x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 December 2017

UAE start-up makes life child's play for parents

Dubai-based online rental service gives mums and dads the flexibility to take a break without hauling all their children's needs with them

Dubai-based Hire4baby takes the hassle out of travelling with young children's equipment such as prams, which can be hired on the online platform. Getty
Dubai-based Hire4baby takes the hassle out of travelling with young children's equipment such as prams, which can be hired on the online platform. Getty

Hire4Baby.com is a baby and toddler equipment solutions company created by Dubai resident and mum-of-two, Jossette Naiken.

It allows families visiting the UAE to rent everything from car-seats to toys, removing the hassle and expense of travelling with their own. The site recently expanded its inventory and launched time/money saving "bundle packages" to meet the demands of surging in-bound tourism. Here, Ms Naiken, an Australian former equity trader, talks to The National about the service.

What prompted you to launch Hire4Baby.com?

As a parent, I use this kind of service all around the world; you can rent baby/toddler equipment in most major cities. It was only a matter of time before this kind of service was required here. Having said that, I knew nothing about what a parent - or child - required until I became a parent. My background is in finance prior to having Mikah (now three) and Lua (14 months). My experience from the corporate world has been invaluable building the business, as has my journey as a mother.

What gap in the market were you initially trying to fill?

Hire4Baby.com considers itself an ancillary service to UAE tourism, and the intention was to provide convenience for parents visiting the country. We have seen our market expand throughout our two-year lifespan, and adapted to suit; a large number of customers are UAE residents who use Hire4Baby.com to prepare their home and holiday lets for visitors, for example. We also rent hospital-grade breast pumps as well as wheelchairs.

What kind of parents use Hire4Baby.com?

Mainly parents of newborn to age five, as this is the age group that needs the largest travel kit. We send orders to hotel guests every day, but we are seeing more clients wanting a long list of items to build their ‘home from home’ in rented apartments and villas this year. Car seats are our most popular product; we, reassuringly, saw a notable increase in demand with UAE law changes – making car seats compulsory for children under four – earlier this year.

How does the service work?

We have 300-plus products in our inventory - that includes core items like car seats, strollers, cribs and furniture to sterilisers, bouncers, activity gyms and toys. Customers browse our site, make selections and place an order request. Our team gets in touch to confirm booking, offer product advice and arrange delivery.

Where do you store/prepare the equipment?

We have recently established an office and large warehouse in Al Quoz in Dubai due to expanding demand. Our team is growing too; we now have a person dedicated to each facet of the business - customer service, delivery, inventory management, sanitisation, business development, accounting, marketing. Via our state-of-the-art inventory management system, each employee can log into central software daily to track what products are available for rent, what orders are going out and due to be returned.

How did/do you fund your business?

By personal investment, although we have been approached by a series of investors since day one. We have purposely turned down funding opportunities as we like to preserve 100 per cent equity in the business. It’s very important to me to maintain ownership, and keep us nimble in terms of all decision-making.

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Are you driven largely by demands of parents?

We welcome customers contact us directly if they can’t see what they want on the site, and we then find the item. That naturally keeps us informed on demand. Implementing operations has been the most challenging part of the business to date. We have intentionally taken time to implement best-in-class systems - including website, rental management software, inventory barcoding, accounting software and payment gateway - which will allow us to scale the business in the future. The selection and implementation of these systems has been a long, tedious process, namely because most websites deal with e-commerce, not rentals.

How has Dubai’s tourism influx affected Hire4Baby.com since launch in 2015?

We have grown with every ‘holiday peak’, and as people become increasingly aware of renting baby/toddler equipment as an option. We are currently seeing our biggest rental numbers as we approach the festive season. This speaks volumes about the success of UAE tourism as a whole, and the ongoing developments and standards making the UAE an unequivocally family-friendly destination.

And future plans?

There is tremendous scope for growth for Hire4Baby.com. We see the business more closely aligned with the region’s most established airlines and hotel groups, and are taking steps to form partnerships. The main pillar will always remain the same, however: to offer convenience to parents visiting the UAE, while supporting the tourism industry.

Do you work with other parental-related UAE businesses?

We have close relationships with the world’s most trusted family brands, such as Maxi Cosi, Britax, Be Safe, Baby Jogger, Ameda and Medela and, on a local level, are approached by like-minded businesses. There is such a thriving community of local SMEs and family-focused entrepreneurs in the UAE; we are constantly exchanging ideas and forming partnerships, all with the shared goal of making life easier for parents living in/visiting the emirates. Parents had long been importing products for their children, and that has only changed in recent years. We now confidently say the demand for high-quality baby and toddler equipment, and wider entertainment, has been met, and the economy has responded. It’s an exciting time to be both a parent and a business owner in the UAE.