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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Fetchr owner has dream of creating new verb

The delivery app founder Idriss Al Rifai wants his company name to have similar connotations to Google

Idriss Al Rifai, the founder of Fetchr, has big ambitions for his company. Satish Kumar / The National
Idriss Al Rifai, the founder of Fetchr, has big ambitions for his company. Satish Kumar / The National

Have you always worked in e-commerce?

No. I studied international relations, economics and philosophy and played professional basketball on the side. Then I joined the Ministry of Defence in France as a civil servant. Later I joined the special forces carrying out fact-finding missions in 13 countries - I loved it. From there I joined a thinktank at the Ministry of Defence before doing an MBA, then joining Boston Consulting Group in Dubai and then moving into e-commerce.

What was your motivation for setting up - to get rich?

Getting rich is probably reason number 150 to get into entrepreneurship. If you look at the statistics the odds are against you. It’s difficult to make it work and even harder to get rich, particularly with your first venture because there is a lot you need to learn.The first reason is the frustration - there is this frustration and you want to prove yourself.

What are the three main drivers for your business?

The first is the growth of e-commerce because 90 per cent of our traffic is e-commerce. We deal with 800 e-commerce companies including the top 10 in the region. The second driver is having customers comfortable with using technology – if people still want to get phone calls, then Fetchr becomes like anyone else. What makes us different is that you have to want to share your GPS. Finally smartphone penetration. While Middle East smartphone penetration is the highest in the world, look at markets such as Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria – the penetration rate is still very low but is growing very fast.

Who are your main competitors?

The traditional logistics companies - Fedex, DHL and Aramex. But again we need them for the cross border rights. We don’t want to own planes or custom clearance but none of these companies have focused on last-mile technology because they didn’t have to. They are massive machines and massive machines cannot move. They would rather acquire companies.

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Read more:

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Fetchr launches a faster delivery service

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What is your exit strategy?

The exit is either acquisition or IPO. IPO is a long road that takes three to five years but acquisition is very likely considering the level of interest we have - whether it’s from local GCC families or big private equity funds in the US and UK. We’ve already had two offers for buy out: the first before the series A round for the technology and the second was during the series B which was the wrong timing. We feel we can be 20 times as big so until then I would feel extremely frustrated if I sell the company. Anyway it’s a shareholder decision, not only mine.

What advice would you give yourself if you were starting again?

To enjoy the journey otherwise it is just a journey of frustration. That frustration is the key force driving an entrepreneur but then you tend not to celebrate the milestones.

What is your next big dream?

To make Fetchr a verb; 'let's Fetchr it' like 'let's Google it'.