How US tech giant Amazon is writing its Middle East Story?

In an exclusive conversation with Ronaldo Mouchawar, co-founder of Souq and vice president of Amazon Mena talks about how US tech giant is expanding its footprint in GCC countries.
How US tech giant Amazon is writing its Middle East Story?
Ronaldo Mouchawar

Born to an entrepreneur Syrian-based Ronaldo Mouchawar once had the passion to be a basketball player. However, his destiny led him to be an entrepreneur and he launched online auction site, ‘Souq.com’ in 2005.

Mouchawar successfully spearheaded this business for consecutive 13 years until it was acquired by US tech giant Amazon in 2017 and Amazon.ae was born. At the time of acquisition, Souq.com was already a big retailer in Middle East selling millions of products across the categories including fashion and electronics to homeware and many more.

Mouchawar was recently present at Amazon Smbhav event concluded in the capital city New Delhi and interacted with indianretailer.com.

How Amazon acquisition is helping in scaling up further?

Amazon acquisition happened in 2017 before that Souq was a very local site serving local customers. Over the last two years our joint teams have been working extremely hard mainly to make Amazon understand the region and making sure that customers can access the marketplace in their vernacular language. In the month of May last year we integrated Souq application to Amazon. So now customers can use Amazon application and sellers can leverage from Amazon technology, fulfillment centre and delivery using Amazon tools and software.

Moreover, there is a huge base of customers worldwide who want to buy local(Arabic) products. With Amazon we have been able to cater that segment. With recently introduced Prime program products customers can get shipping from global market apart from exclusive accessibility to video content. So it is win-win acquisition, where a global technology company comes and invests in services for the local customers and enables local merchants and brands to connect with global market.

If we talk about ecommerce, can you strike out few similarities between India and Middle East market?

India’s ecommerce story and journey is not very different to us. When we started we had few challenges, if you look at ‘payments’ for example,many Egyptian customers & merchants were not banked properly. So we had to make sure that ecommerce do work without the use of credit card. Also, many Middle East cities did not have proper ‘addressing’ system. We had to rely on technology heavily for mapping the address of delivery courier, also there was serious crunch of local content as many products used to import here but they were not available in Arabic. So, we had to develop an eco-system of companies and small businesses to help us support customer experience. After all, you can have a product online if you don’t have proper infrastructure for payments and delivery the ecommerce model will not work. I think these are striking resembles to India the journey of ecommerce started here.

Would you also be launching Amazon’s B2B commerce in Middle East?

As of now the focus is on B2C side of business. We are interested to bring more products in our country. To fulfill the same, we are trying to use Amazon’s SMBs and manufactures network.

How many categories do have right now?

Right now we are operating 24 categories considering the short span.  However, we are focused that each category should have more depth in terms of product assortment and brands.

What kind of potential do you see in cross border retailing especially from countries such as India?

India and UAE have traditionally enjoyed great trade relations with more than USD$30 billion (as per trade from 2018-2019) worth of merchandise being exported from India to the UAE with a 7.04% YoY growth rate’.  Ecommerce has active role in reducing the distribution cycle allowing brands and sellers to list directly to local as well as global website. Otherwise, retail is an expensive business because you have to distribute products across many shops which require very large working capital.

What would be your expansion plans from here?

We are committed to add more and more GCC countries in Amazon network as we go forward. Meanwhile, we are focusing on sellers from India because we see a huge potential in them. Those who are already on our website have seen reasonable amount of success, so we aim to double down on the number of Indian sellers.

In terms export how do you see the role of other Asian countries excluding India?

Well, it depends upon customers what they want to buy from us. If they want products from other countries we will make sure to make those products available for local purchase.

 

Ronaldo Mouchawar
 
 
 
 
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