Saudi-backed TruKKer secures $10m venture debt from US firm

Saudi-backed TruKKer secures $10m venture debt from US firm
TruKKer’s network stretches into the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with a fleet of over 25,000 trucks. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 22 December 2020

Saudi-backed TruKKer secures $10m venture debt from US firm

Saudi-backed TruKKer secures $10m venture debt from US firm
  • Deal with Silicon Valley-based firm PFG described as largest-ever venture-debt in Mid-East tech history

DUBAI: TruKKer, the region’s first on-demand truck aggregator, has raised a $10 million strategic venture debt from Silicon Valley-based firm Partners for Growth (PFG).

The logistics firm, which is backed by Saudi investors and often referred to as “Uber for trucks,” has secured what has been described as the largest-ever venture-debt in Middle Eastern tech history.

Founded in 2016, TruKKer also raised $23 million last year in a Series A funding round that included STV, IFC and Endeavor Catalyst. The new deal will mark PFG’s first investment in the region.

TruKKer is a majority Saudi-owned company with other investors from the Kingdom including Riyadh Capital and Riyadh Taqnia Fund.

Headquartered in the capital, where founder and CEO Gaurav Biswas is from, the company said the majority of its revenue now comes from Saudi clients, and it plans to expand aggressively in the country in the near future.

“We are disrupting a very fragmented industry, both operationally and commercially, by using advanced data science and technology tools,” said Amit Agarwal, TruKKer’s group chief financial officer.

“One of our essential capabilities is the ability to finance instant payments to the small transporters and owner-operators, while offering standard credit terms for enterprise clients.”

PFG’s Managing Director Jason Geogatos said: “TruKKer offers a very interesting proposition for a debt fund to support a diverse and growing portfolio of debtors with a custom facility tailored to enable the company’s rapid expansion.”

He added: “We are very excited about working with the TruKKer team to provide capital to help them scale their impressive platform, harnessing the trend of increasing technological adoption to deliver efficiencies across the massive freight industry across the Middle East.”

TruKKer’s network stretches into the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, with a fleet of over 25,000 trucks and 500 business-to-business customers currently registered on the platform.

In August, Biswas, told Arab News that he has big ambitions in the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia continues to amaze me with how innovation is accelerating at such a rapid pace. Young Saudis are so ambitious, believe in technology and are keen to deliver,” he said.

“I think an IPO (initial public offering) in the Saudi markets in the next few years would be a delightful outcome for a business like TruKKer.”


Saudi Arabia aims to help SMEs expand their export potential

Saudi Arabia aims to help SMEs expand their export potential
Updated 8 min 24 sec ago

Saudi Arabia aims to help SMEs expand their export potential

Saudi Arabia aims to help SMEs expand their export potential
  • Saudi bank offers 17 credit solutions to small exporters to help them expand their operations worldwide

RIYADH: The Saudi Export-Import (EXIM) Bank has approved nearly SR8 billion ($2.13 billion) in lending to non-oil exporters since it was launched early last year, helping them to distribute their goods to more than 45 countries around the world.

The lender was established as part of the government’s Vision 2030 goal to raise the share of exports in the non-oil economy from 16 percent at present to 50 percent by the end of the decade.

“We at Saudi EXIM are mandated to serve all Saudi-based exporters of non-oil content, be it goods, services or intermediate value-added products, irrespective of their enterprise size. We do so by ensuring that our role complements that of commercial lenders instead of eroding it or competing with it,” Dr. Naif Al-Shammari, acting CEO of Saudi EXIM, said in an interview with Arab News.

“We pay special attention to small and medium enterprises given the limited access they have to commercial funds. This extends even to those that do not have an export track record, provided that they have valid on-hand orders from the export market,” Al-Shammari said. 

Dr. Naif Al-Shammari, acting CEO of Saudi EXIM

To boost the performance of exporters in the non-oil sector, the Saudi EXIM Bank offers 17 different credit solution products, which were developed in accordance with best international practices and based on the needs of Saudi-based exporters and their foreign clients, Al-Shammari said.

Meshari Alrajih, an assistant professor of marketing at the King Saud University, said small and medium-sized exporters can benefit from the new “Made in Saudi” program, which offers several solutions to promote the development of local products. There are many forms of support that can be used, such as fee exemptions for starting industrial enterprises of up to five employees, he explained. He pointed to other programs related to Vision 2030 that can help small and medium enterprises (SMEs), including the National Industrial Development and Logistics Program, the Local Content and Government Procurement Authority and the Industrial Development Fund.

FASTFACTS

• The Saudi Export-Import Bank has approved nearly $2.13 billion in lending to non-oil exporters since it was launched early last year.

• It provides export financing, guarantees and export credit insurance services with competitive advantages.

To become one of the companies helping to achieve the targets set by the Vision 2030 program, Alrajih said, entrepreneurs should contact the relevant authorities with experience in this area, such as the Saudi Exports Development Authority and the chambers of commerce. He also recommended that small companies participate in international exhibitions and conferences, to build up their overseas networks.

Alrajih urges SMEs to market their products outside the Kingdom through a number of channels such as the Ministry of Investment, which has overseas offices specializing in helping such companies.

Design and branding consultant Fawaz Al-Otaibi said the “Made in Saudi” initiative comes at a critical time. “During the past years, many Saudis have received their education in the most prestigious universities in the world and studied design, branding, industrial design and other specializations,” he said, adding that this new skillset among young Saudis will lead to “a significant transformation within a short period.”

As Saudi SMEs become more experienced at marketing their products to a wider global audience, agencies such as the Saudi EXIM Bank will be on hand to help them to finance the logistics needed to become exporters, helping the government to achieve its ambitious Vision 2030 targets.


New partnership aims to boost Saudi Arabia’s electric vehicle sector

New partnership aims to boost Saudi Arabia’s electric vehicle sector
Updated 20 min 51 sec ago

New partnership aims to boost Saudi Arabia’s electric vehicle sector

New partnership aims to boost Saudi Arabia’s electric vehicle sector
  • The Kingdom has been taking serious steps to boost its EV sector, a fundamental part of its Vision 2030 program

JEDDAH: Schneider Electric Saudi Arabia and GREENER by IHCC have signed a partnership agreement to develop e-mobility infrastructure in the Kingdom’s nascent and fast-growing electric vehicle (EV) sector.

Schneider, a French energy management and automation solutions company, and GREENER, a sustainability and energy efficiency services provider, will work on a strategy to boost the number of EV charging facilities in the Kingdom.

GREENER is part of IHCC, a Jeddah-based turnkey solutions provider specializing in healthcare, education and mixed-use projects.

Schneider is already a leader in this area thanks to its EVLink range of charging solutions installed throughout the Kingdom.

“GREENER by IHCC sees the potential for electric vehicle infrastructure, and we’re delighted that we can partner with them to help Saudi Arabia build a world-class network of chargers that will power this transition,” said Mohamed Shaheen, Schneider’s cluster president for the Kingdom and Yemen.

This partnership is in line with the recently announced Saudi Green and Middle East Green initiatives, which aim to reduce carbon emissions, combat pollution and land degradation, and preserve nature.

The Kingdom has been taking serious steps to boost its EV sector, a fundamental part of its Vision 2030 program.

In 2020, commercial imports of EVs and their charging stations were allowed in Saudi Arabia under specific procedures.

A committee has been created — headed by the Energy Ministry, in coordination with government and private agencies and research centers — which aims to study all aspects related to establishing infrastructure for EVs.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is an anchor investor for US-based EV manufacturer Lucid Motors.

The sovereign wealth fund announced its first investment of $1 billion in Lucid in September 2018.

The investment was made to “provide the necessary funding to commercially launch Lucid’s first electric vehicle, the Lucid Air, in 2020,” the PIF said.

Lucid is scouting out locations for retail sales outlets in the Kingdom, and aims to get them up and running by the end of 2021 or early 2022, CEO Peter Rawlinson told Arab News earlier this year.


Britain’s driverless car ambitions hit speed bump

Britain’s driverless car ambitions hit speed bump
Updated 45 min 40 sec ago

Britain’s driverless car ambitions hit speed bump

Britain’s driverless car ambitions hit speed bump
  • Insurers worry over drivers misunderstanding limits of technology

LONDON: Britain’s goal to be a leader in adopting self-driving cars could backfire unless automakers and government regulators spell out the current limitations of the technology, insurance companies warn.

Insurers are key players in the shift to automated driving, with some investing in a technology they believe will slash accidents and deaths, and save them billions in payouts.

But they are worried drivers might equate today’s lower levels of automation with fully self-driving vehicles, potentially causing more accidents in the short term and permanently damaging public confidence in the technology. “What you describe things as is incredibly important, so people don’t use them inappropriately,” said David Williams, managing director of underwriting at AXA Insurance, whose parent AXA SA made €17 billion in revenues from property and casualty insurance, including motor insurance, in 2020.

“I genuinely believe the world will be a safer place with autonomous vehicles and I really don’t want that derailed.”

In what would be a world first, Britain is considering regulating the use of Automated Lane Keeping Systems (ALKS) on its roads, possibly even on motorways at speeds of up to 70 miles (113 km) per hour. It is also deciding whether to describe them to the general public as “automated” systems.

It is that one word — automated — that has stirred controversy and put the country at the center of a global debate about self-driving terminology at a sensitive moment in its evolution.

The technology is evolving rapidly and there is no consensus on how to deploy it or what to call some features. Regulations in the Americas, Europe and Asia lag far behind technical developments and issues over accident liability are unresolved.

ALKS use sensors and software to keep cars within a lane, accelerating and braking without driver input. Some experts say ALKS should be called “assisted-driving technology” to avoid potentially misleading consumers into believing they can let their attention wander at the wheel.

The dangers of drivers apparently misunderstanding the limits of technology has already become an issue in the US, where regulators have been looking into about 20 crashes involving Tesla’s driver assistance tools, such as its “Autopilot” system — a “Level 2” technology that requires the driver’s constant attention.

Britain’s Thatcham Research said it had tested cars with the technologies underpinning ALKS and found they cannot swerve out of lane to avoid obstacles, see pedestrians emerging from cars at roadside, or read road signs. The car can alert the driver to resume control, but with a potentially fatal lag at high speeds.

Britain’s Transport Ministry said its primary concern was public safety and it had not decided to permit the use of ALKS at high speeds or whether to call the technology “automated.” Its decisions are expected later
this year.

The World Health Organization estimates road accidents globally kill around 1.35 million people a year.

With human error estimated to cause around 90 percent of accidents, insurers have shown considerable interest in automated driving technologies.

There is potentially a big economic boost too from embracing the new technology.

Britain’s Transport Ministry forecasts by 2035 around 40 percent of new UK cars could have self-driving capabilities, creating up to 38,000 new skilled jobs.


UAE’s Diamond Group considers fresh investment opportunities in Egypt

UAE’s Diamond Group considers fresh investment opportunities in Egypt
Updated 49 min 14 sec ago

UAE’s Diamond Group considers fresh investment opportunities in Egypt

UAE’s Diamond Group considers fresh investment opportunities in Egypt
  • The UAE company has already started its first project in the new administrative capital with investments of EGP 4 billion

CAIRO: Mohamed Abdel Wahab, CEO of the Egyptian General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI), discussed increasing investments in Egypt with Saleh Mohammed bin Nasra, owner of the Diamond Group, and Abdel Rahman Agamy, CEO of the Diamond Group and Sky Abu Dhabi Real Estate Development.

An official statement said that they presented promising investment opportunities in several sectors, and covered the facilities and measures taken by the Egyptian government to encourage foreign investment.

The meeting comes during Abdel Wahab’s tour of the Gulf region, where he is engaging with a number of major Emirati companies to discuss investment opportunities.

Nasra said the Diamond Group aimed “to contribute to the implementation of the state’s directives to achieve comprehensive urban development that accommodates the increase in population and contributes to the continued growth of the Egyptian economy.”

Agamy said that the group began taking steps to pump EGP 15 billion ($960 million) worth of investments into Egypt over the next two years. 

Despite only announcing its entry into the Egyptian market two months ago, the UAE company has already started its first project in the new administrative capital with investments of EGP 4 billion.

Agamy said that the group is studying new opportunities and praised GAFI’s efforts in attracting foreign businesses to the country.


Qassim province to get almost 5,000 new home plots in Buraidah

Almost 5,000 residential plots are planned around the city of Buraidah in Qassim province. (SPA)
Almost 5,000 residential plots are planned around the city of Buraidah in Qassim province. (SPA)
Updated 21 April 2021

Qassim province to get almost 5,000 new home plots in Buraidah

Almost 5,000 residential plots are planned around the city of Buraidah in Qassim province. (SPA)
  • The Land and Technical Affairs Agency of the Saudi Ministry of Housing has received the Buraidah metropolitan plan

RIYADH: Almost 5,000 residential plots are planned around the city of Buraidah in Qassim province.
The Land and Technical Affairs Agency of the Saudi Ministry of Housing has received the Buraidah metropolitan plan, SPA reported.
It includes 4487 residential sites with each plot extending over 500 square meters.
The Buraidah metropolitan plan is spread across 5.5 million square meters, north-east of Buraidah city, SPA said.
The sites will be available for booking through the Sakani website.
Sakani is a government program established to allocate hundreds of thousands of residential sites to people in need of a home across the Kingdom.