x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Women-only businesses carve out niche

First spas and gyms, then taxi companies ? now the home removals sector is the latest to respond to demands for an all-female service.

The female crew of Relogulf, a Dubai relocation company, pack various items at one of the apartments in Dubai Marina.
The female crew of Relogulf, a Dubai relocation company, pack various items at one of the apartments in Dubai Marina.

ABU DHABI // First spas and gyms, then taxi companies - now the home removals sector is the latest to respond to demands for an all-female service. ReloGulf, the Dubai-based moving and relocation company, claims to be the UAE's first to offer packing crews "manned" exclusively by female staff. The service, which began two months ago, has allowed women to feel more relaxed while moving home, especially when their personal items were being packed, said the company's managing director, Phil Davis. According to analysts, an increasing number of sectors will begin to offer products and services catered specifically to women as the maturing UAE economy forces companies to find new niches in the market. "For certain segments it would make a lot of sense to actively market to women and build their brand and brand perceptions among women," said Piyush Mathur, the regional managing director at The Nielsen Company, the market analysts. "We've seen a bit of that happening, but I would say it's still lucrative and worth going after," he added. While all-women gyms and spas have been in existence for many years, the introduction of all-female services in other industries is a recent phenomenon. In January last year, a fleet of 50 pink taxis was introduced on to Dubai's streets for women passengers. Rules were relaxed after a months to allow their families to use the service. In Abu Dhabi, taxi companies and hotel limousine services are recruiting female drivers in response to demand from women travelling alone or with their children. Women-only taxis, buses and trains can be found in many other countries, but the availability of all-women packing and removal teams is far less common. Although packing and lifting boxes and heavy furniture may not appear to be the most feminine of professions, the removal industry has a specific place for women, said Mr Davis. He said women who had felt uncomfortable surrounded by burly removal men had requested an all-female service to handle certain areas of the home, especially personal items found in the bedroom. "Our clients were asking if we had any female packers, and if not why not," he said. "In their mind it seemed to be something that was a natural progression." With employees increasingly expected to remain in the office until the last day of their contract or to start work immediately upon arrival in the UAE, many spouses are left to oversee the packing on unpacking process. "If there's a female packing crew in their home, they won't have to wear their Abaya and can move around more freely and get things done," Mr Davis said. "They also like the idea that it's another lady packing their clothes or the more sensitive items." With strong demand over the past two months for its single crew of five female packers, most of them Filipinas, ReloGulf is planning to form a second team of ladies. But the company's male staff have been told not to fear a battle of the sexes. "We can't change all of our crews to females, because we still need that raw manpower, especially on the final loading day," said Mr Davis. "Women are there purely to pack and move the smaller items." He added that in a sector facing increasing competition from companies trying to exploit the UAE's increasingly transient population, the all-female service could provide an all-important point of differentiation. The service could be appropriate for everything from the banking, finance and insurance sectors to car repair centres, driving schools and even a women's-only shopping mall, analysts say. "Women have the purchasing power and they require all kinds of services," said Mr Mathur. "In the past not a lot of sectors have targeted women, but they will start actively looking at niches and points of differentiation." rditcham@thenational.ae