e-Commerce industry has had a lot of mixed messages for the region over the last few years. Many players entered the market while a few took the exit door. We have been running a series of interviews with existing e-Commerce players in the region asking them how do they manage their business and what challenges do they face. This interview is part of a series called e-Commerce Entrepreneurs in the Middle East.
Today we have interviewed Sheriff Rizwan CEO and Founder of ALSHOP.com and its Director of Business Development, Neelam Keswani. ALSHOP.com is a part of Meast E-Commerce Trading, a Dubai based, Limited Liability Company.
Sheriff established an electronics distribution company for Hyundai Electronics in the far east and captured a significant market share within India's metro and cosmopolitan cities. With his talents he expanded his vision and ventured into the middle east where he built a structural framework for the IT products department of LuLu Hypermarket which was instrumental in identifying all key stores with world famous IT brands and he successfully built the supply chain & achieved double digit growth in every quarter, continuously for 2 years.
Neelam Joined AlShop.com in 2010. She is the first to create a revolutionary coupon book concept called “The Entertainer” which is an incentive plan to the HORECA(Hotels, Restaurants & Catering) sector across Middle East. With her natural ability to conceptualize, lead and execute plans she shaped the entire sales team for a prominent organization Cobone.com to drive it’s sales revenue up by 80% during her short yet brilliant 14 month tenure.
What motivated you to start ALSHOP.com?
The initial spark happened when I could not find a local website that had detailed product information, competitive prices and reliable deliveries. But the most underlining factor was customer service and shopping experience – this was neglected in many traditional brick and mortar retail outlets. Thus ALSHOP.com was born with a focus to address customer requirements and provide meaningful & realistic solutions to their concerns.
Most outstanding factor of ALSHOP.com that distinguishes you from the competition?
The most important component of ALSHOP.com would be the ability to represent ourselves as an Authorised E-Tailer for some of the big brands such as Samsung partnering with some of the Major Banks in the UAE (i.e ENBD, First Gulf Bank, Dubai First & Mashreq Bank)
How important is mobile commerce for you?
In this age of time where everyone has the facility to access information on the move it would be quite prudent for us not to ignore this trend and insure we evolve ourselves accordingly.
Can we get an insight in to Alshop.com's sales volume and net profit for last year?
I am sure that’s the question on everyone’s mind. Our sales have been steadily growing at 30%-35% every year & we have been giving back customers exactly what they are looking for (i.e. cash backs, free items, special discounts, etc) when they return to shop with us again. This contributes to our incremental rise of our Sales Volume and encourages customer loyalty which in turn reflects on the net profits in the long run. Our net profit has been at a steady 6 to 7% over the years; but this is a constant battle which any electronics re seller tackles.
What's the average margin you expect to get as an e-Commerce retailer?
We focus towards giving the customer an excellent online shopping experience and look forward to serving them time and again. This builds trust and confidence which is more valuable than profits and margins. Our pricing is usually calculated with minimum margin and heavily focused towards being the best price possible when compared to our competition. The margin percentage changes from different products and categories – but it would be safe to say; our focus is to ensure the customer wins in the end by getting the best price possible.
How have factors such as SEO, user experience, site design, those less visible but very important aspects of having web presence, been contributors to your success in addition to more publicly visible things such as stories and social media?
The most important factor that every e-Commerce Retailer has to go through is to keep up with the evolutionary changes that happens in the dot com world and all the elements you have mentioned are quite relevant to ensure to keep ourselves different from the competition.
Any plans to start a retail store?
I must admit the idea is quite intriguing but one cannot predict the future.
Biggest challenge in the region for your e-commerce start up?
I would definitely place that for educating our customers on the concept of Online Shopping which is now catching up in this region.
What do you think will happen to the e-Commerce industry in 5 years in the region?
That’s something what everyone’s been talking about for this region in my opinion it will definitely be explosive in nature for this region in 5 Years.
Your biggest competitor?
Well I would be lying if I said we didn’t have any, but what I would say is we always try to compete and better ourselves so as to offer our customers the best of the best.