How Souq.com's CEO and founder Ronaldo Mouchawar turned what used to be an online auction site into the Middle East's best running e-commerce site
What is a moonshot idea that you are currently intrigued by? Are there any you are pursuing in your organisation?
Every day, we ask ourselves how people’s lives could be made easier through our services. We foster a culture of innovation and invention within our business and always find ways to simplify. We launched the Amazon Global Store as a first step of many in doing so, as it offers customers in the UAE the ability to shop for over 1 million products from Amazon in the US. Amazon Global Store on Souq offers a completely localised and reliable experience for customers in the UAE: Customers can shop in Arabic or English and pay in AED using their local credit cards or cash on delivery (COD).
Customers will see prices in AED inclusive of import fee deposits at checkout (where applicable) – without any unexpected fees added later. With Amazon Global Store’s hassle-free customs clearance, purchases are delivered right to customers’ door steps. We are excited about the great response we have received from customers and we feel this is still day one.
Also, we have been working incessantly to improve the mobile shopping experience for our customers. Souq mobile app offers convenience on their mobile device, customers can view detailed product information along with product ratings and reviews enabling fully informed buying choices.
We are also focusing on developing the appropriate scalable tools for merchants to enable them to sell at higher volumes and with more convenience. Together with Amazon, we are looking forward to serving our customers better, reach out to more customers and make online shopping as seamless and enjoyable as possible.
What does diversity mean to you and how are you pursuing this?
Souq was born in the Arab region and we believe in local talent and remain committed to providing great opportunities for employment and creating a positive economic impact for the region. We now have global technology and learning and are looking forward to contributing to the already vibrant tech industry in the region.
We are a company of builders, who bring varying backgrounds, ideas, and points of view to decisions and inventing on behalf of our broad set of customers. Our diverse perspectives come from many sources, including gender, age, nationality, disability, culture, education, as well as professional and life experience. We develop future talent to help us meet the needs of our customers. Diversity and integration are good for our company and most importantly, good for our customers.
With talk of new technologies, consumer preferences changing faster than ever before, and a new emerging demographic entering the workplace, how different do you think the world will be in the next few years than it is today? And how do you keep up with the rapid pace of change?
In our 12 years of operation, one thing we have learned is that our customers in any of the regions/countries we operate in are more similar than they are different. There are a couple of things that are fundamentally similar all over the world, no matter your background or location, they will stay the same: Customers will always want access to a huge selection of products and want them in the most convenient way possible. And of course, they will always want low prices.
With everything we do, we have those customer requirements in mind. Our job is to understand the needs of customers in each of the countries we operate in, and to invent on their behalf, leveraging the internet and technology.
What’s the single biggest challenge you face today?
Creating a successful e-commerce business is more challenging than most people think. You need to earn your customers’ trust – by providing reliable payment options, convenient delivery that suit customers’ needs, a vast selection and availability, as well as attractive prices.
Since our launch, Souq.com has built a reliable website and mobile app where customers can purchase the latest products in a safe, protected and convenient way. Cash on delivery is one of the preferred modes of payment in the region, which makes online payments a challenge.
However, we are now witnessing a shift in the trend, as more and more consumers are getting comfortable with online payments via credit cards. We have been working persistently to offer our customers the widest product selection, great prices, the highest levels of convenience and first-rate customer service. Our mission is to continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology to empower consumers to find, discover and buy anything, whilst empowering small and medium businesses to maximise their success.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
Customer obsession is one of the driving forces behind our innovations. All our employees know that our customers are our biggest asset, so keeping them at the forefront is key. Everything we do is designed to empower our customers to shop however, whenever and wherever they like. This is the guiding principle we have in mind. Amazon and Souq’s job is to define the real needs of customers in each of the countries we operate in, and to invent on their behalf, leveraging the internet and technology.
Do you value education, experience, or something else entirely? What is the biggest determinant of a person’s progress at a company or in the industry?
I feel it takes perseverance and customer obsession to be successful. Therefore, staying focused on the goal and making sure you take the time to understand your customer is key. If you fail, don’t worry, pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes and try again. During both the good and bad times, as an entrepreneur, you need to stay focused. A lot of people will tell you ‘this might not work’, ‘this is not the right model’, but you need to believe in yourself and your business.
What’s one mistake that business leaders make more frequently than others?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing, but I feel invention and failure are inseparable twins. You have to be experimental to accomplish anything important. That means you will be wrong a lot of times. You will try something on your way to that vision and that will be the wrong decision. You will take a little course correction and try again.
One thing we have to make sure of is that we always learn from our failures. To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organisations embrace the idea of invention, but are not willing to fail. Success often comes from betting against conventional wisdom. However, you’re still going to be wrong nine times out of ten. It’s important to be bold. That’s the only way we truly make a difference.