Ronaldo Mouchawar: How I created Souq.com

Meet Ronaldo Mouchawar, who runs the Middle East’s biggest home-grown website. With Souq.com expanding tenfold over the last two years alone, what does the all-conquering e-commerce giant have in store for the future?


Ronaldo Mouchawar co-founded Souq.com in 2005 alongside Jabbar Internet Group’s Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury.

Ronaldo Mouchawar co-founded Souq.com in 2005 alongside Jabbar Internet Group’s Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury.

Ronaldo Mouchawar is standing at the entrance of Souq.com’s cavernous warehouse in Dubai’s Al Quoz district, getting patted down by one of his own security staff.

“There’s always rumours flying around,” the chief executive smiles, batting away a question about a recent report that suggested his firm might be bought by American internet leviathan Amazon. “You see, we touch on so many people.

“There was a recent study in the UAE that 50 percent of online shoppers have bought on our site, and we know from our traffic that 50 percent of the population come to the site once a month.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the only route in and out of the Souq.com fulfillment centre looks more like an airport security barrier than a passageway. Despite only being opened just over a year ago, the warehouse is packed to the rafters with flat-screen TVs, tablets, clothing, diapers and jewellery.

For Souq.com itself, it’s not just products on the shelves that are starting to stack up — the numbers are looking pretty good as well. It’s by far the Middle East’s biggest e-commerce site, and quite possibly the region’s biggest website full stop. It sells well over 200,000 products, with a network of almost 75,000 traders. It grew last year by 170 percent and has expanded ten times over in the last two years alone, with around 22 million visits last month.

Small wonder, then, that investors have been beating a path to the firm’s door. Launched in 2005 as an auction site linked to internet portal Maktoob, the site has already raised $150m in financing, with $75m received from Naspers just two weeks ago. With Naspers already having a 36 percent stake in the company prior to that investment, and with the South African firm remaining a minority partner, that deal values Souq.com at $577m, at the very least. Not bad for a firm that started out with only five employees less than a decade ago.

But you get the impression from Mouchawar — a tall, affable Syrian who co-founded the site alongside the Jabbar Internet Group’s Samih Toukan and Hussam Khoury — that the story is just getting started.

“If you look at what’s really transacted online as opposed to offline in the region, we still have a huge gap to fill,” he says. “There’s 1.5 to maybe 2 percent in this market sold online, whereas elsewhere in the world is double digits — in the UK, it’s maybe 18 percent.

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Posted by: Michael

Yesterday I ordered some items from them and they've bundled it into 3 packages with separate delivery charges for each bundle. Two of the bundles say 4 business days, so why are they charging like this. One of my items costs AED 10, but the delivery is AED 12. They should be offering free delivery for ordering so many items, but instead they are doing this..they cannot become the Amazon of the Gulf if they do this.

Posted by: Expat UK

ALL That Glistens is not GOLD..
All looks great on the site, and as regular customer who has bought most major electrical items from them. I have had may share of Poor customer service, to the point where I will No longer buy from them. They don't care once the deal is done and experienced several late deliveries. 1 Item is faulty and needs returning, but after 5 attempts they still cannot collect this..

I'm an online buyer from Amazon, Ebay and many other sites, very rarely do I experience such issues such as this. It's the worst performer and has a Very Long way to go to be even considered a reputable online store.

Posted by: Dissatisfied

I agree with all the above. I have been unable to secure refund for returned items. Each time I call the call centre, I get fobbed off with inaccurate information. Courier confirms items have been returned to seller but Souq.com just don't care and keep closing tickets. I have no idea how to make them process the refund they owe me. Awful customer service.

Posted by: Chef

Same here bought several times electronics and return takes many days and follow ups, have one items 3 times replaced as it was not working, bought even a second one before other one was picked up as i needed it urgent. I am also very reluctant to buy now. Shame.

Posted by: Saeed

Sometimes they send the wrong item and take ages to send the correct item.

Posted by: Fentoni

I hope Mr Mouchawar is reading these comments. We've had owners responding directly to comments on this site, i'd be interested to see if Souk.com take the brave move and do the same. Excellent customer service is no longer the aim in this online marketplace, it is the expectation. From the comments above and below it appears that Souk haven't made this a priority and for this they will pay a heavy price.

Posted by: Wael

Rob yes people are still using Souq, heavily and increasingly. True I also heard of some operational/logistical problems but the thing guys Souq has grown exponentially and they are doing their best to cope with the increase in demand. They are always on top of solving their issues as their direction is bringing value to its consumers.

Being from the region and living in UAE I tend to feel proud of having such a locally built monster e-commerce site.

The new injection of $75 million is not to save them from falling under but rather simply to take them further. No investor would throw big money on a dying business. The footfall is always something that brings challenges to any business or even city. The bigger challenge is how they deal and fix such issues. Let's hope Souq will look better and better in the coming year.

Posted by: turk971

I have been one of their repeat customers and yes there are good deals in the site. However I would like to point out that the main issue with them right now that they need to address immediately is DELIVERY TIME. I always have issues with delivery time whenever I order goods from them. I have raised complaints in almost all my purchases for the same reason. It seems their partner in product physical delivery is not serious enough to meet this CUSTOMER EXPECTATION. In the long run if souq.com will not address it, they will continue to loss customers to competition. Already I have ordered goods from their major competitor in UAE and never had the same issue with them. For now, I go back to souq.com only when the product I want is not available with their competitor.

Posted by: Expat

Online market in Dubai is very poor.
I never dealt with souq.com .. but there is definitely a great potential in this market.

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