“It had never been my completely dream destination,” admits a man with a fine Ostrava dialect today, running the Saudi branch of ELKO EP on the Arabian Peninsula for the third year in a row. One of the European leaders in the field of conventional electrical equipment and intelligent wiring. “But the moment I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by this country. I found out that life here is significantly different from what the media portrays, “he adds to the beginning of the joint conversation, while it is scorched by hot sun on the terrace in the centre of the eight-million-strong Riyadh.
How did Saudi Arabia pleasantly surprise you?
It may sound paradoxical, but sometimes I feel safer in Riyadh than in some places in the Czech Republic. Security is really at a very high level. The company is educated, everyone communicates in English. Many young people studied in the United States, the United Kingdom or Western Europe. Likewise, the locals are big fans of modern technology. They live with it, they understand it. This is also related to the fact that Saudi Arabia is generally a very young country. If I’m not mistaken, there are perhaps 60 percent of the population under the age of thirty, which is reflected in the entire social climate.
Why did you decide to settle there?
I have seen a lot of opportunities that this country offers. In Europe, everything is standardized, inflexible, laced with laws. Everything here is much more dynamic and crazier. In any case, there is room for incredible growth for the field of intelligent wiring and IoT. They are very inclined to the government and the people themselves, which is a great assumption. For me, being in Arabia is a great life adventure, but at the same time, I remain a proud Czech. I want to represent a Czech company, Czech know-how. The quality we are able to develop and help bring it to a new market.
Where do you see the greatest potential for ELKO EP?
At the moment, especially on the west coast of the country. We see a huge opportunity in the GRMS system, which is used in the management of electronics in hotels. The west of Saudi Arabia will be an extremely attractive tourist destination for people from all over the world in two or three years. The coast is incredibly beautiful, virgin, such as it may have been in Egypt some forty years ago. Saudi politics have changed a lot; tourist visas have been available since last year. Now a lot is being invested in infrastructure, hotels are starting to be built. I am convinced that many of them will bear the Czech footprint. Whether in iNELS or iNELS Air products that touch the Internet of Things.
How is Saudi Arabia prepared for “smart” technology?
The country cares a lot about using new technology. It approaches it faster and more openly than European countries. The idea of a smart city is being discussed more in Europe than is actually being done. Here – perhaps thanks to the establishment – everything is much more dynamic. I will give one example that is typical of Saudi Arabia. Within two years, they had introduced remotely readable electricity meters. Such a thing is practically unimaginable in Europe. We look at it in such a way that we do not change something that still works and we’ll replace everything when it’s over. Here the decision is made – and in a few months, there will be a massive change. In principle, people here don’t mind buying something newer more often, because they feel modernized or trendy.
Allow me a question about another story. How did the Saudis survive the coronavirus pandemic?
Masks began to be worn in April. To this day, they are worn everywhere. For a time there was a curfew. First overnight, and then even during the day. In April and May, it seemed that the whole business would stop – the measures were really very strict. Everyone was ordered to do home office. You could drive around the city only with a special permit, shopping could only be done in your own neighborhood.
When we take coronavirus into consideration, what is normal life like in Riyadh??
I say with some exaggeration that it is either hot or extremely hot. During the day it is practically impossible to go outside in July and August, even from April to the end of September there is often unbearable heat. Of course, this also affects people’s daily rhythms. They live at night, restaurants open at midnight.