Saudi gaming business plays a big part in building soft power

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Updated 24 April 2022

Saudi gaming business plays a big part in building soft power

Saudi gaming business plays a big part in building soft power
  • The industry has engulfed scores of startups and multinational corporations into its fold

RIYADH: Last April, top strategy and consulting firm Accenture estimated that the global gaming industry exceeded $300 billion, much more than the combined market of music and movies. The industry added 500 million new gamers between 2019 and 2021. And that was just the beginning.

Driven by the surge in mobile gaming and the urge for social interaction during the pandemic, the industry has engulfed scores of startups and multinational corporations into its fold. Besides the demandside traction, the potent technology mix of blockchain and non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, has also allowed game developers to leverage these tools and create virtual worlds.

In fact, some of the developers are smiling all the way to the bank by effortlessly tapping into unexplored cultural niches. One of them is Jordan-based mobile game publisher Tamatem, which smartly publishes games targeted at Arab users and builds brilliant narratives around Arab culture. 

“Arabic is the fourth most spoken language globally, yet only one percent of the overall content is in Arabic. That’s a huge gap to fill, especially in the Middle East and North Africa gaming industry,” Hussam Hammo, founder and CEO of Tamatem, told Arab News.

Flavored with local tastes

A few of his earliest games include the Awad the Delivery King, a mobile game featuring a food delivery guy racing around the pothole-riddled streets of Amman. Despite being a cartoon character based in Jordan, the game was the No. 1 app in the app stores of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, reported US-based online publishing platform Medium.

Its current chartbusters include VIP Baloot and Clash of Empires.

Launched in 2013, the game developer collaborates with international players and converts their content into Arabic. For instance, another sought-after game, Escape the Past, was a partnership with French studio 3DDuo, where Tamatem customized the content to suit the local tastes and culture, the Medium reported.

Such has been the buzz around Tamatem that, according to a company press release issued last December, it raised $11 million in Series B funding led by PUBG developer Krafton. But reaching this crucial milestone wasn’t easy. Set up in 2009, Hammo’s first gaming venture, Wizard, shut down because the industry in the region was in its infancy.

“It resulted in a negative perception among the investors’ community. It also put a huge question mark on my leadership and in the industry,” recollected Hammo. He barely had a bank balance of $200 when he planned to launch Tamatem. In the nick of time, he found 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley-based investor that infused $50,000 in exchange for a 5 percent share, valuing the gaming company at $1 million in 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Tamatem currently ranks as the No. 1 game publisher in the MENA region in user engagement. It has one million active users across its games, three million users playing monthly, and 150 million downloads,” said Hammo, while adding that he is constantly looking for ideas to sustain the numbers.

Last February, Tamatem roped in Saudi poet and social media influencer Ziyad bin Nahit to launch the Baloot League, an extension of its popular app-based card game VIP Baloot that led to over 700 people participating in the fete.

Harnessing the game plan

The hunger to compete and excel is palpable across the region. According to Saudi Social Development Bank, the Kingdom’s video games market has a value of $1 billion and expects to grow to $2.5 billion by 2030. Boston Consulting Group’s outlook is more optimistic. It projects that Saudi Arabia’s revenue from gaming will reach $6.7 billion by 2030.

Interestingly, much of this growth is being led shoulder to shoulder by a public-private partnership. In January this year, Amazon Saudi Arabia and the UAE announced a collaboration with MENATech, a GGTech Entertainment Group company, to launch Amazon University Esports, the first educational esports league for each country. In the same month, Riyadh-based Savvy Gaming Group, backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, or PIF, purchased ESL, formerly known as Electronic Sports League, for $1 billion.

In November 2020, the Mohammed bin Salman Foundation, or Misk, announced a strategic investment of around SR813 million ($217 million) to acquire a 33.3 percent stake in Japanese gaming Company SNK Corporation. Two months ago, the foundation increased its share to 96 percent, reported Verge, a technology news platform.

The industry is already buzzing with activity. Last February, the PIF disclosed stakes of more than 5 percent in two Japan-listed gaming firms, namely Capcom Co. and Nexon Co., with combined holdings worth around $1.2 billion, Bloomberg reported.

The public fund also purchased a 5.02 percent stake of $883 million in Nexon, the company behind role-playing games like MapleStory and Dungeon&Fighter, Bloomberg added.

According to US-Saudi Business Council, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, or MCIT, is also adding fillip to the private-public partnerships and infrastructure investments. The ministry has been deeply involved in developing the Kingdom’s telecommunications and IT infrastructure, including broadband, fiber optics, and 5G.

“With MCIT’s assistance, US-based Activision Blizzard announced a partnership with Saudi Telecom Company to host the regional servers for one of their most popular titles, Call of Duty, in Saudi Arabia,” said the industry body in its recent paper on Gaming and E-sports in Saudi Arabia.

Going nifty with NFTs

What’s more? Many gaming publishers in Saudi Arabia are boarding the NFT bandwagon. What does that mean? NFT is a certificate of ownership of a digital asset that’s scarce. You own a certified token for it on a digital ledger or blockchain. Simply put, you get a link that proves your connection to that asset.

For instance, a game developer like Activision’s Call of Duty could introduce its popular emblems as NFTs, which could be used as your profile picture for your social media accounts. The company could sell weapon camouflage, operator outfits, and other in-game paraphernalia, a massive draw in Call of Duty fandom.

Game developers in Saudi Arabia want to capitalize on this fandom. Tamatem’s Hammo will soon be announcing its NFT project, and so will others, including Riyadh-based UMX Studio.

“In the future, players can make revenues based on reselling those items using the blockchain,” said Ali Al-Harbi, founder and CEO of UMX Studio, a game developer who has already started auctions at his games where players can trade stuff. It is a precursor to the outbreak of new opportunities on the blockchain.

Publishers of the popular drag-race game Climbing Sand Dune and police-chase game King of The Steering, the studio has 200,000 daily active users and has clocked 50 million downloads. Starting in 2014 with around $4,000 in the kitty, Al-Harbi made headway pretty much on his terms. His first game fetched him $200,000 in the first few years of its inception.

Al-Harbi has never felt the need for external investors or funding. He makes his money from in-app services, online subscriptions and advertisements. His mantra of success: He listens to his players. “We continue to grow to the next level only because we listen to our audience. We will soon be releasing a lighter version of the game on their demand.”

The opportunity for gaming developers to grow is endless, thanks to the toys at their disposal and the state support. But what will make the Saudi gaming industry tower over the rest in the room is when it listens to the customer and builds a unified narrative celebrating the Arab culture. After all, success in the gaming business isn’t about making money; it’s about building visibility and soft power.


Algerian business leaders hold meetings in Rome

Algerian business leaders hold meetings in Rome
Updated 8 sec ago

Algerian business leaders hold meetings in Rome

Algerian business leaders hold meetings in Rome
  • First official meeting with Algerian delegation by member of Italy’s new government
  • Deputy minister hails ‘excellent’ relations between the two countries

ROME: A delegation of business leaders from the Algerian Economic Renewal Council held a meeting in Rome with Valentino Valentini, Italy’s deputy minister of economic development in charge of business.

It was the first official meeting with an Algerian delegation by a member of Italy’s new government led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

The delegation represented sectors such as agriculture, construction, pharmaceuticals, tourism and oil.

Valentini underlined the “excellent political relations between Italy and Algeria,” and expressed his determination to “intensely raise the level of economic partnership through Italian investments, transfer of know-how and innovative technologies, particularly in the sectors of agriculture, mining, tourism and textiles,” according to a communique issued by the Ministry of Economic Development.

He recalled the “already very intense cooperation,” and the official bilateral meetings that were held in both countries at the highest institutional levels. He vowed even greater cooperation “which will benefit both our countries.”

Valentini also recalled that Italian Ambassador in Algiers Giovanni Pugliese called for an increase in flights by ITA Airways, Italy’s national carrier, between the two countries.

Council President Kamel Moula presented the new Algerian Code for Investments, and pledged the council’s support for Italian investors in identifying Algerian partners for the creation of joint ventures.

“An ambitious co-production partnership can open the doors to joint exports of manufactured and certified products to Europe and Africa,” he said.

The council said in a communique that by meeting the delegation, Italy’s new government confirmed the “great interest given to strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries.”

The delegation also met in Rome with Barbara Beltrame Giacomello, deputy president of Confindustria, the Italian association of entrepreneurs.


Oil Updates — Crude prices down; Ukraine wants lower cap on Russian oil 

Oil Updates — Crude prices down; Ukraine wants lower cap on Russian oil 
Updated 27 November 2022

Oil Updates — Crude prices down; Ukraine wants lower cap on Russian oil 

Oil Updates — Crude prices down; Ukraine wants lower cap on Russian oil 

RIYADH: Oil prices fell 2 percent on Friday in thin market liquidity, closing a week marked by worries about Chinese demand and haggling over a Western price cap on Russian oil. 
Brent crude futures settled down $1.71, or 2 percent, to trade at $83.63 a barrel, having retraced some earlier gains. 

US West Texas Intermediate crude futures were down $1.66, or 2.1 percent, at $76.28 a barrel.  

Ukraine wants lower cap on Russian oil, at $30-$40 per barrel 

The price for Russian seaborne oil should be capped at between $30 and $40 per barrel, lower than the level that the Group of Seven nations has proposed, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday. 

EU governments, seeking to curb Moscow’s ability to fund the Ukraine war without causing an oil supply shock, are split over a G7 push that the cap be set at $65 to $70 per barrel. It is due to enter into force on Dec. 5. 

“The limit that is being considered today — about $60 — I think this is an artificial limit,” said Zelensky, who has consistently pushed allies to impose tougher sanctions of all types against Russia. 

“We would like the sanctions to be very effective in this fight, so that the limit is at the level of $30-$40, so Russia feels them (the sanctions),” he told a news conference. 

The idea of the cap is to prohibit shipping, insurance and reinsurance companies from handling cargoes of Russian crude around the globe, unless it is sold for less than the price set by the G7 and its allies. 

Poland, Estonia and Lithuania are pushing for a much lower cap than $65-70 per barrel while Greece, Cyprus and Malta want a higher cap. 

OPEC+ meeting to take into account market conditions: Iraq 

The meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, known as OPEC+, in December will take into account the condition and balance of the market, Iraq’s state news agency quoted Saadoun Mohsen, a senior official at the country’s state oil marketer SOMO, as saying on Saturday. 

OPEC+’s October decision to reduce production by two million barrels per day bpd had played an important role in stabilizing global markets, Saadoun, who serves as Iraq’s delegate to OPEC, said.

He said that the cut hadn’t reduced Iraq’s exports. 

Iraq’s current production represents 11 percent of the group’s total output of 43 million bpd, he said, adding that Iraq expects a crude price range of at least $85-95 next year. 

OPEC+, which includes members of the OPEC+ led by Russia, will hold its next meeting in Vienna on Dec. 4. 

Oil markets are witnessing “severe fluctuations” due to the repercussions of the pandemic, a slowing global economy and the war in Ukraine, the Iraqi official said, making it harder to ensure price stability. 

(With input from Reuters) 

 


FIFA World Cup is a match-winner for the regional property market

FIFA World Cup is a match-winner for the regional property market
Updated 27 November 2022

FIFA World Cup is a match-winner for the regional property market

FIFA World Cup is a match-winner for the regional property market
  • Taking place in the Arab world for the first time, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is an unprecedented event

RIYADH: Before the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, real estate prices were surging in Qatar and neighboring countries, causing people to rent their properties at high prices and cash in on the increased market demand.

Taking place in the Arab world for the first time, the 2022 FIFA World Cup is an unprecedented event.

During the tournament, FIFA Tournament Time Demand Model has forecast that upward of 1.7 million people will visit the host country, with 500,000 visitors on the busiest days. Because of this, visitors to the emirate of just 2.8 million people are concerned about accommodation or prefer to stay in neighboring countries.

Despite some concerns, organizers are reassuring people there would be enough accommodation for all fans. Thousands of hotel rooms FIFA had reserved were recently released to ease the crunch, possibly decreasing prices.

The authorities have continued to provide housing to all World Cup fans. Still, according to Doha News, landlords have recently capitalized on the opportunity to charge outrageous prices, though residents claim this is at their expense.

Doha News reported that residents are being evicted, asked to sign short-term or 24-month lease agreements, or even had their rent raised significantly.

The World Cup is widely responsible for this situation, with many believing landlords are trying to take advantage of the visitors’ profits, making living conditions challenging for long-term residents, Doha News added.

According to Qatari law, a lease renewal can increase rent by up to 10 percent. Still, Anum Hassan, head of research for Valustrat’s Qatar office, disclosed that rents have increased by 40 percent in some districts of Doha over the past year.

During the World Cup period in 2022, the government removed the price cap, allowing landlords to charge between SR15,500 ($4,124) and SR20,600 per night.

Booking a villa through Airbnb for 29 days of the World Cup costs at least SR48,860, but prices can reach hundreds of thousands.

Despite this, the real estate market continues to benefit from the games. A recent report from Property Finder, one of the region’s leading property technology companies, revealed a 2.97 percent increase in residential sales in September and October due to this month’s FIFA World Cup.

Afaf Hashim, the country manager at Property Finder in Qatar, said: “Investors and first-time property purchasers are now more confident to invest in the Qatari property market in response to renowned sporting events happening in the country.” 

Investors and first-time property purchasers are now more confident to invest in the Qatari property market in response to renowned sporting events happening in the country.

Afaf Hashim, Country manager at Property Finder in Qatar

“The Ministry of Justice is also taking the required actions to make the market more transparent, which will pave the way for further investments shortly,” she added.

According to the report, investors and end-users are increasingly interested in properties listed for sale in Qatar, which has recently emerged as a hot spot for property investment.

There was a 4.98 percent increase in leads but a 7.71 percent increase in impressions. Some areas saw considerable gains in rental prices, while others saw substantial declines. For instance, Al-Hilal’s rent fell by 83.9 percent, while Salata’s increased by 93.75 percent.

Adam Stewart, the Qatar head of Knight Frank, told Arab News that the tourism and hospitality sector will contribute 12 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2030, worth about $55 billion, by which time tourist arrivals are projected to reach 7 million.

Set the ball rolling

Knight Frank does not expect a slowdown in the Dubai real estate market’s demand in the short to medium term; in fact, the opposite is expected, Faisal Durrani, partner and head of research in the Middle East at Knight Frank, told Arab News. 

The mainstream market is expected to register price growth of 5-7 percent by the end of 2022, with a similar figure expected in 2023.

Faisal Durrani, Partner and head of research in the Middle East at Knight Frank

“The mainstream market is expected to register price growth of 5-7 percent by the end of 2022, with a similar figure expected in 2023,” he said.

He also added that a new wave of tourism is expected in Saudi Arabia’s Dammam Metropolitan Area following the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

“Following the Saudi government’s recent announcement to allow Qatar World Cup ticket holders easy access to multiple entry tourist visas, the Kingdom is expecting to play host to some of the football fans unable to be accommodated in Qatar,” he said.

As a result of its proximity to Qatar and relative affordability, Dammam is expected to be a popular alternative to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Manama during the World Cup, he added.

However, Alex Galtsev, founder and CEO of Realiste, a personal artificial intelligence firm on real estate investing, believes Qatar’s FIFA 2022 World Cup will benefit the Middle East real estate market.

“As a major tourist attraction and financial hub in the region, Dubai will be the main beneficiary outside Qatar,” he told Arab News.

There has already been an increase in demand for local hotel chains and resorts. “Because of limited accommodation options, tourists had to seek alternative options that were more affordable, such as short-term rentals. In turn, this has led to a 50 percent increase in rental prices in Dubai over the last three months,” Galtsev added.

Qatar’s FIFA guests opted for areas near downtown where the major tourist attractions are located rather than cheap suburban locations surrounded by desert. As a result, the districts near the waterfront are the following most popular renting areas.

However, Galtsev said that the demand for the short-time rental would significantly decrease after the event.

Despite these soaring prices and owners renting out their properties, what matters is the result and how they will affect the market overall.


Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals

Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals
Updated 27 November 2022

Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals

Johnson & Johnson develops digital solutions to reduce time spent in hospitals

RIYADH: Johnson & Johnson, the global medical technology provider, is providing digital solutions that will shorten the time spent by patients in hospitals.

According to Marzena Kulis, managing director of Johnson & Johnson MedTech Middle East, the move is crucial in countries with lower bed capacity.

“The digital solutions that we currently offer help to shorten the time of patients’ stay, so the capacity can absorb more patients, especially in the geographies where capacity is limited,” Kulis said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.

“Our digital procedure software empowers, for example, surgical teams to design, apply and analyze surgical workflows. It provides valuable data analytics to reduce variability in surgery time, improve procedural efficiency and enhance education approaches,” she said.

Johnson & Johnson MedTech provides a broad range of medical technology devices used in interventional solutions, orthopedics and surgery. Their offerings include products to treat cardiovascular diseases, hemorrhagic and ischemic stroke, and a combination of products supporting hips, knees, trauma, spine and others.

“We want to strengthen this industry by tapping the full potential of technology to save and sustain and improve lives of patients through a wide array of potential technologies that can be applied in the healthcare sector,” she said. 

The company’s surgery portfolios include advanced and general surgery offerings. These devices are used predominantly in the professional fields by physicians, nurses, hospitals, eyecare professionals and clinics, according to a statement issued by the company.

“We apply the expertise in medical devices and advanced technology to ensure that our healthcare solutions are smarter, less invasive, and more personalized,” Kulis added.

The healthtech provider participated in the 33rd Annual Conference of the Saudi Heart Association, one of the largest cardiac meetings in the Middle East that were held in Riyadh from Oct. 13-15.

Heart of the matter

The company unveiled its “Get Smart About AFib” global campaign at the conference with cardiac scientists, caregivers, and several cardiac working groups to improve care and treatment for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, or AFib.

AFib is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, and nearly one in four adults currently over the age of 40 across the globe is at risk of developing it. According to statistics from Saudi Health Ministry, cardiovascular diseases account for 37 percent of all deaths in the Kingdom.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the disease to help reduce risks.

The health campaign will specifically focus on supporting education and detection of the life-threatening AFib condition that impacts nearly 40 million people globally.

Johnson & Johnson MedTech has been operating in the region for a couple of decades, establishing a headquarters in Riyadh back in 2017, along with two other offices in Jeddah and Dammam.

The US-based company employs around 180 people in Saudi Arabia, nearly half of them Saudis, with a target to increase its Saudization rates by 20 percent in the next couple of years.

“We are getting close to 50 percent in our medtech business, and we aim to grow by 10-20 percent in the next year or two,” said Kulis.

Kulis believes that the Saudi market is steadily growing and becoming one of the largest emerging markets for Johnson & Johnson. 

The digital solutions that we currently offer help to shorten the time of patients’ stay, so the capacity can absorb more patients, especially in the geographies where capacity is limited.

Marzena Kulis, Johnson & Johnson MedTech Middle East managing director

Saudi Arabia is planning to build medical facilities worth $13.8 billion by 2030, according to Faisal Durrani, Knight Frank’s partner and head of research in the Middle East.

“Vision 2030 has sharpened the focus on the public realm, liveability and habitability of Saudi cities. Wellness and well-being sit at its heart, with $13.8 billion worth of medical facilities expected to be built by the end of the decade,” Durrani told Arab News.

Digital health

The expenditure is part of a more comprehensive plan to invest $66.67 billion in the Kingdom’s healthcare infrastructure and boost private sector participation to 65 percent by 2030, targeting the privatization of 290 hospitals and 2,300 primary health centers.

“We look into the development of healthcare in the countries we operate in, and the healthcare market in Saudi Arabia is steadily growing, and we’ve seen and observed that for decades, and the forecast is to continue growing for the next decades as well,” Kulis said.

The Kingdom is expected to be the fastest-growing digital health market in the Gulf Cooperation Council, with the government allocating $1.5 billion for healthcare information technology and digital transformation programs.

Saudi Health Minister Fahad Al-Jalajel said during the opening of the digital event of the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society last year that digital technologies were one of the essential tools for dealing with the pandemic.

It helped develop the first interactive map of COVID-19 data, providing accurate statistics and employing AI to analyze data and make national strategic decisions.

The Kingdom is allocating about 14.4 percent of its 2022 budget to healthcare and social development, which amounts to $36.8 billion, the third largest expense after education and military, according to Dubai-based Omnia Health, a global medical directory.

With life expectancy in Saudi Arabia projected to increase from 76.4 to 81.8 years by 2050 and the Kingdom’s population expected to grow to 39.4 million by 2030, increased investment in the healthcare infrastructure and innovation is necessary to drive strong growth in the Kingdom’s healthcare sector, the medical directory reported.


Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity

Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity
Updated 27 November 2022

Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity

Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity
  • Founded in 2014, the firm provides fintech companies, banks and financial institutions with the proper technology solutions

CAIRO: Far from the business frenzy around the FIFA World Cup in neighboring Qatar, Saudi Arabia is laying the ground for a business opportunity that could change the fortune of the Kingdom. In the last few months, its banking sector has invited a slew of financial technology companies that could not only offer digitization benefits to its customers but also bolster its economy with better spending avenues.

One of the latest players to join the bandwagon is India’s financial technology enabler M2P, which is expanding its regional footprint by offering financial solutions in Saudi Arabia by 2023.

Founded in 2014, M2P provides fintech companies, banks and financial institutions with the proper technology solutions to boost their financial services.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Madhusudanan R, founder of M2P, said that the company is entering the Saudi Arabian market after seeing massive growth in its fintech sector.

“We managed to support many companies with our products, and I believe we will be able to do the same in Saudi Arabia,” Madhusudanan said. 

We are present in about 20 markets; we serve 700 fintech companies, 100 banks and 120 non-banking financial institutions. India is our largest market with over 400 fintech.

Madhusudanan R, Founder of M2P

He added that the company will launch in the Kingdom by the end of January 2023 and announce a few of its partnerships.

Many regional companies have recognized Saudi Arabia’s growing financial technology sector as multiple players have been expanding their operations into the country.

UAE’s fintech startup Pemo is also planning to launch its services in Saudi Arabia by 2023, in addition to YAP, another Emirati fintech that expanded to the Kingdom in July.

The Saudi Central Bank, also known as SAMA, has also been pushing toward digital transformation as the country plans to enable open banking in the first quarter of 2023.

India’s M2P first started its expansion in the UAE, where it established a regional headquarters to cement its presence in the Middle East.

The company later began to attract clients from different parts of the region, as it currently serves companies in the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Madhusudanan explained that the company has over 900 clients worldwide, with about 20 current customers from the Kingdom.

“We are present in about 20 markets; we serve 700 fintech companies, 100 banks and 120 non-banking financial institutions. India is our largest market with over 400 fintech,” he added.

The founder also explained that M2P could easily reach over 50 clients in Saudi Arabia within the next year because it is a financial technology enabler and does not require licenses from the central bank or the government.

“Although it is not yet officially announced, we have already started working with several banks and companies in Saudi Arabia as we have huge plans for the market,” he added.

The company is in talks with three to four banks and around 14 fintech companies in Saudi Arabia looking to use M2P’s platform.

Economic force

The Kingdom has been pushing toward creating a regional financial technology hub by easing the process for fintech companies to operate in the country as it plans to develop over 500 fintech companies by 2030.

“Hopefully, we will be able to contribute to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 in making the Kingdom one of the most enabled fintech ecosystems in the region,” Madhusudanan added.

M2P aims to provide Saudi companies with all its 25 financial solutions that range from payment, buy now, pay later and banking services.

To highlight the Kingdom’s move to digital, Saudi Arabia’s banking sector saw massive advancement in 2021, with financial inclusion reaching 83 percent and around 16 million bank accounts opened digitally.

Moreover, the Kingdom has witnessed massive changes in its payment sector as Vision 2030 aims to increase the share of non-cash transactions to 70 percent by 2025.

The strategy also aims to increase the sector’s contribution toward the gross domestic product to $3.46 billion by 2030.

Global digital payment firms like Visa and Mastercard have also recognized the changes in consumer payment, with both companies agreeing that the Kingdom has witnessed one of the highest contactless payment growth curves in history.

Last month, Visa also announced the establishment of its innovation center in Riyadh to enable access to payment technologies.

“Payments executed via smart devices by individuals on point-of-sale terminals increased by 282 percent in 2021,” the Financial Sector Development Plan stated.

Easier payments

Madhusudanan explained that fintech startups could easily launch new payment offerings with its solutions that have already laid the foundations to integrate with banks easily.

The company managed to process over $10 billion in transactions through its solutions as well as serve more than 35 million end customers.

M2P has been well-positioned to cater to fintech companies with the right solutions. The company received a total of $110 million in funding, with its last fundraising of $20 million announced in January 2022.

Investors include New York-based private equity firm Insight Partners, MUFG Innovation Partners, Tiger Global and Better Capital.

Madhusudanan stated that the company is currently valued at $620 million to invest its money into expanding its regional footprint.

The company reached profitability two years ago but decided to sacrifice its positive cash flow to reach more customers and grow its client base as it plans to get back to a green balance sheet by next year.

“Now we are focusing a lot more on growth, we’ve also been acquiring many companies, and so we have to compromise on the profitability because we’ve hired many team members and we’re going to new markets,” Madhusudanan explained.

He added that the company currently has an office in Riyadh and is adding 10 more members to the team by next year.

The company is not yet considering going public, but Madhusudanan said, “we will think of doing it, maybe sometime in the next three or four years.”