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Sat 14 Jul 2018 12:31 AM

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Entrepreneur of the Week: Dawaami's Kamal Al Samarrai

A veteran of the recruitment industry, Kamal Al Samarrai has self funded a new platform that he says can be scaled around the world

Entrepreneur of the Week: Dawaami's Kamal Al Samarrai
Dawaami's Kamal Al Samarrai.

Kamal Al Samarrai is running what he hopes will become the next Uber and AirBnB of recruitment. But the idea for ‘Dawaami’, which means ‘period of work’ in Arabic, initially came to the former investment banker as a result of his frustration with the traditional recruitment model which he dubs ‘archaic’.

While most industries have had technological revolutions, the recruitment sector has remained the same for the past 60 years, according to Al Samarrai. Through his self-funded venture, he tells Arabian Business precisely why now is the time for change, and how Dawaami intends to drive the industry’s evolution.

Tell us about Dawaami’s business model?

Dawaami is a recruitment marketplace with a mission to driving the time and cost of recruitment down for employers globally. It allows them to post their jobs for free and have verified freelance recruiters bid to work on the role. The employer then gets to choose up to five recruiters to work with – for any one role – for the fee that they choose.

When the role is filled, Dawaami escrows the agreed payment from the employer so that we can protect them and make them feel comfortable about hiring. After an agreed time, we pay the recruiter their fee and we take a percentage of that fee. That’s how we ultimately make our revenue.

I don’t think, at this point, that large recruitment companies want us to exist”

Why did you decide to follow the models of Airbnb and Uber by not having any recruiters? Was it merely to cut down costs?

No, not to cut our costs but to drive down the cost of recruitment globally while making sure that this model is scalable around the world, much like Uber did to the taxi industry and Airbnb did to the hotel space. Dawaami is a tech platform that deals with recruitment – not a recruitment company with a technology platform.

What are some challenges you are currently facing?

I don’t think, at this point, that large recruitment companies want us to exist. Why have recruitment companies at all when you can have a global platform like Dawaami and all small and independent recruiters sign up and compete for the biggest of roles? But I don’t think they can do anything about it – it will shoot their own business model in the foot.

How is your business different from the many recruitment platforms already in the market?

Most concentrate on artificial intelligence, which is great when matching, but having been a recruiter for the past six years, I understand that recruitment is about cultural fits. You can have a perfect match on paper, but a complete mismatch in person. I think most platforms have tried to override the human element, which I believe is the most important factor.

Do you find the regional recruitment field saturated?

I like that the recruitment market is saturated for Dawaami, because it should make it more competitive and drive the cost down, but the way the current recruitment industry is run provides no flexibility to lower prices. Having to sign terms of business with recruitment companies means you lock in a rate and there is no room to manoeuvre. That’s one of the biggest pain points that Dawaami hopes to tackle.

You can have a perfect match on paper, but they turn out to be a complete mismatch in person”

Were you ever afraid of starting your own business? How did you overcome that fear?

I don’t think you ever overcome that fear. Starting is not the hard part – making it work is the part to fear. I fear it every day but that fear drives me to succeed.

What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you before you started your own business?

Work, work and work – there are no short cuts here. It’s not easy and it’s very lonely. People will come and go, business will be good and bad. You will be at times happy and at times hurt. If you have the mentality, willingness and drive to learn, then go for it.

Is the word ‘entrepreneur’ overused? Many people complain about having to report to bosses, but is everyone meant to be a boss?

I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur and I think the term is thrown around far too easily. I have always defined ‘entrepreneur’ as someone who has been successful with the business they have started. Having a one-man show or a small company that has been the same size for the last five years without any revenue growth is not being an entrepreneur.

An entrepreneur in my eyes is someone who is constantly growing their company, pushing it to new heights and recognition and winning new contracts and awards. Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Travis Kalanick, Jack Ma and locally Donna Benton, Ronaldo Mouchawar, Mudassir Sheikha, Magnus Olsson and so on – they, for me, are the true definition of the ultimate entrepreneur. So to date, I am, maybe, on block one of the so called ‘entrepreneur ladder’.