x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Message is simple: daily deals minus the spam

Dubai-based entrepreneurs launch discounts service that uses 'non-intrusive' BlackBerry Messenger to broadcast offers.

Simon Hudson, the managing director of BBM Baby. Satish Kumar / The National
Simon Hudson, the managing director of BBM Baby. Satish Kumar / The National

A Dubai startup has launched a daily-deals service with a difference - one that uses BlackBerry Messenger to avoid sending "intrusive" e-mail messages.

BBM Baby, the brainchild of Simon Hudson, 28, and Amanda Hollinshead, 30, broadcasts special offers using BlackBerry's free messaging service.

Unlike sites such as Groupon and GoNabit, the service does not send out daily e-mails to promote deals. Consumers are instead asked to add a special PIN to their BlackBerry Messenger contact list, and are then able to view discounts as status updates from BBM Baby.

"If you get a broadcasted message, it can be annoying because it's an invasion of your privacy. But with a status update, they've chosen to add that PIN," said Ms Hollinshead.

Promotion for the service started last week, and it claims already to have 1,000 subscribers.

"It says a lot when you're not losing contacts. People are not getting fed up of the status updates," said Ms Hollinshead.

Current deals include gym memberships, restaurant meals and hotel stays. Most are regular deals already offered by Dubai companies. The service does not operate on the group buying model used by companies such as Groupon.

Each BBM Baby offer is broadcast as a status update for three hours a day, with users able to click through to a mobile website for more details.

The startup is one of several discount services to be launched in the region. Other services have attracted criticism for bombarding consumers with unsolicited e-mails.

BBM Baby is not currently trading as a company and is promoting existing deals at no charge.

But Mr Hudson said the startup would start charging companies about Dh500 (US$136) per three-hour BBM broadcast. He is seeking investments to fund expansion of the service, he said.

Next year, a payment system should be launched to allow users to pay for offers directly through BBM Baby.

BlackBerry's popularity in the UAE was a driver behind the launch of the service, Mr Hudson said.

"When I came to Dubai, I was amazed at how many people have a BlackBerry," he said. "I went out on my second week in Dubai and got asked by three people 'what's your PIN?'."

According to a survey released last week by Massive Media, BlackBerry is the most popular smartphone in the UAE, with 51 per cent of respondents saying they used BlackBerry handsets.

According to Research In Motion, which manufacturers the handsets, 96 per cent of BlackBerry owners in the UAE use the BBM service, compared with 70 per cent globally.

bflanagan@thenational.ae