Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion

Special Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion
Under the Fashion Commission, which was one of 11 such bodies established in 2020 by the Ministry of Culture, a plethora of initiatives to further grow the sector both publicly and privately are being implemented. (Saudi Style Council photo)
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Updated 17 September 2023
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Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion

Saudi Arabia is cutting its cloth to become the next kingdom of fashion
  • Saudi Arabia’s market for fashion is on the rise, thanks to both public and private players

RIYADH: Until recently, the Saudi capital of Riyadh was hardly ever looked upon as a hotspot on the global fashion circuit. New York, Milan and Paris — these are the mainstays for fashion weeks, the cities where established and aspiring designers, buyers, and journalists have long gathered.

But times are changing, and Gulf countries are quickly becoming new hubs for the industry, particularly Saudi Arabia, where retail demand for fashion products has been forecast to increase by 48 percent to $32 billion in 2025, with the luxury field set to enjoy a 19 percent growth.

FASTFACT

Times are changing, and Gulf countries are quickly becoming new hubs for the industry, particularly Saudi Arabia, where retail demand for fashion products has been forecast to increase by 48 percent to $32 billion in 2025, with the luxury field set to enjoy a 19 percent growth.

With the first ever Riyadh Fashion Week underway from Oct. 20 to 23, Saudi designers will come into the spotlight on the catwalk in the capital of their own country. It is one of several of the Fashion Commission’s recent initiatives, following the launch of the ‘Saudi 100 Brands’ exhibition during Paris Fashion Week in June.
“Fashion retail has always been an attractive sector, specifically for women in Saudi,” Marriam Mossalli, a Saudi lifestyle editor, journalist and founder of communications agency Niche Arabia, told Arab News. “From sourcing fabric to working with local tailors; to selling within their immediate community; the profession has fit comfortably within our local ecosystem.”

She added: “Today, however, the appeal is global. With social media and e-commerce, the potential for many designers has grown exponentially as it’s not limited to their local market.”
The attention being paid to the industry signals the government’s belief in the sector’s potential for economic growth.
This shift has not happened by chance. The fashion industry has been identified as a key avenue for economic diversification for Saudi Arabia and is one of the non-hydrocarbon sectors rapidly on the rise.
Under the Fashion Commission, which was one of 11 such bodies established in 2020 by the Ministry of Culture, a plethora of initiatives to further grow the sector both publicly and privately are being implemented.
The commission’s March 2023 report “The State of Fashion in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2023” provides an analysis of the Kingdom’s fashion value chain.
It revealed Saudi Arabia’s plan to reduce reliance on overseas imports and put the country on the map by using homegrown talent. It also highlights the sector’s potential for growth.
In the report, Saudi Fashion Commission CEO Burak Cakmak said: “We are building the foundations for the future of fashion right now, here in Saudi Arabia.”
With retail demand for fashion products projected to increase by 48 percent to $32 billion by 2025, the Saudi fashion industry is positioned for significant expansion.
In 2021, Saudi Arabia’s fashion industry spent $7.3 billion on imported goods, showcasing the potential economic impact of fostering domestic capabilwities.

The report showcases the sector’s rapid development, its strategic alignment with the nation’s Vision 2030, and how the Kingdom’s youth are putting the country on the global fashion stage through new designs and product launches.
It states how the fashion ecosystem is estimated to contribute to 1.8 percent of the total Saudi workforce, employing 230 000 people. The industry has a 52 percent female participation in the Saudi fashion workforce and 66 percent Saudization within core fashion jobs. This workforce is made up of 90,000 core fashion occupations and 140,000 related roles.
Moreover, domestic retail sales in the Kingdom are forecasted to reach $32 billion in 2025, a 30 percent growth from 2021’s total of $24 billion. Luxury fashion is a significant driver of growth, with the market growing by 19 percent in 2021 due to repatriation of spending given travel restrictions, increased female empowerment and the continued rise of e-commerce.
The market for fashion in the Kingdom is also growing due to external players and their eagerness and readiness to do business in Saudi Arabia.
These include the major luxury and fashion retail powerhouse Dubai-based Chalhoub Group, which has increasingly been doing business in the Kingdom.
Jasmina Banda, chief strategy officer at Chalhoub Group, says the business has been operating in the Kingdom for over 30 years, and currently operates over 250 stores spread across the Kingdom.
It also has over 4,000 team members, six warehouses, and is currently building a state-of-the-art fulfillment facility in Riyadh. It has dedicated offices across the Kingdom, including retail academies.
“For Chalhoub, the Kingdom remains our second-largest market,” Banda told Arab News. “In the luxury space, Saudi Arabia is overall the second-largest market, even though that varies by category.
“For example, in prestige beauty, Saudi is a strong number two, competing with the UAE, while in high-end fashion it comes in at No. 4, after the UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar, as it is a category extensively bought abroad.”
She added: “Over the last few years the Saudi fashion market has seen a strong growth, especially during the COVID-19 years when the borders were closed.
“Since reopening, we continue seeing increased offshoring of luxury spend abroad and we expect major transformations in our retail categories to happen in the coming years, as new shopping malls open — currently there are more than five luxury destinations in different stages of construction in the Kingdom.”

Saudi women have long been known as big buyers of luxury fashion, Banda said, adding that people in the Kingdom are known for following trends on social media and being well-traveled.
“That is further shifting with the socio-demographic changes in Saudi Arabia, stemming from female empowerment and increasing workforce participation, as well as changes in the habits driven by entertainment options – cinemas, restaurants, concerts, etc.,” she said.
Banda also explained how when it came to marketing to Saudi consumers, buying and merchandising are tailored to the consumer preferences in terms of silhouette, color palette and sizing.
“Especially important seasons, such as Ramadan, are addressed through dedicated capsule collections, and specific marketing campaigns and activations. It is important to be bring to the customer global brands, in a tailored ‘glocal’ way,” she said.
All of Chalhoub’s largest luxury fashion brands are already present in Saudi Arabia.
Banda notes how in the luxury sector, Saudi Arabia represents 9 percent of the global market, due to the offshoring of spend. Saudis are often the top nationality shopping in Dubai, and increasingly in Qatar. In prestige beauty, however, Saudi Arabia represents one third of the Gulf Cooperation Council market.
“On the other hand, for some of the leading watches and jewelry brands, Saudi Arabia is the No. 1 market in the region by size. Maturity really varies by category,” she said, adding: “However, Saudi consumers are also frequent clients of top luxury brands in Europe, previously in the UK and France, and now predominantly in France — since the UK stopped tax free.”
Saudi spending on fashion will likely grow “exponentially,” she emphasizes, “once the country fully delivers on its tourism ambitions.”
The Fashion Commission’s report states how major opportunities for economic growth now lie within the sector’s nascent domestic fashion industry.
Rajaa Moumena, who sits on the board of the fashion association that works directly with the commission, believes the local industry is still in the early stage of development.

She said: “It is currently at the phase of awareness and setting up the appropriate legislation to create an enabling environment for entrepreneurs to start their businesses.
“This involves addressing various aspects such as licensing, permits, and regulations that govern the industry.”
One of the primary focuses, stresses Moumena, of Vision 2030 is to promote local production and reduce reliance on imports. This includes the production of all types of clothing, ranging from ready-to-wear garments to high-end haute couture. By encouraging local production, Saudi Arabia aims to create job opportunities, boost economic growth, and retain revenue within the country.
She emphasized that education is key for the domestic sector to grow.
“As the industry evolves and adopts new concepts, it is essential for educational institutions to keep pace with these changes. This means updating curricula, offering specialized courses, and providing students with practical skills required for the fashion industry. This will help opening doors to many jobs where skillful people are needed in the industry,” said Moumena.
By encouraging the Saudi youth to be creative and business savvy, Riyadh may soon be a permanent fixture on the global fashion calendar.


Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia leads November’s funding spree with $338m

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia leads November’s funding spree with $338m
Updated 09 December 2023
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Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia leads November’s funding spree with $338m

Startup Wrap – Saudi Arabia leads November’s funding spree with $338m

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s startup ecosystem continues to dominate the region after raising the most funds in the Middle East and North Africa during November.

According to Wamda’s Monthly report, the MENA region saw $764 million raised across 42 rounds in November – a 390 percent month-on-month increase and a 74 percent growth year-on-year.

Saudi Arabia topped the charts with $338 million secured across nine deals. The UAE came in second with $284 million across 22 deals and Egypt followed with $130.5 million over 5 deals.

Omniful provides merchants with a unified management system, warehouse management system, and transport management system to scale their businesses.

Furthermore, the remaining capital was raised by startups based in Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, and Tunisia.

Funding activity experienced a notable resurgence across all stages, with mega rounds constituting a significant portion of the capital influx.  

Noteworthy among these rounds were a $250 million debt round secured by Saudi Arabia-based Tamara, a substantial $200 million series D funding by the Kingdom’s Tabby, and a $130 million raised by Egypt’s MNT-halan through securitized bonds.

Collectively, these three rounds made up around 76 percent of the total funding raised during November.

In the recent funding landscape, the fintech sector emerged as the frontrunner in terms of funding volume, raising $485.9 million, primarily driven by the significant rounds raised by Tamara and Tabby.  

FASTFACT

Noteworthy among these rounds were a $250 million debt round secured by Saudi Arabia-based Tamara, a substantial $200 million series D funding by the Kingdom’s Tabby, and $130 million raised by Egypt’s MNT-halan through securitized bonds.

This sector also ranked second in terms of the number of deals, recording nine in total. Furthermore, a notable boost to the super app sector’s funding status was recorded with the industry raising $131 million during the month, thanks to MNT-Halan‘s round.  

The education technology sector managed to secure $41.4 million in funding, largely due to a major transaction by Saudi Arabia-based Noon.

Additionally, several other sectors witnessed funding rounds reaching into the tens of millions.

Notable among these were Saudi-based Retailo’s $15 million, Saudi Ajras’ $28 million, UAE’s Flow48’s $25 million, and Emirati Immensa’s $20 million round.

Out of the 42 deals reported, 10 successfully attracted direct global investment, predominantly from US-based investors.  

Within the region, UAE-based investors took the lead, participating in 21 deals, with Modus Capital standing out through its investment of $2.8 million across eight startups via its venture builder program. Saudi Arabian investors followed closely, engaging in 10 deals.

In terms of founder gender dynamics, male-founded startups dominated the funding scene, securing $753 million across 29 deals, accounting for 98.5 percent of the total funding.  

In stark contrast, female founders received less than 2 percent of the overall capital, amounting to $9 million. Mixed-gender founding teams raised the remaining 0.2 percent.

Mtor’s founder and CEO, Mohamed Maged, established the startup in April 2022. (Supplied)

The report indicated that nine startups did not disclose their exact funding amounts. A conservative estimate of $100,000 was assigned to each of these ventures.

These were NOWmoney, Awfar, and Lynk, as well as Lath, Chari, Wayup Sport, and Winshot, Akhdar, and Farcana.

Supply chain and ecommerce enabler Omniful raises $5.85m to boost regional operations

Supply chain and ecommerce enabler startup Omniful, co-headquartered in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, has raised $5.85 million in a seed funding round.

Led by VentureSouq, the round saw participation from 500 Global, DASH Ventures, Jahez Group, as well as SEEDRA Ventures, Bunat Ventures, Hala Ventures, and RZM Investments, along with family offices including Al Rasheed, Siraj Holding, Al Bawardi, Al Nafea, and a number of angel investors.

Founded in 2022 by Mostafa Abolnasr and Alankrit Nishad, Omniful provides merchants and fulfillment providers with a unified management system, warehouse management system, and transport management system to scale their businesses.

Mostafa Abolnasr, Omniful cofounder and CEO

Abolnasr, also the company’s CEO, said: “The future of commerce is hyperlocal and omnichannel, with consumers expecting brands to be closer to them, to deliver faster and offer a personalized experience. At Omniful, we are equipping merchants in this $4 trillion industry with a single platform to manage all their sales channels and deliver on time and in full, improving their efficiencies by 40 percent and their customer retention by 15 percent.”

He added: “Our seed round marks a major milestone, and together with our investors, we are excited about going out of stealth and launching our sales and marketing efforts in the Middle East, Africa, and India, followed by Europe and US.”

The future of commerce is hyperlocal and omnichannel, with consumers expecting brands to be closer to them, to deliver faster and offer a personalized experience.

Mostafa Abolnasr, Omniful cofounder and CEO

The company aims to utilize its fresh influx of capital to boost its operations in existing markets, primarily the UAE and the Kingdom, as well as double down on its technology development.

Nishad, the company’s chief technology officer, said: “As a product-led organization, our technology is a clear differentiator, making us the platform of choice for omnichannel merchants and high-volume 3PL (third party logistics) fulfillment providers. Over the next year, we will double down on growing our technology capabilities in India, while also planning for the launch of our platform there.”

Egypt’s Mtor closes $2.8m in a pre-seed round

Egypt’s online car parts marketplace Mtor has closed a $2.8 million pre-seed funding round led by Algebra Ventures with participation from Dutch Founders Fund, Aditum Ventures, LoftyInc Capital Management, and angel investors.

Founded in 2022 by Mohamed Maged, Moaz El-Megharbel, Mohamed Altaf, and Khaled Kandil, Mtor aims to revamp the car parts industry in Egypt with a unified online platform.

“It can be a car owner’s nightmare to get their car serviced. Mtor was founded to fundamentally transform this reality and make the process easier and more efficient, empowering a layer of local car workshops that are well rounded with quality parts, a suitable price position, and a good customer experience,” Maged, CEO of Mtor, said.

The company aims to utilize the received funding to further grow its product range and expand its local workshop client-base.

 


Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth

Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth
Updated 08 December 2023
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Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth

Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth
  • The emergence of high-tech companies for efficient service delivery has posed regulatory challenges for Pakistan
  • The regulatory sandbox approach has also been adopted by other countries to develop final set of rules for startups

ISLAMABAD: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) adopted a collaborative approach to developing a regulatory framework for startups and FinTech companies by issuing preliminary guidelines on Friday with an aim to test them against innovative products and business models before adopting the final set of rules.

The SBP’s “regulatory sandbox” approach is designed to provide a controlled environment for innovators to test their products and technologies, making it easier for the regulator to understand their implications for financial stability and consumer protection.

“State Bank of Pakistan has issued draft guidelines on regulatory sandbox for public consultation,” it said in a brief statement.

The SBP added this would allow the regulated entities, such as startups and FinTech firms, to participate in the process of testing new products and their preferred business models within the provided legal framework.

“As envisioned in SBP Vision 2028, the regulatory sandbox will encourage innovation in digital financial services and facilitate the existing and new market participants to build robust digital payments ecosystem in Pakistan,” the central bank explained in its statement.

“Similarly, it will help SBP to issue instructions and regulations for new and innovative FinTech solutions, ultimately resulting in increased financial and digital inclusion in the country,” it added.

The SBP said its initiative would strengthen its engagement with stakeholders in shaping the future of the country’s financial industry.

It invited banks, FinTech firms, industry experts, public and all interested parties to participate in the consultation process.

Pakistani startups, especially in fintech, e-commerce and logistics, have been attracting considerable investment from both domestic sources and international venture capital firms.

This burgeoning ecosystem, fueled by significant government support and a surge in digital adoption among a young, tech-savvy population, is said to be positioning the country as an emerging hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

As the country increasingly depends on high-tech companies for efficient service delivery, it has been encountering various regulatory challenges.

The regulatory sandboxes approach has also been adopted by other countries, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and Canada etc., among many others.

Each country’s sandbox is tailored to its specific regulatory environment and financial sector needs, though the core idea is to provide a space where new and potentially disruptive financial technologies can be tested safely and without immediately incurring the full burden of financial regulation.


Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points

Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points
Updated 08 December 2023
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Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points

Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points
  • Analysts say the current bull run at the stock market is fueled by IMF program and policy measures for economic improvement
  • An economic expert asks the government to comply with the IMF standby arrangement to ensure macroeconomic stability

KARACHI: Pakistan equities on Friday hit yet another record high by breaching the 66,000-mark amid bullish sentiments built on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program and completion of its first review, rupee stability, and the government’s plan to raise Rs90 billion through Islamic bonds, equity analysts said.
The key stock index, KSE100, closed the weekend trading session at a historic high level of 66,223 after gaining 1,505 points, or rising 2.33 percent. During the trading week, the index collectively gained 3,730 points. The recent rally has increased the market capitalization from $31.3 billion to $32.8 billion in a week.
“The stocks closed at a new record surge and new all-time high amid rupee stability and the government’s plan to launch Rs90 billion worth of Ijarah Sukuks for retail investors to diversify funding sources,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News.
He attributed the bull run to falling external debt, the positive outcome of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid forum established to fast-track decision-making and promote investment from foreign nations, and expectations for a current account surplus in November 2023.
In a landmark development for the country’s financial markets, the federal government launched one-year Ijarah Sukuk earlier in the day from the platform of Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in the first phase.
In total, the government plans to raise Rs90 billion through three auctions of the bond.
Speaking at the gong ceremony, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Pakistan’s economy faced multiple challenges at the start of the financial year 2023-2024, but the government had tried to solve the structural and macroeconomic issues which helped improve the situation.
“I would like to thank the effort of all stakeholders to bring our economy back on track by lowering the exchange rate of dollar from all-time high of approximately 307 on September 5, 2023, in the interbank market to around 284 today,” he said.
Kakar maintained the capital market served as a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and growth in the realm of finance.
“It provides fuel to business to expend, create jobs and contribute to overall development of society. As a part of federal government, we are committed to fostering an environment that nurtures and sustains this growth,” he added.
The prime minister said the capital market acted as a stabilizing force, absorbing shocks and steering the economy toward stability.
Economists say the current bull run is fueled by the successful completion of $3 billion IMF bailout program review, strong earnings growth and the steps taken by the government to discourage smuggling of various commodities and foreign currencies.
Pakistan expects another tranche of $700 million from IMF after the global lender’s board meeting on January 11, 2024.
“Pakistan stock exchange has tailwind of the IMF program, the completion of the first review, the enforcement measures by the establishment including curbing smuggling, de-dollarization and some improvements in the Afghan transit trade,” Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, former advisor to the finance ministry, told Arab News.
Going forward, he said the country would have to comply with the IMF standby arrangement to design another program for long term macroeconomic stability.
He noted this required more structural reforms in the economy after the new government takes over in the wake of the next general elections.


COP28: US-UAE climate-friendly farming effort grows to $17bn

COP28: US-UAE climate-friendly farming effort grows to $17bn
Updated 08 December 2023
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COP28: US-UAE climate-friendly farming effort grows to $17bn

COP28: US-UAE climate-friendly farming effort grows to $17bn

DUBAI: Funding for a joint effort by the US and the UAE to advance climate-friendly farming around the world has grown to more than $17 billion, the countries announced on Friday at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, according to Reuters.

The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate was launched in 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow and its funding comes from governments, companies, and non-governmental organizations.

Globally, food and farming contribute about a third of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nearly 80 projects have been announced under the AIM for Climate initiative since 2021, with goals to expand agricultural research, implement sustainable farming practices, and reduce methane emissions.

“I think it’s made people think about food and agriculture in a much different way,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference, adding: “And I think it’s reflected, frankly, in the fact that this COP ... has actually elevated food (and) agriculture to the point where it’s an integral part of COP meetings. That has not been the case for the previous 27.”

Funding for the effort has grown from $13 billion in May, when the US and the UAE co-hosted an AIM for Climate summit in Washington, and from $8 billion at COP27.

The new total includes $12 billion from governments and $5 billion from non-government parties such as companies and humanitarian organizations, said an AIM for Climate spokesperson.

The 27 new projects announced at COP28 range in size from $500 million to $150,000.

In one of the largest projects, companies including Bunge and Alphabet’s Google are working with the Nature Conservancy and the Brazilian state of Para to expand regenerative agriculture, which generally refers to practices like reduced tillage of cropland and lower pesticide use.

For the first time, agriculture is a major focus at this year’s climate summit, with a full day on Dec. 10 dedicated to food and farming topics.

“We understand that we need to speed up innovations ... to be able to transform agriculture food systems to more sustainable systems,” the UAE’s Minister for Climate and the Environment Mariam Almheiri told Reuters.

Advocacy groups want the nations and companies in attendance to pledge to tackle agricultural methane emissions in particular, most of which is from livestock production.


New KAPSARC-led analysis shows Saudi methane emissions 73% lower than IEA estimates

New KAPSARC-led analysis shows Saudi methane emissions 73% lower than IEA estimates
Updated 08 December 2023
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New KAPSARC-led analysis shows Saudi methane emissions 73% lower than IEA estimates

New KAPSARC-led analysis shows Saudi methane emissions 73% lower than IEA estimates

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has the second-lowest methane intensity in oil and gas production when compared to other crude-producing countries, according to new research by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center.

Working in collaboration with global environmental intelligence company Kayrros, KAPSARC used satellite technology to analyze emissions from 2016 to 2022.

The findings show that the Kingdom’s oil and gas sector was responsible for approximately 780 kilotons of methane in 2022, second only to Norway.

The emission estimates developed by are around 73 percent lower than those reported by the International Energy Agency and the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research for the same year.

Fahad Alajlan, president of KAPSARC, said: “This stark difference underscores the groundbreaking nature of our findings, challenging existing norms and emphasizing the importance of our innovative approach in redefining our understanding of emissions in Saudi Arabia.”

The project estimates that methane emissions from the Kingdom’s oil and gas industry constitute only one-third of total releases, aligning with the most recent national greenhouse gas inventory submitted by the Saudi Clean Development Mechanism Designated National Authority in 2022.

Antoine Rostand, co-founder and president at Kayrros, said: “Producers should strive to emulate the Saudi model, introducing strong methane regulations to limit emissions of this potent greenhouse gas and using independent, verifiable, and reliable data to guide action.

“We’re pleased to be working with KAPSARC to advance the collective understanding of methane emissions and to be involved in this first-of-its kind practice.”

KAPSARC and Kayrros will present the project at the UN climate change conference in Dubai on Dec. 10, 2023, during a side-event session titled “Satellite Technology for Measuring and Tracking GHG Emissions.”