What role will digitization play in growing the SME segment's contribution to the Saudi economy?
Digitalization is an increasingly important aspect that has gained even greater relevance as a trend, acting as a disruptive force across different sectors of the economy. Take the retail segment, for example, where e-commerce has brought major changes, revolutionizing interactions with clients and, more generally, the way business is conducted. Even the concept of asset-ownership has witnessed a meaningful change. Uber is a successful example of a leader in the car-sharing logistics segment without owning transport vehicles; in a similar way, Airbnb has disrupted the hospitality segment without owning any property. These stories tell us digital is already there, impacting business models and setting new trends even in Saudi Arabia. As such, SMEs need to ensure they remain ahead of the innovation curve and fully exploit the various competitive advantages of the digital economy.
What are Monsha'at's strategic priorities and expectations for 2019, and what is the main driver behind them?
Looking at the SME ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, we are in the early stages, especially when looking at the development of entrepreneurship. Indeed, we recently started to set up the necessary infrastructure conducive to a sustainable environment and to meeting the goals set by Saudi Vision 2030. As such, we need to look at the broader spectrum and implement and support programs and projects aimed at developing and growing SMEs within their different stages and requirements. On the venture capital side, we launched a SAR2.8-billion government VC fund targeting start-ups, aiming at bridging the investment gap and spurring more SME investments. When it comes to business enablement, we have created and supported through official licenses, a series of hubs, and co-working spaces to nurture young companies and provide them with the right environment. Finally, we have announced many accelerators to ensure start-ups grow organically into businesses that provide the right type of services to the market.
How can the government increase the attractiveness of entrepreneurship in the eyes of young Saudi nationals?
Saudi Arabia's start-up environment is in its nascent phase, with many different young companies in their early phase being led by young entrepreneurs. As such, the whole country is heavily reliant on the success of these business propositions and young minds, which is why we need to provide all the necessary support to make them succeed. Naturally, this will also have to come through a certain proposition of incentives, which is why we recognize the best start-ups with appropriate awards. This initiative provides the entire ecosystem with positive, healthy competition and seeks to spur all players to progress in their endeavors despite the natural challenges that they will encounter along the way.