x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

AIDO.com service delayed by piracy and internet speeds

A Dubai online video retailer says it is holding off launching digital offerings.

A Dubai online retailer says it is holding off launching a digital film and TV download service because of the region's slow internet speeds and piracy concerns. The founder of AIDO.com - which sells DVDs, books, video games and gadgets -is ready to start offering iTunes-type film downloads but says the market is not yet ready for such a service. "I want to launch digital downloads of movies, TV shows and music," said Sanjay Amarnani, the chief executive of AIDO.com. But he said the availability of free online services via piracy sites and internet speeds he called "shameful" had put a brake on his plans.

John Deykin, the chief executive of TMH,a branding consultancy based in Dubai that works with AIDO.com, said there were several drivers that would make a regional paid-for digital movie site tenable in the future. He pointed to the emergence of "video on demand" services offered by local telecommunications operators, the improvement of broadband speeds and anti-piracy drives. Mr Amarnani said he was confident the market would be ready for such a service in a year's time.

"I'm waiting. I have it all ready - it would take three weeks to go completely digital. I'd like to go digital by the fourth quarter next year if the whole market is willing to accept digital," he said. "I'd like to offer a complete digital range. It may come in phases, with recently released movies coming first." AIDO - which stands for "all I do online" - went live in June last year and now claims to receive 50 to 60 orders a day, predominately from customers in the GCC. Enation, its parent company that Mr Amarnani founded and owns, has offices and a warehouse in Jebel Ali.

The site is one of a growing number of e-commerce portals in the region. In the UAE, Carrefour recently launched an online shopping service for non-food goods, while internet start-ups such as Nahel.com and Souq.com have plans to expand their regional scope. At the same time, sites offering legal downloads of music content are also springing up. UrFilez, a privately funded music download and streaming site with offices in Bahrain and New York, recently clinched a seven-figure deal with the world's four largest record labels that will enable it to offer four million songs online. And Music Master, another download service, is set to launch by the end of next month. The site will offer MP3s free of digital rights management restrictions, which means the files can be used on other computers and portable music players.

bflanagan@thenational.ae