Souqalmal is the first and only price comparison site across the Middle East allowing consumers to search and compare over 700 products online in both Arabic and English. With 10 different product verticals in 3 countries namely UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Souqalmal compares over 95% of all products available in the sectors covered, ranging from finance and insurance to mobile phones and broadband. In UAE there are some other websites that allow consumers to compare financial products - compareit4me.com, moneyshop.ae and uaemoneymarket.com. Tfour.me interviewed Paula Wehbeh and Ambareen Musa, founders of Souqalmal.
Ambareen is originally from Mauritius, Musa holds an undergraduate business degree from RMIT university, in Melbourne, Australia. Paula is born and raised in Dubai and is originally from Syria. She holds a degree in Legal Translation and Interpretation from the University of Damascus, in Syria.
What was the idea behind Souqalmal?
It all started when Ambareen moved to Dubai. She was looking for a credit card but didn't know from which one she wanted. She assumed she could get the information online just like she did in London through moneysupermarket.com but she was surprised that this information didn't exist in one place. Hence she had to go with the bank that her employer or her friends recommended. Very quickly she realized there was a gap to be filled and with her background in online and both our backgrounds in financial services, it was the right place to set it up. This is a very much needed service that allows consumers to compare and make the best choice of product or provider based on what suits their needs.
There are over 50 banks in the UAE and over 450 financial products to choose from. To get the information one requires to make a decision is time consuming and can be frustrating at the same time. Souqalmal.com allows users to search and compare between all the financial products on the banks in the UAE and access other users reviews online. We keep our users informed about product updates or new products out there.
How does it make money?
Our business model is based on the traditional advertising model where we provide white space for our partners to promote their products and bring out an emphasis on certain offer they provide. As for the users, it is a completely free service. Together with the listings, the site provides a great tool for users to stay informed about any updates and latest offers in the market
Biggest challenge in the region for your start up?
Souqalmal.com is a concept that has worked extremely well and been proven in other markets. However, the banking infrastructure in other markets is quite advanced with a credit bureau in place and therefore enabling the full online experience. We are looking forward to grow with the market here and adapt as it changes and evolves. From an operations perspective our biggest challenge was to find the right technology partners to work with us. We now have a very strong team set up and looking forward to great things in 2013.
Who are your competitors in the market
We work very hard to stay ahead of the competition. We are the only site that is available in both Arabic and in English that has diversified in different non-financial verticals and who is present in 3 countries, KSA, UAE and Kuwait. Our site gets constantly refined.
Any plans to venture into other verticals?
We often get requests from our users to include new products and we have been basing our growth based on consumer demand. We will be launching by end of January the comparison of Schools and Nurseries. Our vision is to become the number one comparison site in the region on multiple verticals. If it can be compared, we want to compare it.
Our future plans include further regional expansions. Currently we are focusing on the three countries and once we are established, we will be moving across the Middle East.