Food consumption in the GCC to grow at a steady pace, says Alpen Capital

UAE-based investment banking advisory firm, Alpen Capital, projects the food consumption in the region to grow at a CAGR of 2.8% to reach 56.2 million MT by 2027 in its latest GCC Food Industry report. The vegetables food category is expected to surpass the growth rates of the meat and cereals categories in the coming years.  Released on Tuesday, November 28th, the report provides a comprehensive overview of the GCC food sector and outlines the sector’s recent trends, growth drivers and challenges. It also profiles some of the renowned food companies in the region. The report was launched over a webinar followed by a panel discussion featuring Sanjay Bhatia, Managing Director, Alpen Capital; Garrett Walsh, Chief Executive Officer, Mezzan Holding Co. and Nasser Talib Nasser, Chief Executive Officer, Al Islami Foods. Sameena Ahmad, Managing Director, Alpen Capital moderated the discussion.“Demand for food in the GCC is expected to be driven by improving macroeconomic factors, rising population, buoyancy in tourism and various initiatives being taken by the governments to improve self-reliance. The industry is witnessing a rise in the demand for new dining concepts and diverse cuisines, due to changing consumer preferences and increasing health awareness. The food services sector continues to evolve at a significant pace to cater to the needs of the consumers and hence, remains one of the most promising sectors driving food consumption in the region. The GCC governments are also heavily investing towards innovation in key areas such as water desalination, efficient irrigation, protected agriculture, plant breeding and soil restoration to mitigate the perennial concern of food security.”, says Sameena Ahmad, Managing Director, Alpen Capital (ME) Limited. “Given the region’s high dependence on imports and ongoing geopolitical conditions, there is a heightened focus on alternate farming techniques to increase local production. This has led to the emergence of a number of Agritech start-ups in the region which are expected to gain prominence in the coming years. Despite the volatility, the food sector has remained relatively resilient opening opportunities for scalable and accelerated growth. Inorganic growth strategies are likely to continue as companies look to capitalize on the on the burgeoning food demand in the GCC. At the same time, online business channels, including food aggregators and last-mile delivery platforms, are poised to play a pivotal role in reshaping the dynamics of the food market.”, says Sanjay Bhatia, Managing Director, Alpen Capital (ME) Limited. According to Alpen Capital, food consumption in the GCC is projected to grow at a CAGR of 2.8% to reach 56.2 million MT by 2027 from an estimated 49.0 million MT in 2022. Future growth is expected to be driven by an increase in population, rise in per capita income, and rebound in tourism activities. The regional governments are also taking several initiatives towards ensuring a sustainable supply of food items to meet the rising demand. Moreover, growing awareness of healthy eating habits coupled with increasing penetration of the food services sector offering global cuisines are likely to aid the food consumption across the GCC over the next five years. The per capita consumption in the GCC is forecasted to reach 904.1 kg by 2027 from an estimated 872.5 kg in 2022, growing at a CAGR of 0.7% The country-wise food consumption share in the GCC is projected to change marginally through 2027. While Saudi Arabia will continue to remain the largest GCC market in terms of food consumption, its share is likely to fall from an estimated 57.1% in 2022 to 55.5% in 2027. Bahrain is expected to witness the highest CAGR at 4.5% whereas the UAE and Saudi Arabia are expected to growth at moderate paces of 3.3% and 2.2%, respectively, largely in line with their population growth.  The report states that the growth among different food categories is forecasted to range between 2.0% and 3.2% from 2022-2027. The vegetables food category is projected to secure the highest CAGR at 3.2%, closely followed by ‘others’ and meat at 3.1% each. The ‘others’ food category consists of commodities such as eggs, fish, pulses, oils & fats, potatoes, and honey products. The GCC economies have made a strong recovery following a period of pandemic-led economic distress. This can be attributed to the successful COVID-19 mitigation strategies implemented by the governments, positive business and tourism sentiment driven by mega events, along with rebound in the hydrocarbon market. The region’s expanding population base that largely comprises of young and working class professionals has led to the rise in demand for new dining concepts and diverse cuisines, including boosting consumption of healthy foods and ready-to-eat varieties. The governments have also increased their focus towards sustainable agricultural practices with the aim of enhancing domestic output while encouraging the use of greenhouse, hydroponic and aquatic farming, and leveraging other technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to increase agricultural efficiency and yield. The confluence of all these factors are expected to positively drive consumer sentiment, spending and food consumption over the long-term. However, the report highlights that the global economy is expected to remain weak in the short to mid-term, largely impacted by the geopolitical conflicts.  These conflicts are likely to weigh on global economic activity, raise inflation and cause supply-chain problems. Additionally, the challenge of food security continues to strain the GCC governments despite successful efforts to increase local production. The GCC food industry is also vulnerable to global price fluctuations and supply-chain disruptions as over 85% of the region’s food requirement is imported. With chronic and lifestyle-related diseases becoming a major concern for the population, there is heightened awareness for healthy eating habits, which is also being promoted by the regional governments. This has not only boosted the demand for organic food but has also encouraged restaurants and food services players to concentrate on procuring and producing healthy food items. The region is witnessing a large scale movement in the AgriTech sector via investments and partnerships, between private players and governments, with the aim to gradually build capacity to produce sufficient yields of affordable food with minimal resource utilization. The governments’ effort to enhance food production is encouraging local as well as international players to expand their presence while also helping reduce the demand-supply imbalance and consequently food costs. Going forward, focus is likely to be directed towards value creating opportunities, with particular emphasis on AgriTech. The industry is likely to witness consolidation amid cost-containment issues and limited room for differentiation in service offerings.

GCC consumers prioritize sustainability, willing to pay premium: Bain & Company

In light of growing environmental concern driven by extreme weather, new research from Bain & Company shows more than 60% of businesses in the GCC region are currently off track to achieve their sustainability goals. The study emphasizes the pivotal role of technology, policy, and behavior change in achieving sustainable practices. An increasingly environmentally conscious base of consumers and employees in the GCC may prove instrumental in steering business towards their sustainability targets.Bain & Company published in November a major new study exploring the top sustainability concerns for business leaders, their customers, and their employees.“With the upcoming global focus on the region with COP 28 and the potential implications from this critical gathering, it is critical the CEO’s and Sustainability Plans in the corporate sector take centre stage in the next phase of the world’s transition. Our global report on the topic is grounded on the philosophy of Visionary Pragmatism in this path for executives to adopt as they are navigating taking the global ambitions and translating them into the day-to-day functioning of their respective companies” said Akram Alami, Middle East Partner at Bain & Company.To get a broad sense of environmental concerns around the world, Bain surveyed 23,000 consumers. The results underscore the growing urgency of sustainability topics. Some 64% of people reported high levels of concern about sustainability. Most said their worries have intensified over the past two years and that their concern was first prompted by extreme weather. Surprising truths about consumersBain’s research reveals several surprising truths about consumers, dispelling some common misperceptions. Among them, the ideas that consumers won’t pay more for sustainable products and that consumer behavior is fixed. Baby boomers are often just as concerned as Gen Z. Many companies have long viewed younger consumers as more focused on sustainability than their older counterparts, but the reality is not as clear-cut. For example, 72% of Gen Z consumers and 68% of boomers globally are very or extremely concerned about the environment, but in countries as diverse as India, France, and Japan, boomers are more concerned. Consumers are recommending brands if they are supporting social causes. As concerns grow, consumers are looking to make environmentally sound choices - 82% of consumers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are likely to recommend a brand after learning that it supports a social cause. Consumer behavior can change more quickly than many companies anticipate, with external factors such as government regulation heavily influencing the market. China began offering financial incentives on electric vehicles in 2009; now 19% of Chinese consumers report driving an electric car, compared with 8% of consumers globally. In England, the use of single-use supermarket plastic bags has fallen 98% since the government began requiring retailers to charge for them in 2015. Similarly, in the UAE, the recent imposition of charges on plastic bags in supermarkets has swiftly prompted a notable reduction in their usage, showcasing the significant impact of government initiatives on shaping consumer behavior. There is a disconnect between what consumers want and what most companies sell. Worldwide, 48% of consumers consider how products are used when thinking about sustainability. These consumers are more concerned about how a product can be reused, its durability, and how it will minimize waste. In contrast, most companies sell sustainable goods based on factors such as how they are made, their natural ingredients, and the farming practices deployed. These factors cause many consumers to conflate “sustainable” with “premium.” One result of this disconnect: Nearly half of all developed-market consumers believe that living sustainably is too expensive. By comparison, roughly 35% of consumers in fast-growing markets believe this.Consumers struggle to identify sustainable products and don’t trust corporations to make them. In Bain’s survey, 50% of consumers said sustainability is one of their top four key purchase criteria when shopping. Yet they may be making decisions based on misconceptions. When asked to determine which of two given products generated higher carbon emissions, consumers were wrong or didn’t know about 75% of the time. Consumers say they rely most on labels and certifications to identify sustainable products, yet most were unable to accurately describe the meaning behind common sustainability logos, such as organic production or Fairtrade. A lack of trust in corporations compounds the issue. Bain found only 28% of consumers trust large corporations to create genuinely sustainable products, compared to 45% who trust small, independent businesses.Four critical areas of focus for companiesThe momentum behind sustainability and dynamic shifts in consumer behavior have profound implications for any company. Bain sees four critical areas of focus.Devise a future-proof and flexible strategy. Few companies plan beyond the typical 3-year strategic planning window, and even those that do look out 5 to 10 years tend to focus on expectations for technology adoption. These plans fail to fully consider two other factors that move just as rapidly and with as big an impact: regulations and consumer behavior.Acknowledge a fragmented consumer base. Companies need to deaverage consumers and innovate products and design propositions that appeal to different segments— local markets, consumers with different definitions of sustainability, and consumers with a range of purchasing motivations.Test and learn to determine what works—and repeat. In such a fluid environment, companies can lean aggressively on marketing experimentation, using digital tools to quickly test the sustainability messages that resonate with different segments and adapt accordingly. It’s a way to help consumers gain enough clarity to make decisions that are consistent with their values.Get out in front of regulations. As we’ve seen throughout the world, government policy inevitably becomes a huge contributor to changing consumer behavior. Across all industries, companies need to be at the forefront of helping to shape the regulations affecting their business. A company’s ability to anticipate policy shifts and build future-proof portfolios will help determine whether it can outpace competitors.Upskilling employees to rise to the challengeBain found 75% of business leaders believe they have not embedded sustainability well into their business. The instinct of many CEOs is to prioritize external hiring to address all skill gaps, including in sustainability. Bain advocates for addressing sustainability’s challenges through a combination of smart upskilling and cultivating a learning mindset.A new Bain survey of 4,700 people found 63% felt different skills and behaviors would be required for their company to execute on its ESG ambition or strategy. Yet only 45% of nonmanagers said their employer offers the reskilling and upskilling opportunities that would enable internal mobility.Despite almost every CEO saying they have a talent problem, few companies have defined what it means to be a great employer. In Bain’s recent survey, 44% of respondents said it is easier to find a better opportunity outside of their company than within it.Bain is leading by example on this cause. The firm has committed to cultivating a growth mindset in its team, partnering with 12 world-class universities—including MIT, HEC Paris, and Melbourne Business School—to upskill its employees on ESG. To date, its consultants have completed over 17,000 hours of ESG training through the program.

Olfa Messaoudi appointed as new Chief Digital and Marketing Officer of L’Oréal

Olfa Messaoudi has been appointed as the Chief Digital and Marketing Officer for L’Oréal Middle East. This marks a significant milestone for the company. With a remarkable 20-year career in digital and marketing transformation, Messaoudi brings a wealth of experience from her work with renowned brands and agencies across different regions.In her current position, Messaoudi is tasked with leading L’Oréal’s marketing initiatives in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). This includes overseeing various aspects of the business strategy such as digital, media, e-commerce, platforms, services, market intelligence, and consumer insights. Her role is pivotal in reinforcing L’Oréal Middle East's position as a global leader in the beauty industry.Messaoudi's journey with L’Oréal began in 2010 when she joined as the Global Digital Manager for Lancôme. During her tenure, she played a crucial role in orchestrating Lancôme's digital transformation, encompassing 360 activations, e-commerce strategies, and customer relationship management. In 2014, she relocated to Dubai to take on the role of Regional Head of Digital for L’Oréal Middle East Luxe Division. Here, she played a key role in advancing e-commerce in the region and spearheading the luxury transformation.Returning to Paris in 2017, Messaoudi assumed the position of Global Vice President of Digital, E-commerce, and Customer Relationship Management for YSL Beauty. In this capacity, she played a vital role in driving the brand's e-commerce growth and enhancing the online-to-offline consumer experience through the rollout of services and beauty tech. Before her current role, Messaoudi joined the SAPMENA Luxe Management Committee in 2021, based in Singapore, as the Chief Consumer Experience Officer. Here, she continued to contribute significantly to the online-to-offline consumer journey and laid the foundation for customer relationship management transformation. Additionally, she implemented new frameworks to ensure a seamless consumer experience across media and the e-boutique.Overall, Olfa Messaoudi's extensive experience and innovative approach are expected to play a crucial role in furthering L’Oréal Middle East’s digital and marketing initiatives, solidifying its position as a leader in the beauty industry.

Raiven Capital launches second venture capital fund in Dubai

Raiven Capital today announced the launch of a new venture capital fund with a target size of USD125 mn in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading global financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. The fund will focus on founders developing tech in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Distributed Ledger Tech, with a particular emphasis on digital platforms disrupting value chains in FinTech, cybersecurity and sustainability-focused sectors.  Investing in innovation in early and growth-stage tech companies in the GCC, South Asia, and North East Africa and enabling them to blossom into leaders by connecting them to markets and capital pools in Europe and North America, via Raiven’s new Dubai hub, is what we are most excited about, noted General Partner, Raiven Capital, Paul Dugsin.“The fund will serve the needs of the local startup ecosystem, enabling them to become regional and global competitors, while at the same time, Raiven’s existing community of startups and investors will now have access to all advantages of the Middle East and the broader region that arcs between East Africa to India for their own ventures.”Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer, DIFC Authority, said: “We welcome Raiven Capital to DIFC. Raiven’s focus on nurturing early and growth-stage AI, IoT and distributed ledger tech startups through the launch of this new venture capital fund shows strong confidence in Dubai’s economy, talent-base and future-forward entrepreneurial ecosystem. The firm’s presence in DIFC will not only benefit the local startup community in taking the future of tech to new heights, but also provide Raiven’s global network of founders and partners with access to a wealth of resources in the MEASA region and beyond.”General Partner, Raiven Capital, Supreet Manchanda noted the fervour around Dubai’s ecosystem and the opportunities it presents: “We are thrilled to be in a place growing exponentially. Founders are eager to contribute to global innovation. The government’s robust support for entrepreneurship is impressive, and unlike any other place at this time. We look forward to meeting the best and brightest in Dubai and DIFC in particular. There are great things ahead.”The Toronto-based fund is creating bridges between its home country and Dubai, an exciting development. “We are thrilled that Raiven Capital, a Canadian venture capital fund, is the first-of-its-kind to obtain a licence to operate its second fund in DIFC in Dubai. Raiven has ambitious plans for the region connecting Canada, the UAE and other high growth tech ecosystems. We look forward to working with them,” said Tracy Reynolds, Canada’s Consul General in Dubai.The tech industry in the UAE and regionally has recently seen substantial expansion. Yet, funding is falling behind the quick speed of change and technological adoption. This is drawing global technology businesses and international venture capitalists to the region. Raiven’s fund further accelerates growth of the venture ecosystem to meet the increasing demand for technology products and services.MENA venture capital funding in the third quarter of 2023 saw USD250 mn raised across 78 deals, a 32 per cent increase compared to the second quarter of 2023, according to MAGNiTT’s MENA Venture Investment Premium Report.

OPSWAT Opens Dubai Office to Bolster Industrial Sector's Cybersecurity DefenseOP

OPSWAT, a global leader in Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) cybersecurity solutions, today announced the opening of its Middle East, Turkey, and Africa (META) regional office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, following GITEX earlier this month. The move is aimed at answering the increasing demand across the region for zero-trust cybersecurity solutions capable of safeguarding critical infrastructure.The opening of OPSWAT’s Dubai office closely follows a period of significant growth for the company in the region. Over the past 12 months its regional momentum has included 60% growth in revenue, 50% growth in its customer base, a 50% increase in the number of projects, and a substantial increase in the company’s operational resources.OPSWAT’s regional customers include organizations in the manufacturing, nuclear, energy, oil and gas, government, and defense sectors. More than 50 GCC ministries selected OPSWAT in the past year and the company is also actively working with almost all the region’s oil and gas companies. In the financial services sector, OPSWAT has provided solutions and products to 43 regional banks — including eight central banks — since March 2022, and is in the POC stage with approximately 50 other FSI entities.“This office opening is timely, as we will have an on-the-ground presence in a market where we are fast becoming the vendor of choice for government ministries and banks,” said Sertan Selcuk, VP of Sales, Middle East, Turkey, Africa & Pakistan (METAP), at OPSWAT. “Our expectation is to see at least 500 companies as our customers in the META region by the end of this year.”Selcuk explained that the ongoing merger between IT and OT has added many layers of complexity to securing critical infrastructure. IT cybersecurity solutions lack the tools to protect such infrastructure and very few security professionals have the skills to tackle the current threat landscape as it relates to OT. A further challenge is that few training and certification programs focus on critical infrastructure protection.“Like elsewhere, many critical infrastructure networks in the Middle East rely on outdated or legacy systems that were not originally designed with robust security in mind,” Selcuk said. “Most OT networks rely heavily on IT systems and this interconnectedness often increases the attack surface. Securing these interdependencies poses substantial challenges.”OPSWAT’s growing reputation in the region has been built on its Content Disarm and Reconstruction (CDR) technology, which addresses these challenges directly. In CDR, files ranging from PDFs and HTML to image and video assets are pulled apart, sanitized, and reconstructed in real time. From its new base in Dubai, the company will offer CDR and other technologies to an expanded market. Its hub presence will ease OPSWAT’s engagement with partners and customers, who will get face-to-face access to industry experts.Apart from serving as a collaboration hub for customers and partners, OPSWAT’s Dubai office is home to a critical infrastructure protection (CIP) laboratory, where industry professionals, clients and channel organizations can see for themselves the power of OPSWAT products like Neuralyzer, MetaDefender Kiosk, MetaDefender Vault, NetWall, and much more. They will also be able to explore the advantages of OPSWAT Academy training, experience attack simulations, and discuss with the company’s experts how to combine these products and services to build the best possible OT security posture.Following two successful years where its business has more than doubled, OPSWAT is looking to a strong 2024, characterized by the same level of growth.“This investment [office launch] builds on the foundation we’ve been laying in the region for years, and we’re excited to have a strong presence in this key market,” Selcuk noted. “We are fully committed to the cyber fight alongside our META customers and partners. We see Saudi Arabia and the UAE as critical markets for cybersecurity awareness, and we see our growth in the region as continuing through our channel partners. We look forward to working with them to bring our solutions to more customers in the months ahead.”Apart from the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Selcuk described OPSWAT’s growth in Qatar, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait as “exponential”. “We are also in the midst of a very aggressive restructuring in Turkey, which is home to more than one million manufacturers,” Selcuk continued. “We have reaped the fruits of this in the first six months of this year. Next year we will focus on Pakistan and South Africa and we plan to manage all the countries in the META region from our new offices in Dubai.”

Mastercard partners with tmam to help GCC SMEs digitize corporate expenses

 Mastercard has entered a strategic partnership with tmam - one of the leaders in multi-currency corporate card, expense management and accounts payable solutions for SMEs - to launch its innovative payment proposition across the GCC region. The collaboration will help small businesses digitize their corporate expenses while saving money on company spend.With a transparent fee structure and deep integration into leading accounting platforms, tmam provides unlimited physical and virtual cards in regional currencies, including USD, with EUR and GBP to follow, to businesses of any size worldwide. Through its partnership with Mastercard, tmam customers will be able to access a range of benefits through a simple digital onboarding experience via the tmam app, allowing them to transact seamlessly physically and online. The payment solution for SMEs will help improve expense tracking for their branch offices. In addition, the companies can monitor the spend of all their remotely-located staff and branches, reducing the cost of doing business in the local currency. The new proposition will also enable organizations to save on fees while paying USD invoices and streamline all recurring expenditure into one platform.“SMEs are crucial drivers of the economy. Guided by our pledge to connect 50 million small enterprises globally to the digital economy by 2025, we are delighted to partner with tmam to deliver our innovative payment solutions to SMEs. Our collaboration will contribute to accelerating digital transformation and enhancing financial inclusion in the region while providing companies with practical tools that align with their business and operational needs, and facilitate their access to the digital economy,” said Amnah Ajmal, Executive Vice President, Market Development,EEMEA, Mastercard.“As one of the leading regulated corporate multi-currency spend platforms in the GCC, we are thrilled to work closely with Mastercard to provide our clients a financial operating ecosystem navigating multi-geographical operations and transactions spanning a myriad of currencies powered by smart physical and virtual corporate cards. Augmented by intuitive software, these cards empower meticulous oversight and control of departmental budgets, eliminating any worry on where and how your money is being spent. With the backing of Mastercard’s platform, they can be utilized seamlessly across the vast expanse of online retailers and global merchant locales,” said Maseeh Ahmed, Founder and CEO, tmam.Pursuing its vision of financial automation, tmam works closely with its clients to build solutions by them and not for them. Supporting the company are leading fintech investors, such as Aditum, JIMCO, Plus VC, and a number of strategic angels stretching from Silicon Valley to South Africa and the Middle East.

dnata Travel Group brands sweep six awards at World Travel Awards ME 2023

dnata Travel Group brands across the GCC have won six accolades at the Middle East edition of the 2023 World Travel Awards.Representing the Travel division of dnata, a leading global air and travel services provider, titles earned by the dnata Travel Group include Middle East's Leading Airline GSA 2023 (dnata Representation Services), Bahrain's Leading Travel Management Company 2023 (dnata Travel Management), and Saudi Arabia's Leading Travel Agency 2023 (dnata Travel).A highlight for the Group at the prestigious travel industry awards this year includes the success of Arabian Adventures across three categories for a fourth consecutive year. Its accolades include the UAE’s Leading Destination Management Company 2023, UAE’s Leading Desert Safari Company 2023, and UAE’s Leading Tour Operator 2023.John Bevan, CEO of the dnata Travel Group, commented: “The annual World Travel Awards are recognised globally, and we are proud to have been acknowledged in such a diverse range of categories. As we continue to grow and enhance our core product offerings and introduce more in our range of local and global travel services, this is an exciting time for our Group. We look forward to revealing more to GCC-based and international travellers and trade partners throughout the 2023/24 winter season.”Currently growing its global team and offering, also inclusive of UAE-based attraction bookings, cruise handling and event services, Arabian Adventures recently launched its destination management (DMC) services from the UAE to a first international destination in 2023: the Maldives. As the company seeks to enhance the affordability of tours and experiences across the emirates, recent product launches include ‘The Adventure Pass’ which offers Dubai attraction bundles with up to 40% savings compared to standard entry prices combined. More new products and enhancements to its existing range are set to be launched throughout the 2023/24 winter season, including to its ‘Overnight Desert Safari’, an all-inclusive desert camping experience.Meanwhile, the wider range of dnata Travel Group brands, which cover all aspects of the travel industry, continue to innovate and expand from their base in the UAE to the GCC and beyond.The World Travel Awards serves to acknowledge, reward, and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries. The awards are voted on by travel and tourism professionals worldwide.

UAE witnesses unprecedented ransomware resilience: Acronis report

 As the global cybersecurity landscape faces increasing turmoil, the latest report from global cyber protection leader, Acronis, reveals a remarkable story of resilience in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the broader GCC region. The report showcases Acronis' Insights into the UAE and GCC cybersecurity landscape, painting a compelling picture of how these regions have stood strong against the tide of ransomware attacks, with threats showing signs of flatlining.Driven by a steadfast dedication to fortify the digital realm in the region, the all-encompassing Acronis Cyberthreat Report 2023 forecasts a distinct levelling off in monthly ransomware detections throughout Q4 of 2023, down from a ??6% jump reported in Q1 2023 over Q4 2022. Unmasking the Ransomware Landscape in the UAE and GCCIn a landscape fraught with uncertainty, the UAE and GCC region emerge as beacons of cybersecurity strength, according to the insightful Acronis Cyberthreat Report 2023. Here are key highlights:Rising cyberattack costs in the Middle East: The Cyberthreat Report reveals that various forms of cyberattacks are increasing in the Middle East, leading to significant financial losses for organizations. These cyberattacks encompass a wide range of threats, including hacking, malware, and data breaches. Notably, data from IBM also indicates that the average cost of a cyberattack on an organization in Saudi Arabia and the UAE was US$6.53 million, which is 69% more than the global average.Ransomware Resilience: Despite the rising costs associated with these broader cyberattacks, the UAE and GCC region has shown strong resilience against ransomware attacks, which encrypt a victim's files and demand a ransom payment. The report suggests that the number of monthly ransomware detections is expected to remain steady until the close of 2023. This underlines the region's robust cybersecurity measures in dealing specifically with ransomware, emphasizing their remarkable effectiveness in this area.Phishing's Persistent Challenge: While ransomware may be on the wane, phishing remains a persistent challenge. Cybercriminals continue to rely on this tactic to target login credentials, demanding ongoing vigilance from organizations across the region.Malware Management: Within the region, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have reported an 11% infection rate by May 2023, ranking 25th and 27th globally. The UAE maintains its resilience with a 10% infection rate, securing the 31st global position.AI as the Game-Changer: AI has emerged as the ultimate game-changer in the fight against cybercriminals. Over 70% of UAE businesses have adopted AI in their decision-making processes, underscoring its efficacy in countering advanced cyber threats. This commitment to AI technologies highlights the region's dedication to cybersecurity excellence.“The Middle East and largely the UAE region, due to its position as the go-to economic hub, both the public and private sector have been key targets for cyber-attacks. Over the last few years, ransomware has remained the leading threat but due to serious and cost-effective interventions in terms of preparedness and solutions by the key stakeholders, the region is steadily succeeding in mitigating the attacks. Sustained education, upskilling and investment in cyber protection by enterprises across all sectors continues to play a pivotal role in making the region cyber fit,” said Ziad Nasr, general manager, Acronis Middle East.As the UAE and GCC region continue to demonstrate their prowess on the global cybersecurity stage, Acronis stands firmly at the forefront, equipping them with cutting-edge cyber protection tools and strategies to navigate the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape.Manchester City Legend at GITEX Cybersecurity ExtravaganzaIn a remarkable demonstration of the surging importance of cyber protection, the Acronis team welcomed Paul Dickov, the celebrated Manchester City legend, to their ranks. Together, they showcased that cybersecurity is not just a tech challenge but a collective endeavor. The event featured captivating live demonstrations, exhilarating gamification activities, and exclusive insights into the latest cybersecurity trends and innovations.James Slaby, Director of Cyber Protection, will captivating audiences with daily thought leadership presentations. Unveiling the strategies to combat AI-driven cybersecurity threats, building unwavering cyber resilience, navigating the intricate realm of cyber insurance, crafting an incident response plan for unbeatable resilience, and safeguarding the invaluable data of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace.While global threats escalate, the UAE and GCC remain steadfast, with ransomware threats expected to flatline in Q4. As the digital battleground evolves, the UAE and GCC are well-equipped to navigate the ever-changing landscape, ensuring the safety of their digital ecosystems with the likes of Acronis continuing to play a pivotal role in bolstering the region's cybersecurity posture.

GuestReady appoints Shruti Arora as Managing Director, GCC

Dubai: GuestReady, the leading global hospitality & property technology company with a focus on urban short-term rental management has announced the appointment of a new Managing Director for the GCC region.Shruti Arora has been tapped to oversee all aspects of GuestReady’s GCC operations including business development, strategic partnerships, guest and owner relations, as well as to drive services and technology innovation. Based in Dubai, her primary focus will be on expanding GuestReady's footprint in key cities across the region, nurturing relations with property owners and other key stakeholders, and continuing to elevate GuestReady’s guest and host experience.A seasoned leader with a proven track record in building and scaling start-ups, Arora joins during a pivotal period of growth for GuestReady within the region, including the recent launch of a GuestReady’s Saudi Arabian office this past summer, and following a year of unprecedented growth.Arora brings a wealth of diverse expertise to her new role having held positions in fast growing e-commerce and tech businesses within the region. Her history of designing and delivering high-impact growth strategies in dynamic industries across the Middle East aligns with GuestReady’s wider vision and ambitions.GuestReady CEO, Alexander Limpert said: "We are delighted to welcome Shruti to GuestReady. Her experience in scaling technology start-ups and proven leadership skills will be instrumental in propelling GuestReady's continued growth in the GCC region. We have full confidence that under her guidance, we will continue to deliver exemplary property management services to our clients and stakeholders and offer unforgettable experiences to our guests."“As someone who gravitates towards dynamic and innovative growth sectors, I am thrilled to join GuestReady,” said Arora. “With the rise in leisure and business tourism, the short-term rental industry across the GCC is thriving. Expanding upon the strong presence and talented team that GuestReady has already established in the region, I see tremendous potential to further build and solidify our position as market leader.”Arora will be replacing long-time and outgoing GuestReady GCC Managing Director, Reem Al Khatib who, after having built the company’s regional presence from the ground-up over the past six years, will be leaving the company to pursue new endeavors.“Our Middle Eastern presence, with its solid foundation and continued growth is testament to the wonderful team that has been established and guided by Reem throughout the last six years. Her service and strong leadership has been instrumental in our success in the region, and she leaves a legacy of innovation and growth that Shruti will now build upon,” added Lampert. Along with the opening of GuestReady’s Saudi Arabia office, the company recently introduced what is believed to be a regional technology first within its innovative proprietary platform and property management system (PMS), RentalReady.RentalReady offers all-in-one functionality for managing short-term vacation rentals to both property owners and managers, while offering streamlined, convenient services and information to guests. Two new Artificial Intelligence (AI) integrations were recently introduced within RentalReady, a first within the region. These integrations enable personalized itineraries for guests across GuestReady’s global network, including cities in the region, as well as AI-powered guest communications. RentalReady is currently used by GuestReady as well as independent property managers, hosts, and their respective guests across the Middle East and worldwide. GuestReady offers a wide range of services designed to support investors and property owners every step of the way with their world-class technology, local expert advice, and end-to-end support including but not limited to property listing optimization, professional photography, 24/7 guest communication, housekeeping, maintenance, and more. By leveraging its industry-leading technology, RentalReady, and its global expertise, GuestReady ensures that property owners can maximize their rental income and deliver exceptional guest experiences.GuestReady’s GCC properties are available to book on GuestReady’s direct booking website, and via Airbnb, and For more information, visit

Beyon Money launches new digital payment solution in Bahrain

Beyon Money, part of the Beyon Group, has launched Beyon Money Checkout, an innovative online payment acceptance solution for corporates and businesses in Bahrain. Delivered in partnership with Ottu, a leading financial technology company, the solution is reshaping the landscape of merchant services in Bahrain and other Middle Eastern regions.This collaboration with Ottu will support the expansion of Beyon Money’s services by empowering merchants in Bahrain to seamlessly integrate Beyon Money Checkout for their e-commerce channels. As part of their commitment to merchant solutions, Ottu will be offering Beyon Money’s payment solutions across its extensive merchant network in Bahrain and other regional markets.Beyon Money Check Out, the new online payment acceptance solution reduces the number of steps for processing payments when compared to traditional solutions, leading to cost savings for merchants. Furthermore, the solution benefits Beyon Money users through delivering a seamless payment experience, with transactions completed instantly by simply using their phone number registered with Beyon Money, instead of entering their payment card details.Beyon Money CEO Roberto Mancone commented, ”Beyon Money Checkout leverages its digital wallet, enabling merchants to receive instant payments from Beyon Money customers, at lower costs compared to traditional card payment methods. Together with Ottu, we will empower merchants while also elevating the online payment experience for Beyon Money customers.”Speaking about this transformative partnership, Ottu CEO Talal AlAwadhi said, "This partnership is a testament to our shared vision of simplifying transactions in Bahrain, the UAE, and the GCC. Ottu will spearhead the expansion of Beyon Money’s new payment service, Beyon Money Checkout, offering an advanced online payment solution that will redefine the way we conduct financial transactions."

Drink Dry announces new partnership with TVM Collective

Drink Dry, one of the leading non-alcoholic beverage distributors in the GCC, has announced its newest partnership with the world’s leading alcohol-free bar group, The Virgin Mary (TVM) Collective. The exciting collaboration will see these two drinks powerhouses join forces to bring world-class alcohol-free cocktails to people across the Middle East. Strengthening their position in the market, Drink Dry is proud to be the leading importer and distributor of non-alcoholic drinks in both the UAE and KSA.In their quest for a regional distribution partner with the same ethos, Drink Dry was the perfect choice for TVM, with both brands being true pioneers in the sector with the same alignment when it comes to quality, alcohol-free products for the Middle Eastern market. With multiple venues in both the operating and planning phase, TVM is at the forefront of a socialising revolution that centres the social occasion for consumers around conviviality rather than alcohol. With Drink Dry at the helm of distribution operations across the Middle East, the partnership is a perfect match and will delight the growing category of non-alcoholic drinkers and sober curious consumers across the region.Erika Doyle, Founder of Drink Dry, said: “We are thrilled to be partnering exclusively with the esteemed TVM, bringing additional world-class products to the people of the GCC and further cementing the growth of the NoLo sector here in the region”. Providing consumers with even more quality choices, we are incredibly excited to showcase increased non-alcoholic drink options on menus across venues in the GCC.”Vaughan Yates, TVM Collective Founder and Co-Owner, said: “We are named after the world’s most popular alcohol-free cocktail – The Virgin Mary, and we pride ourselves in delivering an unparalleled flavour journey for our customers. That is why we are so pleased to be working with Drink Dry to bring a range of products to our venues in cities like Riyadh and Dubai, that will enhance the social experience for everyone who joins us.”“The Middle East is an incredibly diverse landscape with an increasingly discerning population, and we know people are looking for a place where they can sit down with friends and really connect in a lively yet mindful drinking environment. In partnership with Drink Dry, our TVM bar menus will feature a wide range of alcohol-free cocktails, beers, wines and more to ensure there’s always plenty to discover.”Under the moniker TVM, the group now has venues open in Diriyah Gate in Riyadh and Alserkal Avenue in Dubai, with several more operations coming on stream in the Middle East in 2024. Drink Dry is the preferred supplier of alcohol-free products for all the bars in TVM Collective’s Middle Eastern franchise operation.Are you ready to #DrinkDifferent?Find out more about Drink Dry by visiting their website and stay updated on their news and developments via their social media channel @drinkdrystore. Drink Dry delivers UAE-wide with free home delivery on purchases over AED 250. Place your order before 1:00pm and receive same-day delivery across Dubai.

How AI and blockchain technologies are shaping financial markets in the GCC

Dubai: It didn’t take long for Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain technologies to impact companies, as their rise is gradually shaping new business models, optimizing performance and boosting efficiency across the entire economic spectrum. Among the many sectors affected by this digital transformation, are financial markets in the GCC and beyond.On one hand, the integration of AI helps to improve data analysis and enables the swift processing of vast financial data, leading to better decision-making and risk assessment. Automated trading algorithms execute trades rapidly based on market trends and patterns, while AI assists in risk management by identifying and mitigating potential risks through data analysis.On the other hand, Blockchain technology enhances security in financial markets, guaranteeing safe and transparent transactions, which helps reduce fraud and enhances trust in regional financial markets. It also streamlines financial processes, such as settlements and record-keeping, driving efficiency and lowering costs. In Saudi Arabia, for example, Blockchain technology is being used to create a new and simple way to finance small and medium enterprises. As for Dubai, the city has been at the forefront of Blockchain adoption, with ambitious plans to become the Blockchain capital of the world, as the Emirati leadership strives to fully digitize the government by utilizing Blockchain for all government documents, which demonstrates a firm commitment to embracing this technology for various sectors.According to Ritu Singh, Regional Director of Stone X Group Inc., the combination of AI and Blockchain technologies is expected to have a profound impact on financial markets in the Middle East. Singh says: “While the specific investment capital dedicated to AI and Blockchain in this part of the world is not clear yet, their projected impact and the region's advancements indicate a growing interest and investment in such transformative technologies, which contributes to reshaping the financial landscape.”A recent PwC report has highlighted the potential for AI to disrupt markets and foster the creation of innovative services and business models in the Middle East. The report projects that the region will gain 2% of the total global benefits of AI by 2030, with the UAE experiencing the largest impact, amounting to approximately 14% of its 2030 GDP. The report further estimates that the potential impact of AI in the Middle East could reach US$320 billion, with Saudi Arabia anticipated to be one of the economies that will benefit the most from AI advancements.According to The International Data Corporation, it is estimated that the Middle East will be spending $3 billion on AI in 2023 with that amount more than doubling to $6.4 billion by 2026. The region is expected to see annual growth in spending of almost 30% in this technology over the next three years, which is the fastest growth rate worldwide over the coming years. Furthermore, more than 80% of CEOs in the Middle East believe that AI is critical to the future of their businesses, and over 70% of them are investing in such technologies.For, a leading trading company which has its office in Dubai and part of StoneX Group Inc., investing in AI technologies has already started. The company offers customers an AI-based Performance Analytics tool, in addition to giving them access to advanced Risk Management Performance Analytics solutions.In this line, Singh confirms: “At, our commitment lies in delivering the finest cutting-edge tools and market access to our esteemed customers. We firmly believe that AI will revolutionize every aspect of trading, spanning from markets to trading technology, and we are at the forefront of this transformation by offering our customers AI-based tools, such as Performance Analytics. We’ve also introduced an AI index for trading, The BITA Artificial Intelligence Giants UST Index, and other exciting offerings are currently under development.”Recently, a growing number of companies has started using The BITA Artificial Intelligence Giants UST Index, which aims at providing exposure to the Artificial Intelligence (AI) sector through a selection of companies that are publicly listed in the US with revenue in the AI ecosystem. This includes areas such as microprocessors, data center platforms, machine learning and autonomous artificial intelligence development, among others. Index constituents are weighted by free-float market capitalization and rebalanced semi-annually, while index values are disseminated on an intraday and end-of-day basis. The base currency of the index is USD. However, index values may be published in other currencies when applicable.

The family office unveils its new Fintech lab

The Family Office, the leading wealth manager in the GCC, is delighted to announce the launch of its new Fintech Lab at its Bahrain headquarters, further solidifying the company’s commitment to delivering unmatched digital investment products and experiences for its clients.Driven by an unwavering pursuit of innovation, The Family Office has consistently pushed the limits of excellence in wealth management. The launch of the Fintech Lab represents a significant milestone in the company's ongoing mission to provide investors with cutting-edge solutions and elevate their overall financial journey.With the rapid advancements in technology and the evolving needs of investors, The Family Office recognizes the importance of staying at the forefront of digital transformation. The Fintech Lab serves as a dedicated space where experts, visionaries, and emerging talents collaborate to conceptualize, develop, and implement groundbreaking fintech solutions. By fostering a culture of experimentation, creativity, and continuous learning, the Fintech Lab will drive the creation of innovative digital products that empower investors to make informed financial decisions with ease and convenience. Through a combination of advanced technologies, data-driven insights, and user-centric design, The Family Office aims to revolutionize the way wealth management services are delivered."We are pleased to unveil our Fintech Lab as a testament to our unwavering dedication to our clients," said Abdulmohsin Al Omran, Founder and CEO at The Family Office. "By embracing the possibilities offered by fintech, we are poised to redefine the digital landscape of wealth management and provide our clients with unparalleled experiences that cater to their unique needs."The Fintech Lab will also constitute a hub for collaboration with industry-leading experts, fintech startups, and academic institutions. This collaborative approach will enable The Family Office to leverage diverse perspectives and harness the full potential of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and machine learning.With its new Fintech Lab, The Family Office is set to unveil groundbreaking digital products and services, solidifying its position as a trusted partner in wealth management and driving industry innovation.

KAVAK appoints Nicolas Ariza Bagoud as GM for GCC region

Dubai: KAVAK, the emerging market´s leading used car tech platform, has announced the appointment of Nicolas (Nico) Ariza Bagoud as the new General Manager for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.With a remarkable 13-year track record in the e-commerce industry across multiple countries, Nico brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to lead KAVAK's expansion in the GCC market. His appointment further solidifies KAVAK's commitment to delivering a transformative used car experience and setting the standard in the pre-owned car industry.In 2022, Nico became a founding member of KAVAK's international team, focused on expanding the company's presence beyond Latin America. His prior roles in finance and operations made him instrumental in setting up teams, structures, and processes in Turkey, the UAE, and Oman. Nico's exceptional leadership and contributions have led to his appointment as General Manager for KAVAK's operations in the UAE and Oman, further solidifying the company's commitment to growth in the GCC region.Speaking about his new role, Nico said: "I am thrilled to be leading KAVAK’s expansion into the GCC market. KAVAK's innovative approach and commitment to revolutionizing the used car industry align perfectly with my passion for customer-centric strategies. I look forward to working closely with the talented team at KAVAK GCC and driving its future success."“Nico’s deep understanding of the solution we are creating, combined with his international experience and strategic vision, make him the ideal candidate to drive KAVAK’s success in the GCC market,” said Carlos Garcia Ottati, Founder and CEO at KAVAK. “His thirst for innovation and expertise in implementing omnichannel strategies will undoubtedly contribute to KAVAK’s mission of transforming the used car market.”Mexico's first technology unicorn, Kavak was established in 2016 by Carlos Garcia Ottati. It is a popular platform in the used car industries, leveraging technology and data-driven strategies. Kavak has spearheaded the transformation of the pre-owned car market in developing nations. By overseeing every aspect of the process, including thorough inspections, refurbishment, warranties, and post-sales services, Kavak ensures quality and reliability. Its aim is to revolutionise the buying and selling experiences by utilising technology and implementing data and AI-driven financial tools. These tools enable a broader range of users, with varying credit profiles, to access financing options for purchasing a vehicle.Over the past year, KAVAK has achieved significant milestones in the GCC region, demonstrating its dedication to providing top-notch services and meeting the region’s high quality expectations. Highlights from the past year include the opening of its most premium hub worldwide, designed to cater to the Dubai market, as well as the establishment and complete in-housing of its reconditioning facilities. These initiatives have led to the creation of approximately 100 new jobs in the GCC region.KAVAK's Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) in the GCC has also experienced substantial growth, almost tripling over the past twelve months of continuous quarterly growth. With the current infrastructure in place, the GCC is poised for healthy growth, projecting a $150-200 million Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) excluding any additional investment.Looking ahead to the next 12-24 months in the GCC, KAVAK has exciting plans to enhance its market presence. By June 2023, its reconditioning facility will be fully operational, with a capacity to produce up to 1,300 cars per month. Its inventory, currently at 500 cars, is projected to triple within the next 12 months and continue growing to make KAVAK the largest car inventory holder in the region within the next 24 months. Moreover, the company will be tripling the number of jobs created in the GCC by the end of 2025, solidifying its commitment to the local economy.

Cyber-resilience needs improvement in UAE & KSA: Security leaders

Riyadh: Despite a continued increase in cybersecurity spending in the region, organizations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia remain ill-equipped to face down the cyber-menace. This was the key finding in a global report released by Trellix, the cybersecurity company delivering the future of extended detection and response (XDR).End-of-decade CAGRs for the GCC cybersecurity market have been revised upwards, from 5.9% in 2017 to as high as 7.6% last year. While this is a clear illustration of heightened interest in security matters at the board level, Trellix’s “Mind of the CISO” report shows that two thirds (66%) of CISOs in the UAE and KSA still believe their organizations lack the right people and processes to be cyber resilient and almost three quarters (74%) believe their current technology setup is insufficient.The research — which was conducted by Vanson Bourne across nine countries and surveyed 500 CISOs at companies with more than 1,000 employees — found that when it came to challenges around people, more than one in four CISOs in the UAE and KSA (26%) decried the lack of skilled talent, as well as their inability to recruit and retain this talent. More than one in five (22%) were concerned about a lack of buy-in from their board, and 30% cited lack of buy-in from other parts of their organization.From a process standpoint, some 38% of CISOs in the UAE & KSA said they lacked the freedom to communicate outside of their organization for learning purposes. A further 38% expressed frustration with their inability to respond quickly to changing regulatory frameworks and 18% said their processes were poorly designed or they were presented with too many sources of information to be adequately in control of their environment.“The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia rank consistently high on global maturity indexes for cybersecurity,” said Khaled Alateeq, Head of Middle East, Trellix. “This is because government entities have done a great job in laying out cybersecurity guidelines and regulations and introducing a wide array of skilling initiatives and incentives to attract top talent to the region. Now it is for talent but incumbent upon organizations to answer the call and support their CISOs. Our recent Mind of the CISO research is quite clear on what would make life easier for CISOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.”Asked for suggestions on how their enterprise’s senior leadership could help them overcome their challenges, half of CISOs in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said better engagement from such stakeholders would be a good start. And 38% said better understanding from the rest of the organization on issues of cybersecurity would help, with 32% calling for a strong support team to assist in their defense efforts.But predictably, technology continues to be the largest stumbling block between the regional CISO and their ideal threat posture. While two thirds (66%) said people and processes are holding them back from being cyber-resilient, nearly three in four (74%) — a whopping 25 percentage points higher than the global average — said the same of technology.The report showed further evidence that the strategy of multiple point solutions is out of date. When asked about their experiences with their current security tools and platforms, 38% described them as outdated, 30% said there were too many, and 34% said they did not work well together. Almost all (92%) of those polled across the two Gulf nations said their organization was using anywhere between 11 and 35 separate tools.“What comes across most in this study is not the lack of investment,” Alateeq added. “There are plenty of signs that commitments in this regard are on the rise, including the fact that only 36% of respondents cited budget and resource challenges. What emerges here is more of a misdirection of investment. We must ensure the right people and processes are in place for sure. But it is worrying is that amid all the budget increases, we are not yet seeing the right tech in place.”Alateeq continued: “CISOs are telling us plainly that ‘more solutions’ is not the answer. They need a platform approach that is open and capable of learning and adapting to build a proactive defense. CISOs and their teams must be able to see, protect, and resolve. They must be able to maximize visibility and peer into every corner of the enterprise. They must be able to have coverage of every asset and be equipped with unrivaled discovery speed when picking up on potential threats. And they must be able to automate their response across this connected security ecosystem to keep their organization from becoming the latest victim of the threat landscape.”

Apparel Group brand Aéropostale opens its 39th store in the GCC

The leading global and fashion conglomerate, Apparel Group, has recently announced opening of the latest Aéropostale shop at Seef Mall – Seef District, becoming the brand’s 39th store in the GCC.The new Aéropostale store is located on the ground floor between Gate No. 8 and Gate No. 9, offering a wide range of trendy, comfy, and high-quality fashion for men, women, and kids Aéropostale is the leading shopping destination for fashionable young adults, which is also famous for its attractive prices, offers, and products made of eco-friendly fabrics.For over 13 years, Apparel Group has succeeded in doubling the value of the Aéropostale brand thanks to its deep awareness of the needs of consumers in clothing and accessories, exceeding their expectations through innovation in the world of casual fashion. The Group operates Aéropostale stores in the GCC, while Aéropostale stores are also located in several locations worldwide.On this occasion, Mr. Mohammed Al Qaed, Acting Chief Commercial Officer at Seef Properties, commented: “We are pleased to announce the opening of the latest Aéropostale store in Seef Mall – Seef District, which will represent a valuable addition to the group of stores hosted by the mall, which is keen to create a diverse shopping environment that meets the needs of all family members. Seef Mall – Seef District continues to attract more prestigious international brands, thanks to its strategic location in the vibrant business area of Seef District and the modern facilities it provides, making it a preferential destination for tenants of major brand names from around the world.”Neeraj Teckchandani, CEO of Apparel Group, stated: “Over the last few years, Bahrain customers have become increasingly discerning and attentive to global shopping trends while staying true to their culture and roots. Continuing Apparel Group’s commitment to providing an elevated shopping experience to our loyal customers, we are proud to be partnering up with Seef Mall and further expanding our strong retail footprint in the Bahrain market. Our brand’s expansion with Seef Mall is in line with our strategy of being responsive to consumer demand. Bahrain continues to be a strategic market for us and we are proud to be part of the country's growth.”

ASICS partners with Apparel group to launch ASICS retail stores in the GCC

Japanese sports brand ASICS and leading regional conglomerate Apparel Group have partnered to launch ASICS retail stores in Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Bahrain.  Signifying the brand’s commitment to the region, the franchise contract encompasses the rollout of 20 stores within the next five years and kick starts with the official opening of ASICS store in Qatar on December 5th.Located in Doha Festival City Mall, the first ASICS retail concept in Qatar features 165 square meters of space, showcasing running, tennis, padel, volleyball and kids collections. Customers can find in store the new GEL-KAYANO™ 29 - the running shoe that is arguably ASICS’ most iconic model and that has now been improved even further through advanced technologies, as well as NOVABLAST™ 3 shoe - the third generation of ASICS’ unique cushioning running shoe that offers a bouncing running experience and combines Japanese origami design with technology.The new ASICS stores will also feature ASICS’ Run Analyzer™, a free ASICS specialized gait analysis and foot mapping technology that helps customers find the right running shoe for their personal running style, increases running efficiency andreduces load on the foot. Trained staff members in-store assist with fittings and diagnostic services, pronation analysis, supination and pressure distribution, creating a unique shopping experience for consumers.Commenting on this partnership announcement, Mano Takayuki, General Manager, ASICS Arabia says, “We are very proud to partner with Apparel Group for the launch of ASICS stores in the GCC. This marks a new stage of growth for the brand in the Middle East and signifies our commitment to enhancing communities through sports.”The next openings in line are set to roll out in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, bringing Europe’s #1 running and tennis brand’s retail concept to the rest of the Middle East, spearheaded by sustainable design and usage of sustainable materials throughout the stores, as part of the brand’s mission to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, helping conserve the ability of future generations to continue experiencing the uplifting power of sport on the mind.Neeraj Teckchandani, CEO of Apparel Group said, “As Apparel Group continues its journey to strengthen its position as one of the leading retail conglomerates in the region and globally, we are proud to announce our strategic partnership with ASICS. With this partnership, Apparel Group remains committed to identifying innovative approaches to strategic alliances that enable us to stay at the forefront of consumer trends and grow our global footprint.”ASICS will also be expanding its current ASICS FrontRunner program, a unique ambassadorship program that selects inspiring individuals from each of the countries ASICS is present on to become ambassadors for the brand. Those selected individuals have a unique role – to inspire, motivate and educate the communities on the importance of movement for better mental and physical well-being and help promote ASICS founding philosophy of, ‘A Sound Mind in a Sound Body’.“The opening of ASICS stores in the region allows us to connect further with local, grass root sports communities and share our passion for movement and Sound Mind Sound Body philosophy. We are witnessing unparallel growth in running, tennis and padel sports in the Middle East, and we want to ensure we help those sports enthusiasts to find the right footwear and apparel to increase their performance ’