DUBAI: Businesswoman Marie-Hélène Stavelot has taken a teenage hobby and turned it into a Dubai-based sustainable fashion technology business.
Stavelot is the founder and CEO of Reluxable, an online aggregator which brings together luxury second-hand items from across the web.
The site, launched in October, sells everything from Hermes bags, to Audemar Piaget watches, to Manolo Blahnik shoes.
It houses authorized second-hand online retailers from all over the world such as The Luxury Closet in the Middle East and North Africa, Collector Square based in Paris, and What Goes Around Comes Around from New York.
Aside from identifying a gap in the luxury market, Stavelot’s startup has sustainability at its heart.
She said: “Usually, it’s up to the eco-conscious consumer to find second-hand stores and dig for their treasures.
“The idea for the business came to me during the pandemic when I had to spend time searching multiple sites or going to 10 different shops looking for a specific item. With Reluxable, you can search for a single item across several sites in one go to find exactly what you need.”
Shoppers are connected with multiple reputable stores online to browse women’s and men’s fashion items, clothing, shoes and bags.
Stavelot added: “In Belgium, where I grew up, I started buying and selling my luxury second-hand items when I was 17 years old.
“Then I went through a phase of enjoying fast fashion like everyone else, because it is low cost and accessible. Now, I invest in key pieces that last.”
The Belgian-born entrepreneur also has family from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and worked in banking and at a financial technology firm in Dubai before starting her business.
Stavelot leads an all-female team, which includes her sister Olivia Atembina, who is chief operating officer. She raised finance for the business from family and friends and is currently pitching to investors for $1 million to expand the team and add a shopping cart to the site to help consumers buy items across the platforms it has access to.
An example for many women-led startups is the US-based female-focused dating app Bumble, led by CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd, which in February floated on Nasdaq with an $8 billion valuation after launching in 2014.
But Stavelot is aware that attracting funding will not be easy.
Only 2 percent of funded startups between 2014 and 2020 were led by women in the MENA region, according to figures from regional startup data platform MAGNiTT.
Research from Dubai-based technology conference GITEX this year also revealed that more than 85 percent of global venture capital went to startups founded or led by men.
“I know I have a sound business model, but it has been difficult to secure funding,” she said. “I hope that someone like me who struggles in a male-dominated market can get support. It’s not easy, but I will persevere.”
Her venture comes at a time when there is a push to increase business sustainability across the Gulf region.
In October, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a Middle East Green Initiative, aimed at raising SR39 billion ($10.4 billion) for an investment fund to back clean energy projects as part of efforts to reduce regional carbon emissions.
The UAE will also host the global climate summit COP28 in 2023.
The steps are in place for online startups such as Reluxable to make their mark — one click at a time.
Frankly Speaking: WEF sending strong message by not inviting Russia to Davos, says forum’s Borge Brende
WEF president says violations by Iran and Israel are not comparable to those committed in Ukraine
Brende believes current war could end up as Moscow’s “Afghanistan or Vietnam”
Davos summit more timely than ever as ‘global challenges require global solutions’
Updated 58 min 28 sec ago
DAVOS, Switzerland: The president of the World Economic Forum has said the Geneva-based organization is sending a strong signal to Moscow by not inviting Russian officials and businesses to this year’s Davos summit while issuing an invitation to the Ukrainian leader to address the gathering.
“When it comes to Russia, we chose not to invite Russian business or Russian officials because there are limits,” Borge Brende told Katie Jensen, the host of Frankly Speaking, the Arab News talk show which features interviews with leading policymakers and business leaders.
“Russia has broken basic humanitarian law and international law. They are not sticking to the UN Charter and we have seen so many atrocities.”
At the same time, Brende said, the WEF will not only have Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky “on video” but also several of his ministers.
“From Kyiv we will have two of his deputy prime ministers. We also have the foreign minister in Davos,” he said, adding that some chief executives will be coming together to form a group of CEOs for Ukraine to “secure the rebuilding of the country.”
Defending the WEF’s decision, he said: “The key for unlocking this is with (President Vladimir) Putin and the Kremlin. We need to see that they are taking steps to again rejoin compliance with international law before they will be reinvited to Davos. We have a strong moral obligation to also send this kind of signal in such a situation.”
Brende appeared on “Frankly Speaking” on the eve of the first in-person WEF annual meeting since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first time the event, which kicked off on Sunday, is being held in Davos in May.
He denied that for an organization that prides itself on its impartiality and reputation as a bridge builder, the decision not to invite one side amounts to a failure on the WEF’s part to encourage debate.
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Brende said it is true that for the last 50 years the WEF has always tried to bring leaders together, but “there are limits.”
“It’s an ongoing war in Ukraine, where we see that children are being killed in their schools every day. You see women being raped. We see war crimes taking place and there is no willingness for dialogue,” he said.
“Davos is about willingness to find common solutions, and if countries at least are willing to sit down and discuss the future, then it is something else. But today we see no kind of this willingness from Russia’s side. That’s why we’re very sad that we cannot have this dialogue. Hopefully in the future, but not today.”
Brende, a former foreign minister of Norway, dismissed comparisons between the charges of atrocities Israel is accused of committing against Palestinian civilians and those being leveled against Russia in Ukraine. He also denied that this is because Ukraine is seen as closer to home for many Europeans.
“It is unacceptable what is now happening in Ukraine and the war is ongoing,” he reiterated, explaining why inviting Russia to the annual meeting is not the same thing as, say, inviting Israel or Iran.
“When it comes to Israel and the situation in the Palestinian areas, it is at least some willingness to dialogue. We’ve seen it through the Abrahams Accords, but we also see in Davos that we are bringing together business leaders from both Israel and the Palestinian side in an initiative called ‘Breaking the Impasse.’ And they’re sitting there with global politicians, but also politicians from these areas to discuss if there is a way forward for establishing a two-state solution. At least there is a dialogue going on and we hope for future solutions.”
Asked if he thought the recently imposed sanctions on Russia were enough to end the conflict or whether an expanded NATO was the solution, Brende said: “I think Russia is incredibly surprised by the strength of the Ukrainian army. They were supposed to take Kyiv, the capital, in two, three days. Kharkiv, the second largest city, in two, three days. They have seen the resistance among the Ukrainians that, I am sure, has surprised them and that is why they’re pulling back too.”
In the months to come, Brende said, it is likely that Russia will continue with its attacks. “But Ukraine can easily turn into the Vietnam of Russia, or Afghanistan of Russia,” he said.
“When more than 40 million people are fighting back so strongly as the freedom-seeking Ukrainians, Russians will have a huge challenge. It shows that even a very modern and a very strong army cannot kill the freedom-fighting people around the world. I think this is a lesson for many countries to bring with them and reflect over.”
The WEF says its annual meeting in Davos provides “a unique collaborative environment” for public figures and global leaders to “reconnect, share insights, gain fresh perspectives and build problem-solving communities and initiatives.” However, critics say the event has become more of a show featuring politicians sticking to pre-prepared scripts.
Brende countered that this year’s summit would see progress made on many of the most important topics. “We will, for example, have new coalitions when it comes to fighting climate change,” he said.
“We will focus a lot on trade and investments. We know that there will be no real economic recovery without a trade recovery, so that’s why it’s so important that we also have trade ministers, 30 of them together with (World Trade Organization chief Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala), saying that no new tariffs, no more protectionism and no more bans on exporting food.”
“Many of the challenges that we are faced with cannot be sold without business. So, with the 1,400 CEOs and chairs in Davos, I am pretty sure we are going to make progress,” Brende said, adding that “25 percent of the participants are women — it should have been 50, but we are making progress.”
Brende disputed the claim that the WEF summit in Davos has a perception problem, made most recently by the Financial Times newspaper, which said this week that the organization does not project the right image.
“I think we definitely are able to bring together leaders from all walks of life. It’s easy to be critical, but I think the past has also shown that the World Economic Forum has a positive impact,” he said.
“It was in Davos, for example, where the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) was launched (in 2001). It was here where (the anti-apartheid icon) Nelson Mandela came to Europe for the first time and launched the economic plan for South Africa.
“This time around, it is really about how to make sure that the weak recovery does not end in a new recession. It is to make sure that we walk the talk from COP26 in Glasgow. Business leaders, 120 of them, will commit to going net zero by 2050. So, this is really the place where corporate and governmental leaders are coming together, making a difference.”
Watch the full Frankly Speaking episode below:
As 2,500 members of the global elite descend on Davos, Brende said this year’s meeting could not be more timely because “global challenges need global solutions.”
“Unfortunately, because of the polarized world, we don’t see as much collaboration to really solve wars, climate change and also a weakening recovery,” he said. “But we will try in Davos to get leaders together, and at least mobilize the private sector to support in these very critical areas.”
Brende also acknowledged the reality of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it is “very important to be preparing for the next one, because we will see new diseases and pandemics unfortunately in the coming decades too.
“We moved much closer to nature. In just the last 10 years, we have lost wilderness across the world the size of the country of Mexico, so animals and human beings are much closer. And then we will also see more diseases like this.
“And we should not forget that we’re not out of the woods yet. China, the second largest economy in the world, is partly locked down now in some of the biggest and largest cities in the country, and this will also have an impact on the global economy because China is growing slower and the demand from China will of course go down.”
Looking to the future, Brende said: “We have to learn from this pandemic, that we have to have medicine, we have to have medical equipment much closer than before. We can’t wait for weeks for this to arrive. We have to be able to step up vaccination fast. We know that we have paid a huge price: 15 million people have lost their lives so far in this pandemic.”
Riyadh hopes to ‘work out an agreement with OPEC+ which includes Russia,’ says energy minister
Prince Abdulaziz says OPEC+ will be needed to bring about ‘orderly adjustments’ in the future
Updated 22 May 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has said Riyadh was “hoping to work out an agreement with OPEC+ which includes Russia.”
Talking to Financial Times, the minister said politics should be kept out of OPEC+ and insisted the “world should appreciate the value” the alliance of oil producers.
Oil prices have reached their highest levels in a decade, a set of OPEC+ production quotas put in place in April 2020 is set to expire in three months.
With the havoc you see now it’s too premature to try to pinpoint (an agreement).
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman
Prince Abdulaziz said it was too early to say what a new agreement might look like given the uncertainties in the market, but added that OPEC+ would increase production “if the demand is there.”
“With the havoc you see now it’s too premature to try to pinpoint (an agreement),” he said in the interview. “But what we know is what we have succeeded to deliver is sufficient for people to say so far there is a merit, there is a value of being there, working together.”
OPEC+ has stuck to its 2020 agreement, under which the alliance members raise total production each month by the modest amount of 430,000 barrels a day. But Russia’s output has dropped since the start of the Ukraine war, falling from about 11 million barrels per day in March to an average of 10 million bpd in April, according to data provider OilX.
Prince Abdulaziz blamed soaring prices on a lack of global refining capacity and taxes. “The determinant of the market is refinery capacity, and how do you unlock it,” he said. “At least for the last three years, the whole world lost around 4 million barrels of refining capacity, 2.7 million of them just from the beginning of COVID-19.”
The Saudi energy minister said the OPEC+ alliance would be needed to bring about “orderly adjustments” in the future amid uncertainty about coronavirus lockdowns in China, global growth and supply chains.
He said to ease bottlenecks in production and refinery capacity governments have to encourage the industry to invest in hydrocarbons even as nations switch to cleaner energy sources. “This situation needs people to sit together, focus, take out the masquerade and the so-called political correctness … it’s about trying to relate to existing reality and find remedies to it.”
Lucid Motors delivers 300 EV units in April, to launch Air Pure later this year
By 2025, the company will accelerate its technology to reduce cost, energy consumption
Updated 22 May 2022
JEDDAH: US-based electric vehicle manufacturer Lucid Motors delivered 360 cars to consumers during the first quarter of 2022. In contrast, the company sold 300 vehicles last month alone.
It is an encouraging sign considering that the EV manufacturer started its production last year and delivered its first car in October 2021.
“We are growing rapidly, and the Arizona factory can extend its production to 350,000 units a year by 2025,” Peter Rawlinson, CEO of Lucid Motors, told Arab News.
The prices of Lucid’s units range from $87,000 to $179,000, and it is planning to launch an edition later this year named Air Pure at the price of $87,000. Air Pure could cover over 400 miles on a single charge.
No one is even close to us. I think we are several years ahead of everyone else.
“We are defining a luxury brand with a high-end product, and when you look at what’s available in the market, that is a very good value,” he added.
By 2025, the company will accelerate its technology to reduce cost and energy consumption.
“The obstacle of EV is the prices of a vehicle. We can use our technological advantage to make cars that go further with fewer batteries, which means we can make the cars more affordable to buy and run because it consumes less energy,” said Rawlinson.
“When we move to the middle of the decade, our middle-size platform will become available, and that’s when we can drive the price down to closer to $50,000 in today’s prices,” he added.
Setting out on Arabian Safari
The company partnered with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund in 2018, which Rawlinson described as a turning point for Lucid Motors. The company was short on capital, and the PIF backed it up.
“We have got an alignment of mindset here with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, and this could extend beyond just the cars. Certainly, it will extend into stimulating the economy with a supply chain and the infrastructure supporting manufacturing,” he said.
The EV startup went public in July last year. Its shares began trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange, where it raised $4.5 billion in fresh capital.
“In theory, we can break even in a few years. The question is do you want to do that?” said Rawlinson on the sidelines of Lucid’s factory signing ceremony.
To Rawlinson, the best value for shareholders is to continue on a rapid expansion, maximizing the share value return for an investor, rather than meeting short-time demands of breaking even.
Lucid Motors signed agreements on May 18 to build a production factory in King Abdullah Economic City, the western part of the Kingdom, with an annual capacity of 150,000 zero-emission EVs.
With this deal, Lucid is estimated to receive up to $3.4 billion in finance and incentives over the next 15 years to build and run the manufacturing facility in the Kingdom.
The prices of Lucid’s units range from $87,000 to $179,000. It is planning to launch an edition later this year named Air Pure at the price of $87,000.
Air Pure could cover over 400 miles on a single charge.
Lucid Motors signed agreements on May 18 to build a production factory in King Abdullah Economic City with an annual capacity of 150,000 zero-emission EVs.
Production plans in the Kingdom
“We will ship semi-knocked-down kits of Lucid Airs from Arizona to KAEC, and we assemble those SKD kits here in Saudi Arabia,” Rawlinson said.
The production will start next year, and a complete assembly will be ready by 2025.
“And we will grow this volume up through 2026 to get to 150,000 units a year as soon as possible, and that’s the installed capacity of the factory we are building,” he added
Part of the factory’s function in KAEC will manufacture all-electric powertrains in-house, including battery packs, motors, inverters and transmissions.
“We make the most advanced battery pack globally, and we are well known for that,” he said.
The strategy will involve sending workers from Saudi Arabia to Arizona, where they will be trained to replicate the whole process in the Kingdom.
“This is not just an assembly plot where we build cars together; the core technology is actually built in-house,” he added.
Besides Lucid, only Tesla builds its technology in-house, which Rawlinson believes is the reason behind Tesla’s success.
“I think they are four to five years ahead of everybody else, but today if you look at our technology, we are probably about three years ahead of what Tesla is,” he said.
Rawlinson measures this on efficiency, as he believes that the right way of measuring an EV technology is in miles per kilowatt-hour efficiency, given the size and sector the car is in.
“No one is even close to us. I think we are several years ahead of everyone else,” he said.
NEOM's The Line project to receive bids for spine's water infrastructure by June 1
Updated 22 May 2022
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s The Line project, a 170-km long linear urban development in NEOM, is set to receive bids for its main work package to build spine water transmission by June 1, MEED reported.
This package, which will be the latest in a series of tenders for the Line and Spine components, includes design, build, testing and commissioning work for a pressurized permanent water system.
As part of the project, the contractors are required to create the complete design — right from the concept to the detailed design — besides providing supply, construction and installation services for the SWT line.
The water system includes the SWT line within a reinforced concrete box culvert running along the length of NEOM’s Spine.
According to MEED, some bidders have requested an extension of the deadline for the package.
The SWT culvert will run parallel to the Spine’s alignment about 360 meters north of the centreline of the Line alignment. The estimated 35-km SWT line will provide potable water for NEOM's Spine infrastructure and Line buildings.
Whereas, contractors of the 160-km long rail line are also expecting NEOM to issue requests for prequalification within the next two months for the work on the high-speed rail line that forms the backbone of The Line.
This development stretches from the coast towards Tabuk.