Key sto­ries from across the re­gion

Gulf Business - - CONTENTS - By Robert An­der­son

Dubai-based com­par­i­son site Souqala­mal is eye­ing new op­por­tu­ni­ties in Saudi Ara­bia af­ter King Sal­man’s de­ci­sion to al­low women to drive.

Speak­ing at the com­pany’s an­nounce­ment of a $10bn se­ries B in­vest­ment round last month, CEO and founder Am­ba­reen Musa said she was par­tic­u­larly ex­cited by the prospects of the king­dom as women pre­pare to take to the road from June 24 next year.

A study re­leased by Kan­tar TNS in Oc­to­ber re­vealed 82 per cent of women in the king­dom are con­tem­plat­ing get­ting a driv­ing li­cence.

Souqal­mal plans to of­fi­cially launch a car in­sur­ance com­par­i­son plat­form in Saudi Ara­bia through a bro­ker in the com­ing months af­ter launch­ing the ser­vice in the UAE last year and see­ing 800 per cent growth to date.

“When we started to go into Saudi we were ask­ing what does that mean for us from a profit and loss per­spec­tive. What’s hap­pen­ing now with women be­ing able to drive is ideal, and on top of that there are more and more women fi­nan­cially de­pen­dent,” she said.

“So you would find more and more women go­ing out there to buy cars which means more and more women need to be in­sured. Nat­u­rally we’re ex­pect­ing an in­crease in the mar­ket size it­self in Saudi Ara­bia.”

Souqal­mal’s fund­ing round was led by the SAR500m ($133.3m) Saudi-based Riyadh TAQNIA Fund and saw par­tic­i­pa­tion from UK com­par­i­son site GoCom­pare in its first in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment and UAE Ex­change Group.

Riyad Cap­i­tal vice president and head of pri­vate eq­uity funds Ivo Detelinov said the com­pany had de­cided to in­vest in Souqal­mal prior to the de­ci­sion to al­low women to drive but it was clear the in­sur­ance in­dus­try would be one of the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

“Car road as­sis­tance you may or may not need years into your driv­ing ca­reer but day one you need in­sur­ance. I haven’t even thought through where this can touch but there are many as­pects we can gain from this sit­u­a­tion.”

Be­yond its plans in Saudi Ara­bia, Souqal­mal also plans to launch news busi­ness lines in­clud­ing for health, travel and home in­sur­ance, de­velop its tech­nol­ogy plat­form and in­vest in mar­ket­ing.

It is also eye­ing ex­pan­sion in Bahrain, fol­lowed by the wider GCC, be­fore look­ing at mar­kets in the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

“We look at the size of the op­por­tu­nity here in the GCC mar­ket and clearly it’s a mo­ment in time when the mar­ket is set to ex­plode es­pe­cially given what’s hap­pen­ing in Saudi Ara­bia so it seemed like an op­por­tune mo­ment for us to make our first in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment,” said GoCom­pare chief strat­egy and in­vest­ment of­fi­cer Faisal Galaria.

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