Gulf companies are sitting on a nest egg of unearthed opportunity that must be tapped quickly, according to Faraz Khalid, CEO of Dubai-headquartered e-commerce site Noon.
Khalid said: “Our market is very, very attractive and global companies see that… local companies have six months to go flat out.
“If you take too long then the international [companies] will come and pump money into the region. Don’t take too long as you only have a limited window of opportunity.”
The Noon CEO urged local players to ‘accelerate’ their business plans to stay ahead of the curve to beat off global competition.
“Local companies have to make the most of their resources to get the businesses going as quickly as they can. There is very little evidence of incumbents being dislodged,” he said.
Online store Noon, a $1 billion venture launched by Dubai businessman Mohammad Alabbar and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) in 2017, entered Egypt last month – its third regional market after Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Speaking at Annual London Business School (LBS) Middle East Conference in London last week, Khalid bemoaned the lack of talent in the region: “To attract the best talent, we stress the fact that we have a unique app to inspire our generation – we are helping to build future companies. We know that we are competing with Google and other global companies for talent,” the CEO said.
“We know that we would get nowhere if we didn’t hold ourselves to high standards – you get talent by being that name on that CV employees can be proud of.”
The Noon boss also stressed the importance of building independent, company-owned payment centres and fulfilment centres, which he said are the ‘key differentiators’ for emerging markets.
Junaid Iqbal, CEO of transport app Careem in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, said the Middle East region is ripe for reinvention.
“There are so many things that need to be solved in the MENA region. Transport is broken, education is broken and healthcare is broken. It offers a spectacular opportunity,” Iqbal said at the LBS event.
The Careem boss added: “We are unbanked, unconnected and uneducated – you take any problem and it is ready to be solved. We need the talent to come back to the region and solve its challenges.”
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