A vehicle-sharing app moves Saudi entrepreneurship into high gear

A vehicle-sharing app moves Saudi entrepreneurship into high gear
Established by Mohammed Khashoggi, Ejaro aims to soup up the Saudi vehicle rental market and revolutionize the industry across the region. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 14 October 2020

A vehicle-sharing app moves Saudi entrepreneurship into high gear

A vehicle-sharing app moves Saudi entrepreneurship into high gear
  • Founded by Mohammed Khashoggi, Ejaro aims to popularize vehicle renting and revolutionize the industry
  • App has already proven popular with Saudis, with 2,500 users and 130 vehicles in its beta phase alone

DUBAI: Young Saudi entrepreneurs have not let the coronavirus pandemic slow them down, judging by the countless fresh ideas that have continued to power ahead.

One of them is Ejaro, the first licensed peer-to-peer vehicle-sharing community in the Arab world.

Established by Mohammed Khashoggi, Ejaro aims to soup up the Saudi vehicle rental market and revolutionize the industry across the region.

“We’re similar to AirBnb, but for cars. It’s a great way for a person to generate an additional source of income,” Khashoggi, 31, told Arab News.

As a vehicle owner himself, who regularly hires cars while traveling in Europe for business, Jeddah-born Khashoggi came up with the idea when he saw a similar venture in the UK.

INNUMBERS

Entrepreneurial investment

 

* $67m Investment in KSA starts in 2019.

* 10 KSA startups in WEF’s 100 ‘most promising’ list.

* 42% Petroleum sector’s share of KSA GDP.

“I thought it was an amazing idea. I did my research and looked for similar ideas in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). There were a couple that were meant to launch in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and didn’t,” he said.

“Licensing is the most important element, and we’re the first ones to be licensed by the Transport General Authority in the Kingdom.”

Growing up in Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi moved to the UK to pursue a bachelor’s degree in architecture. Three years later, he entered the world of business.

“I was in real estate with the family business. I was into that for a good five years,” he said. “My partner from university and I started a … company called the Continental Group in the UK, and from there we created a real estate company, which transacted over SR400 million ($100 million), bridging the gap between Saudi investors and the UK property market.”




Jeddah-born Mohammed Khashoggi came up with the idea for Ejaro when he saw a similar venture in the UK. (Supplied)

During a weekend aboard a luxury yacht in Monaco to watch the Formula 1, Khashoggi struck upon the idea for another venture — C’s 500 Business Club — selling “weekend hospitality packages” to guest members to join a chartered yacht platform during the Abu Dhabi Formula 1.

His endeavors earned him valuable networking opportunities with influential people. “It gave us a great platform to gain more networking for our business,” Khashoggi said.

 

“From there we got into the tech world, and I started my first venture jointly with a German company, which did social trading. That’s where I got into the whole tech business.”

After living in the UK for 13 years, Khashoggi moved back to Saudi Arabia in April 2019. Shortly afterward, Ejaro featured as part of Riyadh Season, receiving special endorsements from Turki Al-Shaikh, a Saudi adviser at the Royal Court and current chairman of the General Authority for Entertainment.

“We’ve done almost zero marketing because being part of Riyadh Season gave us great brand positioning,” Khashoggi said. “Word of mouth also helped, and we’ve seen that people want this kind of service.”

Once users download the app and register, they simply search for a vehicle and book. The owner then accepts or declines, allowing direct communication between both parties to coordinate vehicle pick-up or delivery.

A five-minute check-in process, followed by a vehicle inspection, a few photos and fuel and mileage readings, allows customers to drive off with no worries.

Rigorous background and criminal-record checks are also performed to ensure safety and peace of mind.

A VISION FOR INNOVATION

The Saudi economy is undergoing a massive economic development reformation, spearheaded by the transformation strategy Vision 2030. But for entrepreneurship to thrive, current and future generations in Saudi Arabia will need a stimulating environment. The Kingdom is boosting its startup ecosystem with supportive regulatory frameworks and local venture funds.

Various institutions and initiatives are working toward this end, including the Mohammed bin Salman College, the Saudi Aramco Entrepreneurship Center (Waed), the Public Investment Fund (PIF) Academy, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology’s innovation and economic development department, and the MiSK Foundation. Various government agencies and companies are also supporting the Kingdom’s efforts in this regard, such as the Business Incubators and Accelerators Co., a unit of the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Co. (TAQNIA), in turn owned by the PIF. A number of programs are also working to promote future talent.

The Saudi Young Leaders Exchange Programs (SYLEP) is a three-week program in the US for undergraduate Saudi students or recently graduated university students aged 21-26. The aim of SYLEP 2020 is to “build leadership skills, civic responsibility, appreciation for cultural diversity, and community engagement and volunteerism among Saudi university students.”

The theme of this year’s program is STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Beyond prioritizing technology and innovation, Saudi Arabia has made it easier for international entrepreneurs to obtain licenses to launch startups, as part of an initiative to drive the private sector to 65 percent of gross domestic product from its current 40 percent.

This will involve a blend of growth from foreign direct investment and Saudi-grown entrepreneurship and innovation. Despite the current challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, much of the foundation for future youth entrepreneurship has already been set. Throughout the Kingdom, the effects of this spirit of innovation will be felt for many years to come. Richie Santosdiaz

So far Ejaro has proven popular among Saudis, with 2,500 registered users in the Kingdom and up to 130 vehicles in the beta phase alone.

Owners receive up to 80 percent in their wallet while Ejaro banks 20 percent for its connecting platform.

The team plans to initially focus on the Saudi market before expanding to the GCC and across the MENA region.

 

“Everyone wants an additional source of income. With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and tourism and travel opening up, there will be more demand for vehicle rental among tourists and locals,” Khashoggi said.

“We have a really fast and more efficient way to supply that demand through existing vehicles on the road, and in that sense we don’t add more congestion to the roads.”




Khashoggi moved back to Saudi Arabia in April 2019. Shortly afterward, Ejaro featured as part of Riyadh Season, receiving special endorsements from Turki Al-Shaikh, a Saudi adviser at the Royal Court and current chairman of the General Authority for Entertainment. (AFP/File Photo)

Although the app is currently in its beta stage, a full launch is planned in the coming weeks. “The pandemic slightly affected us because we’re an early-stage company and because the travel, tourism and transportation industries came to a complete halt,” he said.

“But it gave us a chance to dig deep into our product, enhance it and completely change the user experience, making it much easier and seamless. The lockdown period had its blessings in disguise.”

It also allowed the team to integrate with several government systems to make it more secure and give users further peace of mind.

Khashoggi is optimistic about the road ahead for Saudi entrepreneurs. “I’m in this ecosystem, and there are definitely amazing things going on in the startup ecosystem in Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“We’ll be in the leading countries in the GCC, and hopefully in the world soon, thanks to the Vision 2030 of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the agility and support from the government for SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and entrepreneurs. It will continue to grow and take its place very soon.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy

Saudi minister concludes Kingdom’s participation in G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ meetings in Italy
  • Al-Rajhi said Saudi Arabia has shown tremendous progress in achieving gender participation gap target agreed at the Brisbane summit
  • He called for the need to properly classify workers to ensure their rights

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, Ahmed bin Suleiman Al-Rajhi, concluded on Wednesday the Kingdom’s participation in the G20 Labor and Employment Ministers’ Meeting in Rome, the ministry said.
His participation came as part of the Kingdom’s support for Italy, which holds the rotating G20 presidency, as a member of the Tripartite Committee (troika) for the current year. The Troika is represented by the country that holds the presidency, its predecessor (Saudi Arabia), and its successor (Indonesia) and works to ensure continuity within the G20.
The program included a joint meeting with the education ministers of member states to discuss issues related to supporting efforts to facilitate the transition of young graduates to the labor market, whereby they reached an agreement after holding an independent session and issued a joint statement.

Al-Rajhi delivered a speech in which he said: “Saudi Arabia commends the Italian presidency for adopting priorities that promote women’s employment, gender equality in the labor market, work patterns in the era of digitization, and social protection systems that ensure efforts from the previous presidency continue. These areas are of great importance in the field of public policy for each of the G20 countries and the world.”
He called for the continuity of work on the G20 Youth Roadmap 2025 approved by the ministers during the Kingdom’s presidency last year, and said that some important issues, such as those related to women and gender equality in the labor market, provide the opportunity to make tangible progress in previous ministerial commitments.
He said that Saudi Arabia has shown tremendous progress in achieving gender participation gap target agreed at the Brisbane summit.

“Based on data from 2014 to 2020, for Saudi nationals in the labor market, we have exceeded the Brisbane target with a gap reduction of 27 percent, where in 2016, the National Transformation Program set a goal to increase women’s participation to 30 percent by 2030, and this goal has been exceeded with the achievement level reaching 33.2 percent by 2020, which confirms that the Kingdom has made progress by surpassing targets that were very ambitious and challenging,” he added.
Al-Rajhi siad that the current labor market is highly affected by global trends, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, and witnessed a significant acceleration in the use of modern technologies, including artificial intelligence, even in the most traditional business models.
He called for the need to properly classify workers to ensure their rights with regard to wages, occupational health and safety, and working hours, in addition to their access to adequate social protection.
Al-Rajhi headed the ministry’s delegation to the G20 ministerial meetings, which kicked off on Monday in Catania, and included Dr. Ahmed Al-Zahrani, undersecretary for labor affairs and head of the employment group for the Saudi side in the Tripartite Committee, as well as Undersecretary for International Affairs Dr. Adnan Al-Naim.


Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting

Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting

Saudi minister highlights Kingdom’s work in responding to COVID-19 pandemic at Belt and Road Initiative meeting
  • Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji also tells meeting on international cooperation about the nation’s environmental credentials

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Waleed Al-Khuraiji told an international gathering on Wednesday how the Kingdom’s government went to great lengths to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and protect public health.
Speaking on behalf of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a virtual, high-level meeting on International Cooperation Under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the Asia-Pacific Region, hosted by China, he said Saudi authorities implemented stringent precautionary and health measures to the highest international medical standards, along with World Health Organization protocols.
Al-Khuraij added that his country worked last year, during its presidency of the G20, to amend the program for the group’s annual summit to focus mainly on addressing the pandemic, including its effects on health and its economic and social consequences. In addition, the efforts of all working groups were intensified in an effort to address the most important issues affecting the lives of people all over the world.
He said Saudi Arabia continues to work closely with international partners to address the pandemic, based on a belief in the importance of international cooperation. It also shares with the world its experience of the challenges and difficulties it has faced, as an extension of its international partnerships and in response to humanitarian calls from around the world, to which the Kingdom has spared no effort in responding in an effort to improve people’s lives.
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 diversification and development program highlighted environmental and sustainable development among its main objectives, he added, and stressed the need to emphasize the preservation of the environment during the nation’s presidency of the G20. It therefore placed this at the forefront of its agenda, based on a desire to ensure sustainability and find feasible solutions to global environmental, climate and energy issues.
Al-Khuraij also highlighted the Saudi and Middle East Green initiatives announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in March, which aim to protect the planet and combat environmental challenges. Among other ambitious targets, they aim to reduce carbon emissions by 60 percent in the region, and plant 50 billion trees as part of the world’s biggest afforestation project.


Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks

Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks
The report explores the impact of cyberattacks and breaches on organizations and details how security teams are adapting to these challenges. (AFP)
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks

Saudi organizations continue to face cyberattacks
  • “Having an infrastructure that can provide a security operations center, with robust situational intelligence, will give context to threats and help prioritize potential targets and remediate risk with confidence”

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s senior cybersecurity professionals and their organizations continue to face serious threats as nearly 93 percent of the 252 organizations surveyed in the Kingdom experienced a cyberattack in the past year, according to a report.
VMware, an American cloud computing and virtualization technology company, released the findings from the fourth installment of the Global Security Insights Report. It was based on an online survey of 3,542 chief information security officers (CISOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and chief technology officers (CTOs) in December 2020 from across the globe.
The average number of breaches suffered by each organization was 2.47 over the past year while 11 percent of respondents said their organizations had been breached between 5 to 10 times. The uptick in attacks was mainly due to more employees working from home, highlighting the vulnerabilities in legacy security technology and postures.
The report explores the impact of cyberattacks and breaches on organizations and details how security teams are adapting to these challenges. Accelerated digital transformation has caused security teams to face evolving threats as cybercriminals seize the opportunity to execute targeted attacks exploiting fast-tracked innovation and remote workforces.
In an online press conference, Ahmed El Saadi, VMware’s regional director of sales, Middle East, Turkey, and Africa, said that complexity is the enemy of security. It is an indication that organizations cannot see into the corners where personal mobile devices and home networks have been grafted to corporate distributed IT infrastructure through insecure technologies such as VPNs.
“It is vital that organizations gain visibility of their networks through cloud-based technologies such as Secure Access Services Edge (SASE),” El Saadi said.
“Having an infrastructure that can provide a security operations center, with robust situational intelligence, will give context to threats and help prioritize potential targets and remediate risk with confidence.”

HIGHLIGHT

The average number of breaches suffered by each organization was 2.47 over the past year while 11 percent of respondents said their organizations had been breached between 5 to 10 times. The uptick in attacks was mainly due to more employees working from home, highlighting the vulnerabilities in legacy security technology and postures. 

The Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) and the National Information Center are doing a quite great job in this regard, he said, as they are using advanced cybersecurity technology to ensure secure services.
For his part, Saif Mashat, VMware’s country managing director, Saudi Arabia, said it is vital for organizations in the Kingdom to fully understand their security weaknesses if they are to improve their security posture.
“Many organizations surveyed are already using, or planning to use a cloud-first security strategy, and while they may encounter significant challenges related to cybersecurity, there is room for optimism,” Mashat told Arab News.
“By adopting an intrinsic, cloud-first approach to security, whereby security is built-in, and not bolted-on, organizations will be able to address challenges including ineffective legacy security technology and process weaknesses.”
He added that this will ensure companies in Saudi Arabia are better positioned for success in a fast-changing world, while also supporting the Kingdom’s ambitions to be a digital leader.
The report highlighted a shift that has undoubtedly changed the threat landscape, requiring security teams to transform their cybersecurity strategies and stay one step ahead of attackers.
The report also emphasized that key focus areas for the coming year must include improving visibility into all endpoints and workloads. Responding to the resurgence of ransomware, delivering security as a distributed service, and adopting an intrinsic approach to cloud-first security are also vital for a company’s security.
Moreover, 11 percent of all breaches were caused by ransomware, which continues to see a rapid escalation.
Ransomware has added an unwelcome tension as multistage campaigns involving penetration, persistence, data theft, and extortion are ramping up the pressure. Attackers are capitalizing on the disruption faced by remote workers and in most ransomware attacks, email continues to be used as the most common attack vector to gain initial access, the report said.
The message is being heard as 80 percent of respondents agreed they need to view security differently than they did in the past due to an expanded attack surface prompted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Apps also topped the list as the most vulnerable point on the data journey, but they are by no means the only area of concern.
The report also found that third-party apps are a common cause of breaches. Of the surveyed professionals, 78 percent said their ability to innovate as a business depends on them, so it is not surprising that security teams are focusing on sharpening their approach to consuming and developing them.
Some 46 percent of respondents said they plan to build more security into their infrastructure and apps and reduce the number of point solutions while 38 percent said they have adapted security to mitigate risk using existing assets.


Second batch of Saudi oil derivatives grant arrives to Yemen’s Hadramout province

Saudi Arabia delivers the second batch of oil derivatives grant to Yemen in cooperation with local authorities. (SPA)
Saudi Arabia delivers the second batch of oil derivatives grant to Yemen in cooperation with local authorities. (SPA)
Updated 24 June 2021

Second batch of Saudi oil derivatives grant arrives to Yemen’s Hadramout province

Saudi Arabia delivers the second batch of oil derivatives grant to Yemen in cooperation with local authorities. (SPA)
  • The 23,000 metric tons of oil derivatives will meet the demands of power plants in the southeastern province
  • The $422 million grant provided by the Kingdom will help provide economic and social stability for the Yemeni people

RIYADH: The second batch of the Saudi oil derivatives grant provided to Yemen has arrived at the port of Mukalla in Hadramout, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Wednesday.
The 23,000 metric tons of oil derivatives will meet the demands of power plants in the southeastern province.
Abdullah Basliman, director of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen’s (SDRPY) office in Hadhramaut and Al-Mahra governorates, said the $422 million grant provided by the Kingdom through the SDRPY will help provide economic and social stability for the Yemeni people, adding that the grant is an extension of the support provided by the Kingdom to Yemen in all fields, which he described as a reflection of the strong ties between the two countries.

According to Basliman, the grant will lessen demands on the Yemeni government’s budget, reduce the depletion of hard currency in Yemen’s Central Bank with which to purchase oil derivatives from global markets, help to stabilize the Yemeni riyal’s exchange rate and fuel prices against the US dollar, improve vital services, and provide job opportunities, as well as improving the standard of living in the country by reducing the frequent power cuts.
The Kingdom’s support “will have a positive impact on the economic, health, educational and service fields,” a statement reported by the SPA said.
The SDRPY — which has so far implemented 198 development projects in Yemen, in several sectors — is working with the Yemeni government’s supervisory committee, which is tasked with ensuring, with full transparency, that the grants reach the intended beneficiaries and that the oil derivatives are used for their intended purpose.
The joint committee scheduled the shipments of the derivatives, which will also enable the Yemeni government to use money earmarked for purchasing oil derivatives to subsidize the salaries of civil servants and to provide basic services that raise the standard of living in Yemen.


Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims

Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims
Updated 24 June 2021

Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims

Saudi officials prepared to receive Hajj pilgrims
  • Due to pandemic, only 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage as registration is only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom
  • Officials have completed organizational, service, and health preparations to provide the best services to pilgrims at Grand Mosque in Makkah

JEDDAH: Officials in Saudi Arabia said they have completed all the organizational, service, and health preparations to provide the best services to pilgrims upon their arrival at the Grand Mosque in Makkah during this year’s Hajj season, which will begin mid-July.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques said that all field and administrative agencies and departments are working to improve the outputs of business and services through pre-prepared plans and programs.

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Ministries of Health and Hajj announced earlier this month that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year as registration is only open to citizens and residents of the Kingdom.

Authorities will take into account COVID-19 health requirements to preserve public health and safety while also facilitating the performance of rituals and worship in the Grand Mosque.

Those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and be within the ages of 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures. 

Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.