A week ago, I had the opportunity to chat on and off stage with the inspirational and modest Faraz Khalid, CEO of noon, a billion dollar e-commerce platform founded “in the region for the region”. This was during the Riyadh edition of ArabNet digital conference, an event series founded in 2009, that has since grown to be one of the most significant gatherings for digital professionals in the region.
Five points stood out of our 60-minute conversation, during which Khalid introduced and explained noon’s vision for its launch and what is to come next:
1. noon opened for business in the UAE on 30 September 2017, with Saudi Arabia following three months later. The gap between the two was no accident, more a purposeful “delay” to overcome challenges and ensure a much smoother launch in their prime market. The launch exceeded expectations, with daily targets being achieved in “noon” time –no pun intended.
2. Giants entering the market are not a threat, according to Khalid. Instead he feels they are important for the local industry as it is still taking shape. E-commerce represents only 2.5% of total retail, compared to the global average of around 8-10%. Competition will grow the pie and, therefore, help grow the industry.
3. noon will be playing a major role in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, which focuses on job creation for the Saudi youth, partnering with other local entities and broadening the spectrum by diversifying the job scene in the Kingdom.
4. With consumers increasingly visiting stores before transacting online, a global trend known as showrooming, noon will help local retailers by educating them on how to set up the right infrastructure for online shopping. Khalid described many ways to collaborate at a local level with both big and smaller entities.
5. Khalid’s passion, energy and ambition will certainly play a major part in noon’s success. There certainly is much talent in this new breed of young entrepreneurs and leaders, ready to transform the economic landscape of the region.
The e-commerce scene is certainly hotting up in the region, about time some would say, and the arrival of noon will contribute to increased adoption. This should act as a serious wake-up call for traditional businesses in general, and retailers in particular, that will need to embrace the trend. There is much room to grow.