Exponential growth wasn’t built in a day [Podcast]

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“Everyone has the Middle East at the bottom of their pyramid,” said Fadi Ghandour, Wamda’s executive chairman, and “that’s good for you [startups in the Arab world]”.  

But does the same apply to ecommerce now that Amazon has one foot in the door towards MENA?  

In an attempt to answer that question, and others related to achieving exponential growth in the region, tackling challenges, and choosing the right markets for your company, a panel moderated by Fadi Ghandour was hosted at Wamda Capital’s offices in Dubai.

The panelists were Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO of Souq.com, Faraz Khalid, cofounder and managing partner of Namshi, and Mudassir Sheikha, cofounder and CEO of Careem.

They discussed multiple key issues, including how they started and kicked-off their ventures, the challenges they faced, and how they overcame them, in addition to their market analysis and overview.

The Insights

Regarding the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on ecommerce: “Meeting consumer demand by forwarding and deploying products that people in the MENA are looking at but not able to buy, in addition to Amazon tools that help buyers in their buying decision, [are] what will exponentially grow ecommerce in the region,” said Ronaldo Mouchawar.

Regarding raising money: “More money is not good necessarily [...] the money we raised [Careem] was similar to an insurance policy in a war chest and we should ideally not spend it,” said Mudassir Sheikha.

Regarding markets: “The big thing we’ve seen is the shift from metro cities, to smaller centers [...] there is more growth there,” said Faraz Khalid.

Regarding customers: “They’re young, they’re men and women, they’re definitely on their mobile and they love brands,” added Mouchawar.

Regarding sustainability: “Customers in the MENA are likely to come back if they enjoy the experience,” said Faraz Khalid. “That’s why they are worth investing in,” he added.


The breakdown

0.00 - Wamda’s executive chairman Fadi Ghandour, welcomes the panelists and introduces the discussion about tackling challenges and overcoming them to achieve exponential growth.

1.20 - Ronaldo Mouchawar, CEO of Souq.com, talks about talents in Jordan and how Souq based its growth potential on engineering. He also addresses how can Souq and Amazon complete each other in strengthening their presences in various markets, particularly in Saudi Arabia.

5.00 - Faraz Khalid, cofounder and managing partner of Namshi, discusses how his company managed to stay EBITDA-positive (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) is a measure of a company's operating performance), what sets them apart, and how their conscious about the resources they have, their partnerships, and the lean methodology, helped them reach where they stand today.  

7.20 - Khalid talked about Namshi’s business model, which is different than Souq’s, and the challenges they faced.

9.10 - Mudassir Sheikha, cofounder and CEO of Careem discusses the balance between monitoring profitability and achieving exponential growth. He talked about his experiences in dealing with raised money and what he believes to be the best way to do so.

12.00 - Sheikha talks about their competition with Uber.

13.20 - Fadi Ghandour introduces the topic of consumer trends, consumer behavior, and the impact of adopting Arabic language in ecommerce.

14.00 - Ronaldo Mouchawar talks about customer expectations, gender, platform usage, and customer experience.

16.10 - Mouchawar discusses the heavy Arabic language usage among users in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, its benefits in reaching the customer, and its challenges when it comes to technical products.

18.00 - Faraz Khalid agrees with Mouchawar on mobile penetration and Arabic language usage. Namshi’s customer base is however different than Souq’s.

19:30 - Khalid talks about the shift from the big metro cities into smaller centers, second-tier cities where there is more growth.

21:00 - Sheikha explains how the region’s problems can be turned into opportunities, and how Careem addresses the challenges they face in each country and how they benefit from their experiences and the services they test in each country to learn.

24.00 - Ghandour and Mouchawar discuss the effect of AI on ecommerce, and the impact of these new tools, technologies, and methodologies on Souq in particular.

26.45 - Ghandour, Mouchawar and Khalid talk about the effect of big ecommerce platforms on retailers in the region.

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