Avinash Nandakumar Q&A: Saudi Arabia general manager opens up on Hyphen’s new Riyadh regional headquarters


Setting up Hyphen’s regional headquarters in Riyadh makes ‘natural sense’ given our wealth of experience in Saudi Arabia and the associated benefits it generates for ourselves, our partners and the country itself. 

That is the view of Avinash Nandakumar, one of our Co-Founders and our appointed general manager of our Riyadh office, at the end of what has been an extremely busy and exciting month for the company. 

Two weeks ago, we announced the opening of a new regional HQ in the Saudi capital with a view to collaborating with more clients during this significant time in this country’s development. That was followed up with our recent attendance at an exclusive Riyadh event with senior Saudi political figures and leaders from hundreds of other multinational corporations. 

Avinash was one of our representatives from our senior leadership team at that event. In this Q&A, he discusses the rationale for and benefits of setting up a new regional headquarters in Saudi Arabia and his personal experiences of the country. 


Hyphen: The new regional headquarters in Riyadh is Hyphen’s fourth global office but this is one you have been particularly keen on for a while. What key factors have made Saudi Arabia such a standout choice? 

Avinash: There were a multitude of reasons. Erhan, Michael and I – as well as our broader leadership team – have been in the region since 2014, when we spent a few years in the country. Those experiences have given us invaluable insights and experience. 

Hyphen’s first project back in 2018 was in Saudi and we have intensified our involvement and worked on a lot of projects in the country since then, so it made natural sense to have a physical presence in Riyadh. 

This great RHQ initiative has made it much more manageable for companies to shift their regional headquarters to Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, we are now an institution in Saudi Arabia and it cements our credibility here, both for clients and for contractors. 


Hyphen: What do you consider to be the biggest benefits of this new setup for our partners? 

Avinash: The presence of a local office grants us greater autonomy, which is crucial for our agile operations. Having this regional HQ will help us as we offer tailored solutions and enhanced support on the ground, facilitating smoother contracting processes for our clients. 

The RHQ program also really allows us to, for example, expand some parts of our core offerings – such as interim placements – given that we can bring in highly experienced senior and technical talent on the ground for longer project-based engagements as well.  

Having the new office will give us access to some national institutions that will make clients’ and contractors’ lives easier with regards to logistical issues, including visas. It will also enable us to be closer at hand when dealing with operational and bureaucratic issues. 

Lastly, we are also excited to further tap into the KSA-based talent pool and build out our local operations further. Add in the fact that the new RHQ makes it easier for us to engage with some Saudi institutions and there are some real benefits for us. 


Hyphen: One of the first things that springs to mind for most people when thinking about Saudi Arabia is the Vision 2030 programme but there is a lot more going on across the country. What in particular is it that you think makes the Kingdom such a good fit for what the company offers? 

Avinash: Saudi Arabia will obviously continue to invest and develop well into the future, but Vision 2030 is a huge transformation agenda. Executing all of those gigaprojects, transformation programmes and policy initiatives will demand huge levels of expertise and support. 

We see ourselves as partners capable of supporting those in charge along the way. Our cross-functional teams can be so effective because they combine visionaries who come up with ideas with doers, those with tried-and-tested project management experience, to implement them. 

That value proposition is particularly important for a country like KSA because effectively it allows them to really benefit from bringing on practitioners and benefit from their expertise, allowing them to avoid proven pitfalls. 


Hyphen: Reflecting on your first visit in 2014, what were your impressions, and how has Saudi Arabia evolved since then? 

Avinash: Erhan, Michael and I started on the same BCG project and it felt a bit surreal at first. It was very intriguing because Saudi was a place unlike any I had been to before and I didn’t know what to expect. 

One thing that caught my attention early on was that there is such a willingness to embrace change, do things differently and roll sleeves up; that mindset drives the momentum in the country. Saudi Arabia has its institutions and history but is still very open to new ideas. 

There was no preconceived notion of what was possible – everything is on the table. That mentality is almost more stimulating because in other regions, you are looking to optimise what is already there; Saudi Arabia feels like a realm of boundless opportunity, characterised by that palpable appetite for change and innovation. 

Over time, particularly post-Covid, Riyadh has transformed into a bustling hub reminiscent of established metropolises like London and New York but with its distinct energy and feel. It’s teeming with diverse projects and vibrant communities. The evolution is striking, the sky is the limit here. 


Hyphen: You mentioned earlier that you have been to KSA countless times in the 10 years since you first visited – how would you describe it in a non-work context? 

Avinash: There are a lot of great things and the cultural scene within the country is evolving quickly. One thing that has really caught my attention is the gastronomic scene and you know you’re going to get something good whether it’s from high-end restaurants or food trucks. 

Another thing is the hospitality of the people – they are warm, genuine and friendly. So many people here have given me suggestions or invited me for dinners and they are eager to engage outside of work. 

It’s a great cultural experience and it’s an enriching place personally as well as professionally. Whether it’s going out for food, going up the Kingdom Towers, visiting Diriyah or having a picnic in the desert, everyone enjoys it in their own way. It’s unique in this globalised age to find somewhere genuinely different, it’s like venturing into uncharted territory and getting a fresh perspective. 


Hyphen: The GCC region generally has been a particularly important one for Hyphen since the company started. How do you see this regional headquarters benefiting our clients and professionals across the Middle East? 

Avinash: The establishment of our Riyadh headquarters fortifies our presence in the GCC region, underscoring our commitment to local engagement and support. This new operational infrastructure not only streamlines processes within Saudi Arabia but also extends logistical advantages across the broader Middle East, facilitating seamless collaboration and service delivery. 


If you are interested in our work in Saudi Arabia and collaborating with us, contact Avinash to learn how Hyphen can help.