While at an event in Silicon Valley California seeking funding, Idriss Al Rifai met Joy Ajlouny, a Palestinian serial entrepreneur based in California.While on stage, Idriss spoke passionately about solving the problem of no addresses in the Middle East and the effect this has on emerging markets. This appealed immediately to Joy, who had found difficulty shipping her e-commerce companies packages to the Middle East due to the lack of a properly developed address system.
After meeting they both connected their ideas on logistics and last mile issues that affect so many e-commerce companies. They both knew that with their combined experience, they may be able to change the face of delivery and help grow e-commerce in the Middle East. After this chance encounter, Joy decided to join the company and attempt to build and improve the e-commerce market and things have prospered from there
Idriss Al Rifai is an entrepreneur passionate about disrupting the Middle East retail market with
technologies and customer-centric services that enable the growth of e-commerce in the region. Idriss has developed and optimized a last mile delivery specifically for e-commerce needs and requirements in the Middle East. In 2013, Idriss founded MENA360, which has evolved to become a full end-to-end logistic solution for e-commerce companies in the region. MENA360 has more recently rebranded to fetchr with the launch of its peer-to-peer delivery app.Idriss also boats degrees from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques of Paris and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.
For over 20 years, Joy Ajlouny has been an e-commerce industry professional whose business and fashion influence has spanned the globe. Joy is the co-founder of Fetchr, a Silicon-Valley backed Technology Company based in Dubai, aimed at solving emerging market shipping logistics. Fetchr is the first start-up in the Middle East to be funded by a top venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. Prior to Fetchr, Joy founded Bonfaire, an internet-based VC-backed discovery platform for luxury footwear and accessories. Bonfaire was acquired in 2013 by fashion e-commerce giant Mode Operandi, owned by LVMH and Condé Nast.While women have raised only 2.7% of venture capital funds, Joy has successfully raised funds for two companies from some of the most prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firms. Joy has also been a strategic advisor to fashion startups, venture capital firms and major fashion publications. Joy’s personal style and keen sense of fashion is a product of her extensive travels.
PSE Magazine were lucky enough to catch up with the enthusiastic pair recently for a chat on their company Fetchr, start-ups in the UAE, and much more:
The name “Fetchr” was derived from a few ideas. We needed a name that would not be regional specific. It also needed to make sense with regards to what we do, our vision and purpose. We wanted the brand to be a fun and playful approach to a serious product. We are the first delivery logistics business to have a consumer friendly brand like this. This is in stark contrast to typical delivery brands that end with an “EX”.
Fetchr is a logistic company that offers the latest in technology to solve the problem of no addresses. With the fetchr app a customer can pinpoint their exact location, this ensures that customers never miss a package. You use your phone to shop for everything and now with the fetchr app you can use it to ship anything anywhere. We have eliminated missed packages and annoying phone calls asking for directions. We use your cell phone number as your address. It’s a new way to send and receive packages, no address required! We deliver for anyone who needs to deliver anything, anywhere. We do delivery for some of the largest ecommerce and retail players in the market as well as a long tail of SME’s.
Fetchr’s vision is to enable all deliveries through technology. We want to be the world’s easiest, fastest, most convenient way to ship anything anywhere. We want to make shipping as easy as shopping, making delivery and pick up as easy as 2 clicks. We want to change standards for delivery.
Download the app, snap a picture of what you want to send, pinpoint your location with a convenient time for pick up and a fetchr driver is on his way. Once the parcel is safely delivered, the sender receives a notification. It’s that simple! As an app, we do not require the address of the receiver, you just simply provide a mobile number. A driver is then dispatched at the scheduled time to the phone’s location, and can be tracked in real time.
The receiver is then notified that they have a delivery via the app. They choose a delivery time, and the package is brought right to their GPS location. Once the parcel is safely delivered, the sender receives a notification.
In our pursuit to push new standards for delivery, we are also currently in the process of allowing any customers to receive any packages via the Fetchr app no matter where they are coming from. The packages would all come to Fetchr warehouse and then be delivered via our app with the same level of transparency and predictability.
Currently existing delivery businesses operating in the region are working hard to bring delivery standards up to par with standards that have existed for almost half a century in the western world. We are not trying to catch up to what everyone else is doing but looking leap frog beyond existing shipping businesses and standards.Fetchr recognises that the world is changing through technology. With our technology, we bypass the need for a conventional address system in itself, using technology and cell phone as a way to find customers. We think that it is about time someone integrates last mile operations with the customers that are out and about, finding a way to connect the dots in the cloud. As a mobile app for deliveries, we are leading the way, however we anticipate that there will be a flurry of copycat attempts.
Last mile delivery is one of the greatest reasons why e-commerce has not reached its full potential in the Middle East. Our mission is to empower delivery through technology. Other address finding apps only offer a location service while Fetchr offers the utility and convenience of peer-to-peer delivery and offers an end-to-end solution for ecommerce businesses.
Our core strategy is to provide a legitimate service that connects people and makes their lives easier. We are solving a real issue that everyone has face at some point and by enabling deliveries for ecommerce, we solve their biggest challenge. We have been thrilled that Apple chose to feature us on the App store, thereby recognising the same needs in the market that we are exposing and solving. Fetchr will also invest heavily to raise awareness around service and technology, but ultimately the app needs to be useful and accessible in order for us to gain popularity in the app ecosystem.
As the space becomes more mature, competition becomes tough. We are however still very far from the level of saturation you can experience in the US or in other more mature markets. It is still a great time to start an online business though as the market grows more than 30% year over year. Some segments of the e-commerce space are becoming more competitive; ultimately giving better value for money to the end consumer.
E-commerce is booming in the region, catching up with where it should be based on the key metrics that are driving e-commerce worldwide: broadband penetration and smart phone penetration. I see the growth of e-commerce as a very healthy one as it strides across multiple verticals and segments. Delivery companies are aware that this segment was under-catered and are now trying to find solutions to the specific concerns of e-commerce: lead time, cash collection cycle and return rate. Fetchr already understood that 3 years ago and we have developed our whole strategy and product precisely for this segment.
Fetchr currently operates in the UAE, Bahrain & Saudi Arabia. We have a dedicated expansion plan to bring Fetchr to the rest of the GCC within the next few months.
We are also going to be using the majority of our funding for expansion throughout the Middle East and beyond, using a mix of our own fleet and outsourced drivers.
Additionally, we are in the process of setting up international logistics partners who will enable international delivery via the app. We also currently have existing partnerships with inbound freight and cargo businesses. What’s more, we’re even building out our outsourced driver network which will enable faster delivery on demand.
We are looking to launch a plethora of new features too. We are constantly improving our product and value growth. One of the next features we are going to launch is international peer-to-peer deliveries, allowing anyone to send a package internationally just by pressing two buttons on their cell phone.
There are multiple challenges in the e-commerce space in the region. These mainly concern the quality of the delivery services, the legal environment (or the lack thereof to operate an ecommerce business) and funding. The list is long. Dubai, however has an ideal entrepreneurial energy where things happen. The start-up community is burgeoning! Despite these massive challenges e-commerce has shown tremendous growth in the past few years across the Gulf. This growth represents a fantastic opportunity for any retailer or individual who want to reach a regional audience with very limited upfront costs.by