JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia receives millions of foreign pilgrims every year for Hajj and Umrah and many return home bearing gifts for their families and friends.
Salam Gifts (@salamksa) is a Saudi startup that aims its products at the tourist and pilgrim markets with a range of quality mementos and souvenirs that represent the spirit of Makkah and Madinah.
Driven by a passion for design and creativity as well as dissatisfaction with the Kingdom’s Islamic souvenir market, Mahmoud Naseem (@mahmoudnaseem) founded Salam Gifts with the aim of enriching the bond between Muslims and their Islamic culture through products with a unique contemporary design.
The company is named after the word “peace” in Arabic and its products are designed to remind customers of special memories while reflecting on the peacefulness of Islam as a religion and the two holy cities.
“It is also a part of our daily greeting, assalamo alaykum, which is a widely used word even by non-Muslims,” CEO Naseem told Arab News.
The 34-year-old Saudi entrepreneur said that 95 percent of the souvenir market for pilgrims consisted of unorganized shops that offered low-quality goods. “We belong to the 5 percent who are trying to bring Islamic heritage and souvenirs in a funky casual way to be part of users’ daily life.”
Salam Gifts offers a wide range of products to all ages and genders at affordable prices, with most products costing less than SR100 ($27).
Inspired by the sights and scenes of Makkah and Madinah, the venture’s design range includes prayer mats and beads, bracelets, necklaces, bags, keychains, and magnets.
“We offer products with unique design, good quality and affordable price — these are the main factors that distinguish us from competitors,” Naseem added.
The startup is looking to expand its product range with fashion, perfume, dates and luxurious jewelry items and although focused mainly on spiritual tourism it is also working on other products for tourists reflecting Saudi Arabia’s culture and heritage.
“We were criticized when we first began in 2017, because the market depends on cheap merchandise, but we wanted to prove the high potential of our products and offer something that we believe is appropriate to represent this country and these holy places,” he said.
Located in Jeddah, Salam Gifts aspires to reach out internationally to the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. “We are not targeting Saudis or people coming to Saudi Arabia, our focus is much wider and we know that there is a high demand for such products in the international market, especially in places with large Muslim communities such as Malaysia and the UK.”
Naseem and his two partners, Loai and Iyad Naseem, hope to open 20 branches around the Kingdom and internationally within the coming years.
“We believe we are still in our beginning stages, and we have to continue being creative and patient.
“People are looking for innovative and unique products … we noticed that our targeted customers are extremely satisfied with our products — we always receive encouraging comments,” added Naseem.
As a new local brand in a huge market, Salam Gifts faced challenges regarding the local manufacture of its goods and store rental prices.
“We do our best to support local factories, but it is not always available in the quality and price range we need. Although we try, we currently cannot manufacture all of the products 100 percent in Saudi Arabia. Rents are extremely high in holy areas too,” he said.
80 percent of the company’s sales are online, but its products are also available at Virgin Megastores and other concept outlets throughout the Kingdom, as well as at airports, and the opening of an independent store in Madinah is in the pipeline.
Products are available at salamgifts.sa, as well as other platforms such as Dokkan Afkar and shipments can be made worldwide.