The Audiophile: Archimedia CEO Omar Hikal
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"We're basically a technology and engineering firm that is passionate about enchancing the lives of its clients."
The CEO of Archimedia, Omar Hikal, is accustomed to bespoke requests. Archimedia clients look for tailored home audiovisual and electronic solutions that are formulated with client preferences, architecture, design, and user experience in mind. This is not a one-size-fits-all industry by any means, and with many of their client investments clearing what most consider the significant spend bar, Archimedia works to ensure that the engineering behind every installation they do is both superior and ergonomic, surpassing client expectations and garnering client referrals across the MENA region.
"The smart home and high performance audio visual sector in the MENA region, like most other sectors, differs from country to country, and indeed, from city to city. We operate from Casablanca to Dubai so we have a unique insight into the market dynamics in each of the geographies we cover. Our experience is that there are commonalities between the 'prestige' clients, although we do have to tailor our offering to different concepts of luxury and lifestyles from country to country. Over the past 10 years, we have seen markets like the UAE and Saudi Arabia develop at rapid rates compared to markets like Casablanca and Egypt that are still somewhat conservative and haven't fully embraced the concept of home technology. I see the coming years as being very interesting and we will see technology being adopted on a much wider scale in our homes," says Hikal, discussing the MENA client.
A CEDIA EMEA and CEDIA US (Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association) board member and a CEDIA Certified System Design Professional, Hikal has served as Archimedia's CEO since 2010, building on his previous role with the company as COO from 2004. One of his main areas of attention? Ensuring Archimedia's technical standards and brand development. Flawless execution and thoughtful design are two main Archimedia principals, and in 2014 alone they executed over 250 systems across 11 countries, but it isn't just brand offerings that matter in how the company chooses to implement client wishes, it's also about cohesiveness.
"We use a number of best in class brands to ensure that our solutions offer the functionality required at the high standard of performance that our clients expect. We're proud to offer world renowned brands like Bowers & Wilkins, Classé, Datasat, Integra, Sonos, Kaleidescape, Crestron, Savant and Lutron, among others. The truth is that while these brands have been carefully selected, what really matters is how they are integrated into one seamless solution that just works."
In terms of demanding clients, Hikal admits admits that they've had a few eye-opening requests, but after a decade in the industry they've "seen and heard it all- in high definition," jokes Hikal. He does mention one client in particular who wanted omnipresent-like control "including the ability to see all 50 of the cars in his garage, and [the ability to] summon his chauffeur with any particular car by simply touching its image on his touch screen. That was loads of fun. He's been a client of ours ever since. Today's technology and our team of skilled engineers make it relatively simple to accommodate even the most outrageous request."
Hikal, a Boston University School of Management graduate who also attended INSEAD executive management programs and the Senior Executive Program at Harvard Business School, has held various positions in IT, sales, marketing and general management. He's put both his theoretical and market experience to work as the co-founder of Archimedia garnering client referrals and developing that repeat client base that pushes many businesses that cater to the niche client from the great level to the exceptional level.
"Referrals are our lifeline; our primary source of business comes from the referrals of happy customers, so we pay lots of attention to making sure our clients are delighted with the work we do for them. We have one client who has used us for his homes in Dubai, Riyadh, Jeddah and London, in addition to his offices. We have done work for his father and three of his brothers. A few years ago one of the region's heads of state had us install identical solutions across many of his palaces and two of his yachts. This is very common for us. I don't have the exact statistics, but I would guess that at least 35% of our clients have Archimedia systems in more than one home."
Hikal says that while he is quite taken with the "projects with their limitless budgets, magnetic (targeted) marketing, and industry influence tactics for the significant spend threshold and all the bells and whistles", he's almost keener on the challenge of unconventional requests that require an inventive approach without compromising the overall quality and delivery.
"Last year, we delivered an exceptional project for a discerning audiophile in Casablanca who spoke to companies all over the world before selecting Archimedia. We also worked on two fabulous penthouses in Dubai that required amazing attention to detail. Our dedicated home cinemas are unquestionably the most technically sound, and I'm particularly proud of a few of our cinema projects in Saudi Arabia, where the home plays a huge role in the entertainment of every family. I love having fathers thank me for allowing them to spend more time with their children and their friends- that's impressive."