First Saudi online cosmetics retailer offers a masterclass in how to succeed

As people started using online resources for makeup and style advice, the Alolayan brothers spotted a new business opportunity. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 September 2018

First Saudi online cosmetics retailer offers a masterclass in how to succeed

  • The founders of Nice-one spotted an opening in the early days of e-commerce
  • Since it was founded on Jan. 1, 2017 Nice-one has expanded steadily and now has more than 70 employees.

Good timing and sound business sense have been the key to the success of Nice-one, the first Saudi online retailer specializing in cosmetics and beauty products.

 Since it was founded on Jan. 1, 2017 it has expanded steadily and now has more than 70 employees, but it all began on a much smaller scale.

Today, most consumers in their teens and twenties often prefer to shop online, using their smart phones, tablets or laptops. The convenience of home delivery and the ease of making purchases are the top drivers propelling the use of e-commerce worldwide. Although the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) highlighted in its E-commerce in Saudi Arabia 2018 report that Saudi shoppers’ preference to make purchases through traditional channels remains high, a shift to online buying is gathering momentum, driven by high levels of Internet and mobile penetration as well as the young population of the country.

Nice-one’s founders, Abdulrahman and Omar Alolayan, spotted that shift at its earliest, in 2013. The two young Saudi brothers started selling beauty products using an Instagram account, before launching their business, developing an app and expanding to become one of the most promising startups in the Kingdom, with the ability to reshape the market.

CEO Abdulrahman Alolayan said: “During my years at university pursuing my masters degree, I started to look into different business opportunities before settling on only one cosmetic product, which I began to ship from the United States to my brother in Saudi Arabia. 

“When I came back to the country, I decided to focus on the business and opened a small retail shop in Buraidah. This helped us to understand the market and its trends and learn about its customers’ needs on the ground. Then we agreed to move to Riyadh and rent a 200 square meter office and warehouse.” 

Brothers Omer, left, and Abdulrahman Alolayan

During that time, the newly established startup had only three employees and was a small operation. 

“After four months, we recruited an experienced business development manager who helped us to make Nice-one the success it has become today,” said Abdulrahman.

Nice-one started by selling only makeup and beauty products, before gradually expanding its listed products.

Abdulrahman explained: “We were trying to focus more on our customers and their needs and building up our operations by starting a new category every six months. Our catalogue today includes beauty products, perfumes, hair care, and most recently sunglasses. We are proud to say that as of today we have more than 500 brands listed on our website in all available categories.”

Nice-one’s app is available on both Google Play and the Apple App Store and has more than 500,000 downloads.

“My advice to all entrepreneurs is never to start a business without understanding its market first and testing it on the ground. Also, you need to have your team lined-up in all the positions that you think are critical to your business. We faced a lot of technical and financial challenges during our first year, and that could’ve been avoided then through having the right people in place,” said Abdulrahman.

Today, Nice-one has a reputation as the first online retailer in the Kingdom for cosmetic products, and aims to become one of the best in the region. 

Nice-one’s warehouse. (File/Supplied.)

Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

Updated 18 February 2019

Saudi Crown Prince takes Pakistan bond ‘to new level’

  • Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy
  • Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom

RIYADH: A major transformation is underway in Saudi Arabia’s economic relationship with Pakistan, according to Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, a former ambassador to Islamabad.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, the former envoy said greater interaction between business and the private sectors in both countries will take the historical bond “to a new level.” 

Asseri, who spent nine years in Islamabad and was the second-longest serving Saudi ambassador to the country, said: “We know that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have always enjoyed an incomparable level of understanding and friendship based on religion, culture and values. There is a historical bond between the two countries. 

“I have no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking a cohesive approach to strengthen the relationship and take it to another level.” 

Asseri said that while Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cooperated closely on security matters, bilateral trade between the countries remained limited to about $4 billion. 

“We need to ... encourage the private sectors to interact more. We can help Pakistan’s industry and we need to become more involved in the trade sector. There are advanced industries and firms in Pakistan, and they have raw materials — it’s a good environment for investors.”

Asseri said Saudi Arabia has deferred payments on oil worth billions of US dollars from time to time in order to ease pressure on the Pakistan economy. The Kingdom is also making billion-dollar direct investments in the country in line with the China-Pakistan economic corridor. 

“I am happy to see a major transformation underway in Saudi-Pakistani economic relationships with our leadership and government deciding to invest in the economic development of Pakistan,” he said. 

The former ambassador said frequent official visits between the two countries were important. 

“I came back recently from Pakistan, and the vibe of the media, government and people was so optimistic. Pakistanis were excited about the crown prince’s visit. People hope it will bring great opportunities for the economy as well as strengthening the political and social ties between the two countries,” he said.

Asseri said Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had faced many challenges together in recent decades.

In 2001, during Asseri’s first year as Saudi ambassador in Pakistan, the 9/11 attacks on New York led to greater cooperation between Islamabad and Riyadh in dealing with terrorism.

The Kingdom had been closely involved with Pakistan since its independence, he said. “King Abdul Aziz sent King Saud and Prince Faisal to Pakistan at that time. So if we go back through history, we can see that this relationship is truly unique.” 

Asseri also highlighted the ties between the two countries on humanitarian issues, security and military issues, saying: “Pakistan has suffered serious security and humanitarian consequences of the decades-long war in Afghanistan, besides housing millions of Afghan refugees.

“Together Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have worked for peace in Afghanistan and will do whatever it takes to achieve this long-desired goal.”

Asseri said Pakistanis were quick to show their appreciation for Saudi Arabia’s assistance in the past regardless of the change in Pakistani leadership over the years. 

“The relationship is unique because it is between people. Such a relationship (will) keep growing with every generation.

“When Pakistan was in a difficult position in 2005 after a devastating earthquake, Saudi Arabia went out of its way to provide the support it needed. Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and eight ministers visited Balochistan. Field hospitals were created with Saudi doctors treating people and performing surgery there.” 

Pakistan also has a deep loyalty to Saudi Arabia, Asseri said. “Pakistan has military expertise, and through cooperation between the two countries, it helped the Saudi military during its development.” 

“The Kingdom’s recent appointment of a Saudi commercial attache in Pakistan will also bolster the economic links between the two countries,” he said. 

“There are good minds in Pakistan and good products that could be manufactured in Saudi Arabia.”

Asseri said he is also optimistic that Saudi plans to build a major oil refinery in Gwadar will help create an “economic hub.” 

The former envoy said the Saudi crown prince’s visit to Pakistan will add to the relationship between the countries. 

Pakistan’s relatively young population is also hoping for a stronger relationship with the Kingdom. 

“Young Pakistanis who are advanced in the IT and industrial sectors are looking forward to helping and cooperating with Saudi Arabia, and sharing their experiences and knowledge,” he said.