When Youssef Hassar got married last year, there was only one problem: he and his wife couldn’t agree on the wedding list. His wife wanted to register a list to a tablewear store; he wished they could receive something other than cutlery, so he decided to launch a website to register a list that will cover several stores of different styles.
In January, MesCadeaux.ma (which means "my gifts," in French) was launched in alpha as a multi-brand platform where you could find anything related to gifts. Its objective is as a simple as it is ambitious: “being the go-to website for anyone wanting to offer gifts in Morocco.”
The platform allows you to create or participate in lists for weddings, birth or birthday, whether to find gift ideas or buy presents. Clients can order gifts online or via phone and pay online via credit card or wire transfer, or in the store. They can also ask to have the gift delivered anywhere in Morocco, even on their way to a wedding, says Hassar.
With categories ranging from electronics to houseware, furniture, decorations, games, and sports, MesCadeaux.ma is almost a regular comprehensive e-commerce à la Jumia, the local Amazon, with a focus on gifts and an ambitious mission.
"Go all the way, or not at all"
I met Hassar during the Lean Methodolgy workshop at Mix N’ Mentor Casablanca. Yet this was a funny coincidence, as Youssef seems to be one of the only entrepreneurs to have resisted the appeal of Lean Methodology.
Lean entrepreneurs believe in launching a Minimum Viable Product, testing, and iterating. Hasser and co-founder Soufiane Guerraoui took the opposite approach. In 2012, the two childhood friends decided that they had learned enough from working in corporations, in marketing and engineering, respectively, and decided to start their own company. They left France and the U.S. to return to Morocco and launch MesCadeaux.ma.
Rather than going lean, Hasser believes “you have to go all the way, or not go at all.” The two founders gathered $100,000 from their friends and families, and set out to launch all of the features they had in mind from the beginning and promote them with a relatively large marketing budget, to not lose a minute.
On July, 30, after seven months of alpha and beta, they officially launched the site, debuting 15 billboards in Casablanca, Rabat, and Marrakech.
They also hired seven employees, to deploy their customer acquisition strategies:
1) Going viral. To create content and tools that people would want to share, the founders went beyond wedding lists, offering a directory of funny videos and pictures that have to do with the website’s themes (wedding, birth, and birthdays for example), as well as customizable invitations and a first name generator.
2) Producing original content. To lure in clients before those clients even need to buy gifts, Hasser and Guerraoui hired a full-time employee to write original articles on giving birth or organizing gifts. For the moment, the site's blog only publishes in French; once it ventures into Arabic or English it might face regional competition from wedding sites Yebab or ArabiaWeddings.
3) Offering good customer service. The clients that spend the most on MesCadeaux are over 45, Hasser says, and are not used to using the internet, so MesCadeaux.ma allows them to call the customer service to get advice and order the perfect gift.
To monetize, the startup takes a commission on the products sold through its offline and sometimes online partner stores.
Next: going regional
When the website launched in July, it had more than 500 unique visitors and 1 to 2 purchases per day, said Hassar; it's als gained 20,000 fans on its Facebook page.
The founders plan to speed expansion by launching an Arabic version at the end of the month, and a mobile app, at which point they will raise money to expand across the Middle East, especially the Gulf countries.
Competition will be tougher there as JustGiftIt and Wrapp are already tackling the multi-brand gift platform and Souq.com and Namshi are leading the online retail sector. Yet if MesCadeaux.ma can carve out a niche as a gift platform, it could perhaps steal some market share from those e-commerce giants.