Creating a Virtual Location in Saudi Arabia
Ranking at 14th in the world in terms of GDP and 12th in per capita income ($1.803 trillion and $55,229 as of 2017, respectively), Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s most sought-after hotspots for entrepreneurs, startups, and international businesses. However, as a foreign national, there are significant barriers to entry to establish a physical presence in the country. This includes investing the necessary capital (somewhere between $10,000 – $50,000 USD is typical), having a majority stakeholder from the country involved in your business affairs, and approval from the Saudi government – all before you even begin exchanging money with Saudi customers. Yikes! While it is still possible to start a business in Saudi Arabia, not every business has the ability to set up shop and make the requisite investments.
However, there is a better way to penetrate Saudi Arabian markets without investing significant time and resources. The answer is by setting up a virtual location in Saudi Arabia. In this article, we’ll cover what it takes to set up a virtual location in Saudi Arabia and the tools necessary to develop a thriving business.
What is a Virtual Location?
Essentially, a virtual location is synonymous with a virtual office (or, a virtual branch office). The idea is that instead of forming a physical presence in a particular country or region, you fulfill this role by virtual means (i.e. website, online collaboration tools, virtual phone numbers, etc.). This gives you the ability to operate in new markets, as well as operate out of these markets while retaining a sense of geography — even if this location is run from headquarters in another country. For instance, your Saudi-based virtual location can interface with Saudi citizens and businesses that are based there, but this virtual location can also conduct business with those who want to do business in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, virtual locations fulfill both needs.
Tools for Establishing a Virtual Location
Because every business model is run differently, there isn’t a consensus on what determines which tools you must have to establish a virtual location. The following tools are meant to be a guide, so be sure to augment these tools as you see fit:
- Website: Your website serves as the most essential part of creating a virtual presence in a country. By using Saudi Arabia’s .sa domain extension, your business gains a type of “virtual real estate” for the country. The predominant languages spoken and written in Saudi Arabia are Arabic (and its variants, like Gulf Arabic, Hejazi Arabic, Najdi Arabic), so make sure that your website’s content is written accordingly.
- Virtual Phone Numbers: Even though we live in a predominately online world, speaking over the telephone is still one of the main methods in which businesses and customers/ clients can communicate instantly with one another. For foreign businesses, a significant obstacle is how to establish trusted lines of communication in Saudi Arabia. Luckily, advances in cloud computing and VoIP have brought telecommunications up to modern standards with virtual phone numbers. When dialed, virtual phone numbers allow calls to be routed from one phone number to another, which gives your business authority and authenticity in new markets. One essential element to creating a virtual location in Saudi Arabia is to use Saudi Arabia virtual phone numbers, which are indistinguishable from “normal” phone numbers in usage and in how they look (area code +966 and the other digits, XXX XXX XXXX). Additionally, you may want to look into getting a vanity number, which is a phone number that has an aesthetic appeal, which can be used in your marketing efforts.
- Online Collaboration Software: If you’re working virtually, you’ll still need some boots on the ground, so to speak. In order to manage independent contractors, remote employees, and so forth, you’ll need online collaboration software to delegate tasks to your staff. This includes popular solutions, such as Trello, Slack, Teamwork, and a myriad of other options. By using this software, you can manage projects, version-control ongoing projects, delegate tasks, organize workflow, manage customer inquiries, and so forth.
(Bear in mind that Saudi Arabia does have its own cultural norms that need to be carefully considered when crafting your virtual office. While it is beyond the scope of this article to go into every detail, we suggest reading this informative article on conducting business appropriate in Saudi Arabia to respect its unique culture.)