Moving home is stressful enough without having dozens of removal company staff traipsing through your house to offer quotations for the job. Bana Shomali has come up with an idea to remove that irritant - Movesouq.com, a comparison portal of removal companies.
The Jordanian, who moved to the UAE in 2007 after gaining an MBA at Vanderbilt University in the United States, quit her job as a consultant at McKinsey & Company to launch her venture this year.
Movesouq helps people to find removal companies and then compares costs and service levels.
How did you come up with the idea?
I was sitting with a friend, who is now one of my investors, and he was telling me what a bad experience he had with a moving company. He realised there were concepts for people to find services online - but not for moving. So we looked into it.
How does the service work and what are the benefits?
If you are planning a move inside the UAE or internationally, you fill out the online form explaining what you want moved. Someone from our team calls you and takes a few more details. Then a couple of hours later we send you a list of five movers - based on the availability and fit of the mover and the budget of the client - their customer rating from previous moves, how much they will charge, and their phone number. As a customer, you save a lot on research time; movers historically wouldn't give quotes over the phone, they had to come to the house so we've eliminated that. We spend a lot of time on customer service and satisfaction ratings. If one firm is charging Dh500 and another Dh1,000, it might come at the cost of service. It raises the level of transparency. On the movers' side, it's an opportunity for them to get customers. There are more than 400 registered movers in the UAE and for them to get access to customers is difficult. It's super-competitive and ads are not exactly cheap so they feel like they are competing fairly to get customers. It's free for customers and movers pay to be listed in the quotes sent to the client.
How do you weed out nefarious removal firms?
That's something we always watch out for. We check the company is registered before we sign them up and we get all their registration certificates to make sure they are legit. We do a site visit and meet them in person. We ask them to give us the phone numbers of their 10 previous customers and we call them. That's how we build the customer ratings. And we survey every client we win through our network so we are building a live database of customer reviews. We've had a couple of movers sign up with us that we've eliminated from our network because they got terrible reviews after they joined. For us, it's our reputation on the line as well.
What did you learn at McKinsey that helped you to start your own business?
As a consultant you are trained to walk into a situation and figure out how things can work better. Every day the team here at Movesouq asks: how can we do things better? This is supported by the technical skills that you learn whether it's lean operations or whatever. We [also] took a "test and learn" approach to the business. Instead of spending a year designing the product and tweaking it before the launch, we said let's do a simple website launch, and learn and tweak it as we go along. We took our idea from thought to launch in two months - with the website and everything.
Where do you go from here?
We've been live since April and, now that we've launched, we see there is very good traction - customers are giving us good feedback. During the next phase we really want to scale up and improve the level of service. We want to get back to clients faster, we want the movers to get back to the customers more quickly and so a lot of manual stuff needs to be automated. We are also looking to hire more people. We want to add services such as storage to the site because we are getting those requests on a daily basis. And then also hopefully open in another GCC country. That's what we are thinking of in the next six months.