The Life: Sajid Iqbal, founder of Shopware, talks about his new business that sets up websites for businesses, and the demand for online portals.
The Dubai online venture that connects all the dots
Sajid Iqbal co-founded Buzinessware as a Web development shop in Dubai in 2003. Since then, the 41-year-old Indian-Canadian has diversified the company, starting Webware, which sets up websites for businesses, and Hostware, a UAE-based provider of hosting servers. He talks about his latest venture, Shopware, which he started two months ago.
What is the new enterprise?
Shopware is to drive e-commerce in the region. For people who want to sell online, we can create an online shop starting at US$99 (Dh363.65) and scale up to $249 a month and your shop starts the next day. We design online shops for small businesses as well as bigger enterprises. We can also integrate their back office work such as managing inventory. If you do not like our pre-built templates and want to customise, that is an add-on service that you need to buy.
What is the demand like for your online portals?
In two months, we have 13 clients. That includes three enterprises — a couple from Germany, and the rest mom and pop stores that supply business cards, homeopathy medicines, children's party things and luxury men's jewellery.
Where are these companies based?
Ten are based in the UAE, a couple are in Europe and one is from India.
How much did you invest in Shopware?
We invested around half a million dirhams and ongoing. We are based in Dubai Silicon Oasis. The target is to break even next year and have around 100 customers by end of 2013.
How will sites like Shopware help small to medium-sized enterprises?
The price point is very minimal. If [businesses] start at $199 a month, they will pay Dh4,000 a year and save Dh20,000 to Dh30,000 a year for custom e-commerce development [elsewhere]. It also takes two to three months elsewhere to set up a website.
How do you plan to expand Shopware's services?
We are tying up with free-zone companies and warehouse providers within the UAE so that if companies based in, say, India or Germany want to do business from Dubai we can set it up for them. We are already doing this for one Swedish cosmetics company.
How will you differentiate yourself from the competition?
The UAE has the highest internet penetration in the region but e-commerce is just starting to take place. By 2016, e-commerce in the Arab world is expected to touch $2 billion. But there is no single e-commerce facilitator in Dubai who can connect the dots for you. We want to do that. Also, Shopware is ready to use now. You sign up, and you have an online shop in a few hours. And we provide local support. You pick up the phone and you get the service.
What are the challenges to e-commerce in the region?
There is a lack of virtual business set-up infrastructure, e-commerce technology expertise, and lack of easy local payment gateways.