Middle East CEO of the Year Awards 2023

MEA | Middle East CEO of the Year Awards 2023 Oman-based Star Drones utilises its extensive research and development capabilities in order to craft reliable, versatile, and high-quality drones that can be used across industry, exceeding the ever-evolving needs of the clients which it serves. At the centre of the company’s aims is a desire to manufacture the first Omani drone, which will ultimately represent a shift in the country’s technological direction. Drones that are produced by the firm boast an extensive range of applications, such as agriculture, monitoring the environment, infrastructure inspection, delivery, logistics, and much more. At the helm of this fascinating project is CEO and awardee Said Abdul Ghafoor Saif Udeen, whose passion for the stars and aviation has acted as the undercurrent for the business’ success, with his hands-on and driven approach enabling effective collaboration with his dedicated team, truly elevating the technological capabilities of his country. Upon graduating from Waljat Colleges of Applied Science with a degree in computer applied science, Star Drones CEO Said Abdul Ghafoor began his career working as a database and marketing executive for Mercedes-Benz at Zawawi Trading Co., while spending his free time teaching himself about computer graphics, before taking courses on advance poly modelling. It was after further study and a role as a senior digital artist with Reality CG L.L.C. that Said’s lifelong passion for flight and electronics took over, and with a host of past experience and knowledge to boot, he launched a small drone services start-up, a remedy for his ache to take man to the stars. Most Influential Drone R&D CEO 2023 (GCC): Said Abdul Ghafoor U Both an innovator and inventor, Said possesses an “unwavering commitment to technological innovation”, and the culmination of his journey so far has been the mass-producing of drones with applications such as aerial photography, filmmaking, surveillance, search and rescue, agriculture, environmental monitoring, infrastructure inspection, logistics, mapping, surveying, and even recreational use. A partnership with Oman’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Water Resources has enabled the drones to be used in settings such as fumigating pesticides, proving to be more efficient than the helicopters used previously, with drones also proving incredibly useful in crop health monitoring and assessing soil. Innovation is something that Said and the team take great pride in, such as when they acquired a heavy hybrid drone from China, which was subsequently transformed into an entirely electric model by replacing the engine with LiPo batteries. The result of this effort was experienced almost immediately, as the reduced weight significantly increased the breadth of duties the drone could undertake, particularly in the logistics sector, where it aided immeasurably in streamlining processes and yielding greater efficiency. One of the most impressive things about the drones is that they are extremely diverse, and thus can be tailored and fitted with customised solutions based on the specific needs of clients. Across the industry at present, there are number of factors at play that are directly influencing Star Drones and other such companies seeking to drive innovation in the field. These include the importance and often difficulty of securing the necessary funding and investment, as well as the advances in technology, which result in leaps forward but also require constant innovation for a company to successfully distinguish itself from the competition. Since drones are also subject to strict regulation that differs in every country, staying atop of this is equally important, as too is managing competition from the market, its trends, and increasing customer demand. Tackling such tasks is something that Said enjoys in his CEO role, and the leadership style that he has honed over the years ensures that everybody in Star Drones is empowered and aware of the company’s goals and the methods to adopt to aid in working towards these. Said explains, “I prioritise clear communication of our vision, ensuring that it’s a part of our regular discussions, meetings, and corporate communications. It’s vital that every team member understands not just what our goals are, but also why they matter.” Throughout his duties, Said also emphasises the importance of continuous learning, rewarding meaningful contributions, engaging through feedback, and operating with transparency. In addition to the above, there exists a series of additional aspects that are integral to the company’s journey and representative of the personal approach Said and the team have built their reputation on providing. There is an emphasis within the firm on promoting diversity and inclusion, working towards reducing its carbon footprint and contributing towards a greener future, engaging with the community and recognising social responsibility, remaining adaptable in times of necessary change, being driven to providing customer-centric innovation, and, perhaps most importantly, remaining steadfast in its goals and visions for the future. Said’s tenure as CEO has not been without its challenges however, with one of the biggest being assembling a team that is comprised of just the right amount of expertise, creativity, and drive. To overcome