A recent report in the Wall Street Journal points out that while the internet played a big role in the Arab Spring, inspiring a whole new generation of activists, it is now helping an increasing number of people to meet their financial aspirations in the Arab countries.
With the rise of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices that have become an integral part of our lifestyle, making it convenient to do everything from book tickets to ordering food online, e-commerce has become a game changer in an economy struggling to get back on its feet. Many young entrepreneurs are turning to the Internet to fuel their business.
The success of online start ups such as agzakhana.com, an online shopping network for pharmaceutical products and elmenus.com – an online database of local restaurants which has thousands of users signing up each month to order food from over 1,200 restaurants, shows that political uncertainty is not slowing down at least one segment of the economy – eCommerce.
Mr. Haldun ARIN- Chief Operating Officer for QNET-one of Asia’s leading direct selling companies that uses e-commerce at its core, attributes the company’s successful expansion into the MENA region to the power of e-commerce. Arinexplained that while Direct Selling as an industry in its modern form has been around for more than 50 years, the global connectivity provided by the Internet changed the industry drastically. QNet was one of the early adopters of e-commerce in the direct selling industry in Asia, which helped the company reach out to customers all over the world. This helped the company expand its presence outside Asia, particularly in the MENA region in a relatively short span of time.
While e-commerce in post-revolution Egypt is picking up with hundreds of new startups in the past few years, industry observers warn of hurdles such as a relatively low internet penetration and security while shopping online. The potential however is huge.
Mr. Haldun says, “We have invested significantly in providing a secure platform for our customers to ensure their online shopping experience with us is safe and enjoyable. We have COMODO Hackerproof Security Accreditation and use a Cloud-based Data Center with 3 Tier Multi LayerSecurity.Additionally, we have also secured DDOS protection to combat any attacks on our e-commerce portal efficiently without affecting our customer experience.”
QNet’s customers purchase a wide range of high value products and services ranging from wellness and nutrition products to online education courses, watches and jewelleryto holidays and vacation memberships from QNet’seCommerce portal from around the world. The company names Egypt as one of its top 5 markets.
According to research by PayPal, the popular online payment solutions company that launched its operations in the region late last year, spending online in the MENA region will grow from USD 9 billion in 2012 to USD 15 billion by 2015.
In a study published by Visa, the global financial services company recently, Egypt ranks as No.1 in the entire MENA region in e-sales with USD 3.2 billion worth transactions in 2011. Egypt currently has an internet penetration rate of over 35% and this is expected to grow by 40% annually, the Visa study showed. With actual computer penetration being higher in the business community, the study suggests that there is a tremendous business-to-business potential for e-commerce in the country.