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Stories from my trip to Saudi Arabia 2024
A less travelled roads which brings lots of surprises
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By

Umair Sayed

·

Jun, 3 2024

·

8

min read

Saudi Arabia, a place no kingdom aspired to rule till 500 CE, was spreading their own rule by 650 CE. A place that survived for centuries by trading dates and olives, discovers oil and impacts global politics. A place where language (poetry) is the biggest form of art. A place that became a spiritual source for a quarter of humanity. It was time for me to visit this place.

Saudi Arabia has always been relevant to me. Of all the stories I must have heard, Saudi Arabia would top the table, only second to my motherland, India.

My visit to KSA was full of surprises each day, which began humbly with a Leap Expo visit. Discovering the Frappe ecosystem in that region was like peeling the layers one by one. Before I share the spoilers, let me share a journey and experience chronologically.

Reaching Riyadh

I landed in Riyadh at 3 a.m., whereas my hotel check-in was at 4 p.m. To make things worse, I left my Debit Card at home. Thankfully, my sister in the UAE handed me enough cash. This meant getting robbed was not an option for me.

After landing, the cabbies gave me a home-like feeling. The ones who hijack your mind and don’t allow you to decide for yourself. One guy showed me the Uber app and loaded my luggage. He dropped me at the hotel just fine. However, the hotel guy didn’t give me an early check-in. I found refuge in a room designated for prayer and got three hours of sleep there. Thankfully, I got a check-in at 9 am.

At Leap Expo

Ramadan, our most recent partner, picked me up at 10 a.m. sharp. He lived alone and was there for me most of the time, navigating me around (thanks!). Ramadan is an accountant by profession who offers financial consulting. For him, ERPNext was a tool he bundled along with packaged financial services offered to his customers. Nice strategy. Isn’t it?

Leap Expo has been doubling every year as an IT exhibition event. Considering the scale, they decided to move it to a faraway land from a city in the middle of the desert. After beating some jams and diversions, you are finally in a parking lot, just half a km away from the main venue.

For Leap Expo, just calling it a giant tech expo might not suffice. It was there to make a statement that “we are here to win”. Honestly, it also felt a bit made-up to me, but kudos for the efforts. There were about six halls containing the biggest tech brands, to the enthusiasts selling their ideas for building the next unicorn.

Knowing that there is a healthy ecosystem for Frappe in KSA, my eyes kept looking for a stall with the ERPNext dashboard. Deep inside, I carried discontent from KSA partners for not exhibiting in such a significant regional IT event. We were just about to leave the place when I received a call from an ex-Frappe Partner, Abdullah. He was one of the exhibitors, presenting just what I wanted to see: ERPNext. A day saved, finally )

Within Leap Expo, I met other Frappe Partners and their customers, who came in as visitors. While I was catching up with the community in person, I kept coordinating with a few partners, motivating them to organise a local community meet-up the next day. Until evening, it was all in the air.

Partner Who Raised VC Funding

The next day, Mohammad Hafeez from Go-live Solution picked me up for a customer visit. We planned a visit the day before in Leap. Mohammad hailed from Egypt, trying his luck with entrepreneurship in Riyadh. While they were doing sales in KSA, their backend team was based there in Egypt. The scenario is pretty much like India being an outsourcing hub for the West, where they immediately get advance of currency exchange. The advance of a common language spoken in both countries also came in as an advantage, which does matter in a country like KSA.

During a conversation with Mohammad, I asked if they were doing fine business-wise. He shared that they are not only closing well-paid implemented projects, but they also got funding from one of their enterprise customers. The news of Frappe Partner raising VC funding was news I heard for the first time. This validated that the ecosystem has matured well above what we anticipate sitting in our Mumbai office.

With the Go-live team stationed at the customer’s site. Mohammad, a camera-shy person, escapes becoming a camera man.

Mawared, a Water Bottling Company

Mawared is our enterprise customer, located in Al-Kharj, which was 1.5 hours away from Riyadh.

Mawared is a water bottling company. The unique property of Mawared? It was a show being run by women, led by Dr. Nora, leading from the front. Unexpected to what we learned about KSA. Right?

Dr. Nora was full of praise for Frappe, ERPNext and Go-live Solutions. So much so that I had asked for critical feedback so that we could improve. They looked contented and expected better support for the next phase of implementation.

GoLive looked equipped to handle the situation, as two of its members had been on-site for the last two months. They also demo-ed a mobile app to enable faster entries through scanning, especially required in the van-sales model.

Thanks to Mawared migrating on FrappeCloud and then on dedicated hosting, GoLive had a shiny listing on Frappe’s website. I'm glad to know their scalability concerns were handled well on FrappeCloud.

Frappe Riyadh Meet-up

After lots of back and forth, a Frappe Community Meet-up was happening.

The Frappe Meet-up was announced to start at 3 p.m. However, Ramadan and I found ourselves stuck in bad traffic. We reached the venue at 4:30 p.m. As we announced the event a few hours before, I was expecting about ten people to attend. On arrival, we found a conference room full of people. This was our first experience with the traction Frappe has in KSA. About 30+ people, some leaving Leap behind, came for Frappe’s event.

The introduction was even more surprising. Each partner mentioned at least twenty ERPNext implementations. Our host, Abdul Aziz, a FOSS contributor, led leading the introductions.

After the introduction and my short presentation, we had a free-flowing discussion on certain concerns raised by community members and myself. At the end of it, most of us aligned to:

  • Partner fighting a lone battle, with a lack of community sense, which is important in an open-source ecosystem
  • No common assets like Zatca localisation (fixed for now)
  • Frappe Local in Riyadh was long due (on you guys ;)
  • No event planned despite such a huge traction
  • Weak presence in the local event

Overall, it turned out to be a nice experience. During the meet-up, I learned that most new partners had worked for an ERP brand with white-labelled ERPNext. Since they couldn’t cope with the customer’s need for ERPNext's latest upgrade, they learned that while labelling isn’t scalable, they moved on to initiate their journey of entrepreneur as a Frappe partner.

The Najd

After a meet-up, Abdul Aziz took Safwan and me to a restaurant called “Najd,” which served authentic Arabic food. The interior of the building was designed to evoke old-style Arabic houses, where Palm tree stems, leaves, and mud were used. Truly, he is proud of his Arab heritage and promotes it at every opportunity.

During the discussion, he mentioned that ERPNext had been approved by the digitalisation authority, which works under the IT ministry. They also had a program that led to implementation in about 50+ manufacturing units, funded by the KSA authorities! This is something completely unheard of.

I was familiar with the government reviewing and approving ERP for ease of business. But is the government paying to deploy ERPNext because it is open-source? Boys, we have something significant cooking up here.

The day ended fine, with Ramadan dropping me and Safwan at our places.

Frappe Partner Meet-up

The next day was Friday, which is a week off in Saudi Arabia.

In the morning, I caught up with Abdelrahem Abdelgader, a partner who picked me up for breakfast. He is from Sudan and settled in Riyadh for a while. He mostly serves SMBs and relies on Jignesh (GreyCube) for most of the technical support. He added to my knowledge of partners serving ERPNext through the government’s initiative. Surprisingly, some of them were also Odoo partners. Well, I understand.

After Friday prayer, I wanted partners to take me to some public place/museum etc. but seemed like they wanted a typical across-the-table discussion. We ended up in a nearby mall. This time, it was mostly Frappe Partner, and we caught up on some of the discussions done in the Mumbai Meet-up, plus what is needed in the KSA market.

Reaching Dammam and EHC

Early in the morning, I left for Dammam. Ramadan dropped me off at a place to get a shared cab. After Ramadan left, the taxi guy squeezed four people in the rear seat. On the highway, he was driving at 180 km/h. It was the fastest road trip of my life—408 km in about 3 hours. Peaks of rash driving!

I caught up with Essam and Ibrahim from the Eastern Health Cluster at Dammam. Click here to learn about their journey to ERPNext. Broadly, they got started with ERPNext implementation, replacing SAP. With the value Essam has seen in Frappe Framework and ERPNext, he can’t resist but to graduate from Frappe’s user to Frappe’s Partner. What can I say more? I understand ;)

Dammam Meet-up

Before I discuss the Dammam meet-up, I would like to introduce the organisers: Accurate Solutions. They were among the early adopters of Frappe and ERPNext in Riyadh and deserve credit for organising a meet-up.

Since it was a Saturday, the attendance in the meet-up was pretty low. However, those who came up had a decent experience with ERPNext and complemented each other well. One of the attendees was an Odoo partner, exploring Frappe as a low-code-no-code platform. The other attendee was a customer (Al-Mutawa) looking forward to starting their journey with ERPNext. His ambitions to go live shot up when he saw another young gentleman from his industry using ERPNext at a much greater scale. After watching this, going live with the Al-Mutawa guys was not a question of choice. It becomes a priority to stay relevant in the market. At times, tables turn so swiftly.

Meeting Al-Mutawa (Customer)

This was a customer visit where you want to go with safety gear. The al-Mutawa team has been struggling with the implementation. When we arrived at the customer office, a person already waiting in the conference was… (guess whom??)…. an Odoo partner who wanted to be Frappe’s partner. He was an acquaintance of Al-Mutawa’s owner.

Shortly after, the owner of Al-Mutawa joined, full of smiles and spirit. I was like, “Okay, action starts now.” And we started with… (guess what)…. “values of Frappe“. He wanted to ensure that Frappe would remain open-source, for his friend (from Odoo) is already considering a partnership.

Finally, I triggered ongoing implementation and suggested a quick go-live sooner. We soon left the meeting, which went completely different from expectations. I felt privileged to be re-presenting Frappe and riding the tide of Frappe’s team effort. At times, it also makes me feel like I am eating up everyone's credit :)

Closing

The journey made me experience what I had heard in stories. Arabs would go out of their way to please their guests, and my hosts didn’t disappoint. I planned my departure with lots of learning and promises from community for the future. A promise that “best is yet to come.” That it was just a trailer, and we need bigger platform to let more success stories of Frappe come out. I am looking forward to keep promise from my side, while KSA community plan to get the stage ready for everyone. Stay tuned!

Published by

Umair Sayed

on

Jun, 3 2024
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Paul Mugambi

·

3 days

ago

Beautiful read, and an insight into an individual I respect and have learned a lot from. Am inspired to trust the process and never give up.

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Anna Dane

·

5 days

ago

I must say this is a really amazing post, and for some of my friends who provide Best British Assignment Help, I must recommend this post to them.

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