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Masterclass With Entrepreneurship Expert & Investor Mohamed Nawito

After supporting over 30 startups in the Kingdom, Nawito shares his insights on how entrepreneurs can enter the Saudi market.

May El Habachi

Masterclass With Entrepreneurship Expert & Investor Mohamed Nawito

StartupScene’s op-ed series ‘Masterclass’ invites some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs and experts to divulge their secrets, dispense their knowledge, and share their experiences with the MENA region’s ever-growing startup ecosystem. Whether they’re written by old guards or trailblazers, these masterclasses have been created to illuminate the path for aspiring entrepreneurs.

This month’s Masterclass contributor is Mohamed Nawito, Portfolio Director at Falak Investment Hub in Saudi Arabia. Nawito shares his insights on how entrepreneurs can enter the Saudi Arabian market by drawing on his experience of supporting over 30 startups and their expansion  into the Kingdom.

Navigating the Saudi Arabian Market: A Comprehensive Guide for Entrepreneurs

When navigating Saudi Arabia's dynamic market, entrepreneurs need to not only have a global mindset, but also be aware of cultural nuances, which can go a long way in establishing a successful startup.

It's also important for founders to enter the Saudi startup space with solid technology, well-established market validation, repeatable successful cycle, scalability potential, adept technological integration, and strict adherence to legal compliance. These pivotal qualifications align seamlessly with the optimal startup stage, ensuring a solid foundation for a prosperous venture into the vibrant Saudi Arabian market.

UNDERSTANDING THE SAUDI MARKET

Market Research Mastery

Embarking on the journey to Saudi Arabia necessitates thorough market research. Understanding the intricacies of the Saudi business environment, consumer behaviour, cultural nuances, and industry trends is crucial. This knowledge becomes the cornerstone for tailoring products or services to meet the unique needs of the Saudi market.

Cultural Acumen

Respecting the rich cultural heritage of Saudi Arabia is paramount. To connect with the local audience, cultural sensitivity is essential. Entrepreneurs are advised to hire local talents familiar with the market intricacies, facilitating seamless integration and resonance with the Saudi audience.

NAVIGATING THE REGULATORY LANDSCAPE

Regulatory Compliance

Entrepreneurs must familiarise themselves with Saudi Arabia's legal and regulatory framework. This includes understanding licensing requirements and industry-specific regulations. Adhering to local laws is imperative for a smooth market entry and sustained operations. Each sector has its own regulatory authorities, licences, and ministries, and not being aligned with them can result in expensive government fines or losing market/segment trust as inexperienced professionals.

Government Initiatives

Saudi Arabia actively promotes entrepreneurship through various government initiatives. Entrepreneurs should explore programs and incentives offered by organisations such as the Ministry of Communication & Telecommunication (MCIT), Ministry of Investment, The Garage, and the National Technology Development Program (NTDP). Leveraging these resources provides crucial support for foreign businesses entering the Saudi market.

BUILDING LOCAL PRESENCE

Establishing Strategic Partnerships

Collaboration with local partners is instrumental in navigating the Saudi business landscape. Forming alliances with established Saudi businesses not only provides valuable market insights but also helps in building trust within the local community, especially as client/customer behaviour is fundamentally based on trust and word of mouth. Partnerships should be strategic and focused on certain sectors, especially since a bad partnership is worse than no partnership at all.

Leveraging Social Media

In Saudi Arabia, social media is critical. Entrepreneurs should establish a robust presence on popular platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Engaging with the audience through culturally relevant content and influencer partnerships enhances visibility and credibility. It is always advisable to hire your own local team or hire an agency to manage your digital presence as the content must be localised 100%. Also, the local team will know the tips and tricks in marketing and customer acquisition that you may not be aware of, in case you are an outsider. One of the major pillars of the digital presence is to rely on content creativity and influencers more than paid campaigns.

Participation in Local Events

Attending industry-specific events, trade shows, and conferences in Saudi Arabia is pivotal. Networking with local businesses and potential clients significantly enhances a startup's visibility and credibility. Building personal relationships is a very important element in Saudi Arabia if not the most important element. Some of the events you can’t miss are LEAP Forum, Biban Forum and Misk Global Forum.

TAILORING YOUR OFFERING

Localization of Products & Services

Adapting products or services to cater to the preferences and needs of the Saudi consumer is key. Offering localised solutions demonstrates a commitment to meeting the demands of the market. One of the most important things to localise and one in which you must get the help of local talent is UI/UX, especially as the market standard is higher than other markets. Also, the payment terms and methods are a key factor, including local vendors.

Customer service must also be done by local talents for their understanding of the market and the customers. The customers in Saudi have high purchasing power, which makes them more quality-oriented and looking for the whole deal better than part of it even if it is cheaper. They are looking for a complete solution, from A-Z, all the time.

Multilingual Approach

While English is widely spoken, providing content, marketing materials, and customer support in Arabic adds a personal touch and makes startups more accessible to a broader audience. Even Arabic speakers who are not Saudi are advised to hire local teams to support them in localising content, and to be able to speak the country's slang language.

As entrepreneurs navigate the nuances of this dynamic market, they position themselves not only for short-term success but also for sustained growth and prosperity. By understanding, adapting, and collaborating, the Saudi market becomes a canvas for innovation and achievement. The opportunities are boundless, waiting to be unveiled by those ready to embrace the challenges and triumphs of this transformative expansion.

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