Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- Besides conquering the worlds of Amazon and EBay, Saudi women have discovered a new dimension to their online activities. A new generation of Saudi businesswomen have been using the internet to promote and sell products, bypassing retailers, and courting all potential customers. Many Saudi women have begun to use this method, especially as unemployment rates amongst women in Saudi Arabia is on the rise. This method of “e-commerce” has given new hope to Saudi women.
A group of young Saudi girls used various websites that target a female audience to promote products that are not available locally. These products include clothes; leather bags exported from Lebanon, hair products from India, slimming products and skin whitening creams.
Amal Abu Anayn graduated from the faculty of education three years ago. She was fed up of unemployment and decided to venture into an e-commerce project and began to import cosmetic products from abroad. When she realized that customers liked the products, she decided to extend the range and imported perfumes from the Far East. Amal stated, “At the moment, I think of my business as a way to kill time and earn money, as soon as I get a good job, I will end the e-commerce project as it would remind of being unemployed!”
Amal’s story is similar to that of Umm Shooq, who graduated from university in 2006. She said, “Before graduating, I was anxious about the future as there was little hope that I would find a suitable job. Through e-commerce, I was able to earn good money, as much as a teacher in the private sector.” Cheerfully, she continued to talk about her business, “I sell a range of products such as Henna, allspice, incense, musk and hair oils that are all sold at reasonable prices.” She adds, “I hope to become a successful and renowned businesswoman and intend to invest my earnings in the stock market.”
The main obstacles that these young women and girls face is dealing with shipping, as some customers have experienced delays in receiving their products, and having to deal with customers who do not want to pay for the goods. A group of female e-traders agreed that honesty and politeness are what are required to be a successful e-trader. These traits assist greatly in dealing with customer demands and winning over the trust of customers, especially that competition is strong in this field.
A new study by the electronic economics research center, MADAR, indicated that there would be an increase in the upcoming years in e-commerce in the Arab countries. The study estimates that e-business would be worth one billion dollars by 2008 with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the most active Gulf countries in the field.
Three years ago, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) worked towards establishing a joint Gulf electronic market that was to be called Souk Al Khaleej Net, however the project is yet to materialize.