Saman Darkan, the founder of MyMetroTalk, launched the online city guide this month. The Dubai-based portal aggregates hotel, restaurant, club and spa information. The 26-year-old British Iraqi talks about why he thinks his website will fly.
How is this portal different from other information aggregators?
It is a venue-listing site with several unique twists. You can see a video [of a venue] that would give the user an overall ambience of what that place has to offer. We also have quick response (QR) codes [or bar codes]. If you have a free QR application on your smartphone, you can scan the QR code of a particular venue from any of our listings' webpage, and save the contact details of the listing to your smartphone. We have a database of over 7,000 Dubai listings such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, spas and salons. We also adapted a restaurant's recommended dish module from the ratings users give it, and [an user] can see which dishes are the most popular.
Many of the categories do not have listed prices. Any plans for this?
Approximate dining prices for two is in place for restaurant listings. In terms of individual dishes, we have something interesting in the works.
What made you come up with the idea?
With all the new places opening up every day, with all the existing options, if you missed the marketing that follows with a venue, then you missed the news. The only way I am going to hear about it is through word of mouth or through my direct social circle. [Many of the locations] you would not find unless you are looking for it directly. [MyMetroTalk] keeps all the well-recommended places in one platform.
How confident were you that MyMetroTalk would get traction?
We launched it on January 8 and we have been getting 10,000 unique visitors a month.
How would you generate revenues?
Right now we are not generating any revenues. But we hope to start within a month. We have put together a platform that utilises community feedback and provides guidance when it comes to answering a popular question, "where do you feel like going?" It is answered by the Talk Finder Tool, [which] allows you to search the best community ranked places on our website by your mood, situation—whether you are single or with family, and environment, whether you feel like being on the beach or stay indoors. There will be an added feature in place where venues can utilise the exposure received by posting special offers or ads. On other parts of the website you can also sponsor listings to appear first in results.
How much did you invest? How many people are working on it?
Our initial investments and expenditures [are] over Dh500,000 [US$136,137]. [We expect] to turn a profit by the third year. There are eight people. I am the founding member, and there are three more people in the core team: Ranime Loutfi, Mohammed Mirza and Suzanne Darkan, my sister.