Starting out with a single airliner back in 1945, Saudi Arabian Airlines has grown to one of the world’s leading airlines, with over 30 million guests served by 45,000 employees in 5,000 locations across 100 destinations. And unlike many other airlines, the national carrier operates around the clock.
Codenamed SV2020, the airline has a five-year strategic plan that aims to double the fleet size by 2020, grow the airlines’ market share, re-invent its products and services and increase its margins. The strategy was formulated and introduced by Director General Engineer Saleh bin Naser Al Jasser - who joined the airlines in late 2014- to transform the company in every sense and to further secure its competitive positon regionally and globally as well. Eng. Al Jasser has started a corporate wide transformation program aimed at turning it from a legacy carrier to a competitive travel provider with second to none products and services.
Pivotal to its place on the global stage is the role of information technology. Muhammad Ali Albakri, the company’s CFO and CIO, has been in charge of an enormous overhaul of its IT division, as he explains: “We have undertaken a huge programme called the IT Masterplan for Saudia, which lasted from 2007 until 2013. During that time we spent in excess of $1 billion upgrading our entire network inside the Kingdom and internationally. We’ve put in a complete new infrastructure in terms of telecommunications, connecting all our offices around the world to our upgraded data centre, our partners’ data centers, and created a disaster recovery centre as well on the other side of the country. We have created a modern IT base and implemented a converged network for data, voice and video, serving all the locations, all the offices, all our operations for the airlines and the other sister companies in Saudia Group as well.” And while all this was taking place it was, of course, paramount that Saudia’s customers received the same fantastic service they were used to. Albakri says: “We replaced about 480 different enterprize application systems and while we put in the new platforms, we needed to maintain the old technology, the old network and the old applications, to continue supporting our business. So it was more like changing the wheel or the tyre on a Formula 1 car while it’s still racing!”
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.