Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands

Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands
Nine Soft Serve: Launched from a food truck in 2018 by Abeer Al Hashim, now a chain of six stores in Alkhobar and Riyadh
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Updated 26 November 2021

Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands

Saudi women seize startup culture with both hands

Saudi Arabia is making the transition to a more diversified economy, after being reliant upon oil for much of the past century — a trend sparked by Vision 2030 as well as commitments made at the COP26 Summit last month.

While corporate giants such as Aramco and Sabic continue to dominate the economy, a culture of enterprise is taking hold as more and more young people start their own companies.

And contrary to international perceptions, it is Saudi women who are playing a major part in this new era.

No less than 17.7 percent of Saudi women either started or ran a business in 2020, according to a report last month from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a London-based data group that tracks startups across the world. This is considerably higher than the global average of 11 percent of females who go into business.

The report also noted that over 30 percent of Saudi women intended to launch a business in the next three years; and that, compared to men, women were “more likely to act on these intentions.”

GEM says these moves are backed by “recent government policies and interventions to support female entrepreneurs in the Kingdom.”

Nouf Al-Qahtani, the owner of the NSHQ chain of perfumeries, is a case in point. Al-Qahtani first went into business in 2005, repackaging and reselling her perfume collection.

Her startup took her from the souqs of Kuwait to the essential oil dealers of France and Italy, and a SR300,000 ($80,000) loan from the Prince Sultan Fund allowed her to launch her first shop in Alkhobar in 2015.

Today, she runs three perfume boutiques in Alkhobar and Riyadh with a staff of 14, while a fourth outlet is on the way.

“It is easier for Saudi women to go into business now,” Al-Qahtani told Arab News.

She adds: “Many businessmen in Saudi Arabia did not even want to talk to a single woman when I started my company. They would say, ‘Come back with your father or your brother and we will talk to him.’

“But now Saudi women are more powerful. They encourage each other, and even the mentality of Saudi men has changed. If they start any business, they want a female partner. You know why? Because she will work harder, she will do her best to prove herself and she will be more organized.”

Al-Qahtani credits this cultural shift to the reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

She says: “I love the way he makes Saudi citizens, and especially women, believe in themselves and their national identity. Saudi consumers used to want only imported products — now they are really interested in local producers like myself.”

Abeer Al-Hashim, the owner of the Nine Soft Serve chain of ice-cream outlets, is another woman who started more or less from scratch and went on to greater things.

Beginning with a single Alkhobar-based mobile unit in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province in 2018, Al-Hashim now operates six retail outlets — four in Riyadh and two in Alkhobar.

Al-Hashim agrees that circumstances have rapidly improved for female entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia.

She says: “Even five years ago it was very tough for women to have an independent life and to run an independent company.”

“The entire commercial process is easier now, especially in terms of tech applications – it’s so simple to communicate with the government online, and as a woman you no longer need a man to speak on your behalf.”

Al-Hashim was recently approached by Monsha’at — the General Authority of Small for Medium Enterprises — which told her that her product was ideal for franchising. It went on to provide Al-Hashim with guidance and resources to expand her operation locally and internationally, including putting her in touch with a franchising consultancy.

This is an example of the proactive new approach of the Saudi government — a sea change from the cumbersome red tape and excessive delays that used to await anybody doing business in the Kingdom.

“We get such a lot of official support,” says Al-Qahtani, “and that’s something that I’m very proud of.”

Language & Learning Stimulation Center, Jeddah: Established by Rana Mirza in 2012 to assist children with language disabilities

Rana Mirza, who faced successive hurdles when establishing her Jeddah-based Language & Listening Stimulation Center for children with learning disabilities in 2012, wishes she had enjoyed the benefits that female startup founders now take for granted in Saudi Arabia.

Mirza said: “I had to pay a man to follow up on all the paperwork in the various government offices, but now I can do it all myself. And the government e-services save a huge amount of time and energy, because you don’t have to visit a physical office anymore. It’s all online.”

This is an important factor for Mirza, whose 40-employee center requires numerous official licenses to provide a range of linguistic and psychological therapies.

These businesswomen have their own clear message for other women considering a new startup.

“I would advise her to believe in herself,” says Al-Qahtani. “If she believes in herself, others will believe in her too.”

Al-Hashim said: “You cannot start something without a sense of passion. If you don't have passion for what you’re doing, you’re wasting your time.”

Mirza’s advice is more hands-on: “Try to have knowledge of management, quality control, finance and customer service — before you start your business. I learned that the hard way. It's not just about your passion — it’s about the know-how.”

All three of these entrepreneurs are testament to the fact that significant opportunities exist for anybody, male or female, who takes advantage of the emerging culture of enterprise in Saudi Arabia.

All you need to know before Tadawul opens amidst winning streak 

All you need to know before Tadawul opens amidst winning streak 
Updated 11 sec ago

All you need to know before Tadawul opens amidst winning streak 

All you need to know before Tadawul opens amidst winning streak 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s main TASI index ended higher for the seventh straight session on Monday, buoyed by optimistic investor sentiment.

TASI advanced to close at 12,166 points, while the parallel market Nomu edged down by 0.4 percent.

Nomu is to see two new company listings today of Alwasail Industrial Co. and AME Co. for Medical Supplies.

Gulf stock exchanges saw a mixed performance on Monday, led by TASI and Kuwait’s BKP, both up 0.5 percent.

Next, the Qatari index QSI added 0.3 percent, while Bahrain’s BAX was flat. Bourses of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Oman edged lower.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Egyptian index EGX30 closed 0.2 percent higher.

The oil market was up in early trading. Brent crude reached $87.6 per barrel and US WTI crude oil crossed $85 per barrel as of 9:00 a.m. Saudi time.

Stock news

  • Smart Cities Solutions Co., subsidiary of Batic Investments and Logistics Co., has sealed a SR422 million ($113 million) deal for a smart parking project in Buraydah
  • Amana Cooperative Insurance Co. has announced its board’s recommendation to increase capital through a rights issue, with a target amount of SR300 million
  • Saudi Public Transport Co., also known as SAPTCO, has appointed Musad Bin Abdulaziz Aldaood as Vice Chairman for three years starting on Jan. 1, 2022
  • Aldrees Petroleum and Transport Services Co.’s board recommended SR1.5 dividend per share for the fiscal year 2021
  • Mouwasat Medical Services Co.’s board recommended dividends at SR2.75 per share for 2021


Jan. 18, 2022

  • Alwasail Industrial Co. and AME Co. for Medical Supplies will debut their shares on Nomu
  • Subscription to Allied Cooperative Insurance Group’s unsubscribed shares starts

Jan. 19, 2022

  • Allied Cooperative Insurance Group’s rump offering ends

Jan. 20, 2022

  • National Co. for Learning and Education will start paying out dividends of SR0.8 per share for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2021


Saudi city of Buraydah sees a $133m smart parking system

Saudi city of Buraydah sees a $133m smart parking system
Updated 6 min 57 sec ago

Saudi city of Buraydah sees a $133m smart parking system

Saudi city of Buraydah sees a $133m smart parking system

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Smart Cities Solutions Co., or SCSC, has sealed a SR422 million ($113 million) deal for a smart parking project in the city of Buraydah.

The contract duration stands at 25 years, a bourse statement by the mother company Batic Investments and Logistics Co. revealed.

As per the deal, Buraydah is to see SCSC develop, operate, and maintain a smart parking system.

SCSC will build multiple hydraulic parking lots which will provide nearly 8,000 parking spaces.

The project’s financial impact is expected to roll out on the company’s financial statements upon its completion, Batic said in the statement.

Batic owns 72.8 percent of the capital of SCSC, which specializes in implementing technical services and smart city solutions in pursuit of Saudi Vision 2030.

SCSC has already signed 25-year contracts to develop smart parking solutions in three other Saudi Arabian cities, Al Khobar, Dhahran, and Dammam.

2021 was a record year for VCs investing in emerging venture market: MAGNiTT

2021 was a record year for VCs investing in emerging venture market: MAGNiTT
Updated 32 min 37 sec ago

2021 was a record year for VCs investing in emerging venture market: MAGNiTT

2021 was a record year for VCs investing in emerging venture market: MAGNiTT

RIYADH: 2021 was a record year for venture capitalists investing in emerging venture market across Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, according to a new report from MAGNiTT.

The deals last year hit $6.8 billion through 1,329 deals, marking a growth of 228 percent in funding and 267 percent in number of deals when compared to 2020, the report showed.

The year was also a record for mega deals with 12 mega-deals, those that exceeded $100 million, more than all mega-deals combined between 2016 and 2020. These deals accounted for 42 percent of all capital raised across Emerging Venture Markets in 2021.

Philip Bahoshy, CEO & Founder of MAGNiTT said in a statement: “2021 has in fact been more than just a record-breaking year for VCs, rather it has been a defining year. While the global pandemic posed great pressures on governments, private sectors, and startup ecosystems alike; the year 2021 marked the resurgence of VC activity tenfold.”

MAGNiTT is a data platform founded in 2015 covering venture capital in emerging venture markets.

Brent climbs to more than 7-year high on Mideast tensions, tight supply

Brent climbs to more than 7-year high on Mideast tensions, tight supply
Updated 55 min 35 sec ago

Brent climbs to more than 7-year high on Mideast tensions, tight supply

Brent climbs to more than 7-year high on Mideast tensions, tight supply

SINGAPORE: Oil prices rose more than $1 on Tuesday to a more than seven-year high on worries about possible supply disruptions after Yemen's Houthi group attacked the United Arab Emirates, escalating hostilities between the Iran-aligned group and a Saudi Arabian-led coalition.

The "new geopolitical tension added to ongoing signs of tightness across the market," ANZ Research analyst said in a note.

Brent crude futures rose 85 cents, or 1 percent, to $87.33 a barrel by 0525 GMT, after earlier hitting a peak of $87.55, their highest since Oct. 29, 2014.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures jumped $1.13, or 1.4 percent, from Friday's settlement to a more than two-month high of $84.95 a barrel. Trade on Monday was subdued as it was a U.S. public holiday.

After launching drone and missile strikes which set off explosions in fuel trucks and killed three people, the Houthi movement warned it could target more facilities, while the UAE said it reserved the right to "respond to these terrorist attacks".

UAE oil firm ADNOC said it had activated business continuity plans to ensure uninterrupted supply of products to its local and international customers after an incident at its Mussafah fuel depot.

CommSec analysts said oil prices also were being supported by colder winter temperatures in the northern hemisphere which were driving up demand for heating fuels.

"Analyst forecasts expect demand to outstrip supply this year as the world opens up from 2 years of lockdowns and resumes a more normal trajectory for demand," said Ash Glover at CMC Markets.

The tight supply-demand balance is unlikely to ease, analysts said.

Some producers within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, are struggling to pump at their allowed capacities, due to underinvestment and outages, under an agreement with Russia and allies, known as OPEC+, to add 400,000 barrels per day each month.

"That should continue to be supportive for oil and increase talk of triple figure prices," said OANDA analyst Craig Erlam.

"If current geopolitical tensions continue and OPEC+ members can’t deliver on their 400,000 barrel per day increase, macros coupled with the strong technical outlook could see prices push toward the $100 mark which is where the next (meaningful) technical resistance level lies," said Glover.

South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation

South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation
Updated 17 January 2022

South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation

South Korea seeks to boost clean energy efforts with UAE cooperation
  • Seoul and Abu Dhabi reach landmark $3.5 billion defense agreement — largest in South Korea’s arms history
  • President Moon Jae-in scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday

SEOUL: South Korea is seeking to increase hydrogen cooperation with the UAE in a bid for a sustainable future and carbon neutrality, President Moon Jae-in said on Monday in Abu Dhabi during his Middle East tour to explore business opportunities in the region.

Moon arrived in the UAE on Saturday for a three-day visit as part of his week-long Middle East trip. From Abu Dhabi he will fly for talks in Riyadh.

“Through hydrogen cooperation between the UAE and Korea, I hope that we can move forward in a sustainable future and carbon neutrality,” he said while addressing the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

As South Korea wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, Moon said Seoul wants to bolster cooperation with the UAE in the development of carbon-capture technologies to create what is known as blue hydrogen — a form of the fuel obtained from natural gas in a process that stops carbon emissions from being released into the atmosphere.

The UAE is one of the world’s foremost pioneers in the field.

Prof. Jung Sang-ryul of the Institute of Middle Eastern Affairs at Myungji University in Seoul told Arab News that with UAE-Korean hydrogen cooperation, the industry “can make a greater leap forward.

“The hydrogen industry is a field for future cooperation,” he said. “The UAE has strengths in the production of green and blue hydrogen, whereas South Korea (has) in utilization, storage and distribution, including hydrogen-powered vehicles, charging stations, fuel cells and liquid transportation.”

During Moon’s visit, Seoul and Abu Dhabi also reached a landmark $3.5 billion defense agreement on Sunday, under which the UAE will purchase KM-SAM surface-to-air-missiles, known as Cheongung II. It is the largest deal in the history of South Korea’s arm exports.

“The UAE is the first foreign nation to operate the Cheongung II,” Kang Eun-ho, commissioner of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Seoul’s arms procurement agency, said in a statement. “The deal is the result of the bilateral defense cooperation based on mutual trust and will serve as a watershed moment for the two nation’s strategic defense partnership.”

The KM-SAM was developed with technical support from Russia to replace the older Hawk surface-to-air missiles that had been in service in 1964. Equipped with a multi-function phased array 3D radar, the interceptor can “hit-to-kill” hostile missiles coming in at altitudes below 40 km.

On the sidelines of the missile acquisition contract, the two countries also signed a memorandum of understanding on collaboration in defense technologies, including the potential development of weapons systems.

The UAE is South Korea’s top export market and biggest partner in human resource exchanges in the Middle East.

South Korean firms have participated in the development of Emirati oil fields and the Barakah nuclear power plant — the first nuclear power station in the Arabian Peninsula, which started operations last year.

On Tuesday, the South Korean president will continue his trip to Saudi Arabia.

His office said in a statement that Moon is scheduled to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The leaders of the two nations are expected to discuss energy and infrastructure, as well as health care, science and technology, hydrogen, intellectual property and education,”the office said.

On Wednesday, Moon is scheduled to meet Gulf Cooperation Council secretary-general Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf to discuss the resumption of negotiations for a free trade agreement between Seoul and GCC.

South Korea and the GCC started talks on a free trade deal in 2007, but negotiations had stalled and were suspended in 2010.