Chinese startup eyes Saudi Arabia, Dubai for ‘flying taxi’ rollout

The E-184 drone, which is powered by four propellors, has a cruising speed of up to 100 kilometers per hour. (EHang)
Updated 24 November 2017

Chinese startup eyes Saudi Arabia, Dubai for ‘flying taxi’ rollout

LONDON: Transport by taxi drone could soon be part of everyday life in Dubai after a Chinese startup told Bloomberg it aims to roll out flying cars in the emirate next year.
EHang Inc. is also eying Saudi Arabia as a potential market, it was reported.
The company has already developed a one-passenger drone and is now working on a larger two-seater model that is currently being tested at the company’s headquarters, located at a disused theme park in Guangzhou, southern China.
The E-184 drone, which is powered by four propellors, has a cruising speed of up to 100 kilometers per hour and a flight time of up to 25 minutes before the battery must be recharged.
Passengers in the fully-automated drones select a pre-programmed flight path to reach their destination then sit back and enjoy the view.
The company hopes to roll out the taxi drones in Dubai as early as next year, subject to regulator approval, and plans to embark on an ambitious mass production plan to reach markets in Saudi Arabia, Singapore and several European cities.
In February, EHang announced its partnership with the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority with the shared aim of developing the world’s most intelligent transport system.
On its website, EHang describes the E-184 as “the safest, smartest and eco-friendly low-altitude autonomous aerial vehicle.”
Powered by electricity, it is made with 100-percent green technology and is designed to land immediately at the closest possible location in case of malfunction.


Saudi consumers give online retailer AliExpress boost in Middle East market

Updated 13 November 2019

Saudi consumers give online retailer AliExpress boost in Middle East market

  • AliExpress currently delivers to more than 200 countries and can be used in 18 languages
  • Around 60 percent of the consumers are below the age of 35, with 51 percent being female

DUBAI: Due to the increasing amount of purchases from the region, the Chinese e-commerce AliExpress has started offering several new services.
The growing demand came specifically from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, where the retailer started offering consolidation of orders for cheaper delivery and cash on delivery as a payment option.
These services were tailored to consumers from the region, as the company knew “cash on delivery is very popular in Saudi and UAE,” according to AliExpress’s Middle East head, Matt Zhang.
The retailer, which is under the Chinese Alibaba multinational conglomerate, is also trying to expand its provided local services.
“We have an overseas warehouse in Dubai. We are trying to open a warehouse in Saudi. We are in the process of all the legal and facility planning,” Zhang said.
Sellers will have the chance to use this facility, which is usually stocked with high-demand items, to decrease delivery times.
They also use the local delivery company Aramex in Saudi Arabia and the UAE to decrease the amount of time required for orders to reach consumers.
“Cainiao works with local partners” to enhance the buying experience, Zhang added. Cainiao is a technological company and the logistics arm of Alibaba group, providing the various businesses under the conglomerate with a variety of solutions locally and globally.
All of these additions follow AliExpress’s main strategy to expand in the region, which is to provide “a good selection, more competitive price and good service,” Zhang said.
The e-commerce company has been working with a marketing agency for the region as well, as they believe they need “more local insights,” he added.
For consumers in Saudi Arabia, their top three categories for shopping are consumer electronics, home and garden, and phones and accessories.
One of the reasons why consumers choose to buy such items from AliExpress is the value for money they get in exchange.
Buyers and sellers are now able to skip the tedious process of export and import through warehouses and distribution centers, which shortens the whole value chain and provides the same goods for a smaller amount of money.
Another interesting defining factor of consumer behavior in Saudi Arabia is the tendency to explore more options under each category compared to other countries.
The top three categories make up less than 40 percent of the ordered products, leaving the remaining more than 60 percent scattered over a long list of sub-categories.
On top of AliExpress, Alibaba is penetrating the regional market in other ways too.
If you have noticed the recent 11.11 sales and offers, they have been inspired by a decade-long shopping festival in China.
Although 11.11 is just starting to bloom in the region, it is a long-established event in China featuring a variety of entertainment and shopping events.
The famous US singer, Taylor Swift, performed at Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena during this year’s gala event for the shopping festival.
Several local retailers offered discounted items, ranging from baby care products, to groceries, to electronics and clothes.
At the end of the 24-hour shopping festival, Alibaba’s gross merchandise value (GMV) surpassed $38 billion, according to the company.
Alibaba reported that over 215 leading international brands, like Lancome and Shiseido, debuted one million new products, with over 240 11.11 themed items, during the 2019 festival.
The conglomerate is currently focusing on new retail in China, or as they have explained, an offline and online shopping experience. Tmall customers can view products online, and either buy them through delivery of find the nearest outlet to check the items in real life.
They are also undertaking new ventures in the country, such as the Flyzoo hotel in Hangzhou, which is fully automated and is operated by robots.
AliExpress currently delivers to more than 200 countries and can be used in 18 languages. Around 60 percent of the consumers are below the age of 35, with 51 percent being female.
Currently, the countries with the highest GMV are Russia, Spain, France, Poland and Brazil.
The retailer is also working on offering more international businesses to operate on their website and sell products. The service has already been launched in Russia and Turkey.