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Retailo co-founder on setting up in KSA with AstroLabs

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

In the fourth episode of our Saudi Market Entry Series, AstroLabs’ Business Development Lead, Alex Nicholls had a chat with Talha Ansari, Co-Founder of Retailo – a company that AstroLabs helped set up in KSA.

The episode walks you through what Retailo does, why Talha and his founding partners chose Saudi Arabia as their market, the challenges they faced, and how AstroLabs helped them navigate the setup process and beyond.

Let’s dive right in.

About Retailo

Talha Ansari, Mohammad Nowkhaiz, and Wahaj Ahmed founded Retailo in June 2020 to disrupt the retail industry. They wanted to build a tech product that solved problems found in the traditional retail supply chain.

Retailo is an online B2B marketplace that allows SME retailers to connect with manufacturers and investors. Despite starting in the middle of the pandemic, merely 8 months into operation, Retailo has already become one of the fastest growing tech companies in the MENAP region with the mission of empowering 10 Million SMEs.

Retailo aims to solve the following key challenges facing the retail industry:

  1. Lack of accessibility to competitive pricing

  2. High working capital requirement

  3. Limited SKU-offering

  4. Opportunity cost due to operational hassles

Retailo’s value proposition and its use of the internet and smartphones to solve accessibility, financial, and operational challenges in the retail supply chain have earned the app huge popularity and wide adoption among retailers and manufacturers.

Why Retailo chose Saudi Arabia as its core market

  • Size of impact – The team was driven by the large impact their product would have on the Saudi market. KSA has a population of 34M – 67% of it being the youth (below the age of 35). It has more than 90% internet penetration and $23,000 GDP per Capita (2019 report). The approximate market size of retail in KSA is $1000 – $59B of it coming from the 100,000 informal retail stores in the country.

  • Prior market experience – The “exposure and understanding of the fabric of the society” gained from the founders’ past professional experiences in KSA allowed them to create a product specific to the market they were targeting. They understood the population demographic, and the talent and client pool they would have access to in the Kingdom. They also had access to their past networks in the region, which could help them build, grow, and scale Retailo.

  • Vision of the Kingdom – Talha says that the ambitious nature and reforms introduced in Vision 2030 drove them forward and resonated with the entrepreneurial spirit in them.

  • Launch pad for MENA – Saudi Arabia, especially Riyadh where Retailo is based, is a great location to be used as the launching pad for a startup in terms of its accessibility to resources, and the potential of expansion to the entire MENAP region.

  • Spirituality – Talha and his co-founders feel a special connection toward the Kingdom on a spiritual level, which reinforced their decision to Retailo in Saudi Arabia.

Why Retailo partnered with AstroLabs

Despite having worked in the Kingdom before, the founders of Retailo faced many challenges during the inception stage.

While Talha and his co-founders were busy raising funding, planning the operations strategy, finding suppliers, and reaching out to retailers to understand their pain points better, there was a host of other tasks that needed to be managed. Thus, they decided to partner with AstroLabs to help them navigate the obstacles of setting up a company.

AstroLabs helped Retailo with:

  • Hiring talent

  • Market research and Insights

  • Setting up the company

  • Registration with multiple government authorities

  • Employment visas

  • Office infrastructure

  • Connecting with the ecosystem

By the time Retailo was all set to commence its operations in KSA, AstroLabs made sure it had talent, documentation, licenses, and infrastructure to hit the ground running.

Talha also pointed out that having access to the AstroLabs co-working space as a soft-landing office for Retailo gave the team the opportunity to be surrounded by other businesses who were at different stages of the same journey. This led to the exchange of ideas and synergies while also offering them the opportunity to be part of a community of like-minded and ambitious people.

AstroLabs has always strived to make lives as easy as possible for new businesses setting up their operations in Saudi Arabia. But, it’s a lot more special when our clients let us know how our involvement benefitted them and made their business setup process a smooth and frictionless one.

If you’re looking to know more about expanding your business to KSA, check out our previous articles or reach out at [email protected]. We’d be happy to answer your questions and give you the right guidance.

The next episode of the Saudi Market Entry Series features Palm HR where we will discuss the best HR practices in Saudi Arabia. Click here to register for the event. We hope to see you then!

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