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Tue 10 Apr 2018 09:55 AM

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Entrepreneurs of the Week: Jad Toubayly and Easa Al Gurg

Idealz is attempting to reimagine online shopping by allowing customers to purchase products, donate to charity and win prizes - all in one transaction

Entrepreneurs of the Week: Jad Toubayly and Easa Al Gurg
(l-r) Easa Al Gurg and Jad Toubayly

Idealz launched 18 months ago with a unique take on e-commerce. It sells its own-branded goods – stationery, clothing – in sections organised by the luxury prize you stand a chance of winning when you make a purchase.

When customers checkout, they are then given the option to donate their purchased products to Dubai Cares. Should they do so, Idealz adds another ticket into the prize draw for cash, gold, jewellery, watches, cars or electronics. So, it’s e-commerce meets raffle meets charitable giving.

Arabian Business spoke to Toubayly and Al Gurg on the reason behind the concept, its differentiating factors and the ultimate aim behind it.

Why does online shopping need a concept such as Idealz?

Idealz operates like any other online store that sells its own products. What distinguishes us is the added value we offer. Our reward incentives work for everyone in the value chain. Retailers typically seek the highest return on their products and services, whereas we share that return with the customer and those less fortunate, all in a single transaction.

What are some of the challenges you have faced while setting up the business?

Trust was always going to be the biggest factor in customer acquisition. We knew that from day one. There’s a great amount of spam in online shopping and our biggest obstacle was always going to be ensuring trust, especially that we offer significant prizes such as supercars. The seal of approval was working alongside Dubai Economy (DE). All our campaigns are approved and regulated by them. Our association with top brands also helped establish our credibility.

Why have you opted to continue self-funding Idealz, as opposed to raising capital and bringing in investors?

The best bet you can make is to bet on yourself. And if you have the means to do so, why wouldn’t you? We do everything in-house using the best platforms and development methodologies, with a solid team of 15 full-time employees. While this has come at a cost, we are happy to fund every part of the company ourselves.

Our aim is to build the best product for our customers, not the best business for investors. Having said that, we did sell a minority stake, via a “share sale”, not a “capital raise”, to Dr Finian Tan’s Vickers Venture Partners, as he is a firm believer in our business model and offers invaluable guidance, which is far more important than money.

What is your vision for Idealz?

When we started building the platform, we set a very detailed and realistic five-year plan that went from team building to platform development and from launch to expansion across vertical and horizontal business model pivots. We are now at the start of the expansion phase, working to enter key regional markets. While these plans were set in place early on, we understand the need to be flexible. What I can say for sure is that Idealz will become even more rewarding. So watch this space for a few more surprises.

Has online shopping become as advanced as it is in the West? What elements play a large role in growing the market in the region?

There has always been a natural lag between digital trends in the West and in the Middle East. Online shopping has seen massive growth in the region in the last few years, but it is far from that seen in developed markets. One factor that plays an important role in supporting this growth is consumer trust. Thankfully, the UAE’s system is designed to protect the consumer at all costs. As the ecosystem develops further, we predict online shopping to become more predominant in the region.