Gulf region to expect a twofold business rivalry in form of Saudi Arabia and UAE

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2020, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ranks in the top 10 improved countries globally.

Walking through the empty rooms of his firm’s latest branch office in the kingdom’s heartland Riyadh, the German Entrepreneur Ronny Froehlich’s voice echoed for setting up the tech and internet backed office set up that he was already thinking and setting up the space as the bustling future headquarters of Golden Scent, a Dubai-based e-commerce firm that he co-founded with a Saudi friend five years ago.

His further steps include moving the Dubai Workforce to the city from Dubai back and as well as hiring at a brisk pace in Riyadh.

Already the bustling real estate, infrastructural boom, and surging accounting numbers of start-ups in Riyadh provides an insight on an undeclared competition between two Gulf allies thus intensifying and heating up this particular year, thereby striving harder to reign supreme for the Gulf regions overall economic front in tandem to come out of its over-dependence on Hydrocarbon and oil reserves.

Backed by World Expo 2020, on one hand, wherein Dubai has chalked in a perfect pathway for an economic recovery with the six-month-long international innovative events that are expected to bring in a staggering 25 million visitors as well pool in billions of dollars in the infrastructure arena. It’s also a pretty huge year for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia which takes on the leadership of the cluster of twenty major economies and plans a series of events to push its own rapid transformation.

Until recently, UAE’s capital Dubai was the place to be for Middle East’s start-ups like Golden Scent, which sells fragrance and wonder merchandise. The glitzy town within the United Arab Emirates designed its name as a freewheeling business hub in an exceedingly region clogged with a lot of bureaucracy.

Even corporations targeted on the abundant larger Saudi market would base themselves in the metropolis, deterred by restrictive investment rules or the religious police that roamed the streets to hide up.

But as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reshapes the Kingdom, that’s commencing to modification. in precisely a couple of years, the Islamic kingdom has unfolded to tourists for the primary time, dramatically mitigated restrictions on girls, allowed cinemas and wooed guests with a parade of best chefs, concerts and sporting spectacles.

Rumors are even current that a long-standing alcohol ban could also be relaxed as the Asian nation vies to get business it’s lost to alternative Gulf countries over the years.

Five years past, Abdullah Altamami, a Saudi venture capitalist and chairman of an online payments system HyperPay, struggled to build a business in his home country. Today, he sees a sleeping giant nation that’s awakening.

The 34-year-old stated that “He doesn’t wish to  invest in a regional company that will not target the Kingdom.”

Nobody denies there are miles to go on still. Saudi Arabia’s transformation has coincided with a stifling on political dissent – conjointly very little tolerated within the UAE. it absolutely was tainted within the eyes of some investors by an overseas policy that has been a lot of aggressive and unpredictable underneath the crown prince Mohammed. The 2018 murder of Washington Post editorialist Jamal Khashoggi dealt a reputational blow that the Kingdom is yet to overcome.

And regular difficulties still stay. Foreign staff in Saudi Arabia should request “exit visas” from employers to depart the country, even for a weekend away. Whereas restrictions on having fun have untangled up, there’s no comparison with UAE’s capital Dubai, whereas the modest dress codification puts off many ladies. As a result, it takes generous packages to unearth raw talent.

But individuals are coming back, and it’s not simply Saudi entrepreneurs moving home.

Last year, a Norwegian company reaching to found out a $90 million salmon farm within the UAE determined to base it in Saudi Arabia instead. Residents of the Emirates consume far more salmon currently, however, it offers future growth because the government is pushing fish as a healthy alternative.

Michael Page, a global employment agency, has noticed a surge in executives, notably within the property business, wanting to relocate as kingdom unveils latest projects for entire smarter and Modern cities that might nonetheless eclipse the splashy developments, like the Burj Khalifa-infrastructural marvel, on which Dubai designed its name.

Tim Watson, a partner at Michael Page Middle East stated that “Over the last eighteen months, they’ve witnessed several high position leaders within the real estate sector moving from across the globe wanting to be concerned in the giga-projects.”

That’s the catch for Dubai – Saudi Arabia’s sheer size. At thirty-four million, the population is quite thrice the UAE’s, creating it the most important and a humungous market within the Gulf at par. Notwithstanding prince Mohammed solely succeeds in realizing a part of his vision to remodel the country, it’ll have implications for neighboring states, that long benefited from the Kingdom is a closed territory.

The island of Bahrain, connected to Saudi Arabia’s seacoast by a bridge, served for many years as a weekend destination for Saudis and foreign executives wanting to catch a moving-picture show or concert. With all that currently on the market reception, Bahrain’s economy might conjointly feel the pinch. In the UAE, weak oil costs and a true estate slump have prompted authorities to rethink residency rules to encourage the big expatriate population to remain through the powerful times.

Saudi Arabia was among the highest 10 most improved countries within the World Bank’s Doing Business report for 2020, has created it easier to start out an organization, get permits, power and credit and enforce contracts. In the 16th place, the UAE still leads the region, however, the gap is narrowing.

“There is unquestionably nervousness concerning Saudi Arabia’s gap in Dubai,” Steffen Hertog, a Gulf specialist and prof at the London college of social science, said. “I don’t assume Dubai can lose its standing because the region’s primary hub anytime before long because it is to date ahead.’’

“That said, Saudi-focused business a minimum of is a lot of doubtless to relocate to Saudi as social life and paperwork get easier there,” he added.

That’s the case for Golden Scent’s Saudi co-founder, leader Al-Shehab. Back in 2014, he and Froehlich tried to line up their company within the kingdom, that they invariably saw as their home market. However, it absolutely was tough to seek out Saudi investors and, at the time, Dubai had tight restrictions on foreign investment. Currently, those rules have been modified, it created sense to return home, Shehab stated.

The social measures have conjointly helped. Shehab is currently getting ready to relocate his family to Riyadh-Capital of Saudi Arabia from Dubai.

Early on, Prince Mohammed viewed Dubai as a city designed on the rear of Saudi Arabia’s shortcomings, providing a home for Saudi businesses driven abroad. He imagined his futurist project of “Neom,” a $500 billion town designed from scratch, changing into a worldwide center larger than Dubai.

However, in an associate interview in 2017, the Crown Prince dismissed the chance of any competition. “I don’t assume Hong Kong injured Singapore or Singapore harmed Hong Kong,” he said. “They are making smart demand around one another.”

Indeed, several executives say the surge of a brand-new kingdom, and also the new markets it might open up, might ultimately boost the small states dotted on its Gulf littoral. That’s the road taken by Dubai officers, who’ve conjointly solid the Saudi transformation as a win-win.

“This isn’t a story of either/or, it’s a story of a mix,” stated by Fadi Ghandour, chief executive of Middle East venture capital firm Wamda Capital, primarily based in Dubai. “The UAE and Saudi Arabia are complementary.”

As for Froehlich at Golden Scent, the Dubai apartment can stay out. However, he’s searching for an area in Riyadh-capital of Saudi Arabia too.


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