Middle East shopping site Noon to enter China market

Noon.com currently makes deliveries to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the region’s largest economies. (Courtesy FAB)
Updated 13 July 2018
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Middle East shopping site Noon to enter China market

  • The $1 billion e-commerce platform is looking to build a network of brand owners in China and connect them to Middle East customers
  • CEO of Noon Faraz Khalid: We spotted a gap in the market for high-quality Chinese products

LONDON: Middle East online retailer Noon.com is expanding into Asia with plans to enter the groceries delivery sector in China during the next six months. 

The $1 billion e-commerce platform is looking to build a network of brand owners in China and connect them to Middle East customers.

“We spotted a gap in the market for high-quality Chinese products,” said Faraz Khalid, CEO of Noon.

“We want to work with the best selection of marketplace suppliers, a set of reliable, high quality sellers, to bring their inventory to customers in the Middle East,” he told Arab News.

The company has also announced plans to open two new entities in China.

“We’re looking to partner with top brand owners and marketplace platforms to help us curate a wider and more diverse assortment of products for our customers in the Middle East,” said Noon.com founder Mohammed Alabbar.

Representatives from the company have been building relationships in the Chinese market with a view to expanding logistics capabilities on the ground and acquiring office space there in the future. 

“We understand that Noon will be looking to have goods delivered by the brand holders themselves, or will have to have a number of local depots in China, which should help them boost their business further,” said Vadym Gurevych, managing director of e-commerce company Holbi Group. 

Noon’s plans to accommodate e-commerce payment methods that are already being used by the Chinese public will make purchases “easy and straightforward for Chinese customers,” he added. 

The company is working with a leading financial services provider to develop efficient and effective payment solutions.

During an interview with CNN’s John Defterios, Alabbar, who co-founded the company with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund last year, expanded on plans to reach further afield.

“I think we should not be very shy even to look a little bit east,” he said. “We should really look at Pakistan and countries like that … And I think if you were to go to North Africa, the same thing, the base is quite good in that area as well.”

The Riyadh-based company, which was was set up to provide an “Arabic-first” e-commerce platform and tap into the region’s burgeoning online retail market, competes with Dubai-based Souq.com, which was purchased by Amazon in 2017 for $650 million.

Last year Noon partnered with eBay to provide customers with access to products in a wider range of markets. 


Selling sketches and clothes, Libyan women set up businesses against the odds

Updated 25 June 2019
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Selling sketches and clothes, Libyan women set up businesses against the odds

  • Libya has only a tiny private sector and the economy is dominated by the state
  • Cumulative inflation over the last four years has seen real incomes lose more than half of their purchasing power

TRIPOLI: When inflation began eating into her state-paid salary Libyan architect and assistant professor Seham Saleh started selling drawings over the Internet to help pay the bills.
She joins a growing number of Libyan women launching start-ups in the conservative Arab country, where many still think a woman’s place is in the home but where the strains on personal and family income following years’ of political chaos have forced women to look for more work.
Libya has only a tiny private sector, which means there is a market for locally-produced goods. The economy is dominated by the state, which employs most adults under a structure set up by Muammar Qaddafi, who was toppled in 2011.
Men are the traditional breadwinners, although around 30 percent of women were in the labor force as of 2015, according to a UN report.
“I cannot live on my assistant professor salary of 1,000 dinars ($256) even if it is paid out,” said Saleh. She has been selling drawings of people in Libyan dress or book marks she created on a computer.
“Thank God... people wanted to buy the products,” she said. She also does freelance work as an architect.
Once one of the richest countries in the region, the chaos and civil war that ensued after the fall of Qaddafi has seen Libya’s living standards erode. Little is now produced in Libya other than oil, even milk is imported from Europe.
Cumulative inflation over the last four years has seen real incomes lose more than half of their purchasing power, and the government effectively devalued the dinar last September.
A cash crisis means public servants often do not get their salaries paid out in full. Lenders have no cash deposits as the rich prefer to hold their cash themselves, rather than deposit it in a bank.
Women rarely had jobs outside of sectors such as teaching, although the need for more family income has changed the situation, said Jasmin Khoja, head of a women’s business support venture.
Her organization, the Jusoor center for studies and development, has trained some 33 would-be female entrepreneurs, offers legal advice and office space as women often can’t afford their own.
While Seham’s “Naksha” art business is in its early stages, others such as Najwa Shoukri’s start-up are growing fast. She started designing clothes from home in 2016, and selling them online.
Now, together with five other women, she has a workshop selling 50 pieces a month and plans to open a shop next year on Jaraba Street, the main fashion shopping avenue in Tripoli.
To make the shop a success her output would have to rise to 150 pieces a month. Her brother and family have contributed to investments worth 10,000 dinars.
The biggest challenges for start-ups are legal hurdles and the lack of electronic payment systems.
Some Libyan commercial laws go back to the 1960s and are aimed at big corporations such as oil firms, not start-ups. Under these regulations firms need to deposit thousands of dinars.
“Banks do not give loans, which stops projects and makes them unable to grow or employ other women and young people,” Khoja said.
Undeterred, Mayaz Elahshmi started a business last week training women to fix computers and smartphones.
“There is big demand as many women are reluctant to go to a phone shop where men work, as they have personal files on their phones.”
Six people came to her first training session, each paying 30 dinars.