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| 20 March, 2017

Small needn’t be a disadvantage in e-tailing in UAE

Image used for illustrative purpose. Artists and designers work on arrangements for clothing items to be sold online at an eBay Fashion photo shoot in San Francisco, California November 4, 2010.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Artists and designers work on arrangements for clothing items to be sold online at an eBay Fashion photo shoot in San Francisco, California November 4, 2010.

REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Whoopey.com launched operations in May last by principally focussing on tech gadgets

Monday, Mar 20, 2017

Dubai

Size needn’t count even in the world of online retailing. One Dubai based e-tailer is hoping to make this business model click to stay the course.

Whoopey.com launched operations in May last by principally focussing on tech gadgets. “We currently have a product listing of about 6,000 and hope to raise it to 10,000,” said Sa’ad Khan, CEO. “And once we reach that limit on tech devices, we will start building up the offerings for sportswear and accessories, and then into fashion.

“But with each category, we will only offer in the tens of thousands and not in the hundreds of thousands.”

Playing the online game on a large scale can get decidedly tricky in the near term. Souq.com is building up scale across multiple categories, most recently by getting into books in a big way. And then there is the imminent launch of Mohammad Alabbar’s Noon.com, with its 20 million product choice,

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To stay relevant against such scale will take some doing. With Whoopey.com, Khan’s plan apart from a smaller and focussed product listing is to go big with Tier 2 brands. And then support them on their marketing side across social media and other platforms.

“You have the top gadget brands that everyone sells and there’s little flexibility on the margins that an e-tailer can generate,” said Khan. “Price comparison sites now compare 10 and more online retailer prices whereas it used to be five or six earlier.

“The best option, at least according to me, is to take on tech brands that are yet to have a strong presence in the region and together work on generating a fair exposure for them. That means, working with them on an end-to-end digital marketing campaign. And there are many non-Chinese brands out there that can have a good exposure in this market.

“The big online vendors can pay attention only to the established brands through dedicated displays or promotions. For the rest, it means having to spend their marketing budgets just on creating awareness.

“With us, we share in the effort to build up an awareness around the brand.” (Typically, in return, the vendor asks for a six-month exclusivity on product availability with the brands.)

The business model seems to have convinced one investor, from outside the region, who has put in $1.5 million. And if all goes well, the vendor hopes to raise a further $3 million (Dh11 million) and more next year, which would go towards back-end operations as well as into logistics.

“We are not a marketplace and we don’t keep stock — that’s where we find most players lose money,” said Khan. “There’s always a cost to carrying inventory and we want as little of that on our books. All the product orders are sourced through their local distributors.”

Whoopey.com also covers Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and at some point it plans to enter a partnership with a logistics provider. Visitor traffic on the site has touched 100,000 a month, and Khan says conversion rates are above the 0.3-0.5 per cent industry average. Average shipping period is five days.

By Manoj Nair Associate Editor

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