Entrepreneurship in Saudi Arabia: challenges and opportunities [Podcast]

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This podcast was previously published by Wamda Capital.

After the launch of their podcasts in English, featuring talks with entrepreneurs and business leaders, Wamda Capital has now launched their first Arabic podcast.

Talking about entrepreneurship and its evolution in Saudi Arabia Wamda Capital’s chairman and CEO, Fadi Ghandour, sat down with Mazen Al Darrab, general manager of the Saudi company Hrakat.Tv, and Salman AlSuhaibaney, CEO and founder of Morni KSA.

Saudi, a startup opportunity

The podcast covered varied topics such as the challenges SME owners faced when it came to funding; the state’s role in making entrepreneurial life easier and more accessible to graduates. They addressed the role of women in entrepreneurship and how to encourage them to get into this line of work; as well as the importance of the Saudi market in the region, in addition to the current key fields and opportunities and those regarding the Saudi Vision 2030.

Regarding the startup opportunities in the Saudi market, AlSuhaibaney found many untapped fields in the market, like ecommerce and F&B.

When it comes to the Saudi Vision 2030, he pointed out that startups and the private sector would be the biggest players in the economic transformation that it is promising, in turn he said this would encourage more companies to get into the Saudi market.

The money

For Al Darrab mentions that the most important aspect in this “vision” is focusing on investment – which despite its abundance in Saudi Arabia – is not directed towards startups and entrepreneurs for now, according to AlSuhaibaney.

On the topic of being smart with money. Al Darrab stated that many VC companies are expecting entrepreneurs to approach them fully ready. That is why “an entrepreneur must dedicate a lot of time to make his company ready for investments, and VC companies must provide mentorship in addition to investments.”

View of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Image via AP)

Legislation

Missing legislation and regulation changes also form barriers. The solution, according to AlSuhaibaney, is adopting a “fast track”, a system similar to what the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority did with foreign investments, along with choosing a clear definition for SMEs. Al Darrab said that one of the most positive things in Saudi Arabia was the creation of the Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises which laid out specifications and united the side responsible for this sector. However, there is still the gap that is legal professionals and experts in the startup sector, for the wider Arab region, as well as Saudi.

Breaking moulds

A lot of the Arab and Saudi youth prefer working in the public sector, this can create problems when it comes to finding talents for startups. AlSuhaibaney mentioned that startups can overcome this problem by hiring fresh graduates with reasonable salaries while giving them chances and opportunities they would not ordinarily be given elsewhere.

While women in Saudi Arabia constitute 50 percent of college graduates, Al Darrab finds “this topic in Saudi Arabia to be positively different, hiring women is becoming more acceptable because they are more likely to stay in their jobs and are more giving when it comes to their work. You can also find a lot of startups that are founded by women. As a result, governments can create local plans to encourage female employment.”

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