Moroccan Site Asnad Offers Online Market for Arabic Digital Content

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Those looking to become creative entrepreneurs have a new avenue for monetizing their products, with the launch of e-commerce site Asnad, which Moroccan entrepreneur and Zajil founder Mohammed Sahli debuted a couple of weeks ago. The site is designed to allow young Arabs to sell digital creations online, including e-books, music, softwares, designs, and games, in an easy and inexpensive way. In a chat with Wamda, Sahli revealed his inspiration and the process of launching the site.

Explain to us more about the buying and selling process at Asnad.

Asnad plays the role of the middleman, connecting the creator and the buyer. The creator adds his product to the platform, then spreads the news to friends and followers through his social media networks. When he buyer gets to the seller's web page and decides to buy, Asnad handles the payment and allows the buyer to download the file he bought immediately.

What inspired you to start this platform?

For many years now, I have been thinking about selling my books online, but the e-commerce infrastructure in the Arab region was not ready yet. Now it is getting better, and online users from many Arab countries can easily buy online, but still there is a big gap in the services allowing people to sell online, not just buy. So I decided to launch Asnad to sell my own books as a start and at the same time build an open platform for anyone who wants to sell their creations and reach a new audience in different countries.

What payment gateway are you using?

Currently we are using PayPal, CashU and OneCard, but we will soon be launching credit card payment and money transfers.

How are you planning to market the platform?

We are relying on social media and word of mouth for now.

Did you take on any funding to launch Asnad?

No, and it only cost us so far $7.99 to buy the domain name.

Is the platform targeting the Arab region only?

We are focusing on Arab countries as a start, but we hope to open up to emerging markets soon like Turkey, Brazil and South Africa.

What are the difficulties and challenges you faced so far?

It has been less than a month since I first decided to build Asnad and launch it. So at this very early stage, the main challenge we faced was finding suitable payment gateways for the Arabic user, who is, on average, still hesitant about using a credit card online, especially since PayPal use is still very limited in the region. As for local services like OneCard and CashU, they still have very limited capacities.

Another temporary challenge Asnad will face is convincing innovators to sell their digital creations online and Arab users to actually buy these creations, especially since the Arab user is used to having everything for free through the internet.

What makes Asnad unique in the market?

Asnad is launching at a time when e-commerce is on the rise in the MENA region and filling a gap in the Arabic internet by enabling a large audience of innovators to monetize their digital creations. Asnad hopes to give some appreciation to Arab innovators and open a platform for a new audience for these these creations.

Who are your competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?

We do not have any direct competitors in the Arab region, but in the US there are many similar websites. We are differentiate ourselves simply by targeting the Arabic audience when it comes to content and payment gateway.

What is your revenue stream?

Asnad charges 10% on each operation made, in addition to another $0.30, which covers the payment gateways. The rest is too small to be considered revenue. We are not currently focusing on profit; our main goal is to help innovators sell their creations to a thirsty audience. After accomplishing this goal, we will think about monetizing.

Do you think that your country encourages young entrepreneurs and startups? How and why?

Morocco is still far from being a supportive environment for young entrpreneurs. What we have here skews more towards sponsoring and funding profitable small projects, not startups. The only Moroccan fund investing in startups lacks a lot of experience in dealing with challenges of young enterprises. This is partly a factor of the reality that the legal system in Morocco is related to the French system, and France is still behind in the entrepreneurship field in comparison to the U.S., even though the word "entrepreneur" is originally French!

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