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In an exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Ahmed Al-Anqari, CEO at Salam, shares his company’s efforts in 2022, how they will drive Salam’s growth in the future, how the company is contributing to Saudi Vision 2030, as well as other insights.

What were the milestones of Salam in 2022, and how will you leverage this in the company's performance and deliverables as part of your long-term roadmap?

Salam racked up major milestones in 2022 as we continued our transformation from a B2B company to a human-centered tech company for consumers and enterprise, rolling out a slew of new product innovations for homes, enterprise and today’s most exciting growth segments, including cybersecurity, cloud and AI. It was a year in which we saw rapid expansion of our mobile and home segments along with robust growth in our wholesale and business segments, earning us recognition as the fastest-growing and most innovative telco in Saudi Arabia.

As part of our strategic transformation into a more agile and customer-centric company, one of the year’s most important developments was our move to streamline core operations by transferring the management and operation of our underlying infrastructure to a dedicated company within the Group. We expect this to have an immediate and transformative impact on our ability to focus more on our customers and serve them more powerfully with more agility, higher availability, deeper collaboration and more innovative products.

We have also been very active at some of the region’s biggest industry events to bring our vision closer to more audiences and strengthen our presence as a major Saudi telco and technology brand. From the largest exhibition of future tech to the region’s largest gathering of carriers, we connected with the biggest players and innovators, showcased our latest solutions and, along the way, rolled out our sustainability and green thinking initiative. Green thinking is a core corporate value at Salam, and we have embedded this in all our practices and thinking. To give our new vision and human-centric philosophy a home, we capped the year with the launch of a one-of-a-kind flagship showroom in the heart of the capital filled with engaging and immersive experiences — all these clearly positioning Salam as a telco for the New Saudi, one that embodies and empowers all the exciting possibilities of Vision 2030 and beyond.

For all the amazing work of our team, we earned numerous accolades and recognition from industry experts during the year. In October, Ookla ranked Salam as the Best Video Experience in Saudi Arabia, a strong validation of many years of investment in our infrastructure. Salam was also named the Most Innovative and the Fastest Growing Saudi Telecommunications Brand at the 2023 Global Brand Awards. Recognized alongside leading companies from around the world, Salam was one of only two Saudi telecom providers to be awarded since 2018, a source of great pride for us at Salam. Finally, at the recent Capacity Middle East 2023 event in Dubai, Salam was honored as the first recipient of the Going Green Practices Awards for being the Most Sustainable Exhibitor during the event.

It was truly a landmark year for Salam, and we’re just getting started.

With the addition of mobile to our portfolio, which is beating expectations, the growth of our own 5G network, expanded capacity in new growth segments from cybersecurity to cloud and AI, and our commitment to green thinking in everything we do, Salam is poised for an exciting period of transformation and growth. We continue to leverage our strong fundamentals to strengthen partnerships, penetrate new segments and solidify our position as the only other truly homegrown Saudi telco in the market. We call it The Next Big Thing. Watch out for us!

Can you summarize the primary business strategies deployed by Salam and how they drive the company’s growth?

This is a different Salam that you are seeing today from where we were a few years ago. Today, we have the network and the reach. We are in smart cities, neighborhoods and homes. We are in people’s hands and connect them wherever they go. We connect businesses and the government. We give carriers and providers the bandwidth and capacity they need to grow. We drive e-commerce, enable the latest AI and IoT technologies, manage whole digital and network infrastructures for the biggest organizations, and monitor and manage the security of all your connections. Indeed, our solutions now span the whole digital and telecommunications spectrum.

We believe that to manage and navigate this growing array of lifestyle enablers and enterprise solutions, we need to place greater focus on our customers, put them at the center of innovation and design, and deploy an agile customer experience and innovation engine that is at the heart of our transformation strategy. We also believe that even as we power technology’s forward leap, we want technology that is not only for the future but also cares for the future. We believe in making technology more human-centric, more efficient, more clean and more sustainable. As a company founded on green values, this is a philosophy that guides Salam today as we design, innovate and create solutions for tomorrow.

How is Salam contributing to Saudi Vision 2030 in terms of its digital transformation journey as well as the diversification and sustainability of the economy?

Saudi Vision 2030 has inspired a whole nation and catalyzed investment and participation from every part of society. And we are doing our part in bringing this vision to life. As a Saudi company, we are extremely proud to be at the center of this transformation, providing the capacity, technology and smart solutions that make this vision of the future possible.

Our numerous achievements reflect our commitment to the Kingdom’s digital transformation agenda. We have been named the fastest-growing and most innovative telecommunications brand in Saudi Arabia, highlighting Salam’s continued investments and ambitions in the sector. We have also forged partnerships with key developments and initiatives under the vision, such as the Diriyah Gate development and other banner projects, a testament to our commitment to play an active part in accelerating the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals.

Green thinking is a big part of the Kingdom’s vision, and this is an area that is especially close to our hearts. After all, we are a company that was born green and is rooted in green thinking — all reflected in the green butterfly icon of our identity. We believe in paving the way for future generations by championing responsible and sustainable technology. We believe that technology and innovation hold the key to a greener world. We have committed our resources, talent and expertise towards bringing and deploying solutions that make a cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable future possible — a big part of Vision 2030 — like smart cities, AI-enabled industrial systems, the cloud and many other smart and efficient environments.

How are you helping Saudi businesses work smarter and stay ahead of change and disruption as Saudi Arabia’s digital transformation moves forward at full speed?

Salam has built a reputation for making the business of our clients our business, with highly-trained specialists in every sector. Organizations have come to trust Salam to help them improve business operation, reduce cost and enhance performance. Thanks to our robust infrastructure, our next-gen international connectivity network supports massive capacities, which we deliver with 99.99% network availability through a Kingdomwide network of day-and-night command operations centers. We host and manage IT and information infrastructure for organizations large and small and continue to innovate in new areas such as IoT. All these have allowed us to help our customers focus on what they do best: manage their growth and stay ahead of rapid digital disruption and transformation everywhere.

How do Salam’s state-of-the-art data center facilities promote business connectivity and continuity?

Salam is one of only three telecommunications providers in the Kingdom with Uptime-certified data centers. We operate a network of state-of-the-art, fully redundant data centers in all major cities of Saudi Arabia, offering highly reliable and available connections to Salam’s core network with massive amounts of bandwidth capacity and high redundancy. This includes a new state-of-the-art, 200-rack, 1 MW data center in Riyadh’s Nargiss region with Uptime Tier 3 design certification.

Salam Data Centers feature an open-standards-based infrastructure, allowing our customers to use and share network resources better, lower costs, improve business continuity and move with greater agility and flexibility. This also enables us to offer state-of-the-art colocation and cloud services, such as the Saudi Executive Cloud, which have helped us grow our managed-services business exponentially. We have also recently been placing a special focus on our cybersecurity services, including secure web gateways and DDoS firewalls. These security services have become the fastest-growing category in Salam’s managed services portfolio.

With the explosion of data and information assets that companies manage today, can you tell us a bit more about Salam’s new Backup as a Service (BaaS) solution and why it’s important?

Salam’s Backup as a Service (BaaS) solution is part of our fast-growing family of cloud-based solutions. This mission-critical service helps companies protect their growing volumes of data. The service is managed by a dedicated team of world-class engineers at our Next-Generation SOC (NG-SOC) facility. Our BaaS service is a widely preferred backup solution by many of our clients because of the way it allows them to streamline operations. Using a single unified platform, we can deliver a multitude of capabilities across multiple locations at any scale. Now we can help companies protect complex environments, physical and virtual servers, remote offices — even information on laptops and desktops — all with a single solution.

With more threat vectors putting modern businesses at risk, how is Salam’s SIEM solution helping companies adapt to new and advanced threats?

Today, workforces and workloads have become more distributed than ever before, leading to the emergence of new threat vectors. Organizations need to re-evaluate their risk profiles to adapt to these threats. This is why we believe our new SIEM service is one of our most important solutions. We collect, correlate, analyze and store security events and use market-leading technologies to provide real-time monitoring and threat management from within our locally-based data centers. Our cyber security engineers are constantly looking out for unusual patterns, protecting traffic and ensuring the security, continuity and availability of customer servers and networks ‘round the clock.

The service is also fulfilling a very important role: we help organizations meet compliance and regulatory requirements, which are mandated today. Salam helps meet all these requirements by providing real-time and continuous monitoring of our customers’ IT infrastructure and by generating alerts, reports and audit logs that allow customers to monitor their level of compliance.

What are some of the principles guiding you in your role as Chief Executive Officer at Salam?

There has never been a more exciting time to be the CEO of Salam. As a leading Saudi telecommunications company in a country undergoing rapid digital and economic transformation, the aspirations of the whole Kingdom are driving unprecedented levels of innovation, investment and growth. This represents opportunities never seen before, especially since we own and hold many of the solutions and capabilities that make this vision possible.

My goal is to make sure that Salam is fully aligned with the Kingdom’s vision for the future, and that our team is fully inspired, focused and empowered to innovate and deliver on this future. To paraphrase an old saying, transformation starts from within. Even as our customers are seeing and feeling our transformation, a big part of what we call our Next Big Thing is really happening from within. From empowered employees to innovative mindsets and green thinking, we are creating a new culture within Salam that will allow us to not only compete today but to shape tomorrow. We are always proud of the fact that we are the only other truly home-grown Saudi telecommunications company in the sector, and it is our duty to make sure we do our part in achieving THE vision.

The future depends on it. And we are extremely proud to be a part of it.

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