Giordano Middle East embarks on ambitious expansion plan

Giordano Middle East embarks on ambitious expansion plan
A Giordano store in Riyadh. The brand aims to launch new store concepts in the Kingdom.
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Updated 22 November 2022

Giordano Middle East embarks on ambitious expansion plan

Giordano Middle East embarks on ambitious expansion plan

All six economies in the Gulf Cooperation Council are set to rebound and grow this year with the region’s two largest economies, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, forecast to grow 8.3 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively.

The UAE was among the first markets to open its doors to the world during the pandemic, offering a getaway for tourists starved of travel and an opportunity for businesses to rebuild and grow. Saudi Arabia followed, reopening its doors to pilgrims, tourists and businesses alike, with the Kingdom currently topping the list of Arab countries for tourism arrivals thus far at 18 million as of October this year.

Tourist numbers in the region are set to be further bolstered by the FIFA World Cup 2022, as Qatar prepares to receive an estimated 1.2 million visitors during football’s largest event this November.

The above, coupled with a host of megaprojects in the region, have boosted the Gulf economies and paved the way for the rapid growth of Giordano GCC’s business. The regional management team, led by Ishwar Chugani, CEO and managing director of Giordano Middle East, has implemented a series of business strategies, including the introduction of new store concepts and new store openings, to capture the opportunities. The group’s leadership at Giordano corporate headquarters in Hong Kong has also implemented measures to complement the initiative, including shifting the shipping outpost from Hong Kong to Shenzhen and Nansha to counter rising production costs.

The efforts of Giordano’s GCC team have not gone unnoticed, having already bagged three nominations in separate global retail awards this year, including Most Admired Retail Company of the Year Award by Images Retail ME, RLI Global Retailer of the Year Award by Retail and Leisure International and Best Middle East and North Africa Retail Brand by the Middle East Council of Shopping Centers and Retailers.

Ahmedullah Abdul Hadi, chief operating officer of Giordano Saudi Arabia, said: “We are riding the wave of momentum in Saudi Arabia, strategically expanding our store network both in major cities as well as second- and third-tier cities in the Kingdom. We are also introducing new store concepts to set ourselves apart from competitors and attract a new generation of customers.”

Chugani said: “The entire region is buzzing. Saudi Arabia in particular is currently undergoing a phase of impressive growth. The rapid development of local infrastructure and the number of megaprojects being rolled out are phenomenal.”

He added: “We will continue to take a cautiously optimistic approach, maintaining our expansion momentum while taking into consideration the challenges that lie ahead stemming from global geopolitical tensions and stringent local labor requirements.”


stc supports research and innovation with new partnerships

stc supports research and  innovation with new partnerships
Updated 03 December 2022

stc supports research and innovation with new partnerships

stc supports research and  innovation with new partnerships

stc Group, the region’s leading digital enabler, participated in the recent Sustainable Partnerships Conference held in Riyadh, where it signed a number of partnership agreements with several Saudi universities, to support research and innovation projects in the technical field in the Kingdom.

Foremost of its partnerships signed at the event is that with King Saud University. It includes the establishment of a chair for scientific research in the field of artificial intelligence, aiming to find solutions to technical challenges facing the private sector.

stc also joined forces with the Saudi Telecommunications Engineering Society, Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University, and Taif University. The aim is to develop the communications sector by innovative means, develop engineering communications, and raise the scientific and professional level of communication engineers in the Kingdom. The partnerships will also contribute to the digital transformation of the universities’ services and projects.

During his session, stc Group Chief Strategy Officer Abdullah Abdulrahman Alkanhl highlighted the group’s pioneering role in encouraging research and innovation through several of its initiatives, including the InspireU program, which the group launched in 2015, to support emerging entrepreneurs and university students. The program succeeded in graduating 75 startups that provided more than 600,000 direct and indirect jobs. The group also supported direct investments in the research and innovation area through venture capital funds, with its contribution of $500 million to STV Fund.

“We recently elevated the value of investment to $800 million,” added Alkanhl.

stc Group believes the partnerships will encourage the exchange of scientific and technical knowledge as well as support the development of educational programs, joint research projects and innovative activities such as competitions and hackathons. Moreover, stc seeks to enrich the registered intellectual property content.

“The signed partnerships stand out as one of the main elements for achieving our goals in sustainable development in the field of research and innovation, as our strategy revolves around enabling more vibrant sectors in the Kingdom. This will facilitate and accelerate the process of digital transformation because of its positive impact on public interest, whether on individuals, society or the business sector,” said Alkanhl.

The two-day conference, held under the theme “Research and Innovation Towards A Prosperous Economy” was part of an initiative spearheaded by the Ministry of Education to foster ties between Saudi universities and the industrial and development sectors. More than 50 cooperation and research partnership agreements were signed between universities and various sectors at the event.


Thakher Development inks deal with Banque Saudi Fransi

Thakher Development inks  deal with Banque Saudi Fransi
Updated 03 December 2022

Thakher Development inks deal with Banque Saudi Fransi

Thakher Development inks  deal with Banque Saudi Fransi

Thakher Development Company, the master developer of the upcoming Thakher Makkah project, has signed an MoU with Banque Saudi Fransi, under which the company’s customers can avail a range of different financing solutions, including off-plan financing. The move is in line with Thaker’s constant efforts to fulfill its customers’ needs and aspirations by delivering optimal solutions, services and products.

The MoU was signed by Karim Hashem, vice president for finance and investment at Thakher, and Attaf Faiz Ramadan, regional branch network manager at Banque Saudi Fransi.

“We are proud of this cooperation with Banque Saudi Fransi that shows and asserts confidence in the development work carried out by Thakher,” said Hashem.

He added: “It also comes in the context of the partnerships that Thakher has with financing agencies and other companies to provide the best options and products for its customers and to achieve best results in line with Saudi Vision 2030.”

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The move is in line with Thaker’s constant efforts to fulfill its customers’ needs and aspirations by delivering optimal solutions, services and products.

Meanwhile, expressing his pleasure over the signing of the MoU with Thakher, Ramadan said: “The MoU comes as part of Banque Saudi Fransi’s efforts and keenness to strengthen the economy and provide various financing solutions that suit all customers’ needs, as well as to support and develop the real estate sector to achieve the objectives of Vision 2030.”

Thakher Makkah supports the ambitious vision of Saudi Arabia, which aims to host 30 million Umrah performers and 6 million pilgrims by 2030.

The project spans an area of more than 320,000 square meters. Upon completion, it will include around 100 land plots for hospitality, residential, commercial, and service-related purposes. Residential and hotel apartment units will be available in various categories, and the units will also be available for ownership.

Among the international hotels that will open in Thakher Makkah are Radisson Hotel, Park Inn by Radisson, and Novotel Hotel, which will be the largest in the world in terms of the number of rooms.

The second phase of Thakher Makkah is expected to be completed by 2024.

Thakher Development Company aims to change the real estate development scene in Makkah. The company’s vision is to contribute to the sustainable development of Makkah and to become the preferred destination for visitors to the holy city.

The Thakher Makkah project will provide 15,000 direct jobs and 18,000 indirect jobs, while the total value of the project is estimated to be SR26 billion ($6.93 million).


VFS Global: A supporter of Vision 2030’s Saudization and tourism goals

VFS Global: A supporter of Vision  2030’s Saudization and tourism goals
Updated 01 December 2022

VFS Global: A supporter of Vision 2030’s Saudization and tourism goals

VFS Global: A supporter of Vision  2030’s Saudization and tourism goals

In line with the goals of Vision 2030, VFS Global, the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions, aims to achieve 100 percent Saudization in its customer-facing roles by December this year, with 65 percent of its workforce in the Kingdom currently being Saudi nationals. Moreover, the company is working closely with the Saudi Tourism Authority to boost visitor numbers to the Kingdom, aiming to achieve yet another of Vision 2030’s goal of raising the contribution of the tourism sector to the domestic product to more than 10 percent. 

“As an organization, we strongly support Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030. Each of the three fundamental pillars of Vision 2030 — building an ambitious nation, thriving economy and vibrant society, is aligned to our growth philosophy,” said Zubin Karkaria, founder and chief executive officer, VFS Global Group. 

Highlighting the company’s efforts of supporting Vision 2030, he said: “Sixty-five percent of VFS Global’s workforce in Saudi Arabia are nationals, and 40 percent of our operations staff in Saudi Arabia are women. In our customer-facing roles, we have set a target of 100 percent Saudization by December 2022. In addition, we have launched a Global Talent Pool to provide Saudi nationals with international exposure by providing deputations and training in our centers across our global network in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Americas. Over the next 12-18 months, we will train and coach about 100 Saudi nationals through classroom and on-ground training. 

“Moreover, we have been working in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia to provide visa outsourcing services in 30 countries since 2013, as well as visa processing on behalf of 32 client governments in 13 cities across Saudi Arabia. We also work closely with the Saudi Tourism Authority in their initiatives.”

VFS Global has been providing visa and consular services in Saudi Arabia since 2005. The company offers visa and passport services on behalf of 32 governments through a network of 95 visa application centers in the Kingdom. The company also offers visa services on behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 30 countries through a network of 58 centers. 

Globally, VFS Global is the trusted partner of 66 client governments, with more than 3,300 application centers in 140+ countries. 

Commenting on VFS Global’s operations in the Kingdom, Karkaria said: “VFS Global started its services in the Saudi market in 2005, and since then it has enjoyed a strong partnership with the government of Saudi Arabia, working closely with the authorities to ensure compliance with all the local laws and guidelines, and supporting the nation’s growth agenda. VFS Global was among the first group of companies to establish regional headquarters in Riyadh, and the success of our business here further highlights the importance and advantage of the Kingdom.”

Operated by a staff of up to 800 employees, VFS Global operates centers in 13 cities, namely, Riyadh, Jeddah, Alkhobar, Abha, Hail, Jubail, Makkah, Jazan, Al-Qassim, Al-Kharj, Tabuk, Madinah, Najran and Al-Jouf. 

In a bid to provide service with ease to applicants across the Kingdom, it has also tied up with Chambers of Commerce in Riyadh, Makkah, Jazan, Al-Jouf, Najran, Al-Qassem, Madinah and Al-Kharj, to provide their members, employees, and residents end-to-end visa and passport services at the chambers’ premises. 

Similarly, bringing passport and consular services closer to home for Filipino, Sri Lankan and Indian citizens in the Kingdom, VFS Global operates passport renewal services in three major cities — Riyadh, Jeddah and Alkhobar — and Passport On Wheels services in locations where there is no permanent passport center. 


Noor Riyadh wraps up with 2.8m visitors & six Guinness titles

Noor Riyadh wraps up with 2.8m visitors & six Guinness titles
Updated 01 December 2022

Noor Riyadh wraps up with 2.8m visitors & six Guinness titles

Noor Riyadh wraps up with 2.8m visitors & six Guinness titles

Noor Riyadh, the Saudi capital’s citywide annual festival of light and art, celebrated its second edition with bigger and bolder figures, including six Guinness World Records titles. Foremost of the record titles that the event achieved is for the largest light art festival, as this year, the festival tripled in size, presenting 201 artworks by more than 130 artists, surpassing the minimum requirement of 185 installations. 

In addition, Noor Riyadh 2022 welcomed 2.8 million visitors across its 40 citywide locations and five hubs, an impressive achievement that far surpasses the footfall of its inaugural edition in March 2021.

This year, the festival was held under the theme “We Dream of New Horizons,” which centered around a sense of hopefulness for the future, as well as confidence in renewal and transformation. “We Dream of New Horizons” was curated by Hervé Mikaeloff, Dorothy Di Stefano, and Jumana Ghouth, along with curatorial adviser Arnaud Morand. 

Noor Riyadh 2022 included at least 90 new commissions from international and Saudi artists, such as Ahaad Alamoudi, Abdullah Al-Othman, Daniah Al-Saleh, Rashed Al-Shashai, Sarah Brahim, Daniel Buren, Bricklab, Douglas Gordon, Tadashi Kawamata, Alicja Kwade, Jean-Michel Othoniel, and Muhannad Shono. 

Marc Brickman’s unforgettable aerial installations that use 1,990 drones as their medium won the Guinness title for the most drones performing an aerial dance display. The choreographed drone display, titled “The Order of Chaos: Chaos in Order,” featured a swarm of drones that moved in fluid choreography over the skies of King Abdullah Park.

Meanwhile, the spectacular “Pulse of Light” by show designer Martin Arnaud is the reason behind two new records achieved: The largest laser show, in terms of area covered, and the longest distance covered by a laser light show. The nightly show, which beamed laser light across King Fahd Road, connecting the city’s most recognizable skyscrapers Kingdom Tower, Faisaliah Tower and Majdoul Tower with light, reached up to 14.4 million square meters, with lasers stretching 15 kilometers in distance, more than doubling the minimum requirements in place. 

“Pulse of Light” also broke two additional records, namely the largest mesh screen on a building and highest mesh screen on a building, for its installation on Kingdom Tower.

Prince Badr bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, board member of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City and chairman of the Steering Committee for Riyadh Art, said: “The success of Noor Riyadh 2022 shows how visionary leadership can elevate arts and culture to new heights. Through the unwavering support of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, prime minister and chairman of the Royal Commission for Riyadh City’s Board of Directors, the country’s culture sector will rise to the aspirations of Vision 2030. Fulfilling Riyadh Art’s aims, Noor Riyadh provides a platform for emerging and established artists to share their ideas here and beyond. To see a Saudi-created initiative break records and put the nation in the forefront of the global art scene as the largest light art festival in the world, creates a moment of pride.”

“Through the continued efforts of all our partners, such initiatives will cement our place within the international cultural landscape,” he added.

With the citywide festival ending on Nov. 19, Noor Riyadh will continue its programming through the world-class exhibition “From Spark to Spirit,” curated by Neville Wakefield and associate curator Gaida Al-Mogren.

The exhibition traces the role of light as a signal for change, exploring themes such as the “Technologies of Light,” “Architectonics of Light” and “Consciousness of Light.” Using the “Light and Space Movement” from the 1960s in California — which reflected changes in the established order — as a reference point, “From Spark to Spirit” proposes how light and art can offer ways to think through the rapid cultural transformations shaping the Middle East. 

The show includes works by 30 artists, including Doug Aitken, Zeinab Al-Hashemi, Zahrah Al-Ghamdi, Refik Anadol, Larry Bell, Jim Campbell, John Edmark, Phillip K. Smith III, Diana Thater, Haroon Mirza and Theories of Imagination.

The exhibition runs until Feb. 4, 2023, accompanied by a series of talks, workshops, and community engagement programs for audiences of various ages and interests. 


Salam showcases state-of-the-art cybersecurity technologies at Black Hat MEA 2022

Salam showcases state-of-the-art cybersecurity technologies at Black Hat MEA 2022
Updated 28 November 2022

Salam showcases state-of-the-art cybersecurity technologies at Black Hat MEA 2022

Salam showcases state-of-the-art cybersecurity technologies at Black Hat MEA 2022

Saudi-based telecom provider Salam showcased its advanced set of cybersecurity services and technologies at Black Hat Middle East and Africa, the region’s largest cybersecurity event that took place in Riyadh from Nov. 15 to 17. 

With organizations facing increasing information security challenges and constantly evolving cybersecurity threats, Salam highlighted its capabilities and technologies in safeguarding digital infrastructure and protecting government and private sector entities from cyber threats and risks. 

With explosive demand in the cloud and cybersecurity sector, Salam also took the opportunity to announce strategic partnerships during the event to boost its cybersecurity arsenal, signing agreements with two leading global InfoSec companies including SynAck, a global cybersecurity testing platform, and Global-IB, a Singapore-based group specializing in cyberattacks, fraud and information security. The partnerships are expected to further boost Salam’s offensive and defensive cybersecurity capabilities.

Salam has secured a niche in the market as a provider of essential cybersecurity services with its Security Device Management offering, a comprehensive solution covering design, implementation, monitoring, administration and support for firewalls, UTM and IPDS devices, email security, VAPT and anti-DDoS services.

Ahmed Al-Anqari, CEO of Salam, said: “Salam’s cybersecurity services are designed to help organizations manage and optimize security technology infrastructure by reducing their overall risk, allowing them respond to threats more quickly, thus lowering overhead costs and improving operational efficiency by freeing up security staff to focus on other critical matters. This aspect of Salam’s service offering will help us reach our objective of being an industry-leading operator enabling the Kingdom’s digital transformation journey.” 

In addition, Salam also offers security information and event management solutions designed to help organizations collect, analyze and store security events from their technology stack and identify potential risks round-the-clock in real time with best-in-class tools and a team of technology-enabled, fully-certified Saudi professionals. Salam provides advanced defense technologies, global threat intelligence, threat hunting, in-depth malware analysis and forensics, periodic cyberwar games and other incident response techniques and continuous vulnerability assessments of infrastructure, data, applications and users. 

Salam’s reputation as a leading homegrown telecom provider in Saudi Arabia has positioned the brand as a key participant and enabler in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 digital transformation efforts. With over 15 years of experience in the field, Salam is well-positioned to deliver cybersecurity solutions to customers in the Kingdom and beyond.