This article was posted originally on Firnas.org.
On April 27th 2012 Abdul Rahman Sahili read a tweet from a man in the coastal city of Jeddah. He was asking how he might purchase mangos from Jazan, a region of Saudi Arabia, 700km to the south of his city. “A golden opportunity presented itself to me,” says Rahman, and then he got quickly to work.
“I have always dreamed of having my own business,” said Abdul Rahman, “I believe that opportunities should be made, not waited for.” And this is exactly how the KSA resident approached his new full fledged ecommerce site Mango Jazan.
Jazan, an area of the Kingdom, is famous for its mangos. However, despite the high quality of the juicy fruit the selling of it had been restricted to very traditional methods of trade - if people didn’t live in the region, getting hold of the mangos was tricky. “I turned this missing link into an online store,” says Rahman, “It exclusively sells and delivers mangos in a quick, easy and professional manner.”
From Jazan to the world
In the presence, and with the blessing of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz, the prince of Jazan, Rahman announced the launch of his website in May 2012.
As well as creating a business for himself Mango Jazan has meant more business for the individual farmers growing the mangos. “By selling products from the best farms, we would achieve another goal,” he says, “Which is to help farmers market their products more efficiently and encourage them to increase their production.”
Mango Jazan lists several types of mangos available, including Glenn, known for its sweet taste and oval shape, Indian Mango, with its green color and Indian origins, Tommy Atkins Mango, known for its reddish color and round shape, and Mango Sensation, which has origins in Florida.
According to the site, within 24 hours of its launch they received orders for 1,000 cartons of mangos.
Different mangos become available throughout the season and all products undergo a thorough monitoring process under the supervision of specialists.
The fruit is then sold in boxes of 3kg each. A box of Glenn mangos, for examples, will hold three mangos and cost 50 Saudi Riyals (SAR) (about $13USD). Payment can be made through various options, including wire transfers, credit cards, or PayPal. Most shipments are delivered within four days using the services of logistics companies Alma Express, SLS, and Talabak Labaytak.
Rahman launched the site with his own savings and currently there are five employees working in a technical department, customer service, shipping, and driving. Appreciation for the service he and his staff were providing was recognized straight away. In 2013 Mango Jazan took second prize at the Sirb Awards for Young Entrepreneurs, and part of the prize was incubation at the BADIR program for Technology Incubators at the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). “The incubation we received helped us a lot in developing the project,” says Rahman,
“We have been receiving during the past period big investment offers that we’re studying to choose the best from.”
According to Rahman the site now has 20,000 users but launching the concept wasn’t easy. “Our project is the first of its kind in the Arab world and we faced big challenges.” He lists marketing the site, earning the trust of customers, and the logistics of delivering such a delicate product with care and speed, as the key issues faced.
When it comes to expansion plans Rahman is thinking global. Given that Twitter played such an incremental role in the launch of the business he plans to use it as a key marketing tool and has advised other Saudi entrepreneurs that they too could benefit greatly from social networks.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, Abdul Rahman aspires to expand Mango Jazan to global markets. Given that Twitter played a big role in the launch of the website, the founder emphasized on the importance of using it as a marketing tool and advised Saudi entrepreneurs to heavily benefit from social networks. He concluded by offering his help to any arising entrepreneur. “Because of our experience, we are now ready to offer consultancy and mentorship to any new project.”
KSA moving its products online
In a country where 39% of adult internet users shop online, shifting to ecommerce is a smart move offering more opportunities for traditional merchants, as such, this isn’t the first time we have talked about products from Saudi that have until recently been sold through more traditional routes, moving into the world of ecommerce: Wardat Store which sells products made from Taif’s famous roses, Medina Dates, which obviously sells dates, and the oil manufacturers Sesame Asir.