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Ronaldo Mouchawar, Souq.com: "Cash-on-delivery is still a major part of our business"

Tuesday 19 April 2016 | 11:20 AM CET

Souq.com is dedicated to providing the best customer experience

How would you describe Souq.com’s business model?

Souq.com is the largest online retail and marketplace platform in the Arab world, featuring more than 1.5 million products across 31 categories such as consumer electronics, fashion, health and beauty, home and household goods, toys and baby items. Souq.com is now the platform for many direct brands, from global brands to exclusive ones. Souq.com attracts over 45 million visits per month, with localised operations in the Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt and serving Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar via cross-border trade.

Souq.com operates both as a retail site and as a marketplace for third party sellers. Through its marketplace platform, Souq.com provides immense opportunities to various small to medium sellers, who can directly sell products to customers without much hassle and costs. We have been successful at building a vertically integrated marketplace where payment, fulfilment and delivery are fully aligned to enable sellers to reach out to millions of monthly buyers on Souq.com. Our platform provides technology, infrastructure and wide-reach that give home-grown businesses the power to build and grow autonomously. Our robust ecommerce platform is based on customer trust, which is of immense value to Souq.com and its shareholders.

Souq.com presents itself as the largest ecommerce platform in the Arab world. In this stance, could you briefly portray the general Arab e-shoppers` profile in terms of preferred product categories and shopping experience?

We are witnessing more and more consumers shopping online every year in the Middle East. High gross domestic product per capita, robust mobile penetration rates, a younger population and ease of buying are some of the key factors fuelling a boom in ecommerce in the Middle East. The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait are the biggest Arab online markets and, of these, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are leading the ecommerce revolution in the Middle East. The region has a growing number of consumers that are ‘living online’ and therefore understand and highly value the benefits of electronic payments such as speed, convenience, security and value for money.

As per a recent survey (PAYFORT's `State of Payments in the Arab World`, May 2015), of the total number of people who shop online in the UAE, 59% are men and 41% are women, while in the Saudi Arabia men online shoppers stand at 61% compared to 39% women. Industry studies like Internet retailing in the United Arab Emirates and Euromonitor International, February 2015, reveal that apparel and footwear are the second highest value ecommerce category in the UAE after electronics.

Significant growth is being seen in the housewares and home furnishings category as well. In line with this, Souq.com has remarkably grown its portfolio of products for women including fashion, beauty, home and baby items. As the largest ecommerce platform in the region, Souq.com is dedicated to providing the best customer experience and we are constantly scaling our service to exceed our customers` expectations.

Could you make a statistical breakdown of the most frequently used payment channels by customers in purchasing products on your platform?

Cash-on-delivery (COD) is still a major part of our business as it provides not only what is considered a convenient payment option for some customers, but also offers us an opportunity to build upon customer trust. COD percentage varies from market to market: in some markets it could be +60%, whereas in others it could be up to 80%. There will be some customer segments who would prefer to use COD and we should continue to provide this option. Over the longer term, we believe COD percentage will come down as the tech-savvy consumers in this region are fast getting comfortable with online payments. We are seeing a shift towards credit card usage.

What regions are targeted by your expansion agenda in the near future?

Our plan is to strengthen our position in the current markets, improve service level and our customer experience. Hence, we want to focus on the markets we currently operate in. In the future, we will consider expanding into new markets but, at this stage, it is early to comment.

About Ronaldo Mouchawar

Ronaldo Mouchawar has been the co-founder and CEO of Souq.com since 2005. Mr Mouchawar has more than 15 years of experience in technology and business management. He started his career as a Technical and Systems Consultant with EDS in the US and, before starting Souq.com, he spearheaded a consulting company that managed numerous web and ecommerce projects in the Arab world.

Mr Mouchawar holds a Master`s degree in Digital Communications and a Bachelor`s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. In March 2015, Mr Mouchawar received an award from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in recognition of Souq.com`s digital influence in the UAE. Recently, Mr Mouchawar was awarded the prestigious Retail Business Leader of the Year & Entrepreneur of the Year Awards by Gulf Business.

About Souq.com

Souq.com is the largest online retail and marketplace platform in the Arab world, featuring more than 1.5 million products across 31 categories, such as consumer electronics, fashion, health and beauty, household goods, and baby items. Souq.com attracts over 45 million visits per month, with localised operations in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt.

Headquartered in Dubai, UAE, Souq.com caters to the needs of local markets with commercial offices in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and a technical and development center in Jordan. Souq.com offers a convenient and safe online shopping experience with secure online payments, option to pay cashon delivery and free returns.

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