Tokyo-based Saudi consultants thrive through cross-cultural innovation

The 10th Floor has served many Saudi and Japanese startups, public and private companies, nonprofit organizations, universities, government sectors and embassies. (Photo Supplied)
Updated 03 September 2018

Tokyo-based Saudi consultants thrive through cross-cultural innovation

  • The 10th Floor, Inc. is a group of Saudi consultants based in Tokyo which operates between Saudi Arabia and Japan
  • Ir was officially established in March 2015

JEDDAH: The 10th Floor, Inc. is a group of Saudi consultants based in Tokyo which operates between Saudi Arabia and Japan. They have taken on many different projects over the years, from simple translation to communication management, creative video projects, all the way to bringing people from Saudi Arabia on business tours to Japan. 

Their areas of work are operation support, media support and cross-cultural support. Their services include research and marketing, overseas training, media and public relations, coaching and advisory work, project management, design and products. 

The company is run by chief executive Mutaz Arif, a 29-year-old Saudi, and his co-founder Abdullah Al-Khatib. 

Arif attained a bachelor’s degree in international development engineering from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 2013.

“I was a student in a Japanese university — everything was in Japanese. I thought first about exploring the Japanese society more, understanding it better,” said Arif.

His journey started in 2007. “We were the first batch of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program to Japan. I went to study Japanese technology and as our generation was mostly brought up by “made in Japan technology” I studied engineering for a while and looked for a job in Japan.”

Arif worked as a project manager at Japanese software testing company Shift  from April 2013 to July, 2014. “I worked for an IT venture company which was in the field of software testing, that was a bit far from my degree. It was quite an experience, it went on for a year and a half. I did the whole nine yards for the Japanese experience, working with them on projects with Japanese clients and clients abroad.”

After leaving Shift, Arif took on an entrepreneurship program at Draper University in California, USA. “I went to the States for something called Draper University of Heroes. After I came back, I thought that it was about time I started something, some sort of business, so I and a few friends started what is now called The 10th Floor,” Arif told Arab News.

With energy and vision, Arif took the initiative and put his plan into action.

“I was 25 at the time, and I thought maybe it’s time to start doing something with a group of friends. We were all around the same age and thought that it’s only these few years that we can try something new instead of just being locked up in a company and working — although the companies we all worked for were all good companies.”

The 10th Floor was officially established in March 2015. Arif explained that the name behind the company holds nostalgic value for him and his group of friends.

“We came as the first batch to Japan and we were placed in Osaka, some of us in Tokyo — there were, I think up to 75 students from Saudi but we called our group The 10th Floor because we lived on the 10th floor of the building, and we turned it into the company’s name,” Arif told Arab News.

The 10th Floor has served many Saudi and Japanese startups, public and private companies, nonprofit organizations, universities, government sectors and embassies. They include include Panasonic, Tokai University, Dar Al-Hekma University, JETRO, Seikei University, Chiba University of Commerce, the Saudi Ministry of Education, Uber, Watanuki, Badir, the Capitol Hotel Tokyu, and the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

The 10th Floor’s experience with the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) included creating a manga. 

“They wanted to create a manga to present to the higher-ups in Saudi, to explain the good parts about Japanese small and medium enterprises that they could transfer to Saudi.” 

The manga was inspired by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit in 2016, followed by King Salman’s visit in 2017 and the announcement of the Saudi-Japan Mutual Vision 2030. 

“We worked with them on this manga from the beginning, starting with the story and the cultural perspective.”

We went really deep with them on how to draw the Thob and Shimagh (Saudi men’s traditional wear). You won’t find many mangas in the world written with this accuracy. And on the cultural perspective, on how to overcome cultural barriers and express their story appropriately to Arabs, Saudis in particular,” Arif told Arab News.

The group of young Saudis have acquired a deep understanding of Japanese business customs, and function with both cultures in mind.

To have a look at their work visit their website

PM Khan bats his way back into the hearts of diaspora

Updated 38 min 2 sec ago

PM Khan bats his way back into the hearts of diaspora

  • Expatriates in Saudi say proud to welcome favorite cricketer back as PM
  • First foreign visit illustrates depth of relations with Kingdom, envoy says

RIYADH: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to choose the Kingdom for his first foreign trip was hailed by various sections of the Saudi and Pakistani communities on Tuesday, with a majority saying that the move speaks volumes about the camaraderie enjoyed by the two states.
Khan assumed office on August 18 and talks of his impending visit to Saudi had been doing the rounds ever since. He arrived in the Kingdom on Tuesday on the invitation of King Salman for a two-day visit, following which he will head to the UAE.
Speaking on behalf of the community and welcoming the premier to the Kingdom, Pakistani Ambassador in Riyadh, Khan Hasham Bin Saddique, told Arab News that PM Khan’s acceptance of the invitation “speaks volumes not only about the bilateral relations but also about the great importance he attaches to it”.
“The entire Pakistani community is eagerly looking forward to the visit, which I am sure will usher in a new era of cultural and economic ties,” he said.
Terming the Pakistan-Saudi bond as historic and time-tested, Saddique added that the two countries “have always stood by each other in the time of need.” “The people of Pakistan hold Saudi Arabia and its visionary leaders, King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the highest esteem,” he said.
Detailing the schedule for the two-day visit, Saddique said the two sides are set to discuss several bilateral, regional and international issues, specifically matters related to the welfare of the Pakistani community in Saudi Arabia and ways to enhance cultural ties.
Speaking to Arab News about the timing and significance of the visit, Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a senior member of the Shoura Council said: “The visit assumes greater significance as the two countries share a historical friendship…which progressed into deeper relations as a result of visits by top officials from both sides.”
He added that the Kingdom was a host to more two million Pakistanis and the only way to value those relations and take them forward was by “working together in areas of defense, oil cooperation and economy” to further enhance trade and investment ties.
“The Pakistani government is also fighting terrorism like us…the two countries can cooperate with each to fight it,” he said, adding that Riyadh is also helping Islamabad improve and stabilize its relations with neighboring Afghanistan.
Acknowledging the political impact of PM Khan’s visit, Dr. Majed Abdullah Al Hedayan, a FDI expert, analyst and former head of legal affairs, at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News that the move reinstates the fact that “the two countries are united on issues of political and strategic importance in the Middle East” – something which acts as evidence of the growing cooperation between the Islamic countries in dealing with issues of mutual concern.
Expressing hope that as a representative of the Pakistani community in Saudi PM Khan would take measures for them, Ghaffar Ahmed Khan, a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and a short-filmmaker in Riyadh told Arab News: “We want him to take measures for Pakistani expats living in Saudi Arabia and are extremely hopeful that the agenda of his meetings will include the welfare of the Pakistani workers. We want him to boost bilateral ties, especially in the art and entertainment sector.”
The Kingdom lifted a decades-long ban by opening its first cinema on April 18, a move which Khan says could work in favor of Pakistan’s entertainment industry as more films can now be screened in the country.
Zakariya Ahmed, an overseas Pakistani residing in the capital, says he’s admired PM Khan since his cricketing days and that his visit was a proud moment for the diaspora because “he was no longer visiting the country as a celebrity but as the prime minister of Pakistan”.
Following a congratulatory call from King Salman on his election win, PM Khan – in a statement released by the PTI --  had said at the time that “Pakistan considers Saudi Arabia’s security to be of crucial importance and safety of the holy sites in the Kingdom was part of their faith”.
Saudi’s relations with Pakistan date back to 1947 when the country was first formed. A friendship treaty was signed by the two in 1951, laying the basis for cooperation. Bilateral relations improved over the years due to strong financial and strategic assistance which both Riyadh and Islamabad extended to each other in times of need. Saudi Arabia continues to be home to the largest number of Pakistani expatriates and has provided employment opportunities to both high-skilled urban professionals and unskilled laborers from the remotest parts of Pakistan.
A number of monuments in Pakistan bear testimony to the allegiance that the country has for the Kingdom. Prime among them is The International Islamic University in Islamabad which was established with a grant of $10 million from Saudi Arabia and is a world-renowned varsity. Additionally, the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, a key landmark building in the capital, is named after King Faisal, while the third largest city in Pakistan was renamed Faisalabad as a tribute to the ruler.