By Thomas Shambler
When Abed Bibi and Husain Makiya founded yougotagift.com, neither dreamed it would go on to become one of the largest of its kind in the Middle East
Some people swear by your service, while others have never heard of it. What's the concept and how did it get started?
AB: We make people happy, that is what we do. The act of giving spreads happiness, and it doesn't matter if you are eight-years-old or eighty. Our company makes the logistics of that process much easier.
HM: It's true. It all began when we were both looking to get a friend a gift. We were busy and didn't have any time to go out. So we started looking if there was a place we could put this money we were planning on spending online for our friend.
AB: We looked online, and there was nowhere to do this. After two days, both of us were still talking about the idea, and it got to a point where we just decided to build the idea into a company.
HM: So the company started out of necessity. Everyone in this town is very busy; the malls are always congested and stressful to navigate, so it started with us trying to get a friend a gift card. Nothing else. When we were doing our research before starting the company, we saw there was a massive market globally for gift cards. That's when we knew our concept - of an online mall for gift cards - would work.
So you saw a successful model elsewhere, and just brought it to the Middle East?
HM: No, as we are now disrupting the gift card industry in this part of the world. Not only do we do consumer gifting but we've also ended the corporate rewards business. That market is entirely conventional. Traditionally, it's done either through merchandise or via physical vouchers from stores or malls. What we've done is bring together a catalogue of 100 brands, and made it quick and convenient for companies or individuals. And this saves a company a lot of money, regarding fulfilment, inventory and logistical cost of sending gifts to clients or end users. Today our business is around 80 percent corporate gifting and 20 percent consumer.
AB: For example, we have Etisalat as a partner. Customers of Etisalat now earn points by using their services and can redeem those points for e-vouchers. We power that entire back-end exclusively. We also have brands like Etihad, AlAhli Bank in Saudi Arabia, Nelson Research and much more. We now operate in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Qatar.
Why do you think the company has been successful out here?
HM: I believe that we started at the right time for the region. Businesses now realise that digital is the way forward, and our value proposition - of convenience - is clear to them. Today, the gift card industry is growing around 5 percent per year. But digital gifting - or a digital gift card - is growing at 26 percent. This part of the world is already more digital savvy, and mobile phone penetration is also very high.
AB: We have an app, it lives on your phone, and you can do everything on it. Plug in the gift code, and you can pay for any goods in those stores just by showing your phone.
So convenience is key?
HM: Let's say I have a dinner in half an hour, and I have forgotten to get someone a gift. I don't have time to get to a mall, but I can login through my app, pick a gift card, and time it so that my gift card gets sent just as I walk through the door.
AB: Our region also has a large expat community. Traditionally, families in other parts of the world would either send money or pick a gift and mail it. But now, we have a large customer base who live in other parts of the world but use our service to send presents. It's easier for them, and it's also sometimes better for those receiving gifts as they get to choose exactly what they want.