Egypt Business Directory reported that
Despite the 400% increase in internet penetration in Egypt between 2004 and 2014, just over 3,000 people are transacting online, Egypt Business Directory reported last week. Daily News Egypt was keen to hear from one of the online retail outlets relying mainly on domestic online transactions, souq.com Egypt.
Souq.com is one of the largest e-commerce websites in the Middle East with over 400,000 products across electronics, fashion, household goods, watches and perfumes.
Souq.com Egypt ranks at 37 on the most viewed website in Egypt according to Alexa web analytics.
In August 2009, when Yahoo acquired Maktoob, souq.com was spun off as part of Jabbar Internet Group. The site switched to a marketplace with a fixed price model in early 2011, and later that year started its retail division.
Daily News Egypt interviewed Omar ElSahy, who became souq.com’s General Manager in late 2012. Prior to joining the retail website, Omar founded and managed multiple e-commerce business ventures including Odezy.com, a private online boutique shopping club, and Dealwaty.com.
When did souq.com start in the Middle East and Egypt?
Souq.com was launched in the United Arab Emirates in 2006, in Saudi Arabia in 2007 and it was kicked off in Egypt in December 2009. Moreover the company opened in Kuwait two years ago, and we are now developing a new office in India.
What are the companies included in the Souq group?
Souq group includes souq.com, sukar.com, an online shopper, Qexpress the logistics and shipping company based in Dubai, CashU the prepaid online and mobile payment gateway and PayFort the Dubai-based online payment gateway.
Who are the owners of Souq Group?
We have three investors, Jabbar internet which is based in Jordan, US-based Tiger Global and South African media group Naspers Limited. Moreover we have more than 200 employees which are shareholders, because the company considers its employees part of the success.
How many customers purchased on souq.com Egypt in 2014?
Our private owned policy is not to disclose numbers, however I can say that we are doing well. We haven’t reached the targeted figures of e-commerce so far, but we might reach it in two or three years.
What was the feedback when souq.com started in Egypt in 2009?
When souq.com started in Egypt, it was not the first online shopper but the concept of e-commerce was new and not well understood. The internet penetration rate was almost 15%, and only 1.5% of them were shopping online.
The revolution of 25 January 2011 played a considerable role in raising the internet penetration rates, which jumped to 31% in 2013 with 5.1% online shoppers. Those increasing indices show that the e-commerce in Egypt is expected to continue growing.
Currently, there are almost 142 e-commerce companies in Egypt with 39% internet penetration in 2014 and 7.6% of them purchasing online.
How does souq.com build customer trust?
Online shopping portals should maintain various strategies and plans to market and increase product purchases and win customers’ trust.
At souq.com, we have the cash-on-delivery service as a way to gain customer satisfaction. Moreover we have two other strategies free returning for products that didn’t meet customers’ expectations and customer service, which is available for any inquiry.
Souq.com is looking forward to expanding the industry of e-commerce which, as a result, will help in growing our company. The company aims to send a message to customers to shop online with all the guarantees that make customers reassured. When the e-commerce industry grows, consequently the customers of souq.com will increase.
Are there any souq.com projects in Egypt in 2015?
Yes, there is a project we already started in 2014 which we consider one of our big investments, which is Business Entrepreneurship Initiative to develop the e-commerce industry.
The programme was launched with the cooperation of the Education for Employment Company, in which both of us built the suitable curriculum for the applicants. The project mainly aims to build up the e-commerce industry and to offer job opportunities for graduates who are willing to work and create. The programme lasts for seven months, where the students were taught the basics of business and e-commerce, then after finishing they have multiple tracks to start their own e-commerce career.
We were surprised with the enthusiasm of the participants after finishing the programme. Some of them built companies that serve e-commerce companies, and actually one of these companies offers services to souq.com. In 2015, souq.com along with the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, will extend the project in Upper Egypt, especially as the project offers big job opportunities which might reach 9,800 people per year. The project is expected to be launched in two months.
Regarding our company we are looking forward to expanding our categories in souq.com in 2015, especially as we developed the health and beauty category in 2014 to reach the best value, including best price and best selection. Moreover, we are planning to improve our stocks and the shipping companies to guarantee that best product delivery.
What are the main requirements for applying in this programme?
Applying for the project is free and has no strict requirements, but one of the basics is that the applicants should not be attending a private university graduate, because the project helps who can’t afford to take the programme.
Which payment method do souq.com customers prefer?
About 80 % of souq.com purchasers prefer cash-on-delivery transactions. Credit card users don’t exceed 20 % in Egypt, and you can find multiple card users represent a big percentage of it, so we are not expecting a current increase in purchasers using their credit cards.
However cash-on-delivery has some disadvantages, but still there are a lot of positive things including building a concrete relation with the customer who start purchasing with cheaper product then using cash on delivery raise the trustful relation with the website.
Are there any new payment services?
We will launch shortly a new payment service called “card-on-delivery”, as the delivery person will have a card swiping machine to motivate credit card purchasing.
Souq.com plans to develop all payment services, and we are already negotiating with the government to seek the ability of using instalments in transactions.
Did souq.com launch a partnership with a telecommunication carrier?
Yes we did, souq.com has launched a partnership with Etisalat Egypt and MasterCard to enable the customer to use both accounts to order from souq.com. Until this moment the partnership is only with Etisalat, but the service supposed to extend to other telecommunications carriers.
How did the souq.com mobile app affect the company?
The application plays a pivotal role in our purchasing as it raised sales up by 50%. Moreover, souq.com won the app of the year in 2014 from the Apple Store, which is nice, but still not influential, because smart phone penetration in Egypt doesn’t exceed 26% and tablet penetration is only 6 %, so mobile commerce still is in one digit.
Does souq.com target Upper Egypt and rural areas?
Souq.com is marketing across Egypt. Around 65 % of our customers are from Cairo and Alexandria, and 35 % of them are from the other governorates and actually we are expecting further bigger rates because these places lack hypermarkets so people there are in a big need e-commerce to access all the brands and products especially their wealth index is good.
Did souq.com have any troubles with the government?
We don’t have troubles with the government – actually there are a lot of opportunities. Privately owned companies are expecting to meet the government on 2 February and one of the main things we are going to raise is launching an “e-commerce institution” in Egypt to build strong relations with customers. It could be as an audit to label the good companies, giving them official badges to reassure customers that those companies met the customer rights articles and are standardised.
And there should be a period monitoring those companies to recheck their work and to exclude any violating e-company which gives a bad image for the e-commerce industry. This step would be a good move to grow up the e-commerce industry in Egypt and pump more investments in Egypt. Moreover, the government should launch awareness campaigns to discuss the benefits of e-commerce to raise trust between customers and the e-companies
What role does social media play for souq.com in Egypt?
Social media in Egypt means Facebook as Twitter and Instagram are still not powerful enough in Egypt. With more than 4 million fans on the souq.com Facebook page, the page comes in sixth place.
The purpose of social media for souq.com is the two-way communication which enables us to know customers’ positive and negative feedback. When the company sends press releases, we need the customers to listen to us but social media makes us listen to customers which is an influential aspect to improve our services.