The Next Web Middle East sat down with Sohrab Jahanbani, co-founder and COO of GoNabit, the group-buying site he launched in 2010 with co-founder Dan Stuart.
Apart from talks about how Lebanon is almost as bad as Greece in its population and tolerance of smoking in public places, and planes when it comes to Greece, I asked Sohrab some questions and he had an interesting insight.
With very little research and statistics on e-commerce in the region (apart from travel and hospitality sites) to support their business case, the two co-founders swam against the stream and launched the most popular group-buying site in the region. They even surprisingly launched their Cairo daily deals recently in the currently unstable city.
Except when quoted, the below is a summary of the conversation.
Deal acquisition and leads
GoNabit’s model of generating leads is highly based on a direct sales force who are on the ground in every country signing deals in the lead’s own premises face-to-face. While 65% of their leads are actually self-generated, they still go through a tough qualification criteria.
Sohrab explained that they have rejected leads from multinational brand and local merchants equally. Reasons of rejection include price reductions that are not actually the claimed percentage. If there’s a better deal out there, they will not feature it. The rationale is that if GoNabit expects the consumer to trust them, then their offerings need to be trustworthy. With a team of price researchers, they seem to have it covered. To-date, GoNabit has approved 96% percent of the merchants.
Regional e-commerce behavior
Sohrab believes that helping set a standard for a more profitable long-term is more important than gaining extra income on the short-term. Although he believes that allowing cash-on-demand through his site will provide them with an extra 40% of volume, he is also aware that it is not easy to track and manage the experience if this becomes the case.
Sohrab confidently announced that 21% of users made their first online purchase through GoNabit.
User experience and buying attitude
An ex-mobile content business manager, Sohrab explained that a two-click rule is critical when it comes to online purchases. Ease of use is critical to his business and he is fully aware of it. GoNabit is fully certified by Trust-e which ensures transaction safety while providing a no-spam gaurantee.
Sohrab confirmed their plans to keep expanding geographically with potential plans for mobile apps. He also mentioned plans of expansion with new services within the context of local commerce allowing buyers and merchants to engage in alternative ways. Their strangest merchant so far has been a Chiropractor in Dubai that sold-out. Surprising indeed.
Generally, the rule is that if brands promote products at reduced rates frequently, they would be damaging the brand and what it represents. I asked Sohrab what his thoughts are on the topic. Sohrab believes that he is capable of creating a positive brand experience