Amazon eyes partnerships with Saudi SMEs, tech startups

Amazon eyes partnerships with Saudi SMEs, tech startups
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According to figures by research firm Statista, e-commerce revenue in Saudi Arabia is set to reach $7.051 billion this year and grow at an annual rate of 5.38%. (Supplied)
Amazon eyes partnerships with Saudi SMEs, tech startups
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According to figures by research firm Statista, e-commerce revenue in Saudi Arabia is set to reach $7.051 billion this year and grow at an annual rate of 5.38%. (Supplied)
Amazon eyes partnerships with Saudi SMEs, tech startups
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According to figures by research firm Statista, e-commerce revenue in Saudi Arabia is set to reach $7.051 billion this year and grow at an annual rate of 5.38%. (Supplied)
Amazon eyes partnerships with Saudi SMEs, tech startups
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According to figures by research firm Statista, e-commerce revenue in Saudi Arabia is set to reach $7.051 billion this year and grow at an annual rate of 5.38%. (Supplied)
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Updated 26 July 2021

Amazon eyes partnerships with Saudi SMEs, tech startups

Amazon eyes partnerships with Saudi SMEs, tech startups
  • Retail conglomerate launched a dedicated Saudi platform in June last year, and has seen double-digit growth

DUBAI: Global conglomerate Amazon is looking to partner with more entrepreneurs and technology startups in Saudi Arabia, as it aims to boost the dedicated Saudi retail site it launched a year ago and interact more with the local ecosystem.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) annual report released this year found that entrepreneurial activity in the Kingdom increased by 24 percent year-on-year in 2020, while a third of Saudis surveyed said they were keen on launching a business within the next three years.

At the same time, research platform Magnitt reported that the value of investment deals in the technology startup sector in Saudi Arabia last year soared by 55 percent year-on-year to $152 million.

Amazon is aiming to capitalize on this fast-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. “We’re working with the local entrepreneurs and we see a lot of those in the Kingdom. I think the space has changed drastically,” Ronaldo Mouchawar, vice president of Amazon Middle East and North Africa, told Arab News.

“You see a lot more venture capital, family offices investing in tech. So, we want to work with these companies and content developers and content owners,” he added.

The Syrian entrepreneur co-founded online retail platform Souq.com in 2005, which was then sold to Amazon in 2017. While direct acquisitions on that scale may not be on the cards, Mouchawar said the global giant was interested in working more closely with Saudi partners.

“If not totally invest, definitely a lot of partnerships, working to make sure that whatever innovation that’s working locally is available for our customers in the Kingdom,” he said.

On June 17 last year, Amazon launched its dedicated Saudi website Amazon.sa, rebranding the old Souq.com website. 




Ronaldo Mouchawar, Vice President of Amazon MENA. (Supplied)

“This was kind of the first Amazon Arabic site. We had to put the infrastructure in Saudi Arabia — 14, 15 stations. We had about 2,000 people and trained them on the systems,” Mouchawar said, adding that the site has performed well.

“We’re seeing high double-digit growth obviously in most of our locales. Very good growth. We don’t report growth by region, but overall the industry is growing and Amazon being newly launched is attracting a lot of customers.”

In its annual report for 2020, Amazon reported a 38 percent growth in net sales in North America and a 40 percent spike in sales internationally. While individual sales figures are not available for individual countries or regions, a review of Google search term trends shows that searches for the term Amazon in Saudi Arabia over the last five years peaked in mid-June last year and the volume of searches for the company has increased by 38 percent in the last 12 months.

A clear indication of the success of the site is the fact that Amazon announced plans in March to hire 1,500 new employees in Saudi Arabia and add 11 buildings to its network. The expansion will boost storage capacity in the Kingdom by 89 percent and its geographical delivery network by 58 percent.

FASTFACTS

• Amazon currently operates three warehouses — known as fulfillment centers — in Riyadh and Jeddah.

• It has 11 delivery stations and two sorting centers in the Kingdom.

• By the end of the year, Amazon will boost the numbers to six warehouses and 13 delivery stations.

• Eleven brand new buildings will be added to the network, while some older facilities will be closed or upgraded.

The global conglomerate currently operates three warehouses — known as fulfillment centers — in Riyadh and Jeddah, as well as 11 delivery stations and two sorting centers. By the end of the year, this will be increased to six warehouses and 13 delivery stations. Eleven brand new buildings will be added to the network, while some older facilities will be closed or upgraded.

By the end of 2021, Amazon’s fulfillment network will reach across a total floor area of over 867,000 square feet. The Seattle-based company is also partnering with Saudi Post and a network of 10 service partners.

According to figures by research firm Statista, e-commerce revenue in Saudi Arabia is set to reach $7.051 billion this year and grow at an annual rate of 5.38 percent to reach $8.697 billion by 2025. The largest segment for consumers is fashion and the average revenue per user is estimated at about $248.69.

Mouchawar said there are three main differences with the Saudi market, which they have adapted into their strategy in the Kingdom. “Obviously the language is one — we had to take care of the language to suit. It’s a very mobile-heavy user base: 80 percent of our customers are on mobile phones. So, as you market to these customers, we have to be aware of that.  “The Saudi customer is fairly younger in demographic,” he added. “We had to make sure also the selection — the product offering — is catering to a younger audience and larger families. Consumables and groceries, for example, are important to us because of the family sizes and the consumption nature,” he said.

A lot of retailers, such as Carrefour, have been setting up their own fulfillment centers in the Kingdom, to cater to the demand in online sales. While some have been adopting artificial intelligence and robotics into their warehouses and are looking at driverless vehicles and drones for transport, Mouchawar believed manpower will still be the core focus of the workforce for some time to come.

“I know there are technologies such as drones and robotics — some help in improving the service and the quality, but also some things are still far away, like a drone delivery in the region requires a lot of different changes to different things,” he said.

As a result, he believes the continued growth of the site will present employment opportunities for young Saudis. “I think there’s a huge opportunity to add people from the region to the team. We’ve been doing that consistently in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. I’m very excited about the opportunities that we are able to provide to young people, especially in this sector of content and tech,” he said.


SABIC, ExxonMobil JV in U.S. preparing for initial startup

SABIC, ExxonMobil JV in U.S. preparing for initial startup
Updated 10 sec ago

SABIC, ExxonMobil JV in U.S. preparing for initial startup

SABIC, ExxonMobil JV in U.S. preparing for initial startup
  • The project includes the establishment of an ethylene production unit with annual capacity of about 1.8 million tonnes
  • It supports SABIC's strategy to diversify its feedstock sources and strength its petrochemical manufacturing presence in North America

Saudi Basic Industries, the world's fourth-biggest petrochemicals firm, said on Sunday its joint venture project with ExxonMobil in the U.S. Gulf Coast has started commissioning activities and preparing for an initial startup.

The project includes the establishment of an ethylene production unit with annual capacity of about 1.8 million tonnes, which will feed two polyethylene units and a monoethylene glycol unit, it said in a statement.


SABIC expects that this project will have a positive impact on its consolidated financial statements after the commercial operation begins.

It supports SABIC's strategy to diversify its feedstock sources and strength its petrochemical manufacturing presence in North America for a wide range of products, it said.


Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding

Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 8 min ago

Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding

Saudi digital payment solutions startup, CashIn, gets $1.6m in funding
  • The startup provides digital payment solutions, virtual points of sale, and other payment features to businesses
  • It comes as a new e-invoicing rule in the Kingdom is set to be implemented, with CashIn partnering with the government sector to fully comply with it

DUBAI: Saudi financial technology startup CashIn has raised SR6 million ($1.6 million) in its latest funding round, as the industry grows bigger due to evolving consumer habits.

The startup provides digital payment solutions, virtual points of sale, and other payment features to businesses who are looking to manage sales in an integrated platform.

It comes as a new e-invoicing rule in the Kingdom is set to be implemented, with CashIn partnering with the government sector to fully comply with it, the startup said in a statement.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undergoing rapid growth in the FinTech and technology sectors in comparison to other countries, and we are keen on CashIn to adapt to these fast-paced changes in parallel with Saudi’s 2030 vision,” its chief executive officer Omar Al-Rammah said.

The seed round was led by BIM Ventures and a number of angel investors, the startup said.


Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate

Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate
Updated 19 September 2021

Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate

Saudi, Oman ties open door for businesses to explore opportunities in the sultanate
  • Several KSA businesses in talk with their Omani counterparts to expand into the sultanate

JEDDAH: More Saudi businesses are actively exploring investment opportunities in Oman following recent reciprocal visits of Saudi and Omani top officials.
The visits have given a new impetus to the bilateral ties and slammed open doors of new opportunities for both countries in various sectors.
Among a long list of such businesses are Al Sayadiyah United Co. and Luberex Co. for Trade and Industry, which are reportedly in talks with their Omani counterparts to expand into the sultanate. 
Marwan Raffa, CEO of the Kingdom-based Al Sayadiyah United Co., said the company has been operating for about 40 years. It trades in fish and seafood items from different Gulf Cooperation Council countries and expects a very good experience in trade operations with Oman.
The CEO is in touch with Oman's counterparts to expand business operations in the country.
He said the Kingdom’s relationship with other countries, of course, would affect his line of work.
“Good relationships open up more opportunities,” he said.

FASTFACTS

Currently, the total Saudi investments in Oman amount to nearly SR24 billion and Omani investments have reached over SR4 billion.

The trade volume between the two countries amounted to more than SR2 billion ($533)

Oman’s coasts and beaches are no less than 3,000 km long. He said it is a great and fruitful place for his business.
“The location of the Sultanate of Oman in the south of the Arabian Peninsula and its coasts overlooking the Indian Ocean in the south and the Arabian Sea in the east, with a length of more than 3,000 km, makes it a treasure trove of marine life and an excellent and rich source of seafood,” he said.
Al Sayadiyah has 12 restaurant branches in the Kingdom — 10 in Jeddah and 2 in Riyadh.
Ali Al-Attas, CEO of Luberex Co. for Trade and Industry. His company makes car oil in Oman.
“We want to open a market in Oman and neighboring countries,” Al-Attas told Arab News.
He said manufacturing in Oman has high-quality outcomes. “Oman’s manufacturing quality is well known, just as Saudi Arabia’s industrial manufacturing.”
“Its process for investment is easy as well,” he added.
Luberex was established in 2016 and manufactures all types of car oils in Oman, and manufactures more items such as paint spray and rust remover in Riyadh.
Their annual turnover is $3 million-$5 million, and they are looking to be listed on Tadawul.
Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq recently visited Saudi Arabia during which the two sides agreed on several initiatives including boosting Saudi investments in Oman’s Duqm region, cooperation in the energy, food, culture, sports, and tourism sectors.
Saudi and Omani businessmen are also considering setting up a joint venture specialized in petrochemicals and chemicals, Argaam reported recently.
The report quoted Nasser Al-Hajri, chairman of the Saudi-Oman Joint Business Council as saying, “Saudi businessmen are looking for major investments in Oman’s industrial, petrochemical, chemical manufacturing, fish farming, mining, food, animal feed, tourism and real estate sectors.
The proposed name of the  joint venture is “Gulf Company.”
Saudi businessmen are keen on investing in Oman, provided they get better incentives and facilities, Al-Hajri said.
The trade volume between the two countries amounted to more than SR2 billion ($533 million) in the first quarter of 2021.
The number of Saudi investors in Oman has reached 1,235 whereas 320 Oman companies have so far invested in various sectors in the Kingdom.
Currently, the total Saudi investments in Oman amount to nearly SR24 billion and Omani investments have reached over SR4 billion.


UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action

UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action
Updated 19 September 2021

UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action

UAE, UK sign deal to strengthen cooperation on climate action
  • The MoU comes ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit in November

DUBAI: The UAE and the UK on Saturday signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen cooperation to accelerate measures to protect environment.

The MoU comes ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit in November, due to be hosted by the UK in the city of Glasgow and offers a framework for wide-ranging cooperation by government entities, companies, and research agencies in support of realizing COP26 goals.

UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Dr. Sultan Al-Jaber, who is also special envoy for climate, and UK Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly signed the memorandum, which recognizes that strong, decisive climate action can be an engine for economic growth.

HIGHLIGHT

Under the MoU, the UAE and the UK will work together in seeking to deliver on the Paris Agreement, including by reducing emissions to keep 1.5 degrees in reach, facilitating greater action on adaptation, mobilizing finance for climate action and collaborating on pathways to low emission and climate-resilient growth.

Under the MoU, the UAE and the UK will work together in seeking to deliver on the Paris Agreement, including by reducing emissions to keep 1.5 degrees in reach, facilitating greater action on adaptation, mobilizing finance for climate action and collaborating on pathways to low emission and climate-resilient growth.

Al-Jaber said: “Fifteen years ago, the UAE made a strategic decision to invest heavily in innovation and low-carbon energy, especially renewables and in partnership with other countries. 

“Today’s MoU, on the eve of the UN climate summit in Glasgow, builds on our long-standing partnership with the UK, including on environmental cooperation and investment. We look forward to strengthening our collaboration across all sectors to help support and realize the bold ambitions the UK has outlined for COP26.”

The UAE was the first country in the region to ratify and sign the Paris Accords and the first in MENA to set an economy-wide reduction in emissions by 2030, as part of its second Nationally Determined Contributions. 

November’s UN climate summit will see the official launch of the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate , co-founded by the UAE and the US with endorsement from the UK’s COP Presidency. 


Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch

Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch
Updated 19 September 2021

Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch

Flexible-work platform attracts more than 10,000 Saudis since launch
  • The ministry seeks to achieve a target of 57,000 contracts via the platform by the end of 2022

RIYADH: A platform to help workers find part-time and freelancing work in Saudi Arabia has managed to attract interests from more than 10,000 seekers of flexible work hours since May 2020, according to the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.

The ministry seeks to achieve a target of 57,000 contracts via the platform by the end of 2022, Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper reported, citing the ministry.

The ministry launched the platform, known as Marn, which offers hourly-based employment and does not require employers to pay end-of-service benefits.

BACKGROUND

The ministry launched the platform, known as Marn, which offers hourly based employment and does not require employers to pay end-of-service benefits.

The platform appeals to employers because it reduces their overheads and means they are only paying wages when they receive orders. The retail and wholesale sectors have benefited most from the flexible work system, along with the construction and logistics sectors, the newspaper added.

In 2020, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi, launched mrn.sa, platform.

Under the system, an employee’s working hours with a single employer should be less than half the total working hours at the facility.

The flexible work contracts are limited to Saudis only.