(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi entrepreneurs face an uphill battle in the Kingdom's cell phone business. From small-scale private cell phone shops to wholesale and distribution outlets, many say it is a closed market that is available only to foreigners.
In Jeddah alone, an estimated 1,000 mobile phone shops are owned and run by non-Saudis.
Awadh Al-Shehri, an aspiring businessman, said: "I have been trying to rent a shop to open a cell phone business for five years now with no luck because it is monopolized by foreigners."
Muhammad Al-Enezi explained that he had to set up his table at a roadside because of high cost of renting a shop.
Many young entrepreneurs appealed to the authorities to end this monopoly. They have called for regulations to make it a level playing field for Saudis.
Economist Issam Khalifah said the chances of loss are always high for any new venture. "The whole activity is dominated by non-Saudi wholesale traders, and as long as the market is not regulated, it is very hard for Saudi entrepreneurs to succeed," he said.
Majed Al-Sakkaf, marketing consultant and member of the Communication and Technology Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "It is very important for the Saudization process of this sector to begin at once."
Rania Salama, another member of the Communication and Technology Committee at the chamber and chairperson of the Young Businesswomen's Committee, sees great opportunities for Saudis.
"Saudi youth can make a mark in this market through mergers and by forming alliances and conglomerates with active support of the state," she said.
The industry is booming and the demand for mobile phones and accessories continue to soar. The Saudi cell phone market is the largest in the Middle East. It is expected to be worth SR1.8 billion in 2014.