Jamalon Hits 9 Million Books: Can It Crack the Saudi Market?

This week, Jamalon announced that its site now offers over 9 million unique Arabic and English books for sale.

The “24-7 Online Book Fair for Arabs,” as founder Ala’ Alsallal describes Jamalon, has received US $400,000 in private investment since its launch from Jordan in 2010 and expects to receive further investment by the end of 2012 to achieve its goal of expansion into Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE.

This strategy is premised on the construction of new warehouses in partnership with Aramex which will make shipping across the region much faster than any other e-commerce book retailer in the world.

Alsallal explains that Amazon can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 1 month to ship orders in the Arab world, but Jamalon can ship anywhere in the region in just 3 days. “This is the change in our business model – we are starting to have warehouses…These warehouses will secure faster delivery for books all over the region,” explains Alsallal.

Though Amazon offers over 10 million books, Alsallal adds that only a couple hundred are in Arabic – making Jamalon the largest e-commerce Arabic book source in the Arab world.

If you just compare the number of products offered, Alsallal boasts that Jamalon is the largest overall e-commerce retailer in MENA. B they are facing a few market challenges, especially as they expand into Saudi Arabia.

Alsallal cites government censorship of books as the largest limitation on sales to Saudi Arabia, severely limiting Jamalon’s business and adding an extra barrier to success. He hopes, however, that with expansions into Egypt and the UAE, the limitation on sales to Saudi will be mitigated through new consumer bases, and perhaps consumer demand will change policy.

Jamalon has not yet become profitable; all revenues are recycled into the company to encourage expansion and keep prices low. But Alsallal expects Jamalon to turn a profit within the next 2 years after expanding their warehouses and user base to North Africa through Egypt, to the Gulf through Saudi Arabia, and to the Levant through their home base in Jordan.

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