Jeddah entrepreneurs’ summit brainstorms how to convert challenges into opportunities


Saudi Gazette

JEDDAH – Aspiring Entrepreneurs & Professionals Summit, organized recently by the Jeddah-based Excellency Forum, turned into a brainstorming session on how young entrepreneurs can turn potential challenges into golden opportunities in the changed scenario in the employment market in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. The summit was a big motivation and inspiring event for aspiring and enterprising entrepreneurs who listened to the incredible life stories featuring the ups and downs of some successful business leaders and technocrats. They included PC Mustahfa, CEO of the Bangalore-based iD Fresh Food Co.; Muhammed Alungal, president of Abeer Group of Companies; CH Abdul Raheem, managing director of Bluewater Business Associates; Eng. Ebrahim Kutty, managing director of ANSAM India Construction Co.; and Noshad Yousuf, executive manager of Mobily Saudi Arabia and president of Aspiring Professionals Forum.

Mustahfa, a technocrat-turned young business tycoon in the food industry, was the keynote speaker. In a highly inspiring and heart-touching presentation, Musthafa shared with the attendees his unique experiments of how the son of a coolie (laborer) who could not afford a breakfast is now running a business empire of providing traditional south Indian ready-to-cook breakfast formula of idli and vada batter. iD Fresh, with a turnover of Rs10 billion, is employing 1,600 people. “An unbeaten passion coupled with hard work is the key to success for an entrepreneur, who has to prefer sweat and toil rather than glamour and prestige. Trust and honesty are the hallmark of an entrepreneur,” he said.

In his inspiring speech, Alungal recounted how he managed to succeed against heavy odds during his relentless entrepreneurial pursuit. “I did many menial jobs before joining an insurance company and taking up a high position. The passion of an entrepreneur drove me to make investments in many businesses but all ended in losses and ultimately put me in a debt trap of a whopping SR1.5 million in 1990s.”

“Without losing morale and confidence, I chose the uphill task of an entrepreneur after resigning the key post in the insurance company,” he said, while urging young entrepreneurs to cash in on the vast opportunities that lie open in the Saudi market through forming consortia of investors. “This is important as there are many people who have money but don’t know how to effectively use it in business,” he said while emphasizing that Saudi Arabia is one of the best place to invest.

In his presentation titled “Shariah-compliant financing options for startups,” Abdul Raheem, a senior financial expert with 40 years of experience in major Gulf and Indian companies, explained that a lot of avenues that have opened up for entrepreneurs in the Kingdom and in India. He lauded the Startup India program, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for simplifying procedures with a single window system and tax incentives. He said that there are lots of opportunities in the areas of IT-enabled programs and services and unconventional areas, especially by making use of artificial intelligence.

Abdul Raheem also invited entrepreneurs to tap the immense potential of food sector. “We are living at a time when food is getting out of one’s kitchen with people in their busy life resorting to apps to outsource packaged food instantly at their doorsteps. Natural products without chemicals and preservatives, and cold storage and warehousing facilities are some of the key areas for entrepreneurs,” he said, while citing an example that around 85 percent of the local production of apple perishes in Kashmir without reaching the markets in the absence of sufficient cold storage facilities. “If you have innovative ideas and bold initiatives, there are hundreds of opportunities,” he said.

A panel discussion was the major highlight of the event during which the panelists encountered a myriad of queries related to overcoming the current crisis faced by them in the local market as well as setting up of startups and investment projects by taking advantage of the vast investment opportunities available in the Kingdom following the introduction of National Transformation Program of 2020 and Vision 2030. Dr. Abdussalam Omar of Riyadh’s King Saud University was the moderator and master of ceremony.

Earlier, the function began with recitation of a few verses from the Holy Qur’an by Yahya Noorani. Jabir Valiyakath, chairman of Excellency Forum, welcomed the gathering while Jaleel Kannamangalam proposed the vote of thanks.