By Lubna Hamdan
Invoiz is a green start-up which addresses issues related to the use of thermal paper receipts in the retail industry
What were you doing before launching Invoiz?
I am an architect by profession and had been working for the past 18 years as a design manager for a leading architectural firm in Dubai.
How did the idea come about?
Once, when my washing machine had broken down, I needed to know whether it was in the warranty period, and for that I required the original receipt. While I did find it, the service centre number and warranty details had faded away since it was a thermal paper receipt. This convinced me that I was faced with an inconvenience and I had an opportunity to come up with a solution that would make the receiving and storing of paper receipts easy, ultimately leading us to develop Invoiz – a paperless initiative.
Why does the market need this product and what makes it unique?
Invoiz is a green start-up which specifically addresses the core issues related to the environmental and health problems related to the use of thermal paper receipts in the retail industry.
The technological solution developed eliminates the printing of thermal receipts and utilises a uniquely coded application catering to the needs of the retailer and customer.
What is your business model?
Based in the UAE and aligning with Dubai’s 2021 paperless strategy, we intend to pursue the UAE as our flagship market for Invoiz. Out of the total UAE population, 98.4 percent are online and 96 percent have smartphones, a perfect market for an online platform. Invoiz is both a B2B and B2C solution, targeting in-person and e-commerce retailers and their customers. Our primary sales channel would be a direct approach to meet with retailers, sign them up and then integrate with their third party or in-house POS systems. However we also intend to integrate our solution with local and international point of sale (POS) systems already established in the market, making them our authorised dealers/partners on a commission basis. A well planned and structured SaaS (Software as a Service) pricing plan, based on feedback from our product validation stage has been developed to attract retailers to sign up. The pricing plan generates revenue from a one-time integration fee per brand and a monthly fee per outlet, payable under three flexible plans. The plan is also efficiently structured to accommodate retailers with standalone and multiple outlets. Based on our marketing strategy to create awareness about the benefits of this technology and to encourage the use of the application, the customer can download the Invoiz app available on both iOS and android platforms for free. Invoiz is cloud-based and integration with a retailer’s back end is done only once, either through web hooks or the Invoiz API. QR code and UID features provide complete privacy to customers while checking out, and the real-time utility features of the App positions Invoiz far ahead of the competition. Invoiz has been developed with the latest security features, is GDPR-compliant and has copyright in 167 countries.
What are your main challenges when it comes to operating in the UAE?
The primary challenges are the expensive marketing costs of reaching out to customers and retailers. Although the use of social media in the UAE is one of the highest in the world, the exclusivity to reach a specific retailer and customer base is an expensive proposition. Business running costs, in terms of infrastructure, business protection, legal fees related to documentation of transactions and setting up and maintaining 24x7 support structure team are expensive. The use of dedicated servers for data protection and the changing bylaws are a challenge incurring an inevitable cost.
And, finally, opening a bank account for a start-up is one of the biggest challenges.
How has your start-up been performing since its launch?
Invoiz have been promoting the paperless initiative vigorously using a top-down approach by understanding the requirements of leading retailer chains and business houses in the UAE. We have achieved the primary target of identifying the need of our solution and its immense potential in targeting the objective of going paperless by way of validation. Awareness campaigns through social media marketing have been launched to address the primary issues of health and environment, along with the benefits for both retailers and customers.
We have also started to integrate our solution directly with leading suppliers in the region. This integration would be a shot in the arm for promoting the product’s worthiness as an efficient alternative for the retail industry for transacting with their customers. We are presently at the stage of signing up with retailers and promote marketing strategies for increasing the awareness of the free to download mobile application offered to customers.
How is the business funded and what has been your experience in attracting investors?
Our start-up has been funded by our family and friends. However, we will be fund-raising in the coming months.
Any expansion plans in the UAE, GCC and beyond?
Invoiz is a versatile solution and can be directly integrated with both POS based and non-POS based retail and F&B businesses globally.
“The primary challenges are the expensive marketing costs of reaching out to customers and retailers”
Our expansion plan is to first target the UAE, which is an innovative hub. We also wish to introduce and market the product in GCC countries, specifically in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and KSA. We already set up a registered office in India under the name Invoiz India Private Limited which is based in New Delhi.
What are some new trends in your sector in the region?
Based on our market research in the retail industry segment, the primary trend for the retailers is to provide a unique customer experience.
The development or application and reach out strategies is focussed on customer retention, ease of transactions, reduce time of transaction with customers and improve data analytics using machine learning. Retailers also are investing in identifying and mitigating shrinkage in the industry.
What are your predictions for this sector?
Transactions using paper receipts will be eliminated in five to eight years in the UAE, if not sooner. The awareness of the detrimental health effects of thermally coated paper receipts and the environmental nightmare caused due to non-recyclable thermal paper receipts will be the focus. Not withstanding the fact that the global impact of the number of tress cut and CO2 emissions in the manufacturing process of paper will be a deterrent. The UAE leads the Middle East region for advocating green initiatives. Changes in legislation and its implementation in both public and private sector is expected to ensure achieving the “Green objectives” mooted by the government. In addition, the CSR guidelines of companies in UAE will boost promoting the paperless vision in various industries.
If you could go back, what would you do differently with your start-up?
I would put in more effort on the business plan. A pre-seed round of funding would have helped to carry out more extensive market research.
What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?
Every idea is worth exploring and taking forward with conviction in both its content and intent.
What is it really like being an entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur fundamentally is about taking a risk. The risks are worth taking if a structured approach is followed when the original idea is conceived.
Taking an idea forward with conviction and support from a team of like-minded, yet diversified people has been an endearing experience.For all the latest StartUp news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.