Startup of the Week: Offering quality mementos, souvenirs representing the spirit of Two Holy Cities

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Updated 14 April 2020

Startup of the Week: Offering quality mementos, souvenirs representing the spirit of Two Holy Cities

  • Located in Jeddah, Salam Gifts aspires to reach out internationally to the 1.8 billion Muslims around the world

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.

 


Saudi health authorities ready to join trials of COVID-19 vaccines

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is working with a different Chinese company to evaluate whether the vaccine it is developing is effective. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 September 2020

Saudi health authorities ready to join trials of COVID-19 vaccines

  • Ministry of Health and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center have been working with two Chinese drug companies

JEDDAH: King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC) in Saudi Arabia is preparing to take part in advanced trials of one or two COVID-19 vaccines.

About 40 potential vaccines are being tested on humans, nine of which are at the advanced stage of clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness in protecting people against a virus that has infected more than 31 million people around the world.

The center confirmed its readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and participate in tests of one or two of the nine vaccines that are in the third phase of clinical trials, during which large-scale testing on humans takes place.

Dr. Naif Al-Harbi, the head of KAIMRC’s drug-development unit, told Al-Ekhbariya TV news channel that it is unprecedented to have nine vaccines in stage three of clinical trials so soon, less than a year, after the emergence of a new virus.

“Approval or disapproval of any drug normally follows the third stage of its clinical trials, which is the last stage,” he added. “Since the pandemic, KAIMRC has been in continuous contact with a number of drug companies in four countries (that are developing vaccines).”

KAIMRC has been working with one Chinese pharmaceutical company in particular to help evaluate and accelerate the development of its vaccine, he said.

“Over the past two months, we have been in contact with Sinovac to scientifically evaluate its product, in term of the tests on animals and a study of the results of stages one and two on humans,” Al-Harbi said.

He added that the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health is working with a different Chinese company to evaluate whether the vaccine it is developing is effective. A number of factors are taken into consideration when reaching a conclusion.

“We examine the drugs and make sure they have caused no side effects when tested on humans, or that they just caused insignificant side effects,” said Al-Harbi. “We also look into the manufacturing company’s profile to ensure it follows the standards of the good manufacturing practices, and that the company’s products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards.”

He added that SFDA is also doing a great job in ensuring that vaccines are safe, to avoid any risks to the health of people in the Kingdom.

In a message posted on Twitter, KAIMRC said that some countries, such as Russia, China and the UAE, have given doctors the green light to use some vaccines on patients before that have been approved, but only in emergency cases and when the results of early clinical studies indicate that the vaccine is safe.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced 27 additional COVID-19-related deaths. The death toll in the country now stands at 4,512.

Meanwhile, 492 new cases have been confirmed in the Kingdom, bringing the total number of people infected by the virus to 330,246. Of those, 14,235 cases remain active and 1,133 patients are in a critical condition.

The Ministry of Health said Makkah recorded the highest number of new cases, with 58, followed by Jeddah with 53, and Madinah with 38.

A further 1,060 people in the Kingdom have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 311,499. A total of 6,093,601 tests for the virus have been carries out in the country, including 43,652 in the past 24 hours.