From boardroom to baby room: how Mona Ataya is building the UAE's one-stop shop for mothers

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Mona Ataya is proving to be one of the UAE’s most prominent female entrepreneurs.

The cofounder of Bayt.com, arguably the most successful online search engine for jobs in the Middle East, is now working to disrupt a well-ingrained retail space in the UAE with the goal of assisting mothers with their maternity, infant and childcare product needs.

Ataya’s latest venture is Mumzworld. A rapidly growing ecommerce website it allows customers access to a comprehensive catalogue of thousands of childcare and maternity-related items from hundreds of world-class brands, ranging from the likes of Baby Einstein to Fisher Price.

After becoming a mother herself, Ataya quickly realized there was no one-stop shop in the UAE where mothers could quickly and conveniently compare and purchase products for their children. “As a mother, I did not feel empowered with choice about making the right decisions for my children. I had endless questions about what to buy, where to buy, how much to pay and who could help me,” she said.

“… I spent a lot of time online researching which products were safe, what to read to my children and how to raise smart and happy kids,” she continued. “Once you educate yourself about what you should buy, the next question is where to find it.”

Mumzworld has a catalog of more than 100,000 products on its bilingual website [English and Arabic], offers same day delivery for diapers, with two to three days delivery for other products, Ataya said.

It seems a gargantuan task to divert traffic from crowded malls. But Ataya has positioned Mumzworld as more than just an online shopping outlet. It also offers product information and reviews to help buyers make informed decisions, discuss and share experiences to parenthood and child rearing.

Tightly managed logistics

Though Ataya benefits from relationships with investors in the region’s startup community, the founder still grapples with the same frustrations of any average entrepreneur when attempting to transform a business model into a real-world, scalable enterprise.

For her, structuring and managing the mechanics of quick and seamless delivery is one of the most difficult hurdles in her business. “Our prices are consistently lower than buying an item from abroad and shipping it," she told Wamda. "With us, you get it faster, at the lowest price in the region, and you can exchange. To do this, the logistics and supply chain is very complex. This is why ecommerce is very difficult in the Middle East. We have a very sophisticated supply chain structure with all of the logistics managed internally out of our warehouse.”

One of Ataya’s most ardent supporters in her journey to build Mumzworld is Endeavor, a global nonprofit organization that supports entrepreneurs in emerging markets. Endeavor’s managing director in the UAE, Noor Shawwa said, “Mona is a great example of a solid entrepreneur running a great business with an even greater potential ahead. Endeavor is excited to help her scale-up her business and multiply her impact.”

“Endeavor has been fantastic. It has allowed us to meet and get support from super, super smart minds. The network is fantastic,” Ataya said. “The regional Endeavor Board has been instrumental in helping us strategically and in guiding us. Endeavor gives us access to so many resources, educational programs and funding.”

Looking ahead

The year 2015 is pivotal for Mumzworld, Ataya noted.

“We aim to create more features based on customer feedback [like] product requests, bestsellers and award winners, baby registries and birthday registries,” she said. “The business development team is dedicated to answer product requests within 48 hours.”

The Mumzworld blog is being revamped to feature rich content on children’s products, education, feedings, discipline and other essential information. The idea is for Mumzworld to connect mothers to provide feedback on products, exchange information and to join together to support social impact projects and causes around children within their communities.

And while the website had product reviews from day one, the company is now offering loyalty points to those who write reviews.

“The plan is to incentivize moms in this way to get feedback,” Ataya said. “We want to become the indispensable online extension of a mother’s life.”

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Sushmitha Pidatala is a freelance journalist and former executive with the World Bank Group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She is an authority on private sector development, women's entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility. Currently in Dubai, she was previously based in Washington, D.C., New York, Vienna and Jeddah.

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