The hottest buzzwords in Saudi Arabia these days are “entrepreneurship” and “entrepreneurs.” So why is that the case, you might ask? Before I answer this question, let us look at what these words entail internationally. Entrepreneurs are thought to be national assets that need to be cultivated and motivated because they contribute to improving the standard of living and creating social change with the new goods and services they introduce to the market. These entrepreneurs create jobs, add to the national income and raise the economic growth of any country.
Having said that, I asked myself what are we offering in Saudi Arabia to increase the number of entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized enterprises, especially since this is part of our Vision 2030? Well, first of all, I would like to say that the government is offering a lot in the different parts of the entrepreneurship ecosystem, but the big question is: Is it enough?
We have many great programs that have raised the quality of services being offered for entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia. For example, the Nine Tenths program has a variety of services designed to help entrepreneurs drive their businesses’ growth.
One of its services is called “Bahr,” which is a freelancing platform where companies or entrepreneurs can pay people to help on a specific project without employing them on a full-time basis. Bahr basically connects freelancers with the people who need specific services in Saudi Arabia.
Another service Nine Tenths offers is called “Tojjar,” which is an e-commerce platform that stands out from the competition as it supports home-based businesses and includes all the logistics of payment and delivery, so entrepreneurs can have peace of mind and focus on selling products rather than the logistics.
Nine Tenths also offers a startup accelerator named after the program itself. It is considered one of the strongest accelerators in the country, as it helped about 10 percent of successful startups in Saudi Arabia in 2017.
“Forsa” is another service that acts as a connector between different businesses in Saudi Arabia in terms of procurement purchases. It offers transparent and immediate access to online business opportunities in a variety of industries.
One of the new offerings that Nine Tenths will be launching later this year focuses on raising awareness of entrepreneurship at the university level, which will help tackle unemployment at an early stage, before graduates enter the job market. It will help students be aware of what entrepreneurship is and what it entails, including how to start their own businesses. So, by the time they graduate, they can make a clear decision to be an entrepreneur and perhaps employ their university classmates in the process, or they can apply for a job with the new skills they gained from this program, which will be delivered by top Saudi and international experts. The fresh graduates will have some tough choices to make.
So, if you are an entrepreneur and have not heard about this national program, which is paid for by the Human Resource Development Fund, then whose responsibility is it? Is it the government’s responsibility to spoon feed us information in order for us to utilize the free services that it offers? Or is it the entrepreneur’s responsibility to seek out what is available, especially if it is free? My job here is not to answer these questions, rather merely stimulate your thinking and pick your brains on how much we, the people, should not be reliant on the government to provide for us. In conclusion, I would like to say happy information hunting to all entrepreneurs out there — you truly enrich our economy.
Dr. Taghreed Al-Saraj is a best-selling Saudi author, international public speaker and entrepreneurship mentor.