Meet two young Saudi entrepreneurs with sustainable solutions

Meet two young Saudi entrepreneurs with sustainable solutions
Updated 11 March 2019

Meet two young Saudi entrepreneurs with sustainable solutions

Meet two young Saudi entrepreneurs with sustainable solutions
  • Muhannad Al-Hamed helps homeowners set up solar panels, while Suhaib Amer’s tech start-up will allow farmers to monitor livestock
  • Both were chosen to present their start-ups at Abu Dhabi’s Climate Innovation Exchange (CLIX) event earlier this year

DUBAI: From solar energy to helping Saudi farmers improve their livestock, the Kingdom’s young entrepreneurs are contributing in their own way toward the country’s Vision 2030 reform plan with sustainable solutions.

One of them, 25-year-old Muhannad Al-Hamed from Riyadh, aims to bring solar products to Saudi households by cheaper and more convenient means.

His e-commerce platform Dhwa sells solar products to homes across the Kingdom, to ease the process until installing rooftop solar systems becomes more feasible. 

His software also helps homeowners determine the feasibility of installing rooftop solar photo-voltaic (PV) systems by sharing their home’s location then linking them with certified PV installers. 

“I work in the renewable energy industry, and I get a lot of emails and calls from people asking me how to install solar PVs, and how to know if it’s feasible,” Al-Hamed said. “I did some research and found that there isn’t one solution in Saudi Arabia that’s free. You have to hire someone to come to your house to see if it’s feasible, unlike the US, where they have a lot of software solutions, such as Google’s Project Sunroof, and you can determine the feasibility while sitting at home for free.” 

His research revealed that solar energy had become a lot cheaper in recent years thanks to its simple design, installation and maintenance. Yet determining its feasibility in Saudi households had not. 

“So I thought I needed to complete that circle by coming up with a solution where users can determine the feasibility with a high accuracy rate and without having to waste a lot of money,” Al-Hamed said. “I developed software that uses Google Maps to select the location and scan the area. From there, it says how many panels you can install, the capacity, the cost to maintain it, and monthly savings.” 

Once residents are satisfied with the results, the software connects them to top solar PV installers in the Kingdom. “We connect them with the right people,” he said. “Because not everyone is qualified to do this job, we direct them to the right companies.”

Al-Hamed spoke of much uncertainty in the market. A policy called net-metering governs how users can benefit from installing solar panels, but requires approval from the grid owner. 

“So it’s a process, and there are many companies that work in solar panels,” he said. “So the next step that we’re working on developing is a database of major companies that are certified to do the job and will be added to our software.”

Users will receive an answer within seconds thanks to the fully automated system, providing them with the approximate number of solar panels they can install and the energy yield. 




Muhannad Al-Hamed. (Masdar photo)

A feasibility report is immediately sent over, and a professional reaches out to them within a few hours or days at most.

Widespread interest in the start-up led Al-Hamed to take part in Abu Dhabi’s Climate Innovation Exchange (CLIX) event in January to showcase his company, which he started with two colleagues less than a year ago. CLIX, the region’s first sustainability-focused start-up accelerator, gives emerging entrepreneurs and innovators the chance to forge partnerships with leading global investors at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in January.

“It was a great opportunity, and we met a lot of people interested in investing or being a customer,” Al-Hamed said. 

“A country such as Saudi Arabia, which depends heavily on fossil fuel to power its grid, needs to move away from these resources to something more sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly, like solar,” he added.

“It also enables us to spare oil and gas, and helps the Kingdom make money. This is the case for many oil-exporting countries, such as the UAE too.”

Suhaib Amer, a 24-year-old from Jeddah, is another entrepreneur coming up with innovative solutions for his country. 

Along with two other Saudis from Madinah and Riyadh, they created Al Maha Systems, a tech start-up focusing on the Internet of Things (IoT) and animal health care. 

“We provide services that monitor and analyze vital data for livestock in order to increase production and efficiency on the farm,” Amer said. “We utilize the latest technologies in the fields of sensing and communication in order to guarantee continuous and effective monitoring of the herd.”

The team members started their journey as master’s students at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), where they took part in an entrepreneurship class that led them to the idea. 

Further market research and communication with potential customers unveiled massive potential. 

“The market is ready for such an idea,” Amer said. “We came up with the prototype, showed it to our potential customers, and we’re currently testing some of the technology we have on our farms.”

Sensors, which are placed all over the farm, monitor the vitals of livestock and other relevant information. The data collected is used to generate insights for farmers and owners, to help increase their production, growth and efficiency. 

“We tackle multiple elements. We start with health issues, where we detect illnesses earlier than conventional ways, and we detect optimal breeding and fertilizing time for cows,” Amer said. 

“We also get other insights by collecting and analyzing data in ways that aren’t currently available, which means cows can produce more milk, with more time to produce, and they can breed faster and more efficiently.”

The group started developing the system two years ago, with a first system currently installed for testing. It should be complete this year.

Amer was the second Saudi to showcase his work at CLIX this year. “We believe it will shape the future of the food and agricultural industries,” he said. 

“At CLIX, we listened to other entrepreneurs who came from around the world, and we learnt from them,” he added.

“We also had the chance to learn about the start-up scene and opportunities in the UAE, and the connections and experiences we made were invaluable.”

From the technology to the market research, Amer and his co-founders discovered a huge industry that needs to be served. 

“There’s a lot of potential for our idea, and at the same time we didn’t want to be working from the outside,” he said. “So we involved people in the industry such as veterinarians, farm owners and people from the dairy industry, such as Almarai, Al Safi Danone and Nada Dairy, because we didn’t want to work in a vacuum.”

He spoke of the significance of Al Maha Systems for the Kingdom due to a somewhat “unsuitable” climate for many agricultural industries. 

“So you want it to be as efficient as possible,” he said. “Because the agricultural industry is very industrial in Saudi Arabia, it gave us the opportunity to implement our system on a large scale, which we can’t do in other countries where there are smaller farms. We have to be efficient (and) innovative; this is what we’re trying to get to.”


Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 23 July 2021

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 11 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 496,810
  • A total of 8,141 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 11 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,247 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 263 were recorded in Riyadh, 211 in the Eastern Province, 209 in Makkah, 157 in Asir, 90 in Jazan, 68 in Madinah, 55 in Hail, 51 in Najran, 24 in the Northern Borders region, 21 in Al-Baha, 19 in Tabuk, and six in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 496,810 after 1,160 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,141 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 23.7 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


A look into modernization of tawafa profession as Hajj 2021 ends

A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
Updated 23 July 2021

A look into modernization of tawafa profession as Hajj 2021 ends

A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. (Supplied)
  • Pilgrims used to stay up to four months, in comparison to spending less than a week at the moment

MAKKAH: Shadia Jumbi has worked in the tawafa profession since she was eight years old, helping pilgrims and guiding them through Hajj.

“We are used to traveling to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and China to bring pilgrims who are later met at the pilgrims’ city in Jeddah. We used to receive pilgrims and supervise them during the Hajj journey in the holy sites and throughout the Hajj phases. They used to stay in Makkah for up to four months, in comparison to spending less than a week (there) at the moment.”
Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in the Kingdom until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed. A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. These two elements are being brought into line with trade regimes and universal standards through development and modernization.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Shadia Jumbi recalled how pilgrims were captivated by Makkah’s communities. They learned about their customs and traditions, tried Hijazi food, and brought along their culture which merged with the Saudi culture.

• She also recalled that five stories used to be dedicated to pilgrims in Makkah’s houses, with homeowners living in the highest story. They interacted with the household members as an integral part of their Hajj experience. Nowadays, pilgrims eat, drink, and stay at hotels and camps. They do not interact with Makkah’s communities.

Jumbi, who is 70, is considered to be one of the first mutawwif in Makkah. She remembered when guides would fly to the home countries of people who wanted to visit the Kingdom, saying there were vast differences between Hajj in the past and Hajj in the present and that Hajj used to be an arduous journey for both pilgrims and mutawwif.
She recalled how pilgrims were captivated by Makkah’s communities. They learned about their customs and traditions, tried Hijazi food, and brought along their culture which merged with the Saudi culture. They witnessed Makkah’s manners which were a reflection of the host country’s manners and delivered a positive message to all their communities abroad.
“In the past, we received them in our homes, cooked for them, washed their clothes, celebrated them and invited them to join all our celebrations and occasions. They were keen to learn the Arabic language and learn about the most important places in Makkah and visit them, as well as the historic and archaeological sites.”

Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in the Kingdom until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed.

She recalled that five stories used to be dedicated to pilgrims in Makkah’s houses, with homeowners living in the highest story. They interacted with the household members as an integral part of their Hajj experience.
Nowadays, pilgrims eat, drink, and stay at hotels and camps. They do not interact with Makkah’s communities.
Jumbi said that the mutawwif would grow close to pilgrims and form a strong relationship and solid bond with them.
“Nowadays, the mutawwif has become a mere number in a series of the tawafa offices that are spread everywhere. They no longer play their role in supervising tourist trips and market visits and, when pilgrims get sick, we drive them to the hospital, treat them and supervise them from the moment they arrive until they leave.”

Shadia Jumbi, who is 70,  is considered to be one of the first mutawwif in Makkah. Jumbi has worked in the tawafa profession since she was eight years old, helping pilgrims and guiding them through Hajj.


She spoke of farewells, tears and open arms. “When we visited them in their countries, they did not let us stay in hotels. They received us in their homes. The mutawwif was respected and, unlike today, their main role was dealing with pilgrims as a family they respect.”
Ahmed Saleh Halabi, a writer specializing in Hajj and Umrah services, said there were many benefits to tawafa institutions being transformed into companies.
“There are benefits and gains in developing the human resources working in services and administration. Their work will not be limited to working in the Hajj season alone, but also throughout the year through diversifying service programs. The role of the tawafa companies will not be limited to securing and preparing the pilgrims’ camps in the holy sites, as they will also secure housing and food for pilgrims (in Makkah and the holy sites).
“Moreover, the companies will be able to organize the visits’ program in Makkah, as well as the tourism programs in Taif and Jeddah, which means that contributors and workers in the area of providing services for pilgrims will have economic benefits, met with the pilgrims’ benefits through the services they receive.”

Mentalities must change and everyone must accept the new shift.
Ahmed Saleh Halabi
Writer specializing in Hajj and Umrah services

Halabi said that if institutions worked on diversifying their services, they would receive different sources of income and change their traditional methods of receiving pilgrims, supervising their housing, setting up their camps in the holy sites, and providing buses to transport them.
“It is hard to demand (that) contributors inject money in new companies to increase capital, however, it is possible for companies to obtain concessional loans from banks that enable them to stand strong.”
He also said that “mentalities must change” and “everyone must accept” the new shift.

Old business card of mutawwif.

“Companies now need new ideas that call for diversifying services and participating in other services that the institutions were not involved with, such as investment in transportation and food.”
He said transformation could not harm tawafa establishments and mutawwif and that he expected change to be beneficial as they could work through the year, instead of seasonally, in any profession or service.
A mutawwif at the National Tawafa Establishment for South Asian Pilgrims, Abdul Aziz Abdul Razzaq, agreed that transformation had its advantages.
These included having a memorandum of association, a statute, share certificates, and a corporate governance manual to protect the company, ensure contributors’ rights and develop the organizational structure for members and committees by choosing the skills of professionals based on adopted standards.
Other benefits were discussing strategic goals and reports in regular meetings, and getting into investment opportunities with external partnerships — for areas such as communication, housing, food and transport — as well as providing high-quality services for pilgrims, enabling contributors to trade and purchase shares in the future, raising the share value for shareholders, enabling contributors to join the service delivery companies and the possibility of entering the Umrah system in the future.

Decoder

Tawafa and mutawwif

Tawafa establishments are a key part of the Hajj experience, managing pilgrims’ affairs upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia until they leave for their homeland after the holy rituals have been performed. A mutawwif is someone who has been appointed by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah to guide pilgrims. These two elements are being brought into line with trade regimes and universal standards through development and modernization.


Saudi authorities ramp up health inspection tours

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches. (SPA)
Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches. (SPA)
Updated 23 July 2021

Saudi authorities ramp up health inspection tours

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches. (SPA)
  • The municipalities urged all commercial facilities to abide by regulations to ensure public safety

DAMMAM: The Eastern Province municipality carried out 1,314 inspection tours in one day across shopping malls, commercial centers and stores to monitor compliance with health and safety measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

These checks resulted in three commercial outlets being shut down, while 41 violators were given penalties for ignoring health regulations.

The municipality of Asir also carried out 3,348 inspection tours of commercial centers and facilities during the Eid holidays. The authorities closed three commercial outlets, while many other violators were given penalties.

The violations included noncompliance with social distancing and mask wearing, leniency in measuring the temperature of customers, overcrowding issues, and a failure to effectively use the Tawakkalna app.

The municipalities urged all commercial facilities to abide by regulations to ensure public safety and prevent the virus from spreading.

Officials have urged the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call center number or contacting authorities through the Balady app.


Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh

Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh
Updated 23 July 2021

Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh

Saudi aid agency KSrelief completes food project in Bangladesh
  • Joint teams of KSrelief and the MLW reached more than 80 distribution points inside Bangladesh refugee camps 

DHAKA: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), in cooperation with the Muslim World League (MWL), has concluded the distribution of 80,000 food baskets for Rohingya refugees and the communities hosting them in Bangladesh.

The project lasted for two months, benefiting 500,000 people in the Cox’s Bazar, Dhaka, Jessore, Rajshahi, Chittagong, and Panchi Sur island regions.

The joint teams of KSrelief and the MLW reached more than 80 distribution points inside the refugee camps and in various regions of Bangladesh.

The field teams traveled thousands of kilometers to reach the neediest families in Bangladesh in response to repeated global calls to contribute to alleviating the suffering of refugees and in support of the UN rapid response plan to the humanitarian crisis.

KSrelief received many certificates of quality and achievement from the authorities for adhering to high levels and standards in implementation, the most important of which is the application of social distancing in the areas of distribution and following COVID-19 precautionary measures.

 

 

 

 

 


Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company

Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company
Updated 22 July 2021

Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company

Who’s Who: Abdullah Almahmoud, head of governance at Saudi Arabia’s Hassana Investment Company

Abdullah Almahmoud is head of governance and compliance, and board secretary, of Hassana Investment Company, the investment arm of the General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI).

He joined Hassana in Riyadh in June 2020 and works with the board of directors and executive management to ensure appropriate governance is in place and adhered to.

Prior to this, Almahmoud worked with the Capital Market Authority (CMA), Riyadh, from February 2009 to May 2020. His role required investigating possible violations of capital market law and implementation of its regulations, drafting CMA’s regulations and legal documents, leading litigation brought by the CMA against violators, and execution of CMA and court-issued decisions and penalties.

At the CMA, he worked as a member of the enforcement development group from November 2013 to April 2016, and was secretary, enforcement committee, from April 2013 to January 2016.

He was a secondee, office of international affairs, US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Washington, from January 2018 to January 2019.

Almahmoud worked as legal researcher for the general department of legal affairs at the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) from May 2008 to February 2009.

He began his professional career as an intern at the office of governmental affairs, Saudi Aramco, in Riyadh, between June 2005 to August 2005.

Almahmoud completed a masters degree (LLM) in business and finance law from George Washington University, the US, in 2011 and a bachelor of law degree (LLB) from King Saud University Riyadh in 2007.

He is a certified compliance officer (CCO), from the Financial Academy of Saudi Arabia (2020), and certified governance, risk and compliance officer (GRC), from the London School of Business and Finance (2020).

Almahmoud gained a general securities qualification certificate from the CMA in 2017.