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


Saudi Arabia confirms no change in Israel travel rules

Updated 27 January 2020

Saudi Arabia confirms no change in Israel travel rules

  • Foreign minister says Israeli passport holders are still unable to visit the the Kingdom

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has confirmed that Israeli citizens are still unable to visit the Kingdom.

Foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said the policy has not changed despite Israel saying on Sunday that its passport holders could now travel to the country for religious and business visits.

“Our policy is fixed,” Prince Faisal told CNN. “We do not have relations with the state of Israel and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the Kingdom at the current time.”

His comments come as Donald Trump prepares to unveil his Middle East peace plan on Tuesday. An agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be key to improving relations with Arab countries, most of which have no diplomatic ties with Israel.

“When a peace agreement is reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis, I believe the issue of Israel’s involvement in the region will be on the table,” Prince Faisal added.

Israel’s interior minister said on Sunday that Israelis - if invited and permitted by Saudi authorities - would be allowed to travel there for religious reasons on pilgrimage or for up to nine days for business reasons such as investment or meetings.

Israelis, mostly Muslims going on pilgrimage, do visit the Kingdom, but usually with special permission or using foreign passports.

Saudi Arabia, along with most Arab countries have no official diplomatic relations with Israel, and citizens of those countries are not able to travel to Israel nor Israelis to those countries.

However, relations between Israel and Gulf states have improved in recent years, particularly over a shared stand against Iran and its aggressive policies in the region.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said last month that he welcomed Israel’s warming ties to Arab countries in the region.

In 2018, Netanyahu visited Oman and met the late Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

*With Reuters