Snap boosts hiring in Saudi Arabia as it taps into AR growth in Mena

Exclusive: Snapchat's owner aims to build wide community of creators and partnerships in the GCC advertising market to help drive revenue

The new Snapchat Pixy, a limited-edition pocket-sized flying camera is currently available only in the US and France. Photo: Snap
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Snap, the owner of social media platform Snapchat, is increasing hiring in Saudi Arabia as it prepares to open a creative studio in the kingdom and the adoption of augmented reality accelerates in the Middle East.

The hiring drive by the California-based company is part of its strategy to strengthen its position in the AR space and provide revenue streams to creators and developers, Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap in the Middle East and North Africa, told The National in an interview.

“We’re focusing on augmented reality developers to allow them to create experiences and monetise them. We’re hiring local talent in Saudi Arabia to make sure we get more understanding of the culture and bring the nuances across the board,” Mr Freijeh said.

“The GCC is one of the most engaged communities for Snapchat globally, with a wide community of creators and potential partnerships in the advertising market to help drive revenue.”

AR has experienced significant growth in recent years, driven by AR-powered devices, including smartphones and smart glasses.

The most significant advances are in the metaverse, the virtual space that allows its users to interact using three-dimensional avatars of themselves.

Snap, however, still finds the metaverse “unclear”, said Mr Freijeh.

“If you ask many people what’s the metaverse, you’ll get many answers,” he said. “We don’t have a strong opinion on that because we’re really [more] focused on the real world than going into another world that we don’t live in.”

The global AR market was valued at $25.33 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of more than 40 per cent from 2022 to 2030, according to Grand View Research.

The biggest companies are getting increasingly involved in the sector. Meta Platforms, the company formerly known as Facebook, is promoting the metaverse, while iPhone-maker Apple is rumoured to be preparing to launch its own AR glasses.

Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap in the Middle East and North Africa, says the GCC is one of the most engaged communities for Snapchat globally. Photo: Snap

Snapchat's creative studio in Saudi Arabia — which is increasing investments in technology — is due to open in the fourth quarter of 2022, says Mr Freijeh.

“We still expect to hire more than 500 new team members between now and the end of the year, representing nearly 10 per cent company-wide headcount growth over the next seven months,” Snap chief executive Evan Spiegel said last week.

“This is in addition to over 900 offers already accepted this year, up 41 per cent year-over-year, and the roughly 2,000 people added to our team in the trailing 12 months.”

The new additions are expected to boost Snapchat's community. Mr Freijeh said social media — video posts, in particular — influenced customer decisions over the past decade. In retail and e-commerce, adding a layer of AR allows customers to virtually try out items and boosts brand awareness.

“In our study in the last 10 years, purchase decisions have been very much influenced by the way brands communicate their positioning through videos,” he said.

“Snapchat made the right bet. We've always said the camera will make a major impact in transforming the way we use technology. In the beginning it started with entertainment, now, it plays a bigger role in our community.”

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Snapchat made the right bet. We've always said the camera will make a major impact in transforming the way we use technology
Hussein Freijeh, general manager of Snap in Mena

Concerns over privacy are also continuously addressed.

“We work closely with local governments, have ongoing dialogue regarding those topics and are really collaborative. So far it’s been going well in the Middle East. We're getting the feedback and adjusting to it,” he said.

Snapchat has more than 332 million daily active users globally, according to Snap, and is working with more than half a million partners, creators and developers to provide its ecosystem with products and services. Its developer community has built more than 2.5 million Lenses — effects used on the platform — that have been viewed more than five trillion times.

At the recent Snap Partner Summit, the company introduced new products to complement its business, including the Lens Cloud storage services, new lenses to aid shopping, and e-retail and new developer tools.

It also introduced the Pixy, a limited-edition pocket-sized flying camera currently only available in the US and France.

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Updated: June 01, 2022, 9:11 AM
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