The Business Year

WATAD

SAUDI ARABIA - Real Estate & Construction

Abdulrahman Bajaber

CEO, Watad

Bio

Abdulrahman Bajaber is the founder and CEO of Watad, a groundbreaking platform in the building materials sector. He has a proven leadership track record across diverse industries including Cybersecurity, Consulting, FinTech, venture building, and trading. He is also a distinguished member of the Saudi Leaders Society (SLS) and an esteemed inaugural member of the Misk 2030 Leaders Program. Beyond his primary business ventures, Abdulrahman has deep interests in AI and space, viewing them as opportunities to create and drive global impact, reflecting his ambition to influence change on a global scale.

"Data is the main key component of AI infrastructure, and by creating a virtual industry, we are bringing the entire ecosystem together to integrate what was previously quite fragmented."
TBY talks to Abdulrahman Bajaber, CEO of Watad, about global expansion, partnerships, and goals for the coming year.
Could you give us an overview of Watad’s journey since its inception and how is it positioned within the construction industry in Saudi Arabia?

Watad is a young but mighty force in the construction industry. We’re on a mission to transform one of the most traditional industries by injecting efficiency, transparency, significant cost savings, and green initiatives into the procurement process to refresh the market and elevate it to be on par with other industries. … This transformation can only happen by utilizing digital innovation to modernize the industry. Our goal is to create a ripple effect, encouraging everyone in this market, including suppliers and contractors, to embrace change. We provide a broader space for them to innovate and expand their resources and operations while meeting the increasing demand.

Could you tell us about Watad’s role in the construction sector and its contribution to the Vision 2030 plan?

Saudi Arabia is on a mission to achieve an ambitious vision, and we like to think that we can play a role in it where we ensure that the enormous demand generated by Vision 2030 is met efficiently and sustainably. . Starting by addressing smaller problems in this industry, we aim to progress to tackling bigger issues that impact the GDP. Today, construction is happening everywhere in Saudi Arabia, as evident from the cranes seen across the country; even places like NEOM, which was recently an empty desert, is now filled with cranes and impressively visible weekly progress. With the construction sector projected to reach over a trillion SAR by 2025, the potential savings and environmental benefits are immense. However, This surge in construction creates significant demand and pressure on the supply side. We are leveraging AI to create efficient and seamless operations for suppliers to meet this demand through predictive analytics.

How does the company anticipate trends and opportunities for partners or potential alliances?

Data is the main key component of AI infrastructure, and by creating a virtual industry, we are bringing the entire ecosystem together to integrate what was previously quite fragmented. By utilizing AI to forecast demand and assess supply capacities, Watad is always one step ahead. These insights enable us to make smarter buying and pricing decisions and help local suppliers scale up their capacities in a timely manner. This proactive approach not only bridges the gap between demand and supply but also positions us as a vital partner in the construction industry’s growth.. This transformation is not about being disruptive, but about becoming an enabler of natural evolution.

Could you mention the major clients you are primary addressing with your services?

We serve a diverse range of major clients, focusing on both the supply and demand sides of the construction marketplace. On the supply side, we are signing agreements with some of the largest suppliers in the industry. On the demand side, we are registering a significant number of contractors, including two of the largest contractors in terms of scale. Our goal is to sign up these key players within the next few weeks. Additionally, we are introducing other stakeholders into our ecosystem, such as financing houses, consultants, HR companies, equipment suppliers, and big equipment rental firms. Our aim is to digitize the traditional processes by integrating all these players into a cohesive virtual ecosystem. This virtual industrial park will streamline interactions and operations, providing a modern, efficient approach to construction industry dynamics. This interview is happening prior to launching and will be published about 6 months after; I am certain numbers and facts will be widely short of the reality.

How is Watad shaping its competitive advantages?

Our competitive edge lies in the expertise and insider perspective provided by our shareholders and partners, who are some of the largest players in the Saudi construction market. This deep-rooted industry knowledge gives us a significant head start over other competitors. When startups typically enter this market, they face numerous challenges, such as securing investment, gaining adoption, driving cultural change, and understanding specific market dynamics. Many of these startups struggle and eventually fail; however, our strategic partnerships and the support from our shareholders have equipped us with the necessary resources and insights to navigate these challenges effectively. Additionally, we place a strong emphasis on integrating feedback continuously. Our team meets with new faces daily to gather feedback and adjust our processes accordingly.

What specific strategies and innovations are you implementing to enhance your position in the digital landscape?

One of our most significant strategies is the recent agreement we signed with the Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs, and Housing (MOMRAH) and the National Housing Company (NHC). This agreement focuses on building the first-ever virtual industrial park in Saudi Arabia. This initiative is a landmark project, positioning us at the forefront of the digital landscape in the construction industry. During the same event, a Chinese group signed an agreement to build an industrial park with 12 factories in Saudi Arabia. In contrast, our agreement aims to bring over 1000+ suppliers into the virtual industrial park, with a challenging goal of reaching 5,000 suppliers in the next year. This ambitious target highlights our commitment to creating a comprehensive and integrated ecosystem that serves the needs of both domestic and international players in a single, seamless platform.

How does Watad working to establish potential partnerships and how do they contribute to the company’s success?

At Watad, we view every entity – whether contractor or supplier—as a strategic partner. Their collaboration is key to our success. Furthermore, One of our key collaborations is with MOMRAH, focusing on the substantial housing program underway in Saudi Arabia. This partnership enables us to supply significant portions of the required materials. With NHC, we are also integrating our procurement tools with their central procurement platform. This integration streamlines the procurement process, allowing us to efficiently supply building materials from our vast network of suppliers. Additionally, we are in discussions with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) to become a part of their extensive procurement platform. PIF aims to centralize all procurement efforts for its projects, and our involvement would place us at the heart of these large-scale initiatives. This partnership is set to enhance our visibility and involvement in high-profile projects, significantly contributing to our growth and market presence..

Are you prepared to expand globally?

We are indeed prepared to extend our reach beyond the domestic market to venture globally. Initially, a good percentage of our operations involve procuring supplies from international providers, which establishes a solid global network for us on the supply side. While expanding our demand side globally is tempting, we recognize the unparalleled demand within Saudi Arabia over the next seven years. By 2028, with the new vision set for another 15 years, we will have a clearer understanding of whether to further extend our operations internationally or continue to focus on the immense opportunities within the Kingdom. Our team is a testament to our global readiness. Despite being a Saudi company, we boast a diverse international team, continuously growing and attracting top talents from global markets. This diverse expertise not only strengthens our current operations, but also positions us to scale effectively on an international level when the time is right.

What are your key priorities and objectives set in your 2024-2025 agenda?

Our vision is clear: to become the go-to platform for building materials in Saudi Arabia. We want to offer an unparalleled procurement experience, ensuring our partners save costs, increase efficiency, and enjoy complete transparency. By achieving these goals, we believe we will naturally hit our objective, setting a new standard in the construction industry.

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