Saudi edtech startup YaSchools poised to transform Jordan’s education landscape 

Saudi edtech startup YaSchools poised to transform Jordan’s education landscape 
In just two years, YaSchools has amassed over 100,000 registered customers on its platform, recording more than 5 million visits in the past 12 months. (Supplied)
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Updated 28 August 2023

Saudi edtech startup YaSchools poised to transform Jordan’s education landscape 

Saudi edtech startup YaSchools poised to transform Jordan’s education landscape 
  • Saudi-based company leverages insights in digital education solutions

CAIRO: Saudi startups are making a profound impact on the Gulf’s business environment, with companies spanning diverse sectors expanding their influence beyond local boundaries to elevate the regional ecosystem.  

YaSchools, a Saudi-based educational technology startup, is leading the charge by meticulously planning its entry into the Jordanian market, leveraging its insights into the untapped potential and surging demand for digital education solutions within the country. 

In an interview with Arab News, Mohamed Zohair, CEO and founder of YaSchools, revealed that the company is gearing up to commence full operations in Jordan by the last quarter of this year. 

“We have completed the basic required steps with our local partner in the Jordanian market, and we are currently seeking to secure the necessary approvals to start our business there,” Zohair added.  

The company is positioning itself as a trailblazer in Jordan’s emerging tech landscape, capitalizing on the country’s ongoing educational advancements.  

“The Jordanian market is very interested in education, and on the other hand, financial services have developed a lot in the past period, So, presenting YaSchools in the Jordanian market as a pioneer service provider will add a lot to the growth of YaSchools and will help in achieving our strategic goals,” Zohair said.  

In the ever-changing landscape of education, YaSchools serves as a lynchpin, offering tailored solutions to each stakeholder in the educational ecosystem, Zohair explained.  

For parents, YaSchools serves as more than an informational hub — it stands as a financial ally. Beyond offering school insights, the platform equips families with flexible tuition payment plans spread over 12 months, coupled with exclusive tuition discounts. Moreover, it facilitates access to qualified private tutors, ensuring personalized academic support for their children. 

For educational institutions, YaSchools functions as a digital extension of their administrative efforts, providing a suite of innovative products that empower schools to foster more meaningful interactions with parents, streamline financial management, and seamlessly integrate with existing internal systems. 

“For teachers, we provide them with a full profile page that contains all the professional information and academic achievements that they have obtained. It is also possible to view the job opportunities available in schools and apply for them directly,” Zohair said.  

Corporations, both governmental and private, can also benefit from YaSchools’ offerings, “we offer their employees discounts on tuition fees, while facilitating their instalments without the need to visit the school or the bank,” Zohair explained.  

“Simply the services that YaSchools currently provides puts it in a leading position in the Saudi market,” he added.  

In just two years of operations, the company has already amassed over 100,000 registered customers on its platform, recording more than 5 million visits in the past 12 months. Looking forward, YaSchools aims to onboard around 200 schools from Jordan and attract over 5,000 parents by the end of the year. 

“The platform currently has more than 92,000 registered parents, and the number is increasing all the time. We expect this number will exceed 110,000 by the end of this year,” Zohair stated.  

While YaSchools is considering the prospect of setting up an office in Jordan, it currently plans to operate through its local agent’s office in Amman. Additionally, Zohair mentioned that the company will soon make another announcement concerning its expansion plans in the second half of 2024. 

Elaborating on YaSchools’ long-term objectives, the CEO emphasized the company’s ambition to establish itself as the go-to platform for parents making educational decisions for their children.  

Zohair highlighted that their offerings extend beyond schooling and encompass areas like ongoing development, sports training, entertainment, psychological and health care.  

Regarding the Saudi market, the company is actively pursuing strategic partnerships with government institutions to enhance the overall customer experience, Zohair revealed. 

“The Saudi market in general is an excellent market, and the current period is more mature than before, especially with the unprecedented support in digital transformation, financial services, and accompanying legislation and regulations,” Zohair said.  

Mohamed Zohair, CEO of YaSchools

At the core of its philosophy, the company asserts that the evolution of the learning process is multi-faceted, Zohair explained.  

“It not only hinges on augmenting student knowledge and skills but also on elevating the educational infrastructure, particularly the human resources who interact with students daily,” he added   

On the other hand, he said artificial intelligence technologies are an ongoing journey that the company is currently working on the platform to develop several services.  

“We are also working on developing a product that will help the management of education companies in hiring the best cadres for their companies through a matchmaking mechanism between job requirements and available jobs,” he added.  

The company’s business model operates on a commission-fee basis, but Zohair stated: “We are still working on developing the best business model.”  

It currently generates direct revenues from facilitating parents’ financing of tuition fees, in addition to other revenues from enhancing the digital presence of educational companies.  

YaSchools raised $600,000 in a seed funding round in August, receiving support from angel investors. Looking ahead, Zohair underlined the company’s need for additional capital to drive its expansion plans. 

“We seek to raise $2 million for pre-series A round, and we plan to finish this round early next year. The investment plan will target collecting this money from venture capitals,” he concluded. 

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention
Updated 24 September 2023

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention

Industry heavyweights focus on talent acquisition, retention

RIYADH: Talent acquisition, retention, and mentoring will be in the spotlight at the upcoming hospitality summit in the UAE as industry heavyweights gather to discuss the significance of investing in human resources and incorporate the concepts of environmental, social, and governance in the recruitment process.

The Future Hospitality Summit scheduled to be held on Sept. 25-27 at Hilton Yas Island in Abu Dhabi under the theme “Focus on Investment” will focus on the importance of prioritizing human capital investment, addressing talent shortage, recruiting, and retaining suitable workforce.

According to Mariam Al-Musharrekh, executive director of human resources at Miral — the summit’s host sponsor — recruitment retention, and development of talent are essential to meeting the increasing demand for sustainable, digitalized, and hyper-personalized guest experiences in the leisure, entertainment, and tourism industry.

“A heightened focus on attracting and retaining top talent, while cultivating and investing in their long-term growth and ensuring they have the best possible start to their careers will remain paramount for the growth of the industry,” Al-Musharrekh said.

“An organization’s workforce must be empowered to contribute meaningfully to sustainable practices by cultivating a culture of ethical governance, community engagement, and continuous learning,” she added.

Hospitality leaders will offer their perspectives on key aspects such as workforce skills, finding and keeping talent, and attracting Emirati and Saudi nationals in the hospitality sector.

As guest preferences continue to evolve and technology becomes more prominent in the hospitality industry, it’s essential to ensure that workforce skills stay current.

“The hospitality sector has gone through a revolution over the past few years through the integration of digital ecosystems within its operations. Following this revolution, recruitment, retention, and development remain a focal point for success within the industry, as hospitality professionals are key to driving hyper-personalized experiences,” Al-Musharrekh added.

“It requires passionate individuals who understand the delicate balance between technology and hospitality, and by dedicating more of our time and budgets toward mentorship programs, cross-training, and tailored development paths,” Dimitris Manikis, president of Wyndham Hotels and Resort in Europe and MEA, said in a statement.

Manikis said that increased investment is required in the recruitment and retention of individuals with the right qualifications and adaptability to meet the changing demands of the sector.

It involves supporting the upcoming generation and commencing from the foundational level. This entails collaborating with educational institutions such as schools and universities to establish internship initiatives that enable young talents to learn insights from industry experts and prepare for the future.

Paul Griep, director of Industry and Alumni Relations at Hotelschool The Hague, said: “I believe both education as well as the industry can make a true competitive difference by assessing which aspects of the hospitality journey can be resolved by technology and which aspects will need a more ‘human’ touch.” 

The Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, is making record-level investments in the tourism and hospitality sector. It is estimated that by 2026, there will be a demand for nearly 100,000 well-trained hospitality experts.

“Over the last few years, we have seen notable transformations in recruitment and retention practices, with the shift attributed to various factors including technological advancements and changing market dynamics,” Al-Musharrekh commented.

She also added that recruitment has become more focused and personalized as a result of the use of data-driven methodologies, assisting in the discovery of more suitable individuals

Sunil John, president of ASDA’A Burson Cohn & Wolfe in the Middle East and North Africa, said that the hospitality sector has emerged as one of the top areas for creating new jobs, especially for the youth but added: “To attract regional talent, the hospitality sector must underline the growth opportunities it provides.”

“Typically, in the region, the hospitality sector has been dominated by expatriate professionals — and there is an urgent need to nurture and build robust career choices for nationals,” John continued.

Griep added that the industry has a chance to do this “right” this time, viewing the demand for 100,000 skilled professionals as both the most significant challenge and the “greatest” opportunity.

However, he said that “this may not be the most sustainable and/or ethical which will be accepted at a lesser extent by newer generations.”

“Saudi Arabia can be the ‘lab’ where an array of new techniques, approaches to talent, and recruitment can be tested in action,” Manikis said.

Attracting and retaining talent in the hospitality industry requires a holistic approach that addresses compensation, work-life balance, career development, workplace culture, and societal responsibility.

Jeroen Greven, the managing director of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, explained different approaches to attracting and retaining talents.

He said it is important to showcase “the unique opportunities and experiences” that the Middle East has to offer to attract potential candidates. Another approach, he added, is to increase collaboration with educational institutions to provide specialized hospitality programs.

Greven also added: “As the industry expands, a strategic mix of appealing incentives and employee-centric policies will remain central to securing and nurturing a skilled workforce.”

“Our approach to nurturing Arab youth talent involves forging partnerships with educational institutions, continuing to offer internships and mentorship programs, and remaining committed to creating an environment where young local talents can flourish and contribute meaningfully to the industry,” Manikis commented.

Moreover, ensuring the development of talent in a responsible ESG-driven environment is also important to ensure sustainable growth of the industry. Greven added: “Start by incorporating sustainability modules into training programs to raise awareness and foster a culture of responsible practices through continuous education on environmental and social issues.”

This can also be done by implementing mentorship programs where seasoned professionals guide talent in ESG considerations.

In May, the summit was held in Riyadh under the theme “Invest in Change,” as it emphasized the importance of the positive change that can be brought about by investing in time, intellect, and experience to keep up with the changing times and trends.

The summit focused on creating job opportunities for young Saudis by fostering the development of a skilled and talented workforce for the hospitality sector.

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi
Updated 24 September 2023

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi

Sustainability tops agenda as summit set to begin in Abu Dhabi

RIYADH: Principles related to environmental, social, and governance are top of the agenda as top names in the hospitality sector meet in Abu Dhabi for the Future Hospitality Summit on Sept. 26.

From increased calls on climate action in the tourism and hospitality sector to Dubai hosting the COP28 this winter, most of the discussions at this year’s event are expected to be centered around measures to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the sector contributes up to 11 percent of the total emissions in the world, and this figure is predicted to double by 2050.

With this in mind, industry leaders and most of the key players in the sector have already taken measures to ensure a greener future

Sustainability factor

Haitham Mattar, managing director of India, Middle East and Africa at IHG Hotels and Resorts, believes the tourism and hospitality sectors play a pivotal role in working toward a sustainable future.

“At IHG, we embrace our responsibility and opportunity to make a positive difference and (are) helping to shape the future of responsible travel,” said Mattar.

He added: “We are determined to contribute toward positive social and economic change, to stand up for key issues such as diversity, equity and inclusion, and human rights, and to make more responsible environmental choices.”

Mattar said IHG is working toward reducing carbon emissions, along with eliminating single-use items and moving to reusable and recyclable alternatives, as well as reducing the food waste from its hotel chain.

Jonathan Brown, chief portfolio officer of Miral Group, the host sponsor of FHS, believes the path to sustainability across the UAE’s leisure, entertainment, and tourism industry has been emboldened by a national strategy accentuating clean energy sources together with net-zero objectives.

Brown said: “Our ambition to accelerate the realization of the Emirate’s tourism growth and contribute to the industry’s ecosystem underpinned by a commitment to creating value for our customers, partners, and society, and positively impacting the communities in which we operate.”

He added: “Ultimately, the key to balancing growth with sustainable development lies in collective action, strategic partnerships, and long-standing investments.”

Richard Williamson, chief operating officer of Considerate Group, said the interest and investments surrounding ESG principles in the hospitality sector have picked up pace in recent years, and are a significant part of the agenda at events such as FHS.

“In 2023, we more often find a chief sustainability officer owning the agenda, with a dedicated ESG budget. Our role has evolved so that we now habitually provide advice and support to the CSO,” said Williamson.

He added: “This reflects the change in ESG engagement moving from a warm, slightly ‘wooly’ industry, to a more quantitative, data-led stage.”

Williamson believes the ESG evolution in the hospitality sector is being driven by four crucial factors: tightening regulations, stakeholder reporting requirements, asset-level carbon footprint analysis, and climate risk and resilience.

Fahad Abdulrahim Kazim, CEO of Millennium Hotels & Resorts, echoed those views and noted the hospitality industry’s investment in ESG and sustainability is becoming increasingly robust and essential.

“We are witnessing a significant shift as more hotels and resorts recognize the long-term benefits of incorporating environmental, social, and governance considerations into their business strategies,” said Kazim.

The executive added that industry leaders in the hospitality sector are steadily adopting energy efficient technologies, waste reduction initiatives, community engagement programs, and responsible sourcing practices.

“As consumer preferences align more with sustainable choices, the hospitality sector’s commitment to ESG is not just a trend but a necessary path to secure a greener and more resilient future,” Kazim noted.

Millennium Hotels & Resorts aims to reduce environmental impact through sustainable practices, including a reduction in single-use plastics, Kazim added.

“We seek to establish and nurture long-term relationships with residents and organizations by supporting local small and medium-sized enterprises. At Millennium Hotels & Resorts, we remain dedicated to leading this charge and setting a strong example for sustainable hospitality practices,” he said.

Kazim further pointed out that the biggest priority in the hospitality sector is striking the right balance between exceptional guest experiences and minimizing the environmental footprint.

Radisson Hotel Group’s Vice President of Business Development Elie Milky noted that the hospitality sector is witnessing a paradigm shift from sustainability being a “nice-to-have” to a fundamental core value.

“Investments in ESG reflect our ethical responsibilities and become vital for business resilience and long-term success,” said Milky.

He added: “As an industry that primarily revolves around physical locations, buildings, and transportation, we have a significant role in driving forward green building practices, efficient energy consumption, and sustainable transportation solutions for our guests.”

Paul Stevens, chief operating officer of the premium, midscale and economy division for Middle East, Africa and Turkiye at Accor, said the company has been a pioneer in bringing sustainable development to the hospitality industry for more than 30 years.

 “We drive transformation by collaborating closely with our hotel owners, partners and stakeholders to embed sustainability across all activities, making a positive impact on people and nature, which are two fundamentals at the core of our practices,” added Stevens.

According to the executive, the sustainable transition is not only just a strategic priority but is a fundamental necessity.

“ESG practices are no longer optional; they have evolved into essential requirements for staying competitive, attracting guests, and maintaining long-term viability,” he said.

Possible challenges

Talking about the challenges faced by the hospitality sector while reducing sustainability, IHG Hotels’ Mattar noted the most crucial to tackle is the lack of standardization.

He said: “For governments to set ESG targets, industry level standards are pivotal to mandate across different areas of sustainability. As an industry, standardization is a recurring topic of importance that appears in virtually every conversation, as well as across customer forums.

Mattar added: “It is the need of the hour for governments, businesses and trade bodies to harmonize efforts and as a result, maintain effective tourism and hospitality ESG standards.”

Stevens believes the hospitality sector faces intricate challenges when it comes to the development and execution of ESG strategies and deviating from traditional ways of doing things.

“The strategies are not one-size-fits-all solutions, each destination possesses its own unique challenges and opportunities, demanding a customized approach,” added Stevens.

Middle East to bolster global hospitality space with $1.9tn worth of projects

Middle East to bolster global hospitality space with $1.9tn worth of projects
Updated 24 September 2023

Middle East to bolster global hospitality space with $1.9tn worth of projects

Middle East to bolster global hospitality space with $1.9tn worth of projects

RIYADH: Hospitality and residential projects worth $1.9 trillion are fueling a transformation of the Middle East, according to a report released ahead of a major industry conference.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Egypt are at the forefront of this change, representing 90 percent, or $1.7 trillion, of the total investment, according to research by real estate consultants Knight Frank.

These findings were shared in anticipation of the Future Hospitality Summit, scheduled to be held in Abu Dhabi from Sept. 25 to 27.

The report stated that the Kingdom leads the regional investment chart with projects worth $1.2 trillion. The UAE and Egypt followed suit, with $300 billion and $200 billion earmarked, respectively.  

These ventures underline the Arab world’s goal of attracting 160 million tourists annually by 2030.

“The Middle East’s travel and tourism sector witnessed tremendous growth with a 46.9 percent increase in its contribution to the gross domestic product in 2023, which is the highest of any region in the world,” Turab Saleem, partner and head of hospitality, tourism and leisure for the Middle East and North Africa at Knight Frank, said.

He added: “This growth is being driven by a 14.5 percent increase in the number of jobs supported by the sector and a more than $107 billion increase in its overall contribution to the gross domestic product. Moreover, the sector has also created 0.9 million new jobs.”

Global commercial real estate experts Colliers also provide insights into the current landscape, revealing numerous advanced-stage hospitality-related negotiations. Several high-profile properties are poised for acquisition in the ensuing months.

James Wrenn, executive director and head of Capital Markets, MENA, at Colliers, said: “There’s a strong appetite for the hospitality asset class — particularly in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah — from regional and international investors, buoyed by strong operating performance last year and the continued enhancement of the UAE as a top-tier international tourism destination.”

Additionally, Hala Choufany, president of global hospitality consulting firm HVS, expressed her hope for the industry’s growth in the region.

“The number of quality hotel rooms in the region grew fivefold from about 100,000 in 2010 to 540,000 in 2022, with occupied room nights growing from 27 million to 135 million. An additional 180,000 keys are expected to enter the region over the next five years, which is forecast to increase occupied room nights to 184 million by 2028,” Choufany said.

She added: “Today, the Middle East is expected to achieve higher growth compared to other regions, presenting attractive financial returns and providing long-term investment opportunities.”

The upcoming FHS in Abu Dhabi promises insights from over 100 industry leaders that will delve deep into the opportunities present in the region’s tourism sector, and is being held under the theme “Focus on Investment.”

Oman’s Q2 GDP falls 9.5% to $26.3bn due to drop in oil activities 

Oman’s Q2 GDP falls 9.5% to $26.3bn due to drop in oil activities 
Updated 24 September 2023

Oman’s Q2 GDP falls 9.5% to $26.3bn due to drop in oil activities 

Oman’s Q2 GDP falls 9.5% to $26.3bn due to drop in oil activities 

RIYADH: Oman’s gross domestic product registered a 9.5 percent decline in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the same period last year, primarily attributed to a drop in oil-related activities. 

The GDP at current prices fell to 10.08 billion Omani rials ($26.3 billion) in the second quarter from the 11.14 billion rials recorded during the same period last year, according to the National Center for Statistics and Information. 

Citing data from the NCSI, the Oman News Agency reported that the decline was primarily due to a 18.3 percent decrease in the value of oil-related activities during the second quarter. This drop went from 4.46 billion rials in the year-ago period to 3.64 billion rials. 

A more detailed breakdown revealed that the value of crude oil activities slumped by 19.5 percent to 3.17 billion rials, and natural gas activities descended by 9.2 percent to 475.6 million rials. 

In the non-oil sector, revenue in the second quarter slipped by 3.6 percent. It fell from 7.12 million rials in the corresponding period last year to 6.86 million rials. 

Furthermore, earnings from industrial activities decreased, totaling 1.63 million rials in the second quarter, compared to 2.22 billion rials between April and June of 2022. 

During the second quarter, agricultural, forestry, and fishing activities contributed 206 million rials to the GDP, while services accounted for 5.02 billion rials. 

Additionally, the GDP at current prices for the first half of 2023 experienced a 2.4 percent decline, reaching 20.39 billion rials compared to the same period last year. 

Credit and deposits rise 8.7%  

Oman’s banking sector witnessed an 8.7 percent growth in credit and deposits, reaching 30.3 billion rials in the first seven months of the year. 

According to the country’s central bank, credit extended to the private sector also grew by 9.3 percent during the same period, reaching 25.5 billion rials. 

An analysis of this credit distribution by sector revealed that non-financial companies held a 45.9 percent share between January and June, followed by the individual sector at 44.5 percent. The financial sector accounted for 5.9 percent, while other industries represented 3.7 percent. 

Saudi National Housing Co. delivers over 30k units up to September  

Saudi National Housing Co. delivers over 30k units up to September  
Updated 24 September 2023

Saudi National Housing Co. delivers over 30k units up to September  

Saudi National Housing Co. delivers over 30k units up to September  

RIYADH: In a bid to expedite first-time home ownership among Saudi families, the National Housing Co. has announced the successful delivery of over 30,000 units up to September 2023, in collaboration with property developers.  

The announcement coincided with the celebration of the 93rd Saudi National Day, further emphasizing the NHC’s objective of providing modern accommodations to over 300,000 individuals by 2025.  

This mission also aligns with the firm’s efforts to accelerate the pace of first-time home ownership, with the provision of diverse housing options and high-quality projects contributing significantly to the development of the real estate supply in the Kingdom. 

In a statement, the NHC explained that the delivery of the residential units is dispersed across 11 cities around the Kingdom, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Makkah and Al-Ahsa. They are also distributed across Dammam, Qatif, Alkhobar, Khamis Mushayt, Taif, Yanbu and Madinah. 

The company also stated that it is actively working on various future projects under construction, offering competitive prices while adhering to the highest standards of quality and sustainability within residential environments designed to enhance the quality of life.  

These projects integrate services, green spaces, vital facilities, and pedestrian paths to ensure safe and easy access to all amenities, it added. 

The housing company said this holistic approach is expected to boost social and environmental sustainability while promoting a healthy lifestyle for Saudi families. These projects are being carried out in partnership with the Real Estate Development Fund and financing agencies from the private sector. 

Established in 2016, the NHC aims to become a leader in the real estate development sector and foster strategic partnerships between the public and private sectors. 

The company said it is committed to providing high-quality projects in urban communities with modern designs and various housing solutions at affordable prices. This commitment aligns with the aspirations of future generations and aims to improve their quality of life, all in collaboration with experienced and efficient real estate developers. 

Under the housing program, one of the key initiatives of Saudi Vision 2030, the Kingdom aims to increase the proportion of Saudi households that own a house from 47 percent in 2016 to 70 percent by 2030.