In the Arab world, the web has been buzzing lately with sites
offering flash sales, low prices and online booking, often for
restaurants, hotels, flights, or tourist destinations.
Beauty and wellness center offers are one vertical that's timidly emerging online outside of the daily deals market. New startup Wellnesia is the latest to see the opportunity in serving Arab women who like to buy online; it will launch later this month to offer Dubai's women online booking at 20 beauty salons, fitness centers and spas.
A mix between an e-commerce store and a daily deals site, Wellnesia will offer deals and discount packages, similar to successful U.S. sites SpaBooker and LifeBooker. Like many niche e-commerce portals, content will be a large part of its offering, but Wellnesia has gone further than creating nice descriptions. The site will offer general health and beauty products, a review section where customers can rate beauty facilities, and beauty Q&A.
To succeed, it will have to convince beauty sites like Silkor to join, but it will entice customers with its "Wellnesia Community" forums; this and a variety of interactive forums offering expert advice will make it much more than a booking service. It will also lure clients by offering them advertising campaigns and consumer behavior analyses that will help spas and services improve their offerings and packages. This and a regional approach should also convince offline spas to come online.
The Challenges of Outsourcing
To build the site without technical expertise, founder Mustapha Abdennour outsourced its development to India, a trend which is becoming more popular in a region where excellent, reliable developers are acknowledged to be scarce. The process has been necessary, but a double-edged sword. "Since we live in different timezones, it has been hard to make sure they deliver on time," he explains.
It's also especially tough when outsourcing to freelancers rather than an agency. "An average freelancer takes on a dozen of projects at a time, so chances are high that you will be put on the bench from time to time," he explains, cautioning that "you need to have clear specifications. Otherwise you run the risk of delays and poor delivery."
Yet after overcoming this hurdle and ironing out the kinks in Dubai, Abdennour hopes to expand to Beirut, Istanbul, and Doha, the Middle East cities most hungry for beauty content and most known for great spas and beauty services. If it can gain momentum, it stands to own the space, as there simply aren't any well-known reigonal spa booking sites yet. Of course success will bring launches of new clones, but for now, the site is looking to prove the market.