The UAE is at an interesting upward turning point in terms of technological space where recurrently new aspects of technology are emerging, closing the gap on what used to be done traditionally.
At least half the population confirmed to shop for goods and services on the Internet, according to a research carried out last year by MasterCard.
Currently, the total value of e-commerce in the UAE is estimated at $2.5 billion and is forecasted to reach $10 billion by 2018.
Cashing in on this budding culture to conduct businesses and transactions over the Web, several online retail and service portals have been launched.
BusinessBid.ae, an online service provisioning platform serving as a virtual market, is among those companies that is further contributing to prompting the transition of the service sector online.
Run by UAE-based technology professionals Sam Mohamed and Salman Quraishi, BusinessBid was launched in November 2014 and now covers nearly 700 defined services in all sectors ranging from residential, commercial, corporate, automotive, lifestyle and education. The portal is also looking into niche areas such as pet services, personal training and guitar classes.
"We are basically an online services market place. We provide a one stop service market place where people can connect with the service professionals they require," Mohamed said in a telephone interview.
A recent Euromonitor market research indicates Internet retailing in the region is expanding across other channels, with new products such as home care, DIY and gardening recently gaining their first significant presence in internet retailing.
"So far, our services cover residential, office and lifestyle needs. We want to cater to every person in the UAE who requires a service. We are talking about parents, teachers, CEOs, drivers, tourists, residents - every demographic from every culture and social background," Mohamed said.
Customers access business pages online through a user-friendly interface and are then connected to vendors, free of charge.
Internet retail sales are expected to grow by 95 per cent in the UAE over the next five years and Internet retailing in the UAE will benefit from a "surge in consumer enthusiasm and confidence" to 2018, according to recent research from Euromonitor International.
"We handhold the customer throughout the entire experience. So customers seeking any services get connected with the vendors immediately. And then they can choose the most desirable vendor that they want to engage with," he added.
The portal does this by providing quotes from the three top suitable service providers based on job requirements. This prevents an unwanted barrage of calls, prevalent with a number of existing solutions. The customer is then free to choose from the list of service providers based on skills, availability and a point rating system.
Through its data capture system, the collaborated, customised and drilled-down search results, specific to the needs and wants of the customer, is then presented.
The primary aspect of the advantages that portals such as BusinessBid claim to present to the vendors is offering an equally opportunistic platform as available to the obviously larger companies that have more capital, sophisticated marketing tools, and better resources.
"We are trying to close the gaps between the big boys' club and the other players in the market to make it an even playing field," Mohamed explained.
Through the online portal, businesses have an additional pipeline that aids them to grow and develop and so, potentially, increase profitability. Vendors also have the complete capability to review the scope of each customer's project based on their experience, reviews, and availability. They can then either opt in or out of the transaction.
"We also equip them with a full support system, advanced technology, and, most importantly, transparency - we connect them to the customer directly," he said.
Euromonitor reports that players from the UAE have already started expanding elsewhere, including Saudi Arabia, where forecast growth over the next five years is 136 per cent.
"Our aim is to be synonymous to services. We are heading in the right direction and have plans and aims to grow within the region. Right now, our focus is in the UAE but we have absolute plans to expand in the greater Middle East," added Mohamed.
By Rabiya Shabeeh