RIYADH: Abeer Al-Hashim is a busy woman who runs a chain of popular ice cream shops called Nine Soft Serve in Alkhobar. When she’s not looking after her clients, she’s hatching expansion plans with one of the most unlikely mentors: Monsha’at, or the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises in Saudi Arabia.
And she certainly had a bumpy trip. Starting as a single mobile ice cream unit in 2018, Al-Hashim now operates six retail outlets – four in Riyadh and two in Alkhobar.
What makes her story truly inspiring is how Monsha’at turned her business plans upside down. The state-owned mentor provided her with advice and resources to expand her business locally and internationally, including connecting her with a franchise consulting firm.
“The whole business process is now easier. It is so easy to communicate with the government online and as a woman you no longer need a man to speak on your behalf,” Al-Hashim said.
fuel the fire
Monsha’at, for its part, powers SMEs by providing entrepreneurial platforms such as business incubators, business accelerators and coworking spaces. The authority also arranges government expense reimbursements, direct and indirect loan programs for SMEs and fast-growing unicorns.
The public authority, in collaboration with the US-based Global Entrepreneurship Network, is organizing the Global Entrepreneurship Congress, which will be attended by more than 180 countries from March 27 to 30, 2022. The event will take place at the International Conference Center King Abdulaziz. and the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
“Our role is to provide quality programs, services and initiatives that meet the basic needs of SMEs, which represent approximately 99.6% of all private sector establishments and over 60% of all private sector employees. in Saudi Arabia, to increase their contribution to 35 percent of gross domestic product by 2030,” said Saleh Ibrahim Al-Rasheed, Governor of Monsha’at in Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, or GEM, Global Report 2020 -2021.
According to the GEM report, the Kingdom ranked first out of 45 countries in the following categories: availability of good opportunities to start a business, ease of starting a business, business response to the pandemic, and government response to the pandemic. .
It ranked second for individual skills and infrastructure and third in the following categories: ease of access to business and enterprise finance and ease of access to markets and market dynamics. It was ranked fourth out of 45 countries for government support for business and lack of barriers and ease of regulations for market access.
The Kingdom also ranked first in the world for government and entrepreneurial response to the pandemic and seventh for entrepreneurial progress, the report said.
Charge the atmosphere
Besides Monsha’at, Saudi Aramco is exploring ways to diversify the Kingdom’s economy by encouraging Wa’ed, its entrepreneurship program.
Late last year, he organized a nationwide tour to scout tech-focused startups from various industry sectors and bring them to the mainstream. The reward on participation was SR7.65 million. Winners included Slates, a web browser extension that allows users to save, preserve and share their Internet discoveries in organized collections with notes in a single URL. The company pocketed SR75,000.
“By supporting Saudi Arabia’s most disruptive, technology-driven startups and opening applications to all qualified entrepreneurs, Wa’ed’s Entrepreneurship Roadshow was the perfect opportunity to provide them with the financial and entrepreneurial support needed to grow,” said Fahad Alidi, managing director at Wa’ed.
The wave of digitization
The only drag on the entrepreneurial drive was that much of the business activity was centered around consumer-driven occupations. According to GEM’s 2020-2021 KSA report, entrepreneurship and established business activities in the Kingdom show low participation in medium and high-tech sectors.
Recently, Monsha’at pointed out that digitalization is being actively pursued in the region and entrepreneurs will soon be able to leverage these means to develop, deploy and thrive on new business models, effective collaborations and continued recovery.
The mood on the ground was best conveyed by Adib Al-Zamil, chairman of Jadwa Investment, an investment services company. He said: “It seems like everyone is talking about computer-based technologies these days. And the young men and women of this country are very tuned into this industry, they understand it, they love it.