ESAM ALTHUKAIR

Saudi Arabia 2021 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Esam Althukair, Vice Governor for Entrepreneurship of Monshaat.

Esam Althukair
BIOGRAPHY

Esam Althukair is the Vice Governor of Entrepreneurship at the Small and Medium Business General Authority (Monshaat) with more than 17 years' experience in entrepreneurship, banking, and the private sector. In the past, he worked as chief investment officer of family business in the manufacturing and SME industry. He established a number of start-ups and is the co-founder of others. He is also a mentor and coach for several universities and incubators. Althukair holds a double master's degree and holds a bachelor in information systems from King Fahad University and Minerals (KFUPM).

Can you give an insight into your role in the pandemic response?

The pandemic is hitting all economies worldwide, and the ones most affected are SMEs, which are highly sensitive to cashflow, scalability, and even workforce and employment. We worked closely with other government entities such as the Ministry of Finance and SAMA to help start-ups and SMEs. The first one was a deferral payment program of SAR30 billion of initiatives wherein we delayed payments for SME loans by six months. This was the first initiative launched by Ministry of Finance, SAMA, and Monshaat to inject more money into SMEs' cashflows. The second one was a program where Ministry of Finance granted banks more than SAR13 billion to lend to SMEs. The last step was to deposit SAR6 billion for a loan guarantee program. The program is called Katada and is just one pillar of support. The second pillar was where we worked closely with the start-ups as well as SMEs to accelerate the digitalization of businesses. The second initiative was coaching and mentorship, where we went virtual to build capabilities for SMEs during the pandemic. We reached more than 3 million companies within two months with our virtual classroom solution. All of this was done to build the capabilities for an important category in our economy.

Has the pandemic increased the digital literacy of companies?

The way we think about and the way we deal with SMEs has fundamentally shifted. One of our projects was an entrepreneurial hub, where before the pandemic all start-ups were looking for offices, but now they are looking at operating from home. This has huge potential to reduce the cost of starting a business. We have launched a strategy plan within all ministries that has logistics as a key priority, and people will invest more there as well. E-commerce is also central, and we have seen real success there. Now, we are in talks with Google to have its offices in Saudi Arabia and are in the final stage of facilitating this with the Ministry of Investment. The Kingdom succeeded in terms of digital; one statistic shows Saudi Arabia is now number one worldwide in terms of 5G connectivity. This infrastructure will help boost technology, e-commerce, logistics, fintech solutions, as well as all businesses. ✖