Salasa is a logistics fulfilment company based in Saudi Arabia. Working with e-commerce companies, Salasa fulfils their orders, packs them and couriers them to customers. The company caught the attention of investors when it built up noon’s logistics base in Saudi Arabia.
We spoke to the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer Abdulmajeed Alyemni, who studied as an industrial engineer at Kind Saud University and worked as a planning manager at King Abdullah Hospital when he came up with the idea for Salasa with his co-founder Hasan Alhazmi.
Salasa is due to close its Series A funding round soon.
How did the idea for Salasa come about?
We realised there were a lot of e-commerce startups who were facing the pains of building fulfilment centres and warehouses which need huge investment. This distracted them from their core business of sales and marketing and sourcing new products. So we came up with the idea in January 2017.
At what point did you realise it was time to leave your full-time job?
My family was very supportive, but some of my friends thought I was crazy since I had a very good salary, very good career and the future seemed bright for me. But I believed in the idea and the market because e-commerce is growing tremendously. When you dig deep in the numbers you see in the Gulf countries only 3 per cent of retail is online. In the UK that is almost 18 per cent. We know this market will grow six or seven times and we need to be part of it. This is the stage I realised I had to go for it.
The Saudi market is very attractive, especially to companies in China and Turkey. They are all interested to get into Saudi Arabia. This is supporting us big time, they see Salasa as a tool to access the market.
What were your main challenges?
The biggest challenge was getting the licence from the municipality, it took eight months. I thought it would take a month.
In the beginning it was very hard to tell the clients what fulfilment was. It was very hard to explain so we started doing seminars, education sessions, we presented many videos about what fulfilment is and how it’s important for e-commerce startups. In 2017 we participated in more than 10 exhibitions and then we were able to acquire a lot of customers. We started in a warehouse with a space of 1200sq metres and we are now running warehouses of almost 8000sq metres in Riyadh.
Lack of talent is also a challenge. We used to say a luck of funds, but now there are a lot of VCs [venture capital] here, funding is not an issue anymore especially with the government support. It has been a big hassle for us to find talented people to work for us, this is why sometimes we think of moving to Dubai.
Have you made any sacrifices by becoming an entrepreneur?
From the moment you wake up, you’re working. We work six days a week. Fridays are a great day to work because there are no distractions. I’m not sure if work-life balance exists in startups. We have been through a lot of doubts, there are a lot of moments when you stop and say, why am I doing this? But I truly believe and love what I’m doing. This is very important. If you don’t believe in it, if you don’t love it, you will never succeed.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
A lot of startups, when they’re in the growth stage ignore their back office, like the accounting and HR [human resources]. At one stage it will become your biggest pain. It’s not about growth or acquiring customers, it’s about your back office and it’s important to structure it well. If you have the chance to do it right, do it right.
How do you see your industry evolving in the next decade?
Technology is most important thing when it comes to fulfilment, for scaling it is better for us to go robotic and to automated warehouses. This is something that will happen within the next two to three years. This is why we are doing a lot of research and development when it comes to robotics. We are doing something with King Abdullah Economic City, we are experimenting with drone delivery. The plan is to invest more in technology to expand in the Kingdom to open fulfilment centres in the East and West region. We’re investing a lot of time in delivery management solutions.