Saudi online retail market heats up with launch

Updated 13 December 2017

Saudi online retail market heats up with launch

LONDON: The online “Arabic-first” shopping platform has launched in Saudi Arabia, aiming to carve out a share in what is still a relatively nascent market for e-commerce.
Noon is a joint venture between Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the Kuwaiti franchise operator MH Alshaya. It initially launched in the UAE in October. The Saudi market offers significant growth potential to online retailers, analysts say, given the low proportion of the population who regularly shop on the internet rather than in the Kingdom’s shopping malls.
“KSA is a key market for online retail,” said Euromonitor analyst Rabia Yasmeen, adding that the online share of the total Saudi retail market is around 1.4 percent.
Norma Taki, head of retail at PwC Middle East, added: “Our 2017 Total Retail survey results show that 27 percent of shoppers in KSA like to shop online monthly versus 45 percent who shop only a few times a year.
“This highlights that there is a huge opportunity for market entrants such as to come in and capitalize on the young population and the tech-savvy end consumer the KSA market has to offer.”
Noon went live at midday on Dec. 12. It is headquartered in Riyadh and offers products across a wide range of sectors including beauty, fashion, electronics, home and kitchen and groceries. Shoppers can make purchases online or via a downloadable app.
“Noon brings a dynamic, locally-driven and customer-oriented digital marketplace to the Kingdom serving the community and offering a new retail and much-improved experience,” said the founder of Noon, Mohamed Alabbar.
“With talented young Saudis driving its operations, along with being powered by Saudi and regional retailers showcasing their amazing products, the platform also offers Saudi entrepreneurs, including startups, to be part of a fast-growing digital ecosystem.”
Noon will be a competitor to, which was acquired by global online giant Amazon in March. Souq already operates in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt.
This month Souq launched Amazon Global Store, which allows customers in the UAE to purchase products from the US-based Amazon.
The Middle East is set to be one of the fastest-growing regions globally for e-commerce, according to BMI Research. It predicted sales to double to at least $48.8 billion by 2021, in a research note published in September.
This growth is partly due to the high proportion of young consumers, BMI said, with all the Middle Eastern countries it ranks having more than 30 percent of its population aged between 20 and 39 years old.
The UAE still dominates the regional online market, it said, with and sales in the UAE will reach $9.7 billion in 2017, rising to $23.3 billion by 2021.

Road song: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

Updated 3 min 44 sec ago

Road song: Saudi singer-songwriter Tamtam releases music video ahead of historic end to driving ban

  • Singer-songwriter Tamtam has released a music video to coincide with the day her fellow countrywomen make history
  • In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

JEDDAH: With the long-awaited day when Saudi women can finally drive drawing near, a Saudi singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles has written a song to mark the historic occasion.

Called simply “Drive,” Tamtam’s take on the breakthrough reform covers a range of emotions: Happiness, pride and even surprise.

Millions around the world shared the news that Saudi women would be allowed to drive when it was announced last fall, and with all the preparations taking place, the singer wanted to take part in the best way she could. So she wrote the lyrics to a song that mirrored the exciting events ahead.

Tamtam’s release focuses on the themes of freedom, equality and empowerment that she has explored in her music since the start of her career in 2012.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician said she hopes the song inspires women to see that with patience and perseverance anything can happen. 

“If I had to use one word to describe the feeling, it would be hope. Women in Saudi are ready to have a bigger voice and become more independent.

“This is a huge step forward for all of us. The country is showing us that they know we are ready, and they are here to support us and help launch us forward,” said Tamtam. 

Her song’s lyrics include the words: “We know what we want, we know it’s our time, let go of past perceptions, tomorrow is mine, we got drive” — suggesting that it’s time to look forward and stop looking back at what once was.

The verse mirrors the narrative many Saudis are sharing with the world, empowered by the dramatic changes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accomplishing with Vision 2030 and beyond. 

Tamtam, inspired by the late Michael Jackson, started singing aged 15. She wrote her first single, “Little Girl,” while attending high school in California after her family moved to the US from Riyadh. Her singing and songwriting have been influenced by events around her, always related to current issues with a twist of optimism. 

Whether it’s her strong vocals or hauntingly beautiful voice, Tamtam’s music transcends expectations. This young Saudi is singing and making a name for herself in the City of Angels, and her positive energy is reflected in her music.

As Saudis embrace a host of reforms, Tamtam believes many Westerners are shocked by the news. Yet people forget that Saudi is a relatively young country and more good changes will come, she said. 

“With hope comes more aspirations, dreams, new achievements and positive energy.”

The “Drive” video is uplifting, with playful, artistic imagery, and soulful and empowering vocals. The singer and her friends wear white, representing peace and femininity, and drive a yellow Ford Mustang convertible (Tamtam’s dream car). 

“Whenever I’m in a car, especially if there is traffic or it’s a long drive, I always turn on music to put me in a better mood. Driving is so much more enjoyable with music,” said Tamtam. “I hope that this song will be blasting through car speakers everywhere.” 

So the question is: Will Tamtam get her Saudi license, too?

“Yes, I can’t wait,” is the answer, obviously.