Saudi Arabia taps ex-Dell executive as CEO for new PIF manufacturing company

Amit Midha comes to Alat with a background in smart cities – and an ambitious mandate for ‘Made in Saudi Arabia’ technology

Saudi Arabia has tapped an ex-Dell Technologies executive to lead the recently formed Public Investment Fund company Alat, an industrial electronics company with $100 billion in backing that aims to become a local manufacturing powerhouse. 

Global CEO Amit Midha will lead the ambitious plans for the new manufacturing hub in the kingdom. Chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Alat is targeting the creation of 39,000 direct jobs in Saudi Arabia and a $9.3 billion contribution to GDP by 2030. The company is launching with more than 30 product categories including robotics, computing and digital entertainment, as well as advanced heavy machinery. 

Alat, which will officially open for business on Feb. 20, also has a sustainability component and plans to work with global companies to reduce their emissions and move towards zero-carbon manufacturing.

“We will passionately use technology to transform business,” Midha said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that Alat’s “mandate is to transform the global industries of electronics and advanced industrials by creating a sustainable manufacturing hub leveraging the Kingdom’s solar, wind and green hydrogen clean energy.”

Midha comes to Riyadh from Singapore, off the back of a nearly 17-year career at Dell, which he joined when the Red Rock, Tex. company was the world’s biggest PC maker. Fierce competition in personal computing and the global recession of 2008 threatened Dell’s future and spurred one of the biggest corporate turnarounds of the century. 

Today, Dell continues to be a large manufacturer of personal computers and laptops, but has expanded its scope to data management and storage over the last 15 years. Midha was part of that evolution, leading Dell’s growth in Asia-Pacific and Japan, overseeing a multi-billion-dollar business with a focus on digital cities.

At the helm of Alat, Midha is set to lead the kingdom’s biggest bet to date on “Made in Saudi Arabia” advanced technology components – including chips.  

Saudi Arabia’s investment in artificial intelligence and Internet of Things for smart cities is driving demand for millions of microprocessors and controllers. Greenfield sites like mega-project NEOM, and large-scale transformation plans for existing cities like Riyadh and Jeddah are significant opportunities for the country to manufacture smart electronics and reduce dependence on foreign imports, Carrington Malin, a technology strategy consultant who advises executives and governments from his base in Dubai, told The Circuit

“The challenge is the size of the ambition,” he said. “The country doesn’t have much of an electronics ecosystem to build on. So building out this new sector will require both a carefully planned ecosystem that will connect with other local, regional and global ecosystems over time, and cherry-picking the most productive, highest value short-term investments.”

The Saudi government has a broad target for attracting foreign investors.

The PIF and its portfolio companies have brought in $25.6 billion worth of investments in under three years, according to its Governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan. The kingdom has set a goal to derive 65% of its GDP from private business activities by 2030, Al-Rumayyan said at the Private Sector Forum in Riyadh on Wednesday.

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