“Let me ask you a question: If you are going to India tomorrow and you are looking for a hotel to stay in, where would you normally search?” asks Ambareen Musa, founder and CEO of Souqalmal.com, a website that offers consumers a platform to obtain detailed information on a range of financial products.
TripAdvisor is the first answer that comes to mind.
“That is exactly my point. So pretty much, if you take the same concept and apply it to credit cards, this is exactly what you get, Souqalmal.com, the TripAdvisor of the banking industry,” she adds.
On the website, users can search for over 700 products, analysing various credit cards, different personal loans, a range of mortgages and car finance products, all of which exist across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
“When you want to go to India, you would need to book a hotel. If you want to choose a good one, you look up prices, locations and people’s reviews. On Souqalmal.com, users [do the same thing], they look at the prices of, let’s say, credit cards, their different features, and what other customers think of each and every one of the products,” she explains.
Musa’s online business is, she says, the first comparison website in the entire region, but the concept exists elsewhere in the world. Souqalmal.com — Arabic for ‘money market’ — is largely based on sites available in mature financial markets around the world, including the UK and the US.
“I think the region got ready for this concept around a year or two ago… if you look at governments, they are all pushing everything online, a lot of campaigns, e-tickets, updating vehicle registrations, all of this is online,” she adds.
Musa and her contact management team have held talks with numerous banks in a bid to educate them about stepping on board with the website.
“It did take two to three months to educate them because it is a completely new concept in this part of the world. Some would ask me if they were even allowed to give out details of their services. I would always reassure them by saying it is public information,” she says.
Following Musa’s efforts to encourage these banks to make a move in her direction, many have shed their concerns over transparency. However, that should not come off as a surprise, given that Souqalmal.com serves as a fantastic platform for promoting products and services for these institutions.
“First of all, banks are very much moving online. If they want a very targeted customer base, i.e: customers actively looking for a certain financial product; there is no other site in the region that brings banks and customers who are actively looking together,” she says.
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