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

Indian fintech M2P bets its money on Saudi Arabia’s economic opportunity
Indian fintech firm M2P first started its expansion in the UAE, where it established a regional headquarters to cement its presence in the Middle East. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 30 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.”


GCC project awards plunged during 2022, reaching second lowest since 2005: report

GCC project awards plunged during 2022, reaching second lowest since 2005: report
Updated 20 sec ago

GCC project awards plunged during 2022, reaching second lowest since 2005: report

GCC project awards plunged during 2022, reaching second lowest since 2005: report

RIYADH: Faced with mounting global economic challenges, Gulf Cooperation Council region project awards plunged during 2022, with the total value of contracts handed out dropping 18.7 percent to $93.6 billion from $115.2 billion the previous year, according to Kamco Invest. 

This was the lowest project awards amount since 2005, barring the pandemic-induced decline in 2020, the regional non-banking financial powerhouse based in Kuwait stated in its report. 

The decline of GCC contract awards was affected by high inflation and continuing supply chain problems, mainly due to China’s intermittent COVID-19 restrictions which are now lifted, it added. 

The drop in 2022 also reflected limited big-ticket projects outside the Saudi project market.

All GCC countries, barring Saudi Arabia, witnessed a year-on-year decline in their aggregate 2022 value of projects awarded. 

In addition, total value of project awards was above the $100-billion mark every year for the last decade with the exception of the pandemic year and 2022, it stated. 

Saudi Arabia remained the largest projects market in the GCC during 2022 recording a total of $54.2 billion worth of contracts awarded as compared to $53.9 billion in 2021. 

The UAE ranked second recording total contract awards of $19.2 billion versus $25.9 billion during 2021, Kamco Invest said in its report. 

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar accounted for a combined 93.6 percent of the total value of contracts awarded in the GCC during the year. 

According to the report, total projects awarded in Kuwait during 2022 reached $2.8 billion against $5.2 billion in 2021.

Similarly, Oman witnessed new project awards drop by 27.1 percent year-on-year to hit $2.2 billion, while the aggregate value of contracts awarded in Bahrain reached $96 million in 2022 as compared to $2.7 billion during 2021. 

In terms of sector, the major share of new contract awards went to the construction industry with the value registering a $3.2 billion year-on-year increase to reach a total of $34.3 billion during 2022. 

The growth in the GCC construction sector was mainly driven by the jump in total value of contract awards in Saudi Arabia’s construction sector

Of the total value of projects awarded in the GCC, nearly 59.2 percent was awarded by the Kingdom, stated the report. 

The outlook for 2023 remains bright for the GCC projects market with more than $110 billion worth of projects already in the tender stage, according to MEED Projects, that would mostly translate into awards.


King Abdulaziz Port flags off MSC service to widen trade horizons

King Abdulaziz Port flags off MSC service to widen trade horizons
Updated 31 January 2023

King Abdulaziz Port flags off MSC service to widen trade horizons

King Abdulaziz Port flags off MSC service to widen trade horizons

RIYADH: The Saudi Ports Authority, also known as Mawani, has announced the launch of a new freight service at King Abdulaziz Port operated by the Swiss-based container group MSC.  

The latest connection will bolster the Dammam-based port as a focal point for regional and global trade while strengthening the Kingdom’s hub credentials in fulfillment of the ambitions of the National Transport and Logistics Strategy.

Dammam will also enjoy weekly sailings to eight maritime destinations spanning the Arabian Gulf, South Asia and Southern Africa.  

These include the ports of Khalifa bin Salman in Bahrain, Khalifa in UAE, Qasim in Pakistan, Mundra and Hazira in India, Port Louis in Mauritius, and Durban and Coega in South Africa.  

The service started on Jan. 21 and will feature five vessels with an average carrying capacity exceeding 6,000 twenty-foot equivalent units.

As a world-class logistics center boasting top-tier infrastructure and capabilities, King Abdulaziz Port was an obvious choice for shipping liners looking to expand their routes in 2022.  

Some notable liners include SeaLead Shipping’s Far East to Middle East service, Emirates Shipping Line’s Jebel Ali Bahrain Shuwaikh service, Gulf-India Express 2 service by Aladin Express and Maersk’s Shaheen Express service. 

As Saudi Arabia’s eastern maritime gateway and the Kingdom’s main port on the Arabian Gulf, King Abdulaziz Port in Dammam is the primary entryway for cargo headed to the country’s eastern and central regions from all over the world.  

It has a direct railway connection with the dry port in Riyadh. Saudi Arabian Oil Co. built the dock to meet the rapidly increasing demands of the national oil industry under the orders of King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman.  

After further expansions, the port was officially renamed from Dammam Port to King Abdulaziz Port in 1961.

The port has 43 fully equipped berths with mega-ship capabilities, modern cargo handling equipment and general cargo support terminals. Other support terminals include a refrigerated cargo terminal, two cement terminals, a bulk grain terminal, an iron ore terminal, a vessel building berth, and oil and gas terminals.

The announcement comes just over a week after another trade link was added to the Kingdom’s Jubail Commercial Port.

The new shipping service line, India Gulf Service 1, has been added by Hapag-Lloyd, a German international shipping firm.

It will connect the Saudi port to Jebel Ali in the UAE, Karachi in Pakistan, Mundra in India, Sohar in Oman, Shuaiba in Kuwait, and Um Qasr in Iraq.

The new service will be launched weekly starting from Feb. 12 through voyages that include three ships with a total capacity of 2,400 twenty-foot equivalent units each.


China foreign minister seeks stronger economic ties with Saudi Arabia 

China foreign minister seeks stronger economic ties with Saudi Arabia 
Updated 31 January 2023

China foreign minister seeks stronger economic ties with Saudi Arabia 

China foreign minister seeks stronger economic ties with Saudi Arabia 

RIYADH: China's new foreign minister Qin Gang wants to build stronger ties with Saudi Arabia and set up a China-Gulf free trade zone "as soon as possible", according to a ministry statement published late on Monday. 

Qin, who was just recently named to the position, made the suggestion in a telephone conversation with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, adding that China highly appreciates Saudi Arabia's consistent firm support on issues involving China's core interests. 

He said the sides should further expand cooperation on economy, trade, energy, infrastructure, investment, finance, and high technology. 

In addition, Qin pressed for continuously strengthening the China-Gulf strategic partnership and building "the China-Gulf Free Trade Zone as soon as possible." 

During the phone call, Prince Faisal congratulated Qin Gang on his new post as foreign minister and the two officials reviewed Saudi-Chinese relations. 

Prince Faisal said that Saudi Arabia regards relations with China as an important cornerstone of foreign relations, and that Saudi Arabia fully adheres to the one-China principle, according to the statement from the Chinese foreign ministry. 

They also discussed bilateral cooperation, developments in regional and international events, efforts exerted with regard to these events in order to enhance security and stability, and the most important issues of common concern. 

Qin, who just wrapped up a tour to several African countries, also had telephone conversations with Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra and Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafierro, according to state media. 

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a phone call from Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. 

During the call, the two leaders reviewed bilateral relations and ways of developing them in various fields. 

A number of issues of common concern were also discussed. 

This comes as Saudi Arabia remained the top supplier of crude oil to China in 2022, according to Reuters. 

The Kingdom shipped a total of 87.49 million tons of crude to China in 2022, equivalent to 1.75 million bpd, customs data showed, on par with the level in 2021. 

China’s state-backed oil refiners largely fulfilled their term contracts with Saudi Arabia in 2022 despite the sluggish domestic demand. 

Saudi Arabia is expected to remain a key, if not the dominant, crude exporter to China after President Xi Jinping’s visit to Riyadh in December, where he told Gulf leaders that China would work to buy oil in Chinese yuan, rather than US dollars. 

(With inputs from Reuters)


Saudi Millennials show higher drive toward career advancement than Gen Z, LinkedIn data reveals 

Saudi Millennials show higher drive toward career advancement than Gen Z, LinkedIn data reveals 
Updated 31 January 2023

Saudi Millennials show higher drive toward career advancement than Gen Z, LinkedIn data reveals 

Saudi Millennials show higher drive toward career advancement than Gen Z, LinkedIn data reveals 

CAIRO: Almost two-thirds of Saudi workers are considering changing jobs in 2023 as they seek higher pay,  a better work-life balance, and feel confident in their ability to land better positions, according to a survey by networking firm LinkedIn. 

Despite hiring levels slowing down in the Middle East in 2022 compared to 2021, LinkedIn’s research has shown that 68 percent of the Saudi workforce are optimistic about securing a new job. 

The growing appetite for switching employers is highest among millennials, who show almost 15 percent more confidence in job searching, interviewing and in their abilities to secure new and better jobs in 2023 than their younger colleagues. 

This is attributed to the fact that around 80 percent of the millennial age group – typically those born between 1980 and 1995 – feel a lack of investment from their employer, in addition to feeling undervalued, unmotivated, and underpaid. 

Gen Z employees – those under 25 years old – have reported great worry about job security as they are concerned that their employers have not dealt with the current economic uncertainty very well. 

“Despite economic uncertainty and the slump in global hiring that’s trickled its way into the region, we’re still seeing a significant number of professionals looking to either grow within their organizations or switch jobs in 2023, many driven by the desire for bigger salaries as the global cost of living goes up,” Ali Matar, Head of LinkedIn in the Middle East and North Africa growth hub, said. 

Additionally, Saudi professionals are also confident in pushing for promotions and new opportunities with their current employers as seven out of ten employees feel assured of a pay raise. 

“Workforces clearly know their value within the job market and are taking charge of their career by investing in new skills. It’s clear that since the pandemic, professionals have become much more resilient and we’re seeing this in their confidence to tackle the year ahead,” Matar added. 

The survey reveals that while many workers feel more confident in their career prospects, concerns about job security and a preference for remote work options remain prevalent.

 Six out of every ten workers surveyed said that they would decline new in-office job offers in favor of hybrid or remote work. 


Saudi Arabia’s real GDP grows by 5.4% in Q4 2022: GASTAT

Saudi Arabia’s real GDP grows by 5.4% in Q4 2022: GASTAT
Updated 19 min 49 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s real GDP grows by 5.4% in Q4 2022: GASTAT

Saudi Arabia’s real GDP grows by 5.4% in Q4 2022: GASTAT

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s real gross domestic product grew by 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022, compared to the same period in 2021, driven by a high increase in non-oil activities, according to the latest report released by the General Authority for Statistics.

The GASTAT report noted that non-oil activities in the Kingdom rose 6.2 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2022, while oil activities rose by 6.1 percent during the same period.

The report further added that government services activities increased by 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, compared to the same quarter in 2021.

Compared to the third quarter of 2022, the real GDP of Saudi Arabia grew by 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter.

The GASTAT report noted that this quarter-on-quarter rise in GDP was due to the growth in non-oil activities by 1.7 percent and government services activities by 0.5 percent.

The growth of oil activities, however, decreased by 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2022 compared to the previous quarter.

According to the GASTAT report, Saudi Arabia’s economy grew by 8.7 percent in 2022, compared to 3.2 percent recorded in 2021, driven by a growth in oil activities by 15.4 percent.

In 2022, non-oil activities and government services activities rose by 5.4 percent and 2.2 percent respectively.

Earlier in January, during the World Economic Forum at Davos, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund noted that Saudi Arabia is an economic bright spot at a difficult time for the world’s economies.

“We look at the high growth rates of Saudi Arabia with gratitude … also because we need that for the regional and the world economy,” said Georgieva.

The IMF managing director further pointed out that she is pretty much impressed with the way Saudi Arabia is progressing in line with the goals outlined in the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.

“They (Saudis) are using the increase in revenue very effectively to create the investment environment for future growth for diversifying the economy,” added Georgieva.

Meanwhile, the IMF, in its World Economic Outlook report, lowered Saudi Arabia’s economic growth forecast to 2.6 percent for 2023, 1.1 percentage points lower than its October estimate of 3.7 percent.