Mum knows best: Get online or fall behind
It's time for the Middle East to get online, say UAE entrepreneurs
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They say you should always listen to your mother.
Perhaps then, businesses should take heed of mumzworld.com founder Mona Ataya when she says “those who aren’t online will fall behind.”
Everyone seems to be connected these days - from your bedroom-bound sister who spends her life on Facebook to your boss internet surfing for a new yacht while pretending to be busy working.
Recent stats from Google show that online page views in this region are “much higher” than those of many developed markets.
“The Gulf population loves the web,” said Alfonso De Gaetano, regional industry head for the internet search giant recently told 7DAYS. But not everyone in the region loves the web.
Because here’s a fact for you - while in the West just about everyone from the butcher to the baker to the candlestick maker has their own website - just 20 per cent of businesses in the UAE actually do have a presence online.
“Baffling,” admits Alexander Kappes, the Dubai-based regional CEO of deal-of-the-day internet firm Groupon. “I just don’t understand it,” he adds.
Speak to online experts and they insist that all aspects of e-commerce ‘in this part of the world’ are five to 10 years behind more mature markets elsewhere
And that’s being kind. It begs a question, however.
If e-commerce is still very much in its infancy ‘in this part of the world’ - how do you actually make money from it online? Well, the fact that e-commerce is little more than a teething toddler can play in to the hands of UAE online entrepreneurs. Being first can be a very big deal.
For Mumzworld maker Ataya - who was also one of the founding members of bayt.com back in 2000 - “there has never been a moment of doubt” that her new online venture, little over a year old, would be anything other than a success.
Ataya - a mum to nine-year-old twin boys and their five-year-old brother - says about $350 million of the region’s wealth belongs to mothers. And as every husband knows, it’s the woman who “controls the family money,” she says. Whether it’s mum or someone else - there’s hardly a holidaymaker anywhere nowadays that books a hotel for their jolly jaunts without checking how previous guests rated it by logging on to sites such as Tripadvisor.
Saif Al Zarouni’s idea for his website Yadig! was to give consumers the ability to rate anything they choose. A one-stop shop where customers can review all manner and means of businesses from restaurants to salons to car garages to vets.
So the 30-year-old Emirati-American set up what he calls “the first and only community review site” in the UAE just under a year-and-a-half ago.
As he says: “I know guys who have lived in Dubai for 10 years and still don’t know the best place to get a haircut or where in Bur Dubai to get a tailor.” Groupon loved the business review idea. So much so, that its regional CEO Kappes personally contacted Al Zarouni to arrange a partnership between the two firms whereby Groupon grabbers can review the places they went for their discounted deals through Yadig!.
Because essentially, says the Groupon guru, what wins online is something that “adds value”- for both customers and businesses. And when you do get it entrepreneurially right online? It will leave you “significantly better financially off than a
9 to 5 job,” insists Mumzworld’s Ataya.
And mums always know best.
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