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Mon 29 Jul 2019 02:12 PM

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Dubai's Seafood Souq plans GCC expansion by 2020

Online platform tackling seafood fraud works with restaurants Maine Oyster Bar and Grill and Aprons and Hammers among others

Dubai's Seafood Souq plans GCC expansion by 2020
Seafood Souq CEO Sean Dennis.

Dubai-based online marketplace Seafood Souq is aiming to expand from Dubai to the rest of the UAE and GCC by 2020, CEO Sean Dennis has told Arabian Business.

The start-up is looking to tackle seafood fraud, product mislabelling and high pricing by connecting international sellers with regional buyers through a 100 percent traceable supply chain in partnership with Emirates SkyCargo.

“[We’re] global in as much as suppliers can come from anywhere in the world. [We’re] regional in that our buyers are [regional]… the plan is - as quickly as we possibly can - to reach out to the rest of the UAE and into the GCC.

“So [we’re expanding] to the UAE within this year. Within the next 12 months, I want to be fully in the UAE and look to go into other countries,” Dennis said, adding that a GCC expansion would be “towards the end of the 9-12 months” period.

The B2B platform was launched in June by Dennis, who is also the founder of US blockchain start-up Loyyal, and friends Ramie Murray (Middle East shellfish farm Dibba Bay Oysters), Denis Konoplev (UK-based AI platform Disperse) and Sheikh Fahim al Qasimi (UAE corporate advisory and investment firm AQ&P and department of government relations for the emirate of Sharjah).

Users can sign up, browse and list products to the platform for free, though a commission fee will apply when a purchase is made, and could range from as low as zero percent to as high as 12 percent, depending on the type of fish.

Dennis said the start-up’s low monthly costs allow it to generate revenue with low commission fees.

“Because our sunk costs or our monthly costs are particularly low, we don’t need to make much money on each individual transaction. We’re so confident in that the buyer is connected directly with the seller and has their story and knows who it is, because our first, middle and last mile processes are so efficient. Again, working with Emirates SkyCargo, a buyer will not and should not be able to bring in a product cheaper than we can,” he said.

The commission fee will be decided by a machine learning algorithm that will be introduced as the start-up scales, Dennis said.

“We make sure we’re at most at market price, but percentage depends on value of product and what we’re looking to push on there. Eventually, there will be a machine learning algorithm which makes sure the percentage we have is maintained across the platform so if one product goes to a 4% fee then the other can go to 12% to average out. That is not there at the moment but is being [worked on] and later on as we scale, it’ll need to be done,” he explained.

The range will currently be “a moving target” but Seafood Souq buyers “should always be able to purchase on our platform and either pay the same or save money from where you’re doing it right now”, Dennis added.

Positive reaction

Restaurants using Seafood Souq currently include Maine Oyster Bar and Grill and Aprons and Hammers.

So far, the reaction to the platform’s launch has been “really good”, Dennis said.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the reaction from different groups and stakeholders from the value chain. From the supplier side, [it’s] fantastic because they’re desperate to tell their story to the end consumer. Fish through existing business practices has been commoditised to compete purely on ice almost. In actual fact, every farm and different kind of fish has a reason why it should be priced differently from others. If it’s a family-run business where they kiss their fish goodnight to sleep, then that should be priced differently from something that’s caught as a commodity,” he said.

Seafood Souq’s transparent marketplace also aims to promote sustainable fishing practices.

“They’re desperate to tell their story, they’re desperate to promote the fact that they do fish sustainably which is something they’re forced to compete against the unsustainable practices purely on price, which is not fair. On the buyers’ side, we’re providing effectively a one stop shop for people rather than call up five distributors and four producers in different countries and deal with how to bring it into the country and how they’re going to pay them,” Dennis said.

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