The strategic ties between India and Saudi Arabia are deepening. The developing bonhomie between the two countries was demonstrated by both sides during the Startup20 Shikhar Summit held in Gurugram. The summit was attended by a high-level delegation led by HRH Prince Fahad bin Mansour Al-Saud who is also the President of Saudi G20 YEA.
India's vibrant and flourishing startup ecosystem, boasting numerous unicorns and attracting substantial venture capital investments, meets with Saudi Arabia's mission to cultivate a thriving startup landscape under Vision 2030 which was initiated by HRH Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman.
This potential convergence represents a promising opportunity for collaboration and knowledge exchange between the two nations. With India securing its position as the world's third-largest startup hub and Saudi Arabia actively prioritizing economic diversification, the synergies between their startup ecosystems emerge as catalysts for innovation and growth.
India-Saudi Arabia’s Deepening Ties
Saudi Arabia holds a significant position as one of India's primary trade partners, standing as the fourth largest after the United States, China, and the United Arab Emirates. With India relying on the Kingdom for a substantial portion of its energy resources, approximately 18% of crude oil and about 22% of LPG imports come from Saudi Arabia. The bilateral trade between the two nations in the fiscal year 2021-22 reached a commendable value of USD 42.8 billion. Notably, India's imports from Saudi Arabia amounted to USD 34.01 billion, while its exports to the Kingdom were valued at USD 8.76 billion, indicating a remarkable 49.5% increase compared to the previous year. Impressively, this trade volume accounted for 4.14% of India's total trade during the same fiscal year.
Harnessing Startup Potential: HRH Prince Fahad's Support to 2030
In an exclusive interview with TICE, HRH Prince Fahad bin Mansour Al-Saud, the representative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the G20 Startup Summit which was held in Gurugram spoke about how the Startup20 engagement group is benefiting the global startup ecosystem and how Saudi is moving towards building a stronger foundation for the startup ecosystem.
HRH Prince Fahad, who represented Saudi Arabia at the Startup20 Summit, shared Saudi's experiences and successes as a valuable learning opportunity for others to adopt best practices.
He commended India's efforts in drafting the Policy Communique for the G20 nations, incorporating recommendations from all participants. Prince Fahad expressed hope for the successful implementation of this initiative and affirmed Saudi Arabia's unwavering support for this collaborative endeavor.
"First of all, thank you for having me with you. As I know your channel is focusing on global startups and today in Startup20 we have seen the importance of this engagement group. We support what has been accomplished by India and we are happy to see it in Brazil and in South Africa. And this shows that all countries are aware of the importance of the startup ecosystem and how can they be more harmonized together from our side in Saudi Arabia, we are happy to be part of Startup 20. We are active participants and we are planning to always be active and supporting to this engagement group," HRH Prince Fahad bin Mansour Al-Saud said speaking exclusively to TICE.
India's Thriving Startup Ecosystem
India's startup ecosystem has garnered international acclaim, propelled by an impressive number of unicorns and significant venture capital investments. In 2020, Indian startups were able to raise approximately USD 11.6 billion in funding, showcasing strong investor confidence in the country's entrepreneurial potential. With over 99,000 startups and more than 100 unicorns, India secures itself as a global leader in the startup realm. Noteworthy sectors driving this growth include information technology, e-commerce, fintech, healthtech, renewable energy, and artificial intelligence. This vibrant and dynamic ecosystem serves as fertile ground for investment, job creation, and overall economic prosperity.
Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 and Startup Landscape
In alignment with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia ardently pursues the modernization and diversification of its economy beyond oil dependency.
This fervent commitment has already yielded notable results, with 2021 experiencing a staggering 54% increase in startup funding deals, indicating a burgeoning momentum. Saudi Arabia's efforts are primarily focused on sectors such as science, technology, and innovation (STI), as well as tourism, recognizing their potential to drive substantial economic growth and job creation.
Recent findings by TBI/Zogby Research Services reveal a remarkable 60% of Saudis expressing an ardent interest in contributing to STI advancements, with an additional 44% showcasing a similar inclination towards the lucrative tourism industry. The rapid expansion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) further underscores Saudi Arabia's unwavering commitment to unlocking the untapped potential of non-oil sectors, fostering sustainable economic growth.
HRH Prince Fahad bin Mansour Al-Saud talked about Vision 2030 under the guidance of His Royal Highness King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and the supervision of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in ushering transformative developments within the startup ecosystem.
“With Vision 2030, under the leadership of His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and the supervision of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, we are seeing a lot of positive changes in the startup ecosystem and we believe that we're just in the beginning. We have a goal to have the startups contribute to the economy to reach 30% of the Saudi GDP and we are working towards that goal. We are learning from the experiences of the G 20 countries when it comes to the startup success rate and the startup contribution to the economy. And we are also sharing our experience and successes in Saudi Arabia so that others can learn and adopt these practices,” mentioned HRH Prince Fahad bin Mansour Al-Saud.
Saudi Arabia's Supportive Entrepreneurial Environment
The Saudi Prince highlighted the Ministry of Investment's extensive programs that aim at providing a welcoming environment for entrepreneurs entering the Kingdom. These programs offer numerous privileges and support to those interested in joining Saudi Arabia's vibrant startup ecosystem.
"The Ministry of Investment has a lot of programs that will allow entrepreneurs to land softly in the Kingdom. There are a lot of programs with a lot of privileges that can be given to entrepreneurs. We, as part of the Startup 20, will be supporting anyone that would like to join the startup ecosystem in Saudi. And as the Chairman of Entrepreneurship Vision nonprofit organization, we always support any entrepreneur that is coming from India or anywhere else in the rest of the world. And we are also supporting Saudi entrepreneurs that would like to expand globally and as well come to India," HRH Prince Fahad said.
He said Saudi will be more than happy to open all the doors to present this opportunity to the top investors in Saudi and showcase the opportunities.
This commitment further underscores Saudi Arabia's readiness to embrace collaboration and propel the growth of the startup ecosystem.
Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in cultivating a supportive entrepreneurial environment, as evidenced by its recognition as the top destination for starting a business among 45 countries, as determined by the Global Entrepreneurship Congress.
This noteworthy recognition highlights the kingdom's commitment to fostering an ecosystem that fervently encourages innovation, entrepreneurship, and overall economic growth. The implementation of supportive policies, regulatory reforms, and targeted initiatives by the Saudi Arabian government has played a pivotal role in creating an enabling environment for startups to thrive and prosper.
Unlocking Collaborative Synergies
During the Startup20 Summit, Startup20 Chairperson Dr. Chintan Vaishnav emphasized the significance of Saudi Arabia's pledge to support the USD 1 trillion funding milestone.
"By pledging support for the USD 1 trillion funding milestone, Saudi Arabia sets a precedent for other nations to follow, demonstrating their commitment to driving a disruptive innovation ecosystem and propelling economic growth," Dr. Chintan Vaishnav said.
The convergence of Saudi Arabia and India's thriving startup ecosystems presents a mutually beneficial opportunity for collaboration and knowledge exchange. Both nations share common goals centered around economic diversification, job creation, and sustainable growth, thus making meaningful contributions to the global startup landscape.
By capitalizing on their respective strengths and cultivating robust partnerships, India and Saudi Arabia can amplify innovation, drive market expansion, and foster sustainable development on a global scale. The complementarity of their startup ecosystems fosters potential collaboration in vital areas such as technology transfer, market access, and talent exchange.
Opportunities for MENA-India Trade Relations
The potential collaborative synergies between India's thriving startup ecosystem and Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 not only pave the way for bilateral trade relations between the two nations but also present an opportunity to strengthen trade ties between India and the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. The region struggles to keep pace with fast-growing populations and to generate meaningful employment for the young and educated due to its overreliance and current dominance of the resource-extraction industry, namely oil and gas.
However, this indicates that the region will soon follow suit and look to diversify its economy. By leveraging the success and collaboration between India and Saudi Arabia, which was the only Middle Eastern member at the Startup20 Summit this year, other countries in the MENA region can stand to benefit from the exchange of knowledge, investment, and business opportunities. This convergence will not only foster economic growth and job creation but will also strengthen regional ties and promotes global prosperity.