Wasta to bring curated business network app to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Wasta to bring curated business network app to Saudi Arabia and UAE
Lalita Chopra and Shyam Visavadia, co-founders of Dubai-based Wasta, a technology start-up leading the path to purposeful connections. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 November 2022

Wasta to bring curated business network app to Saudi Arabia and UAE

Wasta to bring curated business network app to Saudi Arabia and UAE
  • Wasta is redefining its name to make it accessible and impactful for everyone

CAIRO: Wasta, the Middle Eastern tech startup leading the path to purposeful connections, is getting ready to roll out its official launch in Saudi Arabia and the UAE within the next month.

“Wasta” in Arabic means influential or powerful social and professional connections to gain a career boost or proficiency.

Sometimes perceived as nepotism, the word is ubiquitous within Arab societies, and Shyam Visavadia, the co-founder of Wasta.ai, believes everyone should have the chance to utilize and build meaningful connections.

“Wasta wants to truly build a network designed to reflect the multifaceted nature of what people need to move forward in their entrepreneurial journey,” Visavadia told Arab News exclusively.

He further explained that the company is redefining its name to make it accessible and impactful for everyone.

Currently an invite-only platform, the company is planning to roll out its official mobile app to pre-registered users within the next month, where they will have access to a vast community of professionals.

Users can simply download the app, identify their interests and objectives and availability, and Wasta will curate a weekly 30-minute video call with professionals who share the same interests.

Stimulating conversations

The app uses client interests and objectives to automatically match users together, creating an easy way for professionals to connect with each other and expand their network.

“We aspire to build social capital by stimulating conversation, creating cross-border communities and promoting collaboration and problem-solving in high-growth markets. By breaking down the fear of networking, we facilitate casual conversations that lead to not-so-casual professional impact,” Visavadia explained. 

The app uses client interests and objectives to match users together. (Supplied)

The company will charge its users a monthly subscription fee of $10 to get access to one new match every week as it plans to launch other premium packages with more features in the future.

Founded in 2021, Wasta managed to tackle a large market with an innovative way to support the rise of entrepreneurship in the region.

With 1,500 vetted members, the company has users ranging from students to senior executives from international companies like LinkedIn, SWVL, Careem, MEVP and Venture Souq, as well as thousands of other members currently on their waitlist.

“We help users meet professionals in the same industry, plant seeds for future clients and referrals, and simply make new connections,” Visavadia added as he shared multiple success stories through their platform.

Enabling businesses

Wasta managed to support a recruiter to make over $90,000 by utilizing connections through the platform; in addition, a founder was able to raise an initial seed investment for his company by meeting an angel investor on the app.

Other users have also used the platform with business owners and entrepreneurs, initiating conversations to support their expansion plans.

According to Visavadia, 75 percent of users have made meaningful connections with Wasta, as 40 percent state that they network online more than in person.

“Networking alone is responsible for filling as many as 85 percent of all jobs. Furthermore, 80 percent of professionals believe they can elevate their career success through professional networking,” he added.

Seeing huge momentum since its inception, Wasta has been operating without raising any funding as the founders managed to bootstrap their way into building a user-focused product.

Wasta was built on a no-code solution that supports the company’s movement to respond quickly to user feedback. Visavadia also stated that the company plans to build a diverse remote team.

He added that the company’s mantra for success is to listen to the customer and solve everyday problems affecting people’s lifestyles.

“Our goal is to make meeting people more fun, relevant, and meaningful. It’s not about aggregating connections but building a strong personal and professional network,” Visavadia added.

Wasta is aiming to fortify its presence in Saudi Arabia, gaining as much as 50 percent of its user base from the Kingdom. “Our plans are to go to high-growth markets like Saudi Arabia and address the issues of the growing need for entrepreneurial talent and startup companies,” Visavadia added.

The company currently has a user presence in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, with expansion plans to reach other markets in the Middle East and North African region.

“Wasta aspires to be the leading networking site in the Middle East, India and Africa for curating meaningful conversation, building professional connections, and forming new communities,” Visavadia stated.

Visavadia was a former senior manager at Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and has worked across the UK, UAE, and USA.

Lalita Chopra is the co-founder of Wasta and a former software engineer at Cognizant, an American multinational information technology services and consulting company.

Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 

Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 
Updated 07 June 2023

Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 

Qatar In-Focus: National real estate funding strategy proposed to boost the sector 

RIYADH: A national real estate funding strategy for Qatar is needed to boost the sector, according to proposals put forward at a dedicated event held in the country. 

The Ministry of Municipality announced the recommendations following the Qatar Real Estate Forum, which saw the participation of 1,500 leaders, decision-makers, and executives from across the world. 

In order to develop the sector, the country’s real estate strategy should provide investors with incentives, as well as develop creative housing financing options and open ownership for foreigners, according to a release from Qatar’s state news agency. 

It was also noted that the real estate sector across the Gulf Cooperation Council countries shows great promise due to the region’s favorable conditions, such as geographic diversity, easy access, availability of security, and tourist attractions.   

The forum — the first-of-its-kind in the country — saw 35 keynote speakers take part in a wide range of real estate topics, as well as 12 panel discussions and workshops across the two-day event.   

Qatar and Kyrgyzstan trade boost 

Bilateral trade between Qatar and Kyrgyzstan is set to grow after an agreement was reached to enhance economic cooperation, according to the Gulf country’s Minister of Commerce and Industry.   

Mohammed Al-Thani highlighted the importance of fostering cooperation relations with the Kyrgyz Republic while visiting its capital city, Bishkek.   

This visit marks a new phase of developing trade relations for both countries’ mutual benefit, according to the minister.   

Additionally, two-sided investment opportunities are to arise from this partnership, according to a statement he made to the Qatar News Agency. 

Over the past few years, Qatar has been focusing on economic openness, global market engagement, and building partnerships in non-oil sectors for development, added Al-Thani.  

The achievement of the Qatar National Vision 2030 and the diversification of sources of income away from oil and gas are the cornerstones of strategic orientation.   

Therefore, along with food security, agriculture, green economy, and energy, renewable and clean energies are among the attractive areas of cooperation with Qatar’s international partners, including the Kyrgyz Republic. 

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  
Updated 07 June 2023

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  

NEOM ropes in IGY Marinas to develop luxury yachting at Sindalah  

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s futuristic city NEOM has entered into an agreement with international luxury yachting solution provider IGY Marinas to develop and operate a harbor at the giga-project’s luxury island destination Sindalah.  

The island which will be the closest superyacht marina to Europe and the Mediterranean is projected to become an iconic destination for the world’s yachting community.   

With as many as 86 berths for yachts up to 50 meters, the facility will also provide additional serviced offshore buoys for superyachts up to 180 meters as Sindalah 

“Sindalah will be one of the most alluring and vibrant yachting destinations in the world, thanks to its strategic location, outstanding amenities and stunning natural landscapes,” said Antoni Vives, head of urban development at NEOM, in a statement.  

“This partnership with IGY is one of many steps we are taking to achieve our vision of reshaping the global yachting calendar,” he added.  

Once completed, the marina will join IGY’s international superyacht network of 23 marinas across 12 countries.  

Furthermore, the marina will also have IGY’s exclusive superyacht membership program, IGY Trident.  

“Sindalah perfectly integrates with IGY’s global vision to connect the world’s most incredible yachting destinations across our growing marina network,” said Tom Mukamal, CEO of IGY Marinas, in the statement.  

Last month, Sindalah received a SR3 billion ($800 million) boost thanks to a partnership with Riyad Bank.    

The Saudi bank which announced the funding deal in a tweet said the money will help in achieving the goal of having $1 trillion invested in the Kingdom’s tourism industry as it eyes 100 million tourists annually by 2030.  

The Sindalah development is estimated to generate 3,500 jobs in the tourism, hotel, and leisure sectors, and travelers are expected to begin arriving on the island in early 2024.    

Speaking about Sindalah in December, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said: “This is another significant moment for NEOM and a major step in the Kingdom realizing its tourism ambitions under Vision 2030.”    

He added: “Sindalah will be NEOM’s first luxury island and yacht club destination in the Red Sea, providing a scenic gateway to the Red Sea that will become the region’s most exciting and attractive tourism location.” 

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet
Updated 07 June 2023

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet

PIF-owned aircraft lessor AviLease raises $1.1bn to expand fleet

RIYADH: Aiming to procure 45 aircraft by the end of 2023, AviLease, an aircraft financing and leasing company owned by the Public Investment Fund, has garnered $1.1 billion in its inaugural financing.  

The unsecured five-year facility will be predominantly used to acquire additional aircraft, thereby enhancing the company’s premier portfolio.  

“We are very pleased to announce the successful closing of our debut $1.1 billion unsecured term financing facility, supported by a syndicate of banking partners locally, regionally and across the world,” AviLease CEO Edward O’Bryne said in a statement.  

The financing is split into two segments — a conventional funding section of $850 million and an imminent Shariah-compliant tranche of $250 million.   

The financing request spurred substantial interest locally, regionally, and internationally, with an oversubscription rate of 3.3 times, according to the press release.  

“We thank the lenders for their support and long-term confidence in AviLease. The quality and breadth of demand for the debut funding far exceeded our expectations, and we are thankful to our banking partners and advisers for their support in achieving this outcome,” O’Bryne commented.  

With plans to augment its fleet to roughly 300 aircraft by 2030, the company is targeting to position itself among the world’s leading aircraft leasing firms. It has already acquired or committed to acquiring 45 aircraft by the end of 2023, amounting to a book value of $2.4 billion.  

“It is crucial for us to work with a wide variety of international financial partners with strong balance sheets, who can provide incremental funding to support our growth objectives,” O’Bryne said.  

Citibank, Riyad Bank, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Gulf International Bank and Saudi Awwal Bank functioned as the mandated lead arrangers for the transaction.   

Meanwhile, Banque Saudi Fransi, Saudi Investment Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and HSBC Middle East served as mandated lead arrangers for the conventional tranche.  

Dubai Islamic Bank, Al Rajhi Bank, Bank AlJazira, and Saudi National Bank will serve as mandated lead arrangers for the Shariah-compliant tranche.  

Moreover, Citibank functioned as the financial adviser for AviLease, with Allen & Overy acting as its counsel, while Clifford Chance provided advisory services to the lenders.  

Headquartered in Riyadh, AviLease invests in the latest generation aircraft via purchase and lease-back transactions, portfolio trades and direct orders from aircraft manufacturers.  

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  
Updated 07 June 2023

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  

Masdar-led consortium secures land for $10bn wind project in Egypt  

RIYADH: Egypt’s $10-billion wind energy project announced last year moved one step closer to its execution after the consortium responsible for the renewable project signed a deal on June 6 to secure the required land.

Led by the UAE government-owned renewable energy company Masdar, the consortium signed an agreement with Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority to secure a site for the construction of the 10-gigawatts capacity onshore wind farms in the country.

The consortium also includes Infinity Power, which is Africa’s largest renewable energy developer, and Egypt’s Hassan Allam Utilities, an investment platform for power, renewables and water-related opportunities.

The deal will help Egypt move toward achieving its annual goal of slashing carbon emissions by 9 percent as the onshore wind farms will produce 47,790 GWh of clean energy per year while displacing 23.8 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The North African country has set a goal of sourcing 42 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030. That said, the new plant is estimated to save Egypt an estimated $5 billion in natural gas costs on a yearly basis.

Masdar said the deal cements its commitment toward supporting African nations such as Egypt to meet their ambitious renewable energy objectives.  

“This 10 GW onshore wind project is set to be one of the largest wind farms in the world, and largest on the African continent,” said the UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, Chairman of Masdar and COP28 President-Designate, Sultan Al-Jaber.

He added: “It is a sign of the strong partnership between the UAE and Egypt, with great potential to create jobs, cut emissions and power homes with clean electricity at competitive economical costs.”   

From Egypt’s side, Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker Al-Markabi stressed that renewable energy in the country has the potential to attract direct foreign investments.

“National Egyptian entities play a vital role in creating an environment that is supportive of investment with low risks, and high interaction with the financing institutions and development partners,” he explained.

During COP27 last year, Masdar, Infinity Power and Hassan Allam Utilities also signed agreements with several Egyptian state-backed organizations to develop green hydrogen and derivatives’ production facilities.

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement
Updated 07 June 2023

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement

Closing bell: Saudi benchmark index continues upward movement

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index edged up 55.96 points, or 0.49 percent, to close yet another session up on Wednesday.

The trading turnover of the Tadawul All Share Index reached SR6.92 billion ($1.85 billion) as 115 stocks advanced while 86 retreated. The index continued to enjoy a steady week to close at 11,372.83.

While Nomu, the parallel equity market, gained 52.80 points to 21,481.58, the MSCI Tadawul Index went up by 0.62 percent to close at 1,506.94.

Etihad Atheeb Telecommunication Co. emerged as the top performer with its share price rising 7.57 percent to SR78.20.

Middle East Healthcare Co. and Theeb Rent a Car Co. were the other top gainers whose share prices surged by 6.69 percent and 6.59 percent respectively.

Abdullah Al Othaim Markets Co. was the worst performer of the day, as its share price edged down by 2.97 percent to SR14.36.

Meanwhile, Almuneef Co. for Trade, Industry, Agriculture, and Contracting started trading on the parallel market. The company which opened its trading with a share price of SR70 ended the session at SR64.70, down by 7.57 percent.

On the announcements front, Watani Iron Steel Co. said that its shareholders approved increasing the company’s capital by 50 percent through a one-for-two bonus share distribution.

According to a Tadawul statement, the capital will be raised to SR181.65 million by distributing one bonus share for every two shares held through the capitalization of SR60.55 million of retained earnings. Its share price edged down by 0.99 percent to SR35.