Expat businessmen optimistic about life after COVID-19 lockdown

Many businesses are facing uncertainty due to the ongoing pandemic. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 July 2020

Expat businessmen optimistic about life after COVID-19 lockdown

  • Many expat business owners have praised the Saudi government for its role in helping them survive the COVID-19 outbreak

JEDDAH: Expat business owners in Saudi Arabia hit by loss of sales during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown period have expressed hope for the future as trading gradually gets underway again.

Many foreign-run firms operating in the Kingdom have been facing uncertain times due to curfews and restrictions put in place throughout the Kingdom to stop the spread of the virus.

But with the easing of precautionary measures allowing the resumption of commercial activities, expat business proprietors are looking forward with optimism to life after lockdown.

According to the World Investment Report 2020, published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, investment had a key role to play in countering the long-term developmental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on national economies.

Awais Misri, the Pakistani CEO of Ramsons Trading Co. in Jeddah, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia has been more protected and insulated from the worst effects of the COVID-19 depression, so I see consumption rebounding at least initially and that’s because Saudi Arabia’s economy is generally robust.”

His company, which supplies hotels, caterers, restaurants, and cafes in Makkah and Madinah with food products, along with supermarkets, was heavily impacted by the lockdown but he was confident of bouncing back.

“People are tired of being at home, they want to go out and spend; hence, consumption will go up and possibly even higher than pre-COVID-19 levels, at least initially,” Misri added.

Many expat business owners have praised the Saudi government for its role in helping them survive the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mahmood Khan, from India, who has a clothing manufacturing business in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Fortunately, some retailers were able to sell online, which proved successful for many businesses. However, for companies like ours, we were closed for the past three months. It has affected our revenue significantly. Up to 70 percent in sales were lost.

“With the curfew lifted and tremendous efforts put in by the government to ensure health and safety, we are positive that we will come out of these trying times soon. We have already seen a surge in orders and deliveries for the end of the year,” he added. 

Another factory owner said the pandemic had forced production to be halted. Jeddah-based Pakistani-British clothing retailer Farhan Ashfaq said: “This, of course, impacted our workers and community.

“However, we applaud the way Saudi Arabia has fought against COVID-19 to protect its citizens and residents. The government ensured safety first and has opened up businesses so we can get back on our feet and flourish.”

Startups dealing with the aftermath of the unprecedented health crisis were also hopeful of being able to resume business as usual.

Iman Azmat, an Indian-Canadian fashion retailer based in Dammam, said: “This has been a very trying time for all startups, especially those that began their journey in 2019.

“However, with the curfew being lifted and as things go back to normal, we hope to achieve the aims we set out with in the near future. Many foreign investors are eyeing Saudi Arabia as the beacon of hope.”

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— Developing story.