Startup of the Week: Demerara Patisserie; Classy tea package delivered to your doorstep

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Updated 06 July 2021

Startup of the Week: Demerara Patisserie; Classy tea package delivered to your doorstep

JEDDAH: Demerara Patisserie is a Jeddah-based business serving up a traditional afternoon tea and delivering it to your doorstep.

Run by Salma Mahdy, who studied at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute, the patisserie offers a selection of authentic afternoon tea items that can be found in any five-star London hotel. Delicate desserts, light savory snacks, preserves, clotted cream, and Earl Grey are all packaged together in one box.

Mahdy said the idea came to her while she was living in Britain and adored the afternoon tea tradition. “I loved the way they served their light meals in the afternoon. I thought, why not introduce it in Saudi Arabia in my business?” 

She said it could be a challenge to make the variety of products needed for afternoon tea and ensure that every item was freshly made. “Especially when I am in a rush and the customer places the order just a day earlier. I sometimes freeze some of the things that can be frozen, like the different fillings, ganache, and some decorations. This way I maintain the taste and freshness and am able to deliver on time.”

Before attending the famous culinary school, Mahdy started her career in a very different industry and graduated with a master’s degree in urban planning. Her priorities changed after she decided to start a family.

“Once I knew in my heart that I was ready to get back into business, I started designing the afternoon tea set and now that it is kicking off I am happy I never gave up on my dream.”

One of the biggest challenges she initially faced was to find a suitable packaging design for deliveries.

Looking ahead to the future, she said she was aiming to expand her business, open a physical store, and pass on what she had learnt. 

“I would like to teach others the tips and tricks to make delicate pastry and other things I learned on the way.”


Saudi Arabia has its eye on the prize in the esports boom

Updated 27 October 2021

Saudi Arabia has its eye on the prize in the esports boom

  • Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Kingdom’s esports federation, said the sector has the potential to contribute billions of dollars to the local economy
  • Analysts predict that global revenues from esports will grow to more than $1.08 billion in 2021 and will surpass $1.6 billion by 2024

RIYADH: Electronic gaming, or egaming, is an increasingly popular activity, with a recent study suggesting that 50 percent of the Saudi population consider themselves regular gamers.

A frequent criticism of electronic gaming is that it is a waste of time with little or no economic value. However Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan, president of the Saudi Arabian Federation for Electronic and Intellectual Sports, believes e-gaming and esports, which is the term for competitive video gaming, have the potential to contribute billions of dollars to business, job creation and gross domestic product in the Kingdom.

“When you talk about the potential in the Saudi market, one of the first things that I think back to is that we did a study with the Ministry of Sports and more than 23, 24 percent of the population considers themselves avid gamers who play more than once a week,” the prince told Arab News on Tuesday at the Future Investment Initiative Forum in Riyadh.

“About 23, 24 percent-plus consider themselves regular gamers who play more than once a month. That’s almost 50, if not more than 50, percent of the population that consider themselves gamers.”

The prince predicts that the sector will contribute about 1 percent of Saudi GDP by 2030, which might seem a small proportion but the amount of money potentially involved is significant.

“Do we really want to say 1 percent?” he asked. “Is that really a number? It sounds really small. They said, ‘That is worth more than SR80 billion ($21 billion),’ and I said I’ll go with 1 percent. That sounds like a really good number to me, and that’s both from direct and indirect job creation and GDP creation through the gaming and e-sports industry.”

According to the Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report, published in March by games and esports analyst Newzoo, global revenues from esports, or competitive video gaming, are projected to grow to more than $1.08 billion in 2021, an increase of 14 percent on the previous year.
 

Market and consumer data company Statista predicts that global esports revenue will surpass $1.6 billion by 2024.

Like their counterparts in other countries, a growing number of Saudis are taking part in esports and streaming their gaming activities on platforms such as YouTube and Twitch. Audience numbers are also growing.

Video gaming and esports are known for fostering creativity, collaboration and leadership, skills that are highly valued in the business world. Consequently, esports and egaming can provide a path to a range of careers and employment opportunities. And as the esports sector grows, these could increasingly include opportunities for tournament organizers.

The esports industry in Saudi Arabia has experienced impressive growth in the past few years, and the Kingdom has stepped up its efforts to support it. SAFEIS held its first esports/gaming tournaments in the Kingdom recently and more are planned. Other tournaments are hosted by platforms such as the Saudi-based KAFU Games.

Meanwhile there are plans for an esports academy as part of the NEOM smart city development. And for those interested in the development of games, Tuwaiq1000 has offered course for beginners interested in learning how to program from scratch, or for professionals who want to refine their programming skills.

Thanks to all this support that is increasingly available, “sooner rather than later Saudi Arabia will become a world leader in esports,” according to academic Ali Alshammari, a game developer and researcher from Tabuk.

Gaming and esports therefore represent an emerging opportunity for Saudi authorities to support and develop a new sector that can make a significant contribution to non-oil revenues, in keeping with the objectives of Saudi Vision 2030.

“We are a part of a global community,” said Prince Faisal, who added that it is important for this community to come together and dispel misconceptions about gaming and esports.

“There are two things I want people to always remember about gaming,” he said. “Try and be positive. And please don’t ever forget that at the end of the day, gaming is about fun and if you are not having fun then you shouldn’t be doing it.”

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Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

Updated 27 October 2021

Fashion, money, power and sustainability: Welcome to the new FII

  • Business bigwigs debate and brainstorm how to solve big problems at global level

RIYADH: The Future Investment Initiative Forum returned to Riyadh on Tuesday, two years after the city last hosted the event, at which powerful and affluent people from around the world traditionally gather to look for big contract opportunities.

But this year, the fifth staging of the forum, is different. There was no talk about big contracts; instead, the powerful participants were discussing how can we give back to humanity and solve big problems at a global level. It is all about sustainability and investing in humanity.

The return of the FII after a postponement of a year caused by the pandemic, is a sign that the worst is behind us — at least in Saudi Arabia, which is going through a deep transformation.

Riyadh is no longer talking a language all of its own. It is now talking a global language that includes terms such as “saving the planet,” “sustainability,” “carbon emissions reduction” and “planning for a better world.”

The Saudis wanted to make sure that the launch of this year’s forum would send a strong message and they found no better way of achieving than by having renowned singer Gloria Gaynor appear and perform her famous song, “I Will Survive,” during the opening.

The world, and Saudi Arabia, has survived the pandemic, with all the hard decisions and tough measures this took, from the rapid development of vaccines to prohibiting Muslims from gathering in mosques to pray.

It is perhaps hard to imagine that big asset-management businesses such as BlackRock and Blackstone might exist for anything other than making big deals, but their respective bosses Larry Fink and Stephen Schwarzman are talking about subjects such as inequality and future generations at the forum.

Still, some things at the FII remain the same. The corridors are filled with people in fancy suits and dresses and the event is still a gathering place for the biggest deal-makers on the planet, who collectively manage trillions of dollars in assets.

Empowerment of women is another hot topic, and it was surprising to hear Schwarzman, Blackstone’s co-founder, talk candidly about how his company has had trouble recruiting women.

“Like many people in finance, we were having a lot of trouble hiring women,” he said during the opening panel discussion on Tuesday. “It was a male-dominated business and we made a decision to change that in 2015.

“We analyzed it and what we realized is that women weren’t applying to Blackstone. We tried to find out why and we found out that they were scared of us. I don’t think I’m very scary.”

Ana Botin, chairperson of Banco Santander, was the only woman on the eight-person panel, although there were female speakers at the opening of the forum.

As the first day of the event was ending, Saudi Aramco announced deals that will help it become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Indeed, the world has changed.

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CEOs, investors and policymakers debate how to ‘invest in humanity’ at FII conference in Riyadh

Updated 26 October 2021

CEOs, investors and policymakers debate how to ‘invest in humanity’ at FII conference in Riyadh

  • Future Investment Initiative summit to identify avenues for contributing in a way that creates both value and impact
  • Annual event provides platform for global leaders, investors and innovators to explore solutions to society’s challenges

RIYADH: At the first Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum in Riyadh in 2017, one of the attending billionaire entrepreneurs urged Saudi Arabia, then just embarking on the Vision 2030 strategy of transformation, to follow the example of Nike and “just do it.”

On Tuesday, at the start of the fifth FII, the Kingdom, and the FII itself, has certainly gone for “it” in a big way.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic and other global issues, in the past five years there has been a big change in the Saudi economic scene, with the pace of the Vision transformation accelerating as social, cultural and economic measures take effect in the Kingdom.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the FII conference in a virtual session in the capital Riyadh, on Jan. 28, 2021. (File/AFP)

The FII itself has also undergone a transformation, becoming a permanent institute and a fixture on the international forum scene, though still under the auspices of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s multi-billion-dollar sovereign wealth fund.

At the first FII, as billionaires, entrepreneurs and senior policymakers from around the world made their way to the Ritz-Carlton, Riyadh, and the adjoining King Abdulaziz Conference Center, some smart commentator with an eye for a catch-phrase came up with “Davos in the Desert” to describe the scene.

Despite the annoyance of the World Economic Forum, which organizes the extravaganza in the Swiss mountains, the phrase stuck, and FII has increasingly taken on the trappings of the annual Alpine gathering.

Among the nearly 4,000 attendees were such luminaries as then-IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Larry Fink, chief executive of giant investment group BlackRock, who remains a regular at FII — all inquisitive to learn details of the Vision 2030 strategy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had unveiled the previous year.


The crown prince set the tone for the event, and for subsequent years, with a keynote speech that unveiled the central message of what life would be like in the Saudi Arabia of the Vision 2030 era.

He promised a “return to moderate Islam that is open to all religions,” and to eradicate promoters of extremist thoughts, adding: “We are returning to what we were before — a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world.”

The show-stealer of that first forum was Masayoshi Son, the chairman and CEO of Japan’s SoftBank. Earlier in the year, Son had unveiled the Vision Fund, the biggest start-up investment enterprise in the world, with a budget of $100 billion — including $45 billion from the PIF — to invest in cutting-edge technology that would transform the world.

Sharing a stage with Sophia the Android, the first robot to be “awarded” Saudi citizenship in a light-hearted ceremony, Son told the audience: “Every industry will be redefined. These computers, they will learn, they will read, they will see by themselves. That’s a scary future but anyway that’s coming,” he said.

‘Sophia the Robot’ of Hanson Robotics reacts during a discussion about Sophia’s multiple intelligences and artificial intelligence (AI) at the RISE Technology Conference in Hong Kong on July 10, 2018. (File/AFP)

The first FII was also notable for two other landmark announcements which have left an enduring mark on the Saudi economy and the global investment scene.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unveiled the master concept of NEOM, the $500 billion city-of-the-future to be built in the northwest of the Kingdom, which has since become the flagship project of the Vision 2030 strategy.

Carbon neutral and sustainable, the new metropolis would be served by an army of robots and driven by state-of-the-art digital technologies and artificial intelligence.

It would also create a new urban hub for innovation and enterprise in an under-populated part of Saudi Arabia. Other mega-projects followed, like the Red Sea development, the Qiddiya resort complex, the AlUla desert oasis with its historic cultural roots, and the Diriyah Gate development on the outskirts of Riyadh.

The second big announcement of that first FII was the unveiling of a financial road map for the PIF, aiming to make it the biggest sovereign wealth fund, with a target of $2 trillion assets under management by 2030.

Saudi CEO of NEOM Nadhmi Al-Nasr speaks during the last day of the FII conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Oct. 25, 2018. (File/AFP)

The PIF was to be the main vehicle for the implementation of the Vision 2030 transformation, and also raise significantly the Kingdom’s profile in the international financial community.

The second FII forum, in October 2018, was overshadowed to some degree by the tragic murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul earlier in the month, which led some top-level executives and media organizations to stay away, but for which regrets and condemnation were expressed by the crown prince from the stage at the opening keynote.

It was difficult for a visitor to see much difference. The attendance figures were as good as the inaugural launch; while some familiar faces were missing from the big set-piece plenary sessions, an army of more junior executives from many of the big banks, financial institutions and other global investors were happily doing deals at the event.

Some $60 billion in deals and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) were signed in 2018, across a range of sectors including energy, housing, health and technology.

The 2018 event attracted eight heads of state, 20 international ministers and was watched by 2.8 million viewers worldwide.

Delegates attend a debate during the fourth edition of the FII conference at the capital Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on Jan. 27, 2021. (File/AFP)

By 2019, when Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the PIF governor, declared the FII to be “one of the top three gatherings in the world,” it was business as usual, with an even bigger turnout of around 6,000 at the event and millions more tuning in worldwide from more than 110 countries.

Like most international events of last year, FII 2020 was impacted by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented it from being held in its customary October slot.

Instead, the fourth FII was held virtually in January this year, organized from Riyadh with the help of satellite hubs in New York, Paris, Beijing and Mumbai.

The theme was “The Neo Renaissance,” referring to the rebirth of global economic life after the shock of the pandemic the previous year. The event also developed what was to be an enduring theme, and a prominent element of the fifth event starting today in Riyadh: The importance of ESG — environmental, social and governance — standards in global finance.

In the five years since the first “Davos in the Desert,” much has changed. The FII itself is now a non-profit organization run by the PIF under Chief Executive Richard Attias, who is a prominent figure at the annual events.

Mask-clad participants stand next to a sign annoucning the next panel during the fourth edition of the FII conference at the capital Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on Jan. 27, 2021. (File/AFP)

Its one-item agenda consists of “Impact on humanity.” Meanwhile, the Saudi economy has developed and progressed with the FII.

It has emerged from the shock of the pandemic last year, and, in particular, Saudi Arabia has helped steer global energy markets through their most severe crisis for many years through its leadership, along with Russia, of the OPEC+ organization.

All the economic indicators in the Kingdom are heading in the right direction, with GDP this year forecast to show a strong recovery from the doldrums of the pandemic recession.

Higher oil prices will make a big contribution to stronger government revenues, which can also be used to finance the ongoing Vision 2030. Non-oil growth is also expected to rise sharply.

Despite the challenges of the past two years, the FII has become an integral part of the global investment scene and the international forums circuit.

The FII has “just done it,” and will do it again in Riyadh starting on Tuesday.

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US body seeks to explore more ‘green’ opportunities in KSA

Updated 25 October 2021

US body seeks to explore more ‘green’ opportunities in KSA

  • US Green Building Council plans collaboration with Saudi institutions to reduce carbon emissions

JEDDAH: The US Green Building Council plans to support the Saudi Green Initiative in terms of its goals in reduction of carbon emission, global warming, and carbon footprint, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. 

The USGBC certifies projects in Saudi Arabia under the LEED operating system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), an internationally recognized certification system that certifies buildings that achieve innovation in sustainability and energy efficiency, water efficiency and better indoor environment quality and better quality of life.

The system also recognizes best-in-class buildings, cities and communities “to reduce carbon emissions through the built environment, which contributes to climate change especially in carbon emissions by almost 40 percent,” Mohammed Al-Surf, regional manager of the USGBC in the Kingdom, told Arab News.

FASTFACTS

• The USGBC certifies projects in Saudi Arabia under the LEED operating system.

• The system also recognizes best-in-class buildings, cities and communities to reduce carbon emissions.

• The council is also looking toward collaborating with different institutions such as financial institutions to establish green bonds.

“Our goal is to collaborate with the SGI through different platforms and different projects like the giga-projects to help minimize their emissions and mitigate climate change,” he added.

He said the council is also looking toward collaborating with different institutions such as financial institutions to establish green bonds and green loans to stimulate the economy as well. “These green projects will have investors investing in these projects to make the environment more sustainable,” he said.

The council’s collaboration with the SGI is on a project scale; individual projects, city projects or community plan phases, as well as in terms of education and awareness and capacity-building, he said.

“We’re going to see reports from different projects on how they have achieved the objectives of the SGI through LEED certification which is the main aim of the collaboration with the USGBC,” he added.

The council has certified over 1,500 projects in the Kingdom, including well-known ones such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah, Princess Noura University campus, King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Ithra museum and the masterplan for the Red Sea Development project.


Saudi Arabia prioritizes tourism sector net zero target

Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi Arabia prioritizes tourism sector net zero target

  • With the global travel and tourism sector responsible for 8 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, Saudi Arabia is giving priority to achieving net-zero emissions in the sector

RIYADH: The Sustainable Tourism Global Center launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Saudi Green Initiative Forum on Saturday aims to modernize the sector with a focus on preserving nature and fighting climate change.

With the global travel and tourism sector responsible for 8 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions, Saudi Arabia is giving priority to achieving net-zero emissions in the sector.

Referring to the global emissions at the SGI event, Saudi Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb said: “This is expected to grow if we do not act now.”  

“Tourism is also a highly fragmented sector. Eighty percent of the tourism businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises that rely on guidance and support from sector leadership. The sector must be part of the solution,” he said.

Sustainable Tourism Global CenterThe center will support travelers, governments, and the private sector to ensure that tourism enables growth and creates jobs, while playing its part to achieve the climate goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, including contributing to keeping the global temperature rise to under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The facility aims to be the “north star” for the tourism sector as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and transitions toward a sustainable future.

Globally, tourism supports more than 330 million livelihoods – and pre-pandemic, it was responsible for creating one in four new jobs globally.

Al-Khateeb said: “Saudi Arabia, following the vision of the Crown Prince, is answering this vital call by working with partners to create a multi-country, multi-stakeholder coalition, that will lead, accelerate, and track the tourism industry’s transition to net-zero emissions.”

Details of the center and its functions will be  unveiled at the COP26 in Glasgow.

Gloria Guevara, the chief special adviser to the tourism minister, said: “For years and years, multiple players across the tourism sector have been working on different initiatives to accelerate the race to zero (emissions) — but we have been working in silos. The impact of the global pandemic on the tourism sector highlighted the vital importance of multi-country, multi-stakeholder collaboration. And now, Saudi Arabia is stepping up to bring stakeholders together to make tourism part of the solution to climate change.”