“I want people who sleep in the office,” Mohamed Alabbar, founder Noon.com
He is ruthless. He is brutish. He is unforgiving. And this is what makes Mohamed Alabbar the perfect rival of Amazon.com. Mr. Alabbar is not a man to trifle with. Mohamed Alabaar with his $1 billion eCommerce prodigy Noon.com, launched in the year 2018, is transforming the shopping experience across the entire Middle East.
When Jeff Bezos acquired Souq.com in a whopping $650m acquisition deal last year, he definitely wasn’t expecting to meet stolid competition in the online shopping arena in UAE division. But, as they say, life happens when you are busy ignoring it.
When Amazon.com was fighting it out for dominion over the online shopping kingdom, Mr. Alabbar took the leap and launched Noon.com in UAE. An e-commerce experience, aimed at grappling straight-on with Amazon.com for power in the Middle East.
Speaking in an interview Mohamed Alabbar made it clear that he is not one to take no for an answer.
“This is my region, and we want to have a part in it.”
Mohamed Alabbar speaking at Noon.com’s launch in Dubai
A major lesson that startups in UAE can learn from this, is to never ignore your competition, no matter how deep a niche you have carved. Amazon UAE made a grave mistake of underestimating the competition and this is when Noon.com happened.
Here are some lessons which UAE-based Entrepreneurs can take-away from the prodigious success of Noon.com:
Start with a Well-Defined Vision
According to a research conducted by Bloomberg.com, 8 out of 10 entrepreneurs who venture a foot forward and launch their own start-ups, fail within the first 18 months. A whopping 80% crash and burn!
This usually happens because founders jump into the business without a clear-cut vision of what they want to achieve and fail to determine unambiguous goals for their business.
But not Mohamed Alabbar, it seems. It is said that Mr. Alabbar is rather hard-nosed when it comes to business ethics. In a news article, the billion dollar founder of Noon.com revealed the seriousness of business transactions conducted by Noon.com
“Want to go walk your dog in the afternoon and all that? I’m not the guy you work for.”
If you want your startup to succeed in Dubai, you must start with a transparent vision for the next five years. Where do you want your business to be? What expansion are you willing to make in the coming years? If you’re not planning to scale your business, it is advised that you stick to your day job, instead of putting everything at stake to start your own business.
Noon.com centered on a singular focus on taking care of their customers. With hard work, dedication, and customer feedback, Noon.com was able to create memorable experiences for their customers.
Believe in Yourself Even If No One Else Does
Six months after Amazon.com acquired Souq.com, Mohamed Alabbar announced he was coming up with a website to beat Amazon.
“The Middle East is an untapped opportunity for e-commerce, ripe for the taking,”
In an era where payment gateway is still in its infancy in the Middle Eastern market, launching an e-commerce store is akin to embarking on a suicide mission. But, a standing ovation for Mr. Alabbar for believing in himself & going forward to realize his aspiration.
When it comes to a startup, what people think about your product or a service doesn’t make much of a difference. What matters is that you need to believe in your services. You need to introspect if your product can make the lives of your consumers better or worse? Once, you’re satisfied with your answer, you need to visualize the end results. The success that you are looking for, reach out for it and achieve it.
“You have to do what you dream of doing even while you’re afraid.” ~Arianna Huffington, co-founder of The Huffington Post
Instead of Hopping Around, Start with Baby Steps
One of the biggest mistakes that founders make while achieving the impossible is to look for shortcuts to race ahead of their competition quick. What they fail to realize is that success is not all about reaching a destination. It is always about the journey. Not how fast they grow, but how stable they get during the baby steps they take when tottering up the hill.
If it was just a matter of crushing the competition, Mohamed Alabbar could’ve launched Noon right after Amazon stepped in UAE. But, Mr. Alabbar took his time to analyze the market dynamics and launched with a full-swing.
You can start with the baby steps as well and achieve the same level of stability in your startup.
“We don’t grow when things are easy, we grow when we face challenges, that’s why I face them head on!”~Huda Kattan, founder, Huda Beauty Products.
Failure is Part of the Grand Journey
When Mr. Alabbar made the bold move of tapping into a 3bn market, he knew that it was not going to be a piece of cake. Facing a stiff competition in a well-established market, the only advantage comes down to belonging to a local market. He knew the UAE market like the back of his hand, as opposed to the competition.
Since its launch, Noon.com has been facing mixed reviews. Customer complaints and heavy competition are just two of the demons they have to contend with. But, this is not enough to shatter the hopes of Mr. Alabbar.
One common problem that is faced by startups these days is failing backward. When you fail, you are presented with two choices. You can either treat your setback as a failure and stop moving forwards, or treat your failure as an opportunity to learn and grow stronger.
One sign of backward failure is the blame game that ensues when you are hell-bent on attributing someone or something to the let-down. However, as a startup, you need to realize that failure is part of the grand journey that you are entitled to take and embrace it with an open heart and an open mind.
To Wrap It All Up
E-commerce currently contributes less than 0.5% to the UAE economy, as compared to2% – 3% in more mature markets.To start a business in the throes of such tough dynamics is not an easy job. But, then again, to an Entrepreneur, nothing comes easy. It is not about how far you go with your business, but rather about how many lives you’ve touched on your way up.