Saudi digital market has unseen potential ready for investment cofounders — Bundakji

Branding for individuals or personal branding is such an interesting topic in Saudi Arabia. I first met Khyra when I needed help for setting-up my Twitter account in 2010.Then with her help and support I dared to establish my blog. She told me me that she dared her career because of her first project with […]

Branding for individuals or personal branding is such an interesting topic in Saudi Arabia. I first met Khyra when I needed help for setting-up my Twitter account in 2010.Then with her help and support I dared to establish my blog. She told me me that she dared her career because of her first project with me that gave her a push to begin her career.

Today Khayra left a print in the technology world of Saudi Arabia. Let’s read what this world is about, her experience and her future plans.

Q1:  Khayra, tell me a little bit about you?

A1: I am Khayra Bundakji. I am a personal branding coach. What that means is I help my clients to unearth, shape, or name their value. Then I help them to communicate that to their dream audience. I can do this through social media, different types of new media and of course offline (in real life) scenarios that helps them get in touch with the people they really want to be visible to. I have a background in computer science, I graduated from Effat University Jeddah in 2012, worked as an IT project manager for a while and then moved to communications and got my MBA from Muhammad bin Salman College. After that, I worked for several organizations such as UTURN Entertainment. At the moment, I am full time self-employed a

Khyra Bundakji

Khyra Bundakji – Personal Branding Expert in Saudi Arabia

Q2: You are a digital marketer, a community leader and a cofounder of a podcast. What do these 3 fields have in common?

A2: When I approached each of these jobs I took each to the next level of visibility. It was not just about organising, it was not just about marketing the value my employer wanted to market, it was not just founding a show. Mstdfr Podcasting was a full network with 8 shows. The next step that I always took was to have a really clear idea how to help my clients or my employer clarify what it was that they wanted to say. And what I mean by that it’s not just the message but what value they wanted to present.Who is their audience? Why were they getting in touch with them? How can we be empathetic with these audiences? Empathy in marketing is really important to me. And if I was to summarise the common string between these efforts, it was always important to me to create a sense of belonging to amplify the voices of whomever I was working with.

Q3: In a recent interview with Arab News you said that podcasting had to be introduced to Saudi audience. What made you believe that Saudi people will be interested in podcasts at all?

A3: With my cofounders — there were 3 other people who were confounding first the podcast itself; Mstdfr Show, then the Mstdfr Podcast Network. It was really clear for all the podcasters that were joining us —  Eish Bitsawi and Low Priority Queue were the first shows that joined. In all our cases, we were just bubbling over, so excited to share podcasts in Arabic. All of us had the experience of being on Twitter in 2009 and seeing it boom regionally in 2011. Likewise,  we where on Facebook in 2006 and it boomed in 2009. So all of us had the experience were new media that made it big in the U.S. there; seemed to have a  a 4 year lag but then would grow wildly in Saudi. So we used that principle of understanding. First, we were focusing on the motivation the podcasters themselves had. Second, we  wanted to be able to connect with people and to be able to have conversations that are meaningful so that they can share with them with their friends or their families. We never thought that it would be that big for us, but we knew that podcasting as an industry would be. Ab hier würde ich den Rest dieses Zitats streichen . There is always an excitement to jump to something social, to something that makes sense. Especially when you looked at the podcast directories there would be… I remember we did a research to see all the podcasts in Arabic that we could find in 2016 and there were only a 100 shows out of 100,000 shows on Apple. And that is really a tiny number because in the world the 3rd most used language on social media is Arabic. That is a huge deal and it shows that there is a huge population that is digitally native and the utilises the internet. Yet there is such a discrepancy between how many people were using the internet versus how many podcasts were to serve them. So the decision was pretty easy to go through.

Q4: How do you find/choose topics that you present in your podcasts?

A4: So I should say here that though I am getting lots of publicity for podcasting I actually stopped working on the network in 2017 and that just goes to show how late people have taken up the interest in podcasting.
Back in my days, when I was COO of Mstdfr Network, the growth was fully dependent on the podcasters. Having that passion show in the hosts’ voices aimed at folks who were really interested was the highest priority. We enjoyed great growth it’s that passion, excitement, and curiosity that reaches people and pulls them into the podcast to become loyal subscribers. Plus, we had first-mover advantage. The different shows had different themes and topics.

In Mstdfr Show, it is all about having guests that are interested in having an unconventional way of life and, more so, they were very nerdy about what it is they are talking about.

In Azzbda, which I am the executive producer of, the mission statement is to encourage the authentic self. We always have a panel of different perspectives and a guest who is an intense expert in that field with conversations on how to move from being a socialized self to being true to their nature and values. So those are the topics I have been linked to. Ab hier bis Ende der Antwort streichen

For all the other podcasts in the network it was always very important to stick to the mission, stick to the values the show stands for, stick to the tone the show stands for. Of course, topics that did not fit were either looked at with a different perspective or not covered at all.

Q5: Where do you see Saudi Arabia’s digital market heading to in future? Not only for growing interest but can it be open for foreign investment ?

A5: COVID-19 was really an interesting milestone that was presented to the Saudi population when it comes to digital marketing. It is going to be really attractive to companies to just keep to the old way of thinking — of broadcasting and yelling about their values to audiences. It is not enough. Now, audiences have matured in a way that we could not have imagined in just one month. They know how to work from home and navigate the internet in a whole new way. They had more time to experience different sides of the internet and different ways of interacting with each otherThe future is going to be all audience-centred and push for a very specific type of marketing; I call it Empathy Marketing. This is going to be the core. This is going to be the differentiator. Companies that will use digital to really flourish are the companies that are really going to get what the customer or audience member is going through and how to best serve their needs. This is something that has never been done in Saudi Arabia. Before we have been poised as agents of what’s happening internationally. Now, there is nobody that is going to understand the Saudi population better than the people who are living here and who have really understood the cultural nuances of the country. This will reflect a lot in the most thriving companies that are worthy of investment. We already know that it makes no sense for a company from outside with no background what happens in Saudi to come in, to use the same modus operandi because it just doesn’t work with the population.

We are going to see a lot of locally grown companies worthy of investment because there is no better way to empathise with the Saudi population.

I also add here that digital at any home grown company is going to rely much less on tech. Technology that digital is based on is going to become irrelevant as things get easier to use, so it is going to be more about serving people’s needs before they know it’s a need of theirs´. Or being able to understand the customer’s journey to really put yourself or your company out there in a way to attract customers. And this something that I believe with my full heart that the ones who are going to thrive are the ones that are going taken into consideration and the ones who are going to invest in a team that is incredibly empathetic and incredibly emotionally intelligent to be able to recognise the different needs as they arise in real time and be able to implement them very quickly.

Q6: What are your plans for the future?

A6: In 2020, I was so excited to start full-time. I was always doing personal brand coaching and personal branding on the side with any full time job I had. In 2018, launched my signature workshop, Personal Branding 101, that made its way to Saudi Social Media Week (, Lean in Jeddah (, and Vibes Offices ( Personal Branding 101 is available to organisations and venues. It covers the basics of my personal branding principles and it offers attendees to reflect on their elevator pitch and what it is they’re saying and whom they are saying it to.

I successfully launched my 3-month Personal Branding Program, a journey in which I take my clients on a journey of accountability in refining their personal brand and really understanding their audiences. I give them strategy, tips, and tricks and keep them accountable to complete the goals that we co-create.

In the pipeline, I am launching lots of supplements for my client program.

From this, I  am hoping to expand personal branding in a bigger way. I would love to share the concept with as many people as possible – it is the next big thing. The same thing I applied the early adaption mentality to podcast and then 4 years later everybody understood it. Personal branding is going to make that big of splash. We are already owners of brands whether we like it or not; our online presence and how we conduct ourselves in real life situations reflect what we know about ourselves. I am so excited to be able to help people step into personal branding and own their message in a way that feels fulfilled and natural as opposed to feel like an obligation to market themselves.