Start-up Watch: eSouqQatar
Launching early in May, eSouqQatar is a shopping portal targeting local microbusinesses. The company is based on an idea of Youssif Al Musleh, and has been in development at the Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC) since December 2014. “One way this project is different from other businesses in Qatar is that it is a social entrepreneurship project,” says Al Musleh, “So our aim is also to have a positive impact on the society with what we are doing.” by M. Iqbal
How did you come up with the idea of eSouqQatar?
I came up with the idea for my Executive MBA capstone project early in 2014. Later, I came across QBIC and pitched my idea to them. After a 10-week lean programme, they offered to incubate the business.
What were the challenges you faced?
The technology itself is not very challenging and we are outsourcing the development to an offshore company. However, it is not easy to get hold of microbusinesses, because they operate from homes. The challenge is to track them down. What we did was approach the Social Development Centre, and contact businesses being supported by their Badr Wa Int Gadr programme.
How does the process work?
The website is a two-sided platform. On one side is the seller, the other side is the buyer, and we are in between. The sellers upload their products to the platform with a description and price and the customer can buy them just like any other online shopping network. We manage the payment and delivery of the product. Our driver will pick up the item from the seller and deliver it to the customer.
What is your business model?
A standard seller can register on the website free of charge. The revenue we generate will be from our commission on each product. The standard seller is limited to 25 products.
To list more products, they will have to upgrade to a premium account with an annual subscription fee. This will also allow them to place advertisements on the main page of the portal.
Microbusinesses are our primary target, but our aim is to help them grow into small and medium businesses. We hope to grow along with them. That is why we are not going to exclude small businesses from the platform. I don’t think we are in the right position to attract large businesses, but eventually we do have a plan to scale up our operations to suit their needs as well.
What are your plans for the future?
We see a huge growth in this segment. Microbusinesses have limitations in their distribution channels. They rely on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp. But these tools are not designed as online shopping portals and they have their limitations.
Our next step after the launch will probably be to develop our own mobile apps. In the long term, the portal will become the definitive platform for microbusinesses in Qatar. It will provide them a one-stop selling solution. We also have plans to expand to other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council.