AMike Khouri was born and raised in the Emirates and is the founder of Shu2Do, a new app for mobile devices that provides vouchers for local shoppers. He talks about why he thinks his company is a complement - not a copycat - to the group-buying craze.
How does Shu2Do work?
It's a free iPhone app that provides exclusive vouchers for people on the go. When you open the app, you choose which category you're looking for, or choose "near me". From there you open up the voucher, download it and its automatically saved to your phone.
There are already group-buying sites such as Groupon, GoNabit and Cobone that offer similar deals. Why is there a need for this?
It's funny you say that. A year ago when I started pitching the concept to businesses they thought "you are an SMS [text-messaging] or loyalty programme". I was basically getting pigeonholed, and now I'm getting pigeonholed into these group-buying programmes.
So how is your scheme different?
With all these group-buying sites, you have to pay up front and don't know when you'll redeem. Consumers pay me nothing to use the service. We connect them with a platform they go to through their mobile phone. It gives you so much to explore, and it's a lot more interactive and real-time.
Is this a different model for businesses that participate?
The idea is that they can specifically decide when they need [consumers] the most and direct it at that given time. [Shoppers] open up the wallet when they're near the store and have [the deal] then.
What inspired you to come up with idea?
I was travelling in the UK and came across the iPhone app development craze. I knew the Entertainer [voucher book] here and group-buying initiatives were coming online. I wondered how could we go to a platform that could always be with you?
Do you think the industry is entering a wave of consolidation after the GoNabit sale this week?
I believe the tactic of buying established brands in new markets is something the heavyweights will continue to do as their pursuit for global dominance continues. Where there is room to adapt however is for smaller group-buying initiatives to diversify their models to become dedicated in serving more niche consumer needs.
What's your niche?
Group-buying sites and their consumers share a common trait - they aren't very loyal to the merchants they promote. A daily deal means they're looking out for the next best deal which means return customers are a very low conversion. This is how a model such as Shu2Do is very different. We partner with merchants with the intention of helping them broadcast their marketing messages on a platform that is affordable, mobile and location driven.
What else is unique about your service?
What it got down to was an idea of how I'd love to see everything be paperless. Consumers are used to the paper trail of having a voucher and redeeming it - buying a deal, printing it and going out with it. It's very old-school. I'm trying to move forward.