There’s no denying the popularity of group buying sites in the Middle East. It’s a field with a couple of success stories to its name, including LivingSocial buying Dubai-based GoNabit and Cairo-based Offerna adding former BuyWithMe exec Sinan Khatib to its team. But the actual number of group buying sites that have launched in the past few years by far dwarf the success stories.
Our last count at the beginning of the year put the number of Middle East-based sites at 16. Since then we’ve seen countless more launch, including BBM Baby, Nail the Deal, Scoupon and MooSavings, to name just a few which are focusing primarily on the Cairo and UAE markets. And there’s still more that have yet to launch, such as Cairo-based Dealwa2ty.
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As of tomorrow, we can add Dubai-based Grosper to the constantly growing list. While Grosper uses a similar business model as the rest of the sites in the region, it does set itself apart with the kinds of deals that it offers.
While most deals sites concern themselves with vouchers to get discounts on spas, restaurants, electronics and accessories, Grosper is aiming for a much bigger, and much pricier market – real estate. Grosper is bringing the group buying model to real estate rentals in Dubai, and the team has also decided to take the service one step further, by throwing interior design, decor and furniture into the mix.
Nancy Messieh: What inspired you to launch Grosper?
Mohamed Hingora: Our inspiration for launching Grosper.com was our own personal experience. We were renting an office for a separate venture in Dubai and we found ourselves repeatedly being unable to find something that met our needs at an affordable price. This was shocking to us given the huge supply and demand gap in Dubai.
We kept asking landlords what it would take for them to reduce the rents, and one of them said that if it was possible for us to get a couple more people from our contacts to rent in the building, we would all get a discount. This struck a chord with us, and we tried this as a negotiation tactic with several landlords and found a huge number of them actually agreeing to this.
It became clear to us that there was an opportunity here. This was further re-iterated to us when we wanted to rent modern furniture for our office, and found that it wasn’t possible to do so online in Dubai, neither was there a great selection available at an affordable price. So, we decided to move into this field and make Grosper.com the one stop shop to rent, decorate and maintain your home at an affordable price.
NM: What are your expectations for the site? How has the pre-beta sign up period gone?
MH: We have actually been fortunate to receive some great PR coverage from local news websites and bloggers. This has attracted thousands of sign ups and tens of thousands of page views to our landing and blog pages. Moving forward, we are in talks with online communities for tie-ups to extend our offers to their users as a means of acquiring distribution channels for our deals.
NM: There’s a lot of group buying sites in the Middle East but you’re taking a slightly different approach with the actual services/goods provided – do you think people in the region are ready for that leap?
MH: I think there were a lot of doubts about e-commerce before the advent of group buying websites, but they have shown that with a good idea, a good team and brilliant execution, the inherent appetite for online commerce exits. We believe that if we provide a good service at attractive prices, our customers will be responsive to such an offering.
NM: Have you had to take any measures to localize the service?
MH: At this point, we will only be beginning with home rentals, and not home purchases as it’s simpler to do so legally in this region. In addition, our furniture products and services will definitely be curated with the UAE consumer in mind.
NM: Any plans to expand beyond the UAE?
MH: Once we have got the processes right and proceed from the beta stage, we will actively be looking at potential markets such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and India.
NM: What kind of discounts will you be offering and can you give us any information on the properties that will be offered through Grosper?
MH: At this moment, we are in talks with several developers, but are not able to give details on the brands, but the discounts for home rentals will be in the 15-20% region of the actual value. In home decor and services, the discounts may be a higher percentage, however, our focus is on providing a curated selection of excellent brands at affordable prices and not daily deals at 90% off. We want this to be a win-win for both merchants and consumers in the long run.
NM: Any plans for the future that you can share with us?
MH: In the future, we will be working closely with interior designers in a program we call the ‘Tastemaker’ where we’ll be featuring deal events on home decor curated by industry experts. This will be a selection of products available for a short period of time handpicked by prominent interior designers from this region. This will allow the average consumer to buy products that were previously available only to industry insiders only.
Although we won’t be launching with this feature, very soon our users will be able to demand real estate deals instead of waiting for us to offer them properties. They will be able to form groups through our platform and then get bids from various developers for matching properties.