My Startup World spoke to Ahmed Ashadawi, the President and CEO at Al Falak, about why they acquired iPhady.com, what the company does, and the future plans in place
Tell us about iPhady. What does the name mean?
The name is supposed to be a combination of iPad and iPhone with an Arabic twist to it (My iPad/iPhone). When www.iphady.com started, it was purely focused on selling Apple products, specifically, iPads and iPhones, hence the name.
However, that direction completely changed once we acquired the company in late 2014 and we introduced many Windows devices and products that support that ecosystem. Actually, we were the first to bring in Microsoft Surface devices into Saudi Arabia the name iPhady was synonymous with Surface for a while.
We are actually in the process of rebranding iPhady (including changing the name) to reflect the new direction of the website to grow and expand beyond tech products and accessories. Actually, we have recently launched our lifestyle category and we will also be moving to a new and enhanced website which will be launched in Q1 of 2017.
When was it setup? When did Al Falak buy it over?
iPhady.com was one of the first e-commerce stores in KSA and was launched in early 2011. It was then acquired by Alfalak end of 2014. We are currently focused on the Saudi market, delivering mostly to cities within the kingdom.
Do you have plans to enter other markets?
We will be launching our UAE operations soon.
Which product categories do you currently carry on the platform? Any plans to add new categories?
We used to focus more on devices and computer accessories from brands like Microsoft, Logitech, and HP. Our new direction is to become a one stop shop for people looking for new, current and trendy products from reputable brands, which is why we recently launched the lifestyle category that includes stationery, fitness and adventure gear.
What about logistics and RMA? How is that handled?
That operation is currently centralized in Riyadh because 65-70% of our sales come from that region.
According to you what sort of trends do you foresee in the Middle East market in terms of e-commerce and related technologies?
I see more people becoming more comfortable with the idea of shopping online for more products across different categories, and hopefully a tremendous growth in the market brought by the entry of new big players like Noon.com.
I also foresee a growth in the ecosystem of ecommerce in the region brought by the introduction of new and innovative logistic partners like Fetcher and payment gateways like Payfort.
Is the KSA market any different from other markets in the region?
Yes, I believe so, mainly brought on by how big the country is in terms of size compared to other countries in the GCC which adds a layer of complexity when it comes to logistics and shipping.
I also believe that KSA market is a much bigger that other markets in the GCC and therefore has the biggest potential. According to the 2013 Household Expenditure and Income Survey done by the General Authority for Statistics -KSA, the average Saudi family expenses is 15,367SR on a monthly basis, and 2,554 SR per individual, which is 19.5% higher than the expenses in 2007.
The highest category of expenses was on merchandise like accessories, appliances, machines and jewellery, 21.2% of the house hold expenses goes to merchandise which reflect a huge market for online purchases. This makes the merchandise market a 16.6 billion market that iPhady is trying to tap into.
Finally, I believe that the e-commerce consumer is relatively new in Saudi Arabia and requires more hand holding and education regarding e-commerce in comparison to his/her counterpart in the UAE for example. Obviously, I am excluding the early KSA adopters and the consumers who are used to shopping online on international websites.
Do you plan to add any new features to iPhady?
iPhady itself is getting a makeover with a new name, new website and definitely new features that are geared at simplifying the shopping experience to give the highest satisfaction.
This is a very exciting yet challenging time for the e-commerce business in the region because the e-commerce industry in my opinion is in the expansion phase of the S-Curve. This means tremendous growth in the market size on the one side, and many more competing entities coming into the market to secure a piece of this growing pie.
We at iPhady need to continue to improve and grow as a company if we want to secure a leading spot for ourselves in the future. The work is just starting!