The UAE's Dudu.com aims to become a multilingual social network supporting Russian, English and Arabic.
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Why start here and how does dudu.com work?
Alibek Issaev, founder and owner of dudu.com, has been living in the UAE for 12 years. The UAE is a multilingual place and we can learn so much from each other. On dudu.com, if I write a status update in Russian, my English-language friends can log in and set the page in English and view it in English along with all the other buttons in that language. Once we launch the beta version, chatting with instant translation will also be introduced. [Currently] the translation is done automatically. The site also helps people who study foreign languages.
How many users do you have?
We started the project in October 2011 and it is still in a test mode. We had to get feedback from the people, and [fine tune] the translation system that we developed ourselves. We have 7 million users worldwide, with 4 million from the Middle East and North Africa [Mena] region. The second-biggest group of people are from Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. By May, we will launch the beta version and go out of the test mode. We want to have another 20 million to 25 million by the end of this year.
How did you manage to have so many users?
Marketing was mainly word of mouth. We needed some people for the test phase and we got more than we needed. We also did a couple of events with an events organiser. All the 7 million people are individuals and then businesses started to pay attention, as it is a new way to grow business, and because their clients speak different languages. We have hundreds of thousands of pages from businesses from the UAE, Russia and Mena region.
Currently dudu.com supports only English and Russian. What are your plans to expand beyond these two languages?
We will launch an Arabic version a couple of months after going beta. And gradually add Spanish, French, German and Chinese by the beginning of 2014. These are the languages spoken by the most number of people in the world.
How would you generate revenue?
It is free for businesses to open pages. But advertisements are not free. We can also customise their pages for them. Currently we are not focused on generating revenues. Once we go beta, we will start focusing on it. We will have on-site advertisements and applications, which would be free but some additional content within an application has to be paid for.
How many people does dudu.com employ?
We have 100 full-time employees in our Dubai headquarters. Freelancers or outsourced people can reach 1,000 sometimes as we need developers, linguists and interpreters. We have another office in Moscow. We also plan to open an office in Istanbul.