View from Saudi Arabia: The changing communications landscape
Written by Samantha Bartel, Managing Partner and CEO MENA
This autumn, Instinctif Partners will open a new office in Saudi Arabia. We have been working in the Kingdom for more than fifteen years, but have now made the decision to set up a legal subsidiary there, and to expand our presence on the ground.
For me and for us, this reflects a personal and corporate commitment to a Kingdom that is changing rapidly. The private sector in Saudi, with support and encouragement from the government, has been rapidly enlarging. There is a knock-on effect into the private sector from the government support mega projects, Neom (a $500bn mega-city of the future), Qiddiya ($8bn city for entertainment, sport and art, including a Six Flags theme park) and Red Sea Project (made of nine islands, 50 hotels to run on renewable energy and zero waste-to-landfill).
The growth of the private sector, also supported more recently by high oil prices, is reflected in the growing scale and sophistication of the public markets, as more business seek capital through the Tadawul, the Saudi stock exchange. All these businesses need increasingly complex and integrated support, both in Saudi, regionally and globally.
This is turn has driven a rapid growth in our work within the Kingdom, across corporate reputation, capital markets support and impactful content production, all underpinned by digital, with the result that we are growing our team on the ground to manage our expanding client base.
Luckily, cultural change in KSA in the last few years has significantly increased the potential talent pool available to employers like us. There are many more women in the workforce. Long gone are the days where I was the only woman in a meeting room, today the female workforce is actively contributing, at many levels, most notably driving themselves. These women are talented, educated, motivated and now available to employers.
Just as importantly perhaps, Saudi is a young country. Today, offices in the Kingdom are buzzing with energy, filled predominantly with a younger generation, as 55% of Saudi Arabia’s population is under the age of 34 years. This motivated young population has been agile in its efforts to digitize the local economy, where there is a 98% internet penetration. Not only does this increase the talent pool, but the high levels of social media adoption mean that communications techniques are having to adapt rapidly to a new world.
Finally from a talent perspective, the cultural renaissance now taking place in Saudi, with music, art, food benefitting from unprecedented expansion and investment, is immeasurably improving the experience of living and working in the Kingdom. Many talented Saudis who left to work abroad are now returning to a much-changed homeland.
This weekend, President Biden is visiting Saudi, a reflection of its continuing international significance, in particular in the wake of the energy price increases precipitated by the war in Ukraine. He will find a Kingdom that is very different to the country I first visited fifteen years ago. It has changed for the better, and I’m proud that Instinctif Partners will be playing an increasing role in the story of that change.