia Cargo is the appointment of a new chief executive officer, Omar Hariri, and it seems that Hariri’s go-getting personality is going to translate into major triumphs for the company. Hariri’s vision is well aligned with the Kingdom’s and he values the contribution of technology and e-commerce to the aviation industry.

“My vision is to fulfill and support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to make Saudi Arabia the leading freight and logistics hub in the region,” remarks Hariri. “In line with that, I am determined to make Saudia Cargo reach its full potential in the air freight and cargo handling sectors by becoming the preferred global freight carrier known for speed, reliability, and efficiency— and most importantly, for quality, quality, quality.”

Hariri started in the industry in 2004, as a national sales manager at DHL Express Saudi Arabia. In 2011, he moved to SAF Group of Companies as COO, overseeing its day-to-day operations. He then returned to DHL as country manager for Kuwait and later as vice president commercial for Saudi Arabia. Prior to his appointment as CEO of Saudia Cargo, he was the managing director at the Abdul Latif Jameel Transportation Co. Ltd., which has ties with FedEx.

“My vision is to fulfill and support the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to make Saudi Arabia the leading freight and logistics hub in the region.”

Pillars of growth

“Saudia Cargo is going through a turning point in its history,” comments Hariri. “The 2020 Strategic Transformation Plan is in line with the Saudi 2030 Vision, which will turn Saudi Arabia into the leading freight hub of the region.”

Hariri explains that as a CEO, his aim is to focus on their five main strategic pillars: safety and security, service quality, people, customer experience, and profitable growth.

“In our safety and security pillar, compliance with external audits and certifications like TAPA & IATA and others was a major step besides aiming to get the ISAGO & BSI for airline and ground handling. We also have ISO 9001 quality, ISO 45001 safety and health management and ISO 14001 environment management certification.

“With regards to the service quality pillar, we focused on upgrading the cargo IQ performance, re-engineering process and introduce new KPIs. We also introduced the HUB control center, launched the new temperature control facility in Riyadh and Jeddah and reformed QHSSE department.”

Furthermore, in lieu with the people’s pillar, Saudia Cargo teamed up with Gallup, a global performance-management consulting company, to drive culture change of customer focus and performance.

“We also signed with SACA [Saudia Academy of Civil Aviation] and FHM [The National Training Centre for Facilities & Hospitality Management] to impart training for our employees. We are creating personal KPIs to drive performance and efficiency at each position.

“Customer experience takes our major focus. We have reformed the sales force and the customer service department. We also promote customer centric culture within the organisation besides setting customer journey action plan. We also introduced new products in line with the customer needs.

“And finally, in the profitable growth pillar, we achieved a healthy increase in yield and implemented new revenue management system which resulted in nearly doubled growth in net profits in the past few months.”

Saudia Cargo, B 747-8F, Airport Frankfurt (FRA), Germany, July 30th, 2015. // (c) Christoph Papsch – www.christoph-papsch.com

Saudia Cargo has managed to achieve a decent profit in previous years in the volatile global air freight industry. But for the most part, it has seen growth driven by transportation of e-commerce and pharmaceuticals in particular, as well as the transit role the company plays because of the Kingdom’s strategic location.

For instance, major industries like pharmaceuticals from Europe and then Bangladesh’s garment industry rely on Saudia Cargo’s expertise to transport tonnes of their manufactured products.

“In Africa, we’re dealing with a variety of sectors to transport their products/high value goods and perishables to different parts of the Middle East and outside of it,” highlights Hariri. “We are trying to focus on what’s right for the business and the customers. We are also focusing on key regions such as Asia, Europe, Africa and US in order to continue generating decent growth and profits.”

Hariri notes that Saudia Cargo recognises themselves as an important partner in building industries and economies, the very core essence of its existence when the Kingdom first ventured into this type of industry.

“We’re not just hauling cargo, we’re supporting people and economies. Nevertheless, we are relentlessly pursuing restructure of the product portfolio focusing on e-commerce, pharmaceuticals, and special cargo as the core, driving business to new heights.”

Last March, Saudia Cargo hauled in an overwhelming amount of production equipment, including a wrestling ring, from New York City to Jeddah, where WWE’s Greatest Royal Rumble was held in April with a live global telecast for the first time. The widebody B-747-8 was put to use for this mission at the request of the Saudi General Sports Authority. About 50 wrestling superstars participated in the games, including John Cena, Triple H, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Braun Strowman, The New Day, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and Shinsuke Nakamura.

Omar Hariri, Saudia Cargo

“This was a very important event for the Kingdom, not just for the Saudis but for expats as well. We are very proud to have accomplished our mission of delivering their delicate production equipment, including high-value film cameras safely. This demonstrates our people’s commitment and experience in handling special cargoes.”

Infrastructure and technology

On being queried if infrastructure development is on the cards for Saudia Cargo to achieve its goal of becoming a regional hub, Hariri emphasises on the company’s heavy investments into their groundwork.

“In June 2018, Saudia Cargo signed agreements, totaling an investment of SAR1.4bn, with three major companies to construct a new cargo handling facility at King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA). The agreements were signed with Al-Bawani, who will be in charge of construction and implementation of the project; Siemens, which will supply the facility with state-of-the-art mechanical equipment and advanced cargo handling systems; and AECOM, which will act as the supervisor of the new facility’s engineering works.”

The 75,000sqm cargo handling facility has double area of the current one, estimated at 35,000sqm. The first phase of the project commences in September 2018 and is expected to end November 2019, while the second phase begins June 2020 and ends December 2021 as per the implementation plan.

“We’re not just hauling cargo, we’re supporting people and economies.”

The new facility will enhance Saudia Cargo’s handling capabilities for hazardous material, pharmaceuticals, frozen materials and different goods. The increase in cargo operational capacity will lead to leapfrog transformations in the company’s sectors.

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. The center ships and stores pharmaceuticals using the most advanced technologies along with sophisticated active temperature control containers, which require advanced passive solution technology, especially for products needing transportation between +2oC to + 8oC or +15oC to + 25oC.

The King Khalid International Airport Riyadh’s new facility is also under talks, and the current 23,600sqm will be fully refurbished in phases with special focus on e-commerce handling.

Hariri says: “We are in line with our customers and so we focus on transporting what matters for them— for instance pharmaceuticals, including high value cosmetic products and vaccines/medicines for the African region, perishables such as fruits and vegetables, milk and other dairy products, fresh, frozen or processed seafood, fish and meat, heavy machineries and various types of equipment, garment products and of course, e-commerce. We also transport human organs as part of our CSR program to help sustain life for those who need it.

“And of course, these products use Saudia Cargo’s state-of-the-art modern freighter aircrafts like B-747-8 and the B-777.”

Hariri believes that technology is a necessary and wise investment for the future.

“With technology, there’s more transparency, speed, and efficiency. It not only involves investing on high-tech infrastructures or equipment, but also ensures training people with up-to-date knowledge and skills in using the technology to enhance our services to our customers. Holistically, we are digitalising the transformation to enhance our customer experience.”

Hariri stresses on the fact that practically all companies engaged in the industry, including the supply chain, are trying to remain ahead in digital world.

“The simplest way is perhaps having a company website, their digital footprint so to speak.  Some are doing it on a small scale, others on a larger scale, including having features that enable customers to track their shipment on real time.

“The world has become smaller and is now heavily dependent on technology. Whether we like it or not, the digital age is going to catch up on the air freight industry. It is said that the fourth industrial revolution, better known as Industry 4.0, is already here. The earlier we embrace technological advancements, the better.”

Last month, Hariri was selected as a member of the Cargo Committee of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The committee advises the Board of Governors, the director general and other relevant IATA bodies on all air cargo industry issues including cargo security and safety; cargo technology and automation; cargo handling; cargo distribution; cargo-related regulatory developments, cargo trade facilitation and agent and carrier relations.

“I am honoured to have been chosen to join this esteemed body that represents entities in aviation and air freight industries,” remarks Hariri. “We’re from the Middle East and we have unique geopolitical, socio-economic and environmental challenges. We hope to be the voice of the region for other carriers and players in the industry.”

Hariri amicably welcomes competition and believes that it only pushes them to do better and explore innovations where possible. He understands that ultimately, the consumers or end-users benefit the most in a healthy competition.

Saudia Cargo has been in this business for so long you could say ‘we’ve been there, done that’. We hope to impart our knowledge and experience in this very competitive industry and with that we hope our goodwill efforts to help elevate industry standards would be recognised and appreciated.”

Read other stories from our August 2018 issue here.


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