Wulooj enables AI to boost Saudi Arabia’s tech sector

In a short span of time, Wulooj has managed to expand its presence to the UAE and Bahrain but Saudi Arabia remains its primary market. (LinkedIn/Wulooj)
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Updated 30 April 2023
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Wulooj enables AI to boost Saudi Arabia’s tech sector

  • Firm set to expand its sales and marketing operations to boost its reach

CAIRO: After positioning itself as a digitalization leader, Saudi Arabia’s Wulooj is aiming to fortify its presence in the Kingdom.

Founded in 2021, Wulooj provides technology solutions powered by artificial intelligence to boost the growing tech industry. It claims to be the first Saudi artificial intelligence omnichannel company to provide a number of software-based solutions to bridge the digital gap in the Kingdom.

The company provides a number of services in different verticals like AI-enabled call centers, social channels, point of sale, e-commerce building, driver delivery apps and customer relationship management.

In an interview with Arab News, Saud Albeshi, co-founder and CEO of Wulooj, said: “Our company is solving the gap that exists in the market where if a customer requires a digital journey they will search for multiple vendors and have different platforms to access for each module. We aim to provide a unified platform where customers can utilize all these features from just one place.”

In a short span of time, Wulooj has managed to expand its presence to the UAE and Bahrain but Saudi Arabia remains its primary market.

“The Middle East and North Africa is our target market with our main focus currently being Saudi Arabia,” Albeshi highlighted.

He further explained that Wulooj will expand its sales and marketing operations to boost its reach throughout the Kingdom and maximize growth.

“Currently Wulooj has its core team in Riyadh and Eastern Province. With growth in sales or investment, whichever comes first, we will plan to open branches in Jeddah and other major cities with a dedicated on-ground sales team helping us with expansion,” he added.

The company has over 100 clients with a total number of 2,000 users noting that each client can have multiple users utilizing Wulooj’s solutions.

“Our plan is to reach at least 1,000 clients by the end of 2023 which will support Wulooj exponentially in reaching its targets,” Albeshi said.

Our company is solving the gap that exists in the market where if a customer requires a digital journey they will search for multiple vendors and have different platforms to access for each module. We aim to provide a unified platform where customers can utilize all these features from just one place.

Saud Albeshi Wulooj, co-founder and CEO

The company aims to achieve this goal by building on its competitive advantage of having relatively low prices as well as utilizing one of its most prominent growth levers which is word of mouth.

“Our current business strategy lies on focusing on our customer retention. We are prioritizing customer retention and satisfaction by aiming to have biweekly calls with our clients and making sure they’re satisfied with Wulooj and are not facing any issues,” he explained.

Wulooj also provides its clients with analytics and aims to integrate its customer relationship management with other retail solutions to enhance its customer experience.

UAE’s ProTenders set to enter Saudi Arabia amidst construction boom“With increasing concerns about data security and privacy, we have prioritized taking precautions and making sure that accounts are not mishandled or data is not at all shared with any third party. All data is saved in Wulooj servers with the highest level of security,” Albeshi added.

Aside from its CRM integrations, the company aims to add TikTok, Telegram and Snapchat to its social media channels services as well as develop its own AI models as part of its current product pipeline.

“Overall, our business strategy is focused on providing value to our customers, increasing market share and staying ahead of competition through innovation and differentiation,” Albeshi explained.

After four years of designing and developing the business, Albeshi and his co-founders have managed to reach over SR1 million ($266,608) in revenue. 

FASTFACTS

• Founded in 2021, Wulooj provides technology solutions powered by artificial intelligence to boost the growing tech industry.

• Wulooj provides a number of services in different verticals like AI-enabled call centers, social channels, point of sale, e-commerce building, driver delivery apps and customer relationship management.

• Wulooj also provides its clients with analytics and aims to integrate its customer relationship management with other retail solutions to enhance its customer experience.

“Our revenue stream is based on a subscription model that we provide our clients. We have subscriptions monthly and yearly depending on the number of users, type of client, type of service requested and what vertical the client requires,” Albeshi pointed out.

However, the company has still not reached profitability as it operates under a bootstrap strategy. It aims to be profitable when it achieves its target of SR300,000 per month.

Albeshi explained that the company hasn’t raised any investment rounds but is currently in the process of raising $2.6 million in funding to accelerate its hiring and development operations.

“In total, we have around 20 staff that are supporting in growth and product development. Based on growth factors we will aim to hire around 30 staff across the Gulf region. At the same time, we are actively looking for investors to support our plan,” he added.

The Kingdom’s economic growth is largely driven by diversification and digitalization where innovative solutions like those provided by Wulooj play a stellar role.

“The software as a service tech industry in Saudi Arabia is rapidly growing and evolving. As we noticed especially during the LEAP event, the government and private sector are investing heavily in technology and digital transformation initiatives,” Albeshi said.

He added that the company is solving industry-specific problems to improve efficiency and digitalization in the market as well as “to collaborate and develop joint solutions to benefit the market as a whole while taking a cohesive and integrated approach.”

Albeshi concluded that the company is always looking for opportunities to improve its offerings based on the growth standards set out by the Kingdom’s market.


Number of registered nonprofit organizations in Saudi Arabia hits 4,656

Updated 42 min 27 sec ago
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Number of registered nonprofit organizations in Saudi Arabia hits 4,656

RIYADH: The total number of registered nonprofit organizations in Saudi Arabia has reached 4,656 with the addition of 85 new firms in the sector in February, official data showed.

The National Center for Non-Profit Sector also revealed that the total number of volunteers in 2024 reached more than 113,000 across various fields.

The center disclosed that the sector recorded more than 4 million volunteer hours and over 43,000 volunteering prospects.

The surge aligns with the center’s aim to organize, activate, and expand the role of nonprofit sector organizations in different fields.

Moreover, the growth in number confirms NCNPS endeavors to work on integrating government efforts in providing licensing services to these organizations, financial, administrative, and technical supervision of the sector, and increasing coordination and support.

The center also said warnings were issued to 11 civil society entities in 2024. Furthermore, it said one entity was directed to dismiss its board of directors, and two others were instructed to reconstitute their respective board of directors temporarily.

It also urged nonprofit organizations to increase collaboration with the center and compliance with the rules and regulations to ensure increased contribution to the Kingdom’s growth.

In June, Minister of Human Resources and Social Development Ahmed Al-Rajhi lauded the Kingdom’s nonprofit sector for its work toward the realization of Saudi Vision 2030 goals.

Al-Rajhi said that the nonprofit sector played a significant role in national development, creating “sustainable impacts” and establishing robust partnerships with community institutions and individuals through the implementation of “many outstanding projects”, SPA said at the time.

Al-Rajhi, who is also chairman of the National Center for Non-Profit Sector, noted at the time that the expedited incorporation process for nonprofit organizations — which takes no more than four days, as opposed to 18 months previously — is “one of the most remarkable accomplishments” in the country’s recent history.


Saudi Arabia extends voluntary oil cut of 1m barrels per day until mid-2024

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it would extend oil supply cuts through June as part of a bid to stabilize prices. (Reuters)
Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia extends voluntary oil cut of 1m barrels per day until mid-2024

  • OPEC+ has implemented a series of output cuts since late 2022 to support the market
  • Saudi Arabia’s output will remain at around 9 million bpd

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday it would extend oil supply cuts through June as part of a bid to prop up prices.

An Energy Ministry source announced Riyadh “will extend its voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day, which was implemented in July 2023, until the end of the second quarter of 2024,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The decision was taken in coordination with other members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, to ensure stability of the global crude markets.

With the extension in the production cuts, Saudi Arabia’s output will remain at around 9 million bpd.

The cuts would be reversed gradually according to market conditions, the SPA said.

Russia will cut oil production and exports by an additional 471,000 bpd in the second quarter, in coordination with some OPEC+ participating countries, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said.

OPEC+ in November agreed to voluntary cuts totaling about 2.2 million bpd for the first quarter, led by Saudi Arabia rolling over its own voluntary cut.

OPEC+ members announce the cuts individually. Kuwait said it would cut its oil output by 135,000 bpd through June, while Algeria will curb its output by 51,000 bpd and Oman will reduce output by 42,000 bpd.

OPEC+ has implemented a series of output cuts since late 2022 to support the market.


Innovative minds descend on Riyadh to explore opportunities in tech sector

Updated 03 March 2024
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Innovative minds descend on Riyadh to explore opportunities in tech sector

  • Saudi Arabia is emerging globally as a priority economy, says Tahaluf CEO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is gearing up for LEAP 2024, the world’s most-attended tech event, from March 4 to 7 at the Riyadh Exhibition and Convention Center in Malham.

The pre-event gathering on Feb 28 announced this year’s theme as “Into New Worlds,” which encompasses new opportunities, technologies, and capabilities in the tech sector.

The event is organized by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Tahaluf Co., the Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones, and the Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority, also known as Monsha’at.

CEO of Tahaluf Michael Champion told Arab News: “Into New Worlds showcases how technology can bring new horizons to different industries and create new opportunities, much of which we once thought unachievable.”

With artificial intelligence at the heart of LEAP, speakers will discuss its applications and impact, along with other innovations and emerging technologies across the four-day event.

LEAP 2024 will cover various topics across multiple stages, including the investor stage and main stage, with discussions on educational tech, retail tech, and fintech, as well as health tech, the fourth industrial revolution, future energy, and smart cities.

FASTFACTS

  • Over 600 startups and 172,000 people are expected to attend the conference, alongside more than 1,800 global tech exhibitors.
  • The event will feature over 1,000 international and local companies in the technology sector and more than 1,000 expert speakers from 180 countries.
  • LEAP 2024 will cover various topics across multiple stages, including the investor stage and main stage.
  • Discussions will be held on educational tech, retail tech, and fintech, as well as health tech, the fourth industrial revolution, future energy, and smart cities.

Over 600 startups and 172,000 people are expected to attend the conference, alongside more than 1,800 global tech exhibitors, such as Google, Microsoft, and Oracle, as well as Dell, Cisco, and Avaya.

SAP, ServiceNow, and Amazon Web Services will also be represented, alongside IBM, Alibaba, and Huawei.

The event will feature over 1,000 international and local companies in the technology sector and more than 1,000 expert speakers from 180 countries, and to accommodate this the 2024 venue is 170 percent larger than last year’s.

Saudi Arabia’s Vice Minister of Communications and Information Technology Haitham Al-Ohali is looking forward to welcoming thought leaders, influencers, investors, and innovators worldwide to LEAP.

“This edition arrives at a time when variables are accelerating, and generative artificial intelligence is a critical turning point at the economic and social levels,” said Al-Ohali.

Champion told Arab News that Saudi Arabia is emerging globally as a priority economy. For many, traveling to Riyadh will unveil a new world for them.

“We’re getting 7,000 registrations from abroad — business tourists, many of whom have never traveled to the Kingdom before,” said the CEO.

He said attendees can meet with key decision-makers through LEAP and create new partnerships.

Among the most prominent speakers and experts are Vice President & former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane; CEO and President of Ericsson Borje Ekholm; and Chairman and CEO of IBM Arvind Krishna.

Other global figures include Government Chief Data Officer at the Republic of Estonia Ott Velsberg; Chief AI Officer at Schneider Electric Philippe Rambach; President and CEO of Nokia Pekka Lundmark; and Martin Vilig, co-founder of Bolt.

Champion said: “These are massive, global companies and their CEOs are all coming to this event, and I believe this is a real testimony to how important people are seeing Saudi Arabia now as a change-maker when it comes to technology and investments.”

Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Al-Swaha said that the third LEAP event will strengthen Saudi Arabia’s position as a hub for innovation and technology, attracting investment to this region.

There will be multiple memorandums of understanding signing stations all over the exhibition to facilitate agreements and deals.

“During LEAP, we announce billions of dollars of projects and significant MoU signings because we take seriously the need to use the event as a platform for business deals to happen,” said Champion.

The 2023 edition of the event saw more than $11 billion worth of deals and agreements reached, and its estimated 172,000 attendees helped cement LEAP as the biggest tech conference in the world.

The event will feature 10 stages discussing various aspects of technology, including health, education, and e-commerce. Among the 10, the main stage sessions will be aired live on LEAP 2024 social media platforms.

LEAP will host the investor stage, where the world’s top investors will discuss innovative investment opportunities. This stage will also address topics such as the intersection of technology with government policies and innovation, and successful financing strategies.

It will also feature the Startup Stage, where expert speakers such as Blossom Accelerator CEO and founder Emon Shakoor, Raiven Capital founding partner Supreet Singh Manchanda, and Adaverse founding partner Vincent Li will discuss startup growth and innovation.

The Rocket Fuel Pitch competition returns for Saudi and foreign startups, with prizes exceeding $1 million. Categories include the LEAP Award, worth $250,000 for the most outstanding startup across the whole competition; the Shooting Star Award, which allocates $150,000 for the early-stage startup beginning its journey; and the Aviatrix Award, which will see $150,000 given to the most innovative startup pioneered by women founders.

The Technology for Humanity Award will also come with a prize of $150,000, this time for the startup that best embodies the “tech for humanity” spirit of LEAP, while another $150,000 is given to the winner of the Into New Worlds Award for the most impressive startup occupying the Metaverse and Web 3.0 space,

The final $150,000 prize is part of the Artificial Intelligence Award for the startup that presents the most exciting, ground-breaking use of AI.

Saudi Federation for Cybersecurity, Programming, and Drones CEO Muteb Al-Qani said that they are keen to present a special experience to the visitors, as we will gather top speakers and tech experts from around the world.

“This event has been created to empower technology globally; therefore, the upcoming edition brings together the largest tech companies, startups, and investors, all under one roof, which has the potential to lead to numerous investments and launches,” he said.


Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,555 

Updated 03 March 2024
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Closing bell: Saudi main index slips to close at 12,555 

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul All Share Index slipped on Sunday, losing 75.66 points, or 0.60 percent, to close at 12,555.20. 

The total trading turnover of the benchmark index was SR8.19 billion ($2.18 billion) as 82 of the stocks advanced, while 134 retreated.   

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s parallel market Nomu rose 559.57 points, or 2.12 percent, to close at 26,962.39. This comes as 32 of the stocks advanced, while as many as 31 retreated. 

Meanwhile, the MSCI Tadawul Index slipped 14.06 points, or 0.87 percent, to close at 1,609.62. 

The best-performing stock of the day was Al-Rajhi Co. for Cooperative Insurance. The company’s share price surged 9.92 percent to SR93.10.  

Other top performers included Saudi Steel Pipe Co. as well as Middle East Pharmaceutical Industries Co.

Conversely, Mobile Telecommunication Co. Saudi Arabia, also known as Zain KSA, experienced the most significant decline, with its share price dropping by 6.31 percent to SR13.96. Other underperformers in the market were Saudi Arabian Amiantit Co. and Hail Cement Co. 

On the announcements front, Arabian Centres Co. has reported the successful completion of the offering of $500 million worth of US dollar-denominated Shariah-compliant sukuk. 

According to a statement from Tadawul, the company anticipates that the issuance will be credit-neutral. The proceeds from the issuance are intended for the refinancing of its 2019 sukuk, set to mature in November 2024. 

With a maturity of five years, the total number of sukuk stands at 2,500 with a par value of $200,000 and a return of 9.5 percent.  

Moreover, Zain KSA has announced its annual consolidated financial results for the year ending Dec. 31.  

A bourse filing revealed that the firm’s net profit reached SR1.26 billion, reflecting a 130 percent surge compared to the same period in 2022.  

The rise is primarily attributed to the company achieving its highest-ever revenues, totaling SR9.9 billion in 2023, marking an 8.9 percent growth compared to 2022. This surge in revenue resulted in a 7 percent increase in the cost of revenue. 

In addition to this, gross profit increased by 10 percent, representing SR541 million, as a result of the growth in the high-margin segments. 

Furthermore, Saudi Real Estate Co. also announced its annual financial results for the year 2023. According to a Tadawul statement, the company’s net profit hit SR67.6 million in the period ending on Dec. 31, down 38.82 percent in comparison to 2022 figures.  

The drop is mainly attributed to an increase in financial charges by SR96 million due to the significant rise in interest rates as well as a climb in net losses in one of the subsidiaries due to the recording of extraordinary losses of SR46 million in one of its projects. 


Saudi stc group launches Tali Ventures for emerging tech investments 

Updated 03 March 2024
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Saudi stc group launches Tali Ventures for emerging tech investments 

RIYADH: Emerging companies and innovative technologies are poised to receive an investment boost with the launch of Tali Ventures, a specialized firm founded by stc group. 

The communication giant’s new arm aims to create added value by adopting cutting-edge solutions and business models, the Saudi Press Agency reported.  

The fund has already commenced investments in several emerging projects, notably the Nile Co., specializing in network equipment solutions, the Rewaa platform focusing on inventory management, and the NearbyPay platform, a digital payment solutions company. 

The new undertaking will invest in emerging projects in their initial stages, focusing on initiatives in several fields, including artificial intelligence, financial technology, and information and communications technology, as well as cloud services, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, and other digital sectors. 

The fund’s launch reflects the ongoing trend of investing in promising technological projects that will help catalyze growth in the region and the world, SPA reported.  

It also serves as a continuation of stc group’s efforts to support entrepreneurs and digital projects through various initiatives and investments. For instance, inspireU, an initiative that incubated and supported over 100 startup projects, successfully graduated 10 batches. 

This also demonstrates the continuous support for this sector through aiding entrepreneurial projects by many international investment funds such as Tali Ventures, Sanabil and Prosperity7, the agency added. 

Entrepreneurs have obtained over SR700 million ($186.6 million) in investments through stc’s InspireU accelerator since its inception. 

During the graduation of InspireU’s ninth batch, the group announced the accelerator’s expansion with a new program to support emerging technologies. 

At the ceremony, stc group Chief Investment Officer Moataz Al-Anqari commended the accelerator’s role in enhancing entrepreneurship in the Kingdom, citing it as a crucial part of the company’s strategy.  

“Since the program’s inception, the InspireU accelerator has supported over 90 digital projects in various domains, with investments and financial transactions hitting a market value of SR12 billion ($3.1 billion). Moreover, over 40 million users have benefited from InspireU’s projects,” Al-Anqari noted.