Growing a hybrid online-offline business: Duplays from Dubai [Case Study]

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Wamda is announcing the launch of a new case study series, in partnership with the El Khazindar Business Research and Case Center (KCC) at the American University in Cairo's School of Business, and Aramex.

The case study series will feature an in-depth look at 12 leading startups, that hail from Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Palestine, and Lebanon, revealing their stories of origin, major challenges, and future plans.

We'll be publishing one every two weeks over the next 6 months, with the hope that other entrepreneurs can learn from the evolution of each of the companies.  

"As an entrepreneurial company, Aramex has always championed innovation and entrepreneurship, driven by the profound belief in its role in creating opportunities and developing communities. Bolstering entrepreneurial activity and building awareness of the potential rewards has become an essential pillar of our sustainability focus. This is why Aramex is very pleased to share this series of inspiring case studies on Entrepreneurship and Social Entrepreneurship from around the Arab World," says Raji Hattar, Aramex's Chief Sustainability & Compliance Officer.

The first in the series is Duplays.

Duplays, which launched in Dubai in 2007, is an online platform designed to connect people  to organized sports games and events.

After identifying the lack of organized sports in the UAE, Ravi Bhusari and Derv Rao first created a Facebook page to help their friends and colleagues organize and schedule recreational sports at local fields across Dubai. As the platform quickly became popular, they decided to launch a website at, which they developed with partner and chief technology officer Brian Sigafoos.

Initially, the company primarily targeted expatriates, which comprise 88% of the population in the UAE. Since 2008, their userbase has surged from 5,000 to over 40,000 today; Duplays regularly sees over 5,000 members participate in leagues and events each week.

“I can’t think of a better career: we get to work on developing technology that customers use, we get to develop interesting sports concepts and sponsored events – and we get to play with people offline!” Bhusari reveals in this case study.

Now the Duplays team has secured their second round of funding and has their eye on the international market, testing both India and Saudi Arabia in early 2013. This case study looks at their competitive advantage and the major challenges they’ve faced as they've scaled, including the high cost of their offline component and international expansion.

The founders also share some advice for entrepreneurs looking to start their own companies in the region. “You have to have enough of a runway by financing [the startup] yourself or through friends and family so that you buy yourself enough time to see your collective vision start to manifest and have the confidence to keep going,” says Bhusari.

Check out the full case study by KCC and Aramex in the grey box to the right to learn more about Duplays’ story.

Disclosure: Wamda Capital has invested in Duplays.

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