Strategy Bites: Jerry Inzerillo, CEO, Diriyah Gate Development Authority
"We are all living our business days driven by a tremendous positive energy directing the Kingdom towards its new future."
This article is part of a series of interviews that LIRA Strategy Partners founder and Managing Director Raffaella Campagnoli is conducting with some of the Middle East's most notable business executives and entrepreneurs. In this edition of Strategy Bites, she speaks with Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of the Saudi Arabia-based Diriyah Gate Development Authority, on how he's going about leading the US$20 billion giga project to build a new cultural and lifestyle tourism destination located in Diriyah, Riyadh.
Tell us about the enterprise you lead, its objectives, and its targets.
"Diriyah Gate Development Authority (DGDA) was established by Royal Decree in July 2017 to preserve, celebrate, and develop Diriyah into one of the world's greatest gathering places, and a globally renowned landmark that celebrates Saudi history, culture, and traditions through art, music, fashion, and entertainment for guests of all ages. At-Turaif is a UNESCO World Heritage protected site, dedicated to celebrating and serving the local community in Diriyah through a multitude of initiatives under the One Culture program, designed to incubate an ecosystem of inspiration and empower the youth to become the leaders of tomorrow. With an approved budget of US$20 billion, DGDA is facing now an intense master planning and implementation phase that will generate the first assets ready by Q4 2021."
As an enterprise in Saudi Arabia, how are you and your entity embracing Vision 2030?
"As all the projects activated in the Kingdom, DGDA is perfectly aligned with Vision 2030: this incredible cultural heritage site is planned to attract 27 million visitors per year, while generating not only an important touristic flow for the Kingdom, but also 55,000 new jobs with significant assets such as six universities, 30 hotels, 100 restaurants, and a number of cultural attractions, which will really make a difference for the Kingdom and for the city of Riyadh, only 15 minutes away. As per Vision 2030 guidelines, tourism will be one of the significant milestones for the Kingdom's diversification program, shifting from the current 3% to the estimated 10% of the GDP."
What impresses you most about Saudi Arabia's plans for the future? How can enterprises capitalize on this new vision?
"Saudi Arabia society is building the new era for the country, and for all the enterprises participating in the transformation. The success story will be shared with companies and people willing to join the spirit of Vision 2030 inspiring us with:
- An optimistic and positive view for the future
- The work ethic example represented by our Crown Prince
- The great empathy coming from the highly educated Saudi population to implement our Crown Prince's vision
DGDA is experiencing an incredible journey by empowering the new leadership for the Kingdom: out of over 500 employees, 81% is represented by Saudi nationals, 36% are Saudi women, and 13% of them are in management positions. These figures are actually demonstrating the amazing transformation that Vision 2030 is offering: empowerment, diversity, equality, and forward-looking. DGDA has actually exceeded its Vision 2030 female employment targets already as an exemplary giga project."
What are the key changes you are seeing when it comes to the business landscape in Saudi Arabia? Is now the right time to invest in KSA?
"Saudi Arabia is definitely one of the most attractive realities in the world right now: the non-oil diversification is happening across different industries within a stable country ruled by the same family for the last 120 years. HRH The Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has set the ground for a thriving and growing economy by fostering transparency, ensuring high credit ratings (KSA is now considered AAA by Moody's evaluation) on top of being one of the globe's countries with the highest cash balances."
In your current role, what are the things that keep you up at night? Adding to that, what excites you most about what you do?
"We are all living our business days driven by a tremendous positive energy directing the Kingdom towards its new future. The real big challenge we need to manage is the speed: it took 50 years to Singapore to become a perfect model for the modern society, 30 years to Dubai to become the great place it is now. We are planning to deliver the huge transformation of a country with 32 million people in only 10 years, within a large and diversified territory. Creating a solid infrastructure is the first key element for ensuring our programs. This is why only by focusing on fundamental activities like training, development, and empowerment of our people will allow us to face the significant change we are working for."