Nailing It: Here's What Entrepreneurs Should Consider When Relocating Their Businesses To Saudi Arabia

Nailing It: Here's What Entrepreneurs Should Consider When Relocating Their Businesses To Saudi Arabia

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It’s daunting- the thought of leaving all that’s familiar to take on a new challenge. When I first came to the Middle East over 27 years ago, the landscape looked very different as I navigated my own career path and challenges in Dubai, while the city built up -quite literally- around me. Today, of course, Dubai has positioned itself as an international hub for business- a city of the future, no doubt.

However, I think that a change of scenery can fuel your creativity in a way like nothing else; it’s a chance to grow and expand your horizons, bringing your vision to life from an entirely different lens. That’s how I have approached my enterprise’s move to Saudi Arabia- a country that is evolving at such a rapid pace, you feel energized into action. The potential here is huge.

The Kingdom has a rapidly growing population; just over 32 million, as per the country’s 2022 census. Of the total number, Saudis make up 58.4% (18.8 million), while non-Saudis account for 41.6% (13.4 million) of the population. It’s clear to see that measures to make the country a more attractive proposition for professional expatriates is working.

Combined with groundbreaking social reforms, delivery of large-scale mega projects over the next decade, and easing of visa restrictions, the message is loud and clear: Saudi Arabia is open for business.

But that’s not to say there aren’t still obstacles to overcome. Opening a business in a different country is bound to come with its own unique set of issues. You definitely need to be patient, as nothing happens straight away! However, this is manageable if you take the time to understand the work culture, and be ready to adapt your planning.

Loyalty is something highly prized in Saudi society, which may not always be the first thing that comes to mind when doing business amid rising costs and other external pressures. Still, I find that working relationships thrive when there is a commitment on both sides to achieve a common goal.

Related: A New Report Released By Saudi Arabia-Based Foodics Reveals That Foodtech Startups In The Middle East Have Raised Over US$2.6 Billion In Funds In The Past Two Years

In this vein, working life in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia is actually quite similar. Yet, there is such an undercurrent of excitement running through the Kingdom right now, particularly as we rapidly approach 2030, the year of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

The country currently has 21 megaprojects in the pipeline, including the world’s longest skyscraper, an oil rig tourist destination, and of course, the futuristic city of NEOM, which, when completed, will be roughly the size of Belgium. It’s impressive, certainly, and along with these developments, the country’s societal shifts encouraging more women into the workforce is also key to securing Saudi’s promising future.

From my perspective, I find that while there is still male dominance in society, this narrative is changing. I think Saudi Arabia wants to empower women, but it’s going to take time for women to take higher leadership positions. Figures from the General Authority of Statistics last March show that Saudi women now make up 33.6% of the Saudi workforce, up from 17.4% five years ago.

It’s encouraging to see these figures on the rise, particularly for a women-focused business like mine. Our growth is led by inspiring women to be the most confident they can be. That starts by understanding the consumer need, and finding a niche that can appeal on a broad scale. The fact that we are a well-known homegrown brand is a great starting point; however, our experience is that the Saudi consumer is constantly changing, and you’re only going to know what makes them tick by spending time on the ground, getting to know them.

There’s also understanding the difference between cities and local economies, and how they operate. Riyadh is more forward-thinking in the industry and moves quicker, whereas Jeddah is still very traditional in places, so modernization is done at a much slower pace.

That being said, Saudi Arabia as a whole offers a very diverse multicultural environment to explore new growth opportunities, both as a business owner or an employee. I think beyond drive and ambition influencing your move, it’s important to have a good support system to make the transition easier. Even though Dubai is only a couple of hours away, it’s a very different place when you first arrive!

Speaking from experience, it’s all about preparation, and being willing to take a leap of faith into the unknown. Personally, I’m excited to see where the next steps take me and The Spa/Nail Shop in Saudi Arabia and beyond. And if it’s anything like my first experiences here, I know it’s going to be a very interesting ride indeed.

Related: A Transformational Leap: Looking Back On The Last Decade Of Saudi Arabia’s Startup Ecosystem

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