Hattan Saaty on how Strategic Gears competes with the industry’s giants

02 February 2023 Consultancy-me.com 6 min. read
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Since its launch in 2015, Strategic Gears has grown to an award-winning consultancy with 200+ staff across offices in Riyadh, Jeddah, Cairo and London. We spoke with Founder and CEO, Hattan Saaty, to find out more about the firm’s growth journey, edge in the market – and ambitions going forward.

To start off with, how do you look back the Strategic Gears’ journey over the past eight years?

It has been an incredible journey filled with many achievements, but also challenges and lessons learned. We’ve celebrated many key milestones including expanding our geographical footprint and crossing the 200 employee mark.

But we’re only getting started – we have even bigger ambitions today including doubling the size of the team, growing and expanding our service offerings, and becoming the best employer in our industry in terms of learning and development.

Hattan Saaty, Strategic Gears

Can you tell us more about these ambitions?

Our ambitions are all grounded in facts and reality, some of which I attribute to the market and others to Strategic Gears itself. For example, when I say “market-related”, I mean considering that today we have the exact opposite market conditions and economy in Saudi Arabia to what we had when Strategic Gears started operating.

The market was much more challenging back then, and none of the current business enablers existed. This meant that we couldn’t grow as fast or as big as our potential, and we also continued to face market challenges that held our growth including the economic slowdown in 2017/18, and Covid-19 in 2019/20, among other events.

After showing much resilience and continued growth during tough times, we are now bigger, more capable, more renowned and respected, and more in demand than ever.

Strategic Gears has nestled itself as one of the leading consultancies in Saudi Arabia (and leading homegrown players in the region). Could you tell us more about the firm’s profile and footprint?

This prompts me to first share the principle behind the name ‘Strategic Gears’ which essentially emanated from our belief that value creation is the union of a clear ‘Strategic’ direction, and an organization ‘Geared’ towards it – hence the name. We work closely with both public and private sector clients to set their visions and support them practically throughout their journeys. We are problem-solvers, innovators and established thought leaders in the Saudi market.

At Strategic Gears, we have always aimed for continuous growth and quality delivery. Having been in operation for seven years, we have completed over 150+ projects for 80+ clients across the 4 service lines and 20 sub-services we offer.

We opened our first international office in London in 2019 and another one in Cairo in 2022. We are frequently referred to as the “local-global” which is a testament to the impact and footprint that Strategic Gears has today.

Strategic Gears supports several Vision 2030 agendas. Can you give us a few examples of notable and high-profile projects?

Since its inception, Strategic Gears has been heavily involved in the transformation era of Saudi Arabia and Vision 2030 initiatives. We have led prominent projects for the ministries of finance, economy, labour, sports, tourism, health, housing and others, as well as other government entities such as the Capital Market Authority.

In the private sector, we have served major stakeholders in the financial sector, retail, fashion, security, healthcare, sports, and education. We have also worked with the biggest names in non-profit.

In its work for clients, Strategic Gears is typically up against some of the largest and most well-known players in the industry. How does the firm differentiate itself from a service and client engagement perspective?

We stand out from the competition due to a variety of factors, including our customised solutions and frameworks (tailored to the Saudi market), our deep local roots, our extensive global network of partners, and more.

And perhaps most significantly, our expertise and success rest on the strength of our internal corporate culture – one that values connection, belonging and determination.

Having recently celebrated the firm’s 7th anniversary, what are company & personal achievements you’re most proud of?

There are plenty, and more to come. We take pride in our involvement in a number of Vision 2030 projects that have been driving transformation in the Kingdom, often competing with the biggest names in the industry. And we can see the tangible and intangible impact on the ground not just on the entities and companies we worked with, but on the citizens and residents of these initiatives, which have a long-lasting impact beyond just the initiatives themselves.

I am also proud of (and inspired by) the strength, calibre and energy of each individual member of the team we have built, as well as how quickly we've grown and are still growing (despite challenges like Covid-19). We also take pride in the fact that today, our thought leadership, house views, data, and insights frequently appear in local and international media and serve as a major source of reference both locally and internationally.

Congratulations on your recent graduation from Harvard’s Owner/President Management Program. How does this related to your role at Strategic Gears?

Learning is one of our six corporate values at Strategic Gears (the others being Practicality, Alignment, Synergy, Achievement and Resource Management). In order to work with great talent, leaders have to be ready and continue to upskill.

For us at Strategic Gears, it is also hard not to get inspired by the team’s hunger to learn. And of course, being at a different stage of growth today, we have bigger plans as the company and team continue to expand, necessitating a set of skills to manage and take the company to another level.

Looking to the future of the Saudi economy, what do you see as the greatest opportunities and challenges?

The macroeconomic fundamentals in the Kingdom are strong amid global uncertainties – Saudi is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today. Companies are also much stronger and more agile, and for businesses and CEOs, now is the time to examine/re-examine and prioritize strategic choices to enable growth jolt.

And the economy is ready for that, there is good support from the government, and many indicators reveal available growth opportunities in different sectors. There are of course global headwinds to watch out for as well as long-term domestic challenges.

For us at Strategic Gears, we continue to examine such emerging themes through our periodic publications including on the aforementioned topic and others such as the changing age pyramid of the Kingdom, digital transformation, artificial intelligence, sports, and education.