Startup of the Week: Otagu - Taking Saudi video game marketplace to the next level

Updated 22 October 2019

Startup of the Week: Otagu - Taking Saudi video game marketplace to the next level

  • Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national transformation program includes a target of increasing spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from the current level of 2.9 percent of total domestic expenditure to 6 percent

JEDDAH: The entertainment industry and the creative economy play key roles in the reforms that aim to transform the Saudi economy and reduce its reliance on oil and gas revenues.
Along with efforts to promote and encourage entrepreneurship, this has created great opportunities in the digital field, and encouraged young Saudis to work to make their ambitious dreams reality.
One such entrepreneur is 27-year-old Ahmed Bakhashwin, the founder of Otagu, an online community for fans of video games, animation, movies and TV shows, a group he feels has been unfairly treated and exploited by retailers. The platform aims to improve the marketplace by providing a space where enthusiasts, merchandisers and retailers can get together and deal directly with each other.
“Otagu is derived from the Japanese word ‘Otaku,’ which means a person who is obsessed with a particular thing; for example, an otaku of Marvel movies,” said Bakhashwin. “Otagu is also an acronym for ‘Online, TV, Animation and Gaming Universe.’”
The idea for Otagu grew from his dissatisfaction with the local video games market.
“The market for second-hand video games was made to trick and exploit customers,” he said. “Shops would buy used games for very low prices from their owners and then sell them at a much higher price.”
Bakhashwin said that he wanted to help consumers get a better deal by giving them more power.
“At first I wanted to take the shops out of the equation and allow people to sell their products directly to those who want them for a price they agree on,” he said. “However, the idea grew further and now we want to target the entertainment industry as a whole.”
One of Otagu’s main aims is to bring better organization to the Kingdom’s entertainment marketplace, including the second-hand video-game market, by providing a platform that connects sellers of gaming, animation, movie and TV merchandise with the collectors, fans and enthusiasts most interested in their wares.
Work began on Otagu a year ago and it is due to launch its website, otagu.com, in two weeks. A mobile app is coming soon, too.
Although Saudi Arabia only embraced and opened up to the global entertainment industry relatively recently, the potential value of the sector and its contribution to the local economy is immense.
“The market that we are targeting is bigger than ever, so it’s the perfect time for us to launch,” said Bakhashwin.
Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 national transformation program includes a target of increasing spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from the current level of 2.9 percent of total domestic expenditure to 6 percent.
Bakhashwin aims to give fellow entrepreneurs in the Kingdom the chance to participate in this expanding market by helping small businesses grow and open their own online stores.
“Every business owner in any field related to our target audience can have an independent store page on our website,” he said. “We help small business and shops too.”
He added he has lofty ambitions for Otagu, which he believes has great potential to grow and become a major force in the region. He said his team has worked hard to create and develop the best platform to match their plans and ambitions.
“Our biggest challenge has been finding the right investor, so we could move ahead faster with the company’s plans,” he said. “Up until now all the funds have come from me, but with an investor we can move even more quickly to help our company realize the vision that we have for it.”


Give your heart to everything you do, Duchess of York tells Misk Global Forum

Updated 32 min 21 sec ago

Give your heart to everything you do, Duchess of York tells Misk Global Forum

  • Sarah Ferguson delighted by warm welcome in Riyadh during Misk Global Forum
  • Ferguson shared her experiences of working to help children worldwide during a panel discussion at the Misk Global Forum

RIYADH: Sarah Ferguson, Britain’s Duchess of York, said that she was moved by the warm welcome she has received from the people of Saudi Arabia. She added that it was a reflection of the good example set by the country’s rulers.

Fergie, as she is known worldwide, said she was excited and thrilled to visit the Kingdom to appear at the Misk Global Forum in Riyadh.

“I love the feeling of kindness that I’m getting from the people of Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News on Wednesday which, appropriately, was International Kindness Day. “Everyone has been so nice here in Riyadh; I think that comes from good leadership.”

She compared this wonderful reception to her experiences in other places “where people are judgmental of you,” adding: “I don’t feel that here. I feel people are embracing me as ‘Sarah’ and that is such a beautiful feeling.”

The duchess said that she hoped to return to Saudi Arabia to help the government build health centers in less-developed areas. But she admitted that it can be tough sometimes to keep going.

“We are all human and have human failings, so the best we can do is keep battling on,” she said. “It’s hard not to beat yourself up sometimes, if you’re feeling down or upset.”

Ferguson revealed that her inspiration is her daughters, Beatrice and Eugenie, and that she has always tried her best to be a “great mum,” urging them to “learn from my actions rather than my words.”

She added: “If your actions are of honesty and kindness and you unintentionally trip up on the way” people are likely to see you are good-hearted.

The duchess was open about her own bad decisions which, she said, happened because she believed everyone thought the way she did.

“They didn’t, and I didn’t realize that,” she said. Despite past betrayals, she said still trusts and believes in people, and has passed on the lessons she learned the hard way to her children: “I have taught my daughters not to fall into those traps.”

In the past, she said, some people in Britain might have viewed her philanthropic work as “attention seeking,” but did not let that divert her from a path of kindness and a desire to do good.

The duchess later hosted a showcase of her retail brand, which includes room infusers, flavored teas, and jewelry. She said all profits from the jewelry sales will be used to help children through a trust she founded in partnership with the charity Humanitas.

Ferguson was invited to attend the Misk forum by Badr Al-Asakir, head of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s private office. The prince is chairman of the Misk Initiative Center.

During a panel discussion on Tuesday titled “The Resilient Philanthropreneur,” the duchess shared her experiences of working to help children worldwide, and the resilience and persistence it had required.

“Don’t let anyone doubt you and, especially, don’t doubt yourself,” she said, encouraging people to keep an “open mind” and pursue the path they believe is right.

“Give your heart to everything you do,” was her parting advice to young people.