VAT in UAE: Do you pay VAT on second hand items?

Generally no, but there are exceptions…

The introduction of VAT in the UAE has people worried. It increases the cost of living for everyone in already tough economic times. Fortunately, buying and selling second hand items on Melltoo is still generally a VAT free activity. Since Melltoo doesn’t own the inventory being sold in the marketplace, Melltoo is only responsible for VAT on our selling fees and courier charges. However, for the time being, we have decided to absorb the additional costs in an effort to support our community of buyers and sellers. We’re in this together.

As a seller on Melltoo, you are responsible for VAT on the products you are selling. So do you have to charge VAT on your items? If you are an individual selling a used iPhone or second hand sofa, there is no VAT applicable as long as it’s a one-time activity. However, if you are a business or shop in the business of selling second hand items, then you must charge VAT on the profit you made if you sell more than 375,000 AED a year. Here are other scenarios to consider.  

Scenario 1: Individual selling new or used personal belongings on Melltoo

There is no VAT since this is considered a one-time activity.

Reference: https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/vat-in-uae/will-vat-apply-on-buying-or-selling-used-personal-goods

Scenario 2: Business or individual regularly selling similar used items (e.g. laptops, smartphones, designer bags) on Melltoo

If you sell less than 375,000 AED per year: No VAT charged

Reference: http://gulfnews.com/business/economy/vat/do-not-pay-vat-if-your-bill-doesn-t-have-these-1.2150978

If you sell more than 375,000 AED per year: VAT is charged at 5% on the profit you make.

For example, you purchase a used LV bag from someone at 1000 AED and you want to sell it for 1250 AED. Your profit is 1,250 – 1,000 AED = 250 AED. You are liable to collect 5% VAT on your profit (250 AED x 5% = 12.50 AED).  In other words, your item should be priced at 1,262.50 AED (1,250 + 12.50 AED) and you will have to pay 12.50 AED in taxes at the end of the year.

Reference: http://blog.dubizzle.com/uae/motors/6552/effect-vat-car-market-uae/

Scenario 3: Individual selling new items for profit on Melltoo

If you sell less than 375,000 AED per year: No VAT charged

Reference: https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/vat-in-uae/is-your-uae-grocery-illegally-charging-vat-find-out-here-

If you sell more than 375,000 AED per year: VAT is charged at 5% of sale price.

Reference: http://whatson.ae/dubai/2017/10/everything-residents-need-know-vat-uae/

Scenario 4: Business selling new items for profit on Melltoo

If you sell less than 375,000 AED per year: No VAT charged

If you sell more than 375,000 AED per year: VAT is charged at 5% of sale price

#Declutter4aCause UAE – Donate used electronics to help refugees

What do you do with the smartphones, laptops and electronics that you stop using? Where can you donate, recycle, or dispose of unwanted electronics in the UAE?

As our lives become more and more dependent on electronics, consumer upgrade cycles are shortening. In 2013-2014, the typical consumer upgraded and replaced his smartphone every 24 to 26 months. In 2017, the global average was every 21 months. In the GCC, UAE and Saudi Arabia, consumers upgraded their devices every 19 months.

So what happens to the devices that get replaced? Most of us stick them in a drawer somewhere, forget about them and they eventually end up as ewaste. Electronic waste is a big problem. 2017 produced an estimated 48.2 million metric tons of ewaste, that’s about 100 times the weight of Burj Khalifa.

Ewaste is particularly bad for the environment. Not only is ewaste often hazardous, leaking harmful chemicals (such as lead) into the environment, it is also largely composed of irreplacable metals and nonbiodegradable glass and plastics.

So what can you do with your used and unwanted electronics in the UAE? Here are several options to properly deal with ewaste in the UAE.

 

Option 1: Sell

Selling your used electronics is typically a great way to recycle a product by giving it a second. Even broken electronics can be sold for parts.

Melltoo – http://melltoo.me/downloadapp

Melltoo is a great place to sell used electronics. List your items online in complete privacy, buyers contact you via in-app chat and comments. Once the buyer is ready, he/she pays in-app and a courier collects the item from you to be delivered to the buyer. There are NO meetups with strangers and payment is transferred to your bank account or in cash via cardless ATM. Download the app here.

If you really want to make a positive impact, you can also #Resell4aCause through the Melltoo app, donating all sale proceeds to a charitable cause. Supported causes including food relief for refugees (Salma Aid) and sponsoring orphans (Emirates Red Crescent). In exchange, you will receive “impacter credit” which can be exchanged for vouchers and credit at other retailers. The process is basically the same as a normal sale, more info can be found here.

Second hand mobile shops

These can be found in many neighborhoods around Dubai and all over the UAE. They are usually located in the souqs or neighborhood strip malls. Typically, you bring in your device and the shop purchases it from you in cash. However, since the shops need to make a sizable margin off your device, you won’t get a very good price for it.

Trade-in

There are many retail outlets that let you trade in your used devices for store credit to purchase a new one. Axiom and eMax both do this. You bring your device into the store and they will give you a quote on how much your device is worth. The amount is then given to you as store credit to purchase a new item. Of course, the issue with this is that you will have to purchase a new device from the same store.

 

Option 2: Donate

Your used electronics can improve the lives of people in need.

Give to those around you

The UAE is a diverse community with people from all walks of life and economic situations. If you know people who would benefit from your used device, the ideal situation is to give your device to them. In some cases, they will use it; in other cases, they will sell it and pocket the cash. However, you should only give people functional devices.  

#Declutter4aCause – http://uae.melltoo.com/donate/

As an added service, Melltoo will also collect your used electronics and sell them on your behalf. Sale proceeds will go to the charitable cause that you wish to support. Melltoo will also erase all data and reset devices to factory settings prior to the sale. Instead of handling the sale on your own, Melltoo will do it for you. The only caveat is that you will not receive the “impacter credit” that you would normally receive if you handled the sale personally (see above).

You may donate both functional and broken electronics. Supported causes including food relief for refugees (Salma Aid) and sponsoring orphans (Emirates Red Crescent). For more info or to request a collection.

Give to charitable organizations

Unfortunately, there are very few charitable organizations that accept electronics as donations. This is not surprising since handling and processing electronics is expensive and difficult. Charity programs need cash to operate. In-kind donations such as clothing and shoes are typically sold by the kilogram to resellers in order to obtain the cash required to purchase new items for those in need. Electronics are even more difficult to collect and process and charities simply don’t have the manpower and resources to do this.

If you want to donate electronics to charities, call the organization ahead of time to ensure that they are willing to accept them. Then ask them for the precise drop off location where you can bring your electronics.  

 

Option 3: Recycle or dispose

There are several options to recycle or dispose of your used electronics with reduced harm to the environment. Some are free public services and others are paid services. Here are some companies to try.

Dubai Municipality – 800 900
Only for residents of Dubai. Free service.

Bee’ah (Sharjah)https://beeah.ae/en
Only for residents of Sharjah. Free service

Enviroservehttp://www.enviroserve.org/
Nationwide pickup service. Paid service

Averda – 04 449 7500
Only for residents of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Paid service

Shred-ithttps://www.shredit.ae/en-ae
Paid service to destroy your electronics if you are concerned about data privacy.

You sell, they live a better life. Melltoo offers an efficient way to donate to UAE registered charities through its classifieds marketplace

You sell, they win. You’re an Impacter.

We’ve created a new feature called “Impacter” in response to the feedback of sellers in the UAE. Sellers can now resell their items on our platform for a cause. When they #Resell4aCause, people in-need “win.”

We’ve partnered with charities, such as the UAE Red Crescent and Salma Aid, that are licensed to collect donations in the UAE. We will add new causes along the way in an effort to increase our and your impact on society

How it works?

Our goal has always been and still is helping people buy-sell easy on our no-meetup classifieds platform.

1, Sellers choose to add an “Impacter” badge to their listings in the feed.

(Seller uploads item for sale)

  1. Seller chooses registered charity to whom they donate their sale proceeds (In part or full)
  2. Organization receives money and seller receive “Impacter credit” in-app

NB: The donation amount is equal to the cash amount that the seller would usually receive (The amount the seller would usually receive will now go to charity of choice instead.)

Frequently Asked Questions

Listings on the app

  1. How do buyers know which items are for “impacter” (being sold for a cause) and which are “regular” Melltoo listings?

All listings for “impacter” have a footprint icon  on them. The beneficiary cause is also indicated in the item details screen.

  1. Can I choose which listings I want to #Resell4aCause?

Yes! Before you submit a new listing for sale on the app, you will get the chance to select whether sale proceeds go entirely to you or if you want to donate sale proceeds to a cause of your choice.

  1. Can I change Impacter status after someone buys my item? In other words can I change my mind about donating sale proceeds after the sale has taken place?

No, you may not. All impacter listings become definitive when a buyer places an order for that particular listing. This means you will not be able to change the impacter status.

Transactions

  1. What are the different payment methods on Melltoo (and Melltoo Impacter)?

You can pay for items you see on the Melltoo app with your Melltoo wallet. You will either pay with cash on delivery once the item is shipped to your address or a debit/credit card. You can use free credit from Melltoo as well for up a 50% discount on any item (300AED max per transaction).

  1. How do I donate money?

You can’t donate cash directly. If you wish to do so, please contact the charities directly. What Impacter does is transform your stuff into cash for a cause. After successfully selling your item, your newly available cash sale money will be transferred to the charity account you preselected.

  1. Can an “impacter” transaction get cancelled by admin?

Unfortunately, yes. “Impacter” transactions are regular transactions on Melltoo. They’re subject to monitoring by our SAFE team and they may be cancelled if the either the buyer or the seller end the transaction before completion.

Melltoo Wallet

  1. Where can I see how much I’ve sold for a cause?

You can check all your sales, both normal and Impacter sales, through your user profile.

Returns

  1. Do return fees apply to sales of “impacter” sales?

All return rules apply to impacter transactions. In the event of a return, depending on the reasons, either buyers or sellers will incur a return fee if applicable.

  1. How do I track my return shipment?

Depending on the company that is delivering your item (you’ll receive order details confirmation once the shipment is booked).

Special features

  1. What is Impacter credit?

Every time you successfully sell a new item that is marked for “impacter”, you receive impacter credit. In the near future, Impacter credit can be redeemed for freebies provided by our partners.

  1. Will I be recognized for donating money through Impacter?

Every 4 months, we will publish a report on all donations made through the Melltoo app and the recipient charities. Melltoo usernames will be published along with the corresponding amounts contributed.

  1. Can I make anonymous donations?

If users choose to remain anonymous, we will not share their personal details, we will share however their Melltoo username, as it appears on the app, in our quarterly reports (publicly available).

  1. Is my item safe during shipment?

Melltoo’s Pay&Ship guarantees that once goods are shipped through us, they will get to the customer and the seller will be paid. As long as items are properly packaged, any damaged incurred during shipping will be covered by the couriers.

Registered partner charities

All of Melltoo Impacter partners are registered charities in the UAE. Melltoo has a government-issued license through each partner to collect funds on their behalf in the UAE.

Please click here for an updated list of our partner registered charities.

Emirates Red Crescent

Emirates Red Crescent is the local UAE branch of The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). They fund medical and disaster relief missions in the UAE and around the world.

Salma Aid

Salma Aid is a local UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. Salma funds food relief efforts for refugees and misplaced populations in distress areas.

World Wildlife Fund

WWF is a worldwide non-profit organization present in several countries around the world. The organization working in the field of the wilderness preservation, and the reduction of human impact on the environment.

Melltoo Impacter Partner Charities

Melltoo is partnering with a number of registered charities in the UAE to help every member of our community become an impacter!

All charities in the UAE are government-licensed. In addition, a license from the UAE authorities is necessary for a private business to collect money on behalf of a charity. As part of the process to obtain and maintain the license, the licensing authority conducts regular checks on the business.

Below is a list of our Melltoo Impacter charities. The list will be updated as necessary.

Emirates Red Crescent

Emirates Red Crescent

Emirates Red Crescent is the local UAE branch of The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). They fund medical and disaster relief missions in the UAE and around the world.

 

Salma Aid

Salma Aid is a local UAE, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. Salma funds food relief efforts for refugees and misplaced populations in distress areas.

 

Melltoo Wins First Prize For Best Female-Led Startup @ GITEX2017

We would like to celebrate with you our win at the GITEX 2017 Supernova Competition in the category of “Best Female-Led Startup”. Watch our COO, Sharene Lee’s, pitch.

Sharene credits the Melltoo team for her win: “I may be the one on-stage, but it’s the team that deserves all the credit. I’m just the conduit.”

Read also: Melltoo Pioneer Social Classifieds Towards A More Sustainable Economy in the UAE

Culture contributes to team synergy and is a key factor to our success as a company. We have blogged previously about our culture of collaboration, team spirit and the unique remote work format that we have developed over the years. that all have allowed Melltoo to thrive as a technology resources and allocate resources to technology to develop Pay&Ship or completely revamp or post flow and our search flow.

We’re packing a new technology within the new release of the app that will even unlock the monetary value of secondhand items in the local economy. As a mission-driven company, we take pride in not only providing bug-free technology for our users, but also empower them through this technology to use their newly earned money for social good.

2017 CACSC Dubai Final!

We’re also glad to announce our participation to the Create @ Alibaba Cloud competition in Shanghai this October 2017!

More details about the competition.

Remote Work and Upward Mobility in The Middle East

The Middle East, with its diverse economies, has been in an ongoing economic and political transformation since the onset of this decade. Different governments have vowed to curb social woes in their countries such as dim economic opportunities, high youth unemployment and the lack of access to social services, however a lot of these promises have yet to come to fruition.

Countries like Tunisia and Egypt, who have both witnessed a regime change, have averaged 1-2% in economic growth since 2011 (according to the World Bank), not enough to create jobs for millions of young people in both countries. Young graduates in Tunisia account for 30% of youth unemployment on average and this number goes up to 50% in the interior regions.

Unlike Europe and other economic blocs in the world such as ASEAN and even the GCC, the vast area of the Middle East has been negatively affected by lack of free movement of people and labor in the past decades. Although they speak the same language and share several cultural traits and traditions (which are always good indicators for economic hegemony), talent in the Middle East is constrained to national borders. Thus, talent pooling and knowledge exchanges are both restricted and expensive.

Growing Opportunities Across the Middle East

E-commerce and the overall “technology” industries have seen a consistent surge all across the Middle East. Souq, Careem, Jumia and other e-commerce businesses are ubiquitous in many economies of the Middle East. While each country has its own local market forces, several people and managers are doing the same job everywhere and learning from their own local challenges whenever they arise. Many opportunities are emerging with new injection of money after the Amazon-souq acquisition which will open new doors and bring new players to the e-commerce market across the Middle East

Remote Jobs and Talent Pooling

Remote jobs, the permanent kind, offer a genuine challenge to the status quo. If some companies are willing to pay recruitment agencies the handsome amount of money they usually pay to solicit and filter applications from foreign labor, they might as well invest the same money to scout for talent and groom it to be able to work outside office and national physical boundaries.

Besides traditional professional social networks such as LinkedIn and Bayt.com, young talents from the Middle East are adopting social networks to their employment needs. Online communities allow employers to reach and hire regional talent that are suitable for their job openings without footing a large bill for their physical movement and relocation costs.

With the rapid spread of mobile and internet literacy, more young people are able and trained to work in the internet industry more than can their national economy can accommodate, as is the case for struggling economies like Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt – and even Morocco.

GCC economies, which have traditionally welcomed migration from other Arab countries to grow their service industries, can now better manage this migration flux while maintaining their aid commitment to other developing economies in the region by helping integrate and train the local workforce from these countries with simple access to internet connections. Remote jobs offer the perfect combination of formal professional training and the possibility to redirect income earned in any market towards any other market in the world.

Remote work, upward mobility and combatting brain drain

When I joined Melltoo as a remote employee in 2014, the “remote” part did not factor much in my unspoken commitment to the team and business. I knew that I had a job to wake up to and I understood the business was heading in a direction that required my full alertness and enthusiasm to do the tasks that needed to be done. I was also slightly averse to leaving my country to migrate to a new place.

Remote work has allowed me to access gainful employment in a vibrant market outside of my home country while effectively spending my disposable income right here in my local community, buying from local businesses that employ many other people around me.

When executed right (read our pieces about productivity and collaboration in a virtual environment), remote work opportunities can offer stable jobs and incomes to vast people around the Middle East right where they are. With the advance of communication tools, not so many words are lost in translation nowadays.

I have spent three years of my professional life since graduation in a remote work environment. During these years, I have learnt immensely about the intricacies of peer-to-peer marketplaces more than I could have ever dreamed of. During the same time, I spent my income wisely traveling to over 20 countries in the world. Thanks to my job, I was also able to buy a the technology and devices I need to support me in with my remote work routine.

Traveling has become a major fixture of remote work because of its obvious benefits. Visiting new places, meeting new people and discovering new places is not only thrilling, but also a cleansing experience. I have felt the most energized doing my work from different locations while maintaining a responsible work routine. This is a privilege I have access to that many young people my age cannot even dream of.

At Melltoo, we grew from few scores of users per day to 10,000+ active users during peak days. Pace has changed but my work routine has been the same. In these three years, I have grown from a business administration graduate who had the chance and the opportunity to study abroad to a grown, more experienced, business manager who handled not only both frustrated and ecstatic customers, but also a people manager and someone who understands the complicated processes of the internet industry.

This knowledge and operational expertise has become a golden goose in my country, Tunisia, where digitalizing services and the economy is only at infant stages to say the least. Fortunately, I did not have to leave my country to benefit from all this learning. Remote work is one viable solution for governments to preserve talent and cultivate exchanges of expertise and skills transfers.

Female labor integration

Apart from my own experience, the Middle East faces an issue with staggering female unemployment due to local economic forces or otherwise. Female labor participation in the Middle East is only 27%, a low number when female university graduates in the region are almost equal (47.7%) in number to male graduates.

Remote jobbing supports women’s integration into the workforce and the workplace. The missing 15% can have an immense impact on local economies on the Middle East. Added income will help lift families above the poverty line and increase their access to good education and further professional training. This added income will replenish local treasuries with income taxes and other types of taxes from local commercial activity and capital gain.

Melltoo fully supports female training and integration into the global industry since we have often extended job opportunities on several occasions to female university students to learn and work with us. Such was the case of Yusra, who worked as our community manager and later moved on to become a special needs teacher. Yesmin, who participated in our newest article about female employees at Melltoo is our illustrator-in-chief. She works on our visual branding UI design.

Is the Middle East fully ready for new jobs of the future?

This horrific infographic, circulating among youth on Facebook, on MENA’s readiness to host skills and jobs of the future can speak further to why remote jobs are now more needed than ever. The map looks grim, however, opportunities are only arising right now. Remote work has been embraced globally by Fortune 500 companies. New tools are being developed everyday such as (slack, basecamp and other communication tools) to support the nature of remote work.

It is time to push toward the future of work to allow MEA to truly turn a new page. Join the remote work revolution.

Melltoo Pioneer Social Classifieds Towards A More Sustainable Economy in the UAE

Like most startups, the process of going to market is never a straightforward one. We started out with what we thought users wanted and ended up in what users actually want. Since then, we’ve built a business and a community platform whose primary offerings are trust and convenience.

We call it, the no-meetup classifieds. A community classifieds that comes to you on a technologically robust mobile app (more than just a retranscription of a few web pages) with full shipping and return management (convenience), a dedicated customer service team, curated listings and vetted users (trust).

This is our story.

When we launched Melltoo, we made a cool mobile app with listings and a chat option. We dubbed it the mobile classifieds app. Soon after, we launched our own payment guarantee and shipping features transforming our platform into a marketplace. Our community grew to hundreds of thousands of people who come to our platform to buy second hand items, backed by a money-back guarantee.

Like with every new disruptive business, we focused on user education. We doubled down on using new terms such as “marketplace” or “peer-to-peer” which have become buzzwords in other industrialized markets, but had little resonance for users who simply searched the word “classifieds” and downloaded our app.

After a short euphoric period of hypergrowth which had its own challenges, we figured out that we can only best serve our users if we remain truthful to how we envisioned our product in the first place.

This is how we do it differently:

Product value

Trust 

When you go on traditional classifieds, you usually have no idea who you’re dealing with. That’s a problem for people who prefer not to meet strangers. In fact, people on classifieds usually have concerns about putting their contact information on a public platform. And you will certainly run into problems where people lie about their items as well as a variety of other scams.

Being the modern classifieds that we are, every listing sold on our platform comes with a money-back guarantee, both parties are protected. Users have ratings from previous transactions and are verified to make sure they’re “real” and physically present in the UAE at the time of the transaction. When an item is paid for by a buyer, the funds are held in escrow until the buyer receives and the item he purchased. Once the item is accepted by the buyer, funds are automatically transferred to the seller’s account. As a buyer, this means that your money will be returned to you if you don’t receive your item. As a seller, this means that the buyer’s payment is secured prior to you shipping your item.

Convenience

Melltoo leverages a network of third party logistics companies to ship items sold in-app without the need for users to meet in person. The logistics of meeting in person to trade items like strollers, used iPhones or furniture is the biggest hurdle to selling on classifieds.

Dedicated customer service

Two years into servicing hundreds of thousands of users and tens of thousands of transactions, we’ve built a strong customer service team to push our brand forward. We push for great customer support before technology. Our primary KPI’s are speed and success in solving user problems.

When users come to us with a problem, we try our best to fix their problems as soon as it happens. In the word of our COO, Sharene Lee, “Prioritize, prioritize! First priority is to solve problems.” And she couldn’t have said it better. As the no-meetup classifieds, we handle complicated cases of shipping and returns as well as cash collections and withdrawals. The problems that may arise are numerous and we strive to always put the needs of our customers first.

Morrad Irsane, our CEO, shapes and pushes this vision to remind us of what we stand for:

“We are product and customer focused. Customers are the focal point of Melltoo’s development and vision. All goes hand to hand. Without customers there is no melltoo. Hence the online – offline experience should be delightful from the “buy it now” button to last mile delivery. We are striving to make the process so enjoyable and easy for customers that it becomes a no brainer when it comes to selling your stuff.”

Who is our customer?

Advertisers vs users

Traditional classifieds make money from advertisers and paid listings. They are typically platform hosts to other companies’ media and promotional campaigns. When you don’t pay for a product, you’re the product. Classifieds serve advertisers first and foremost and users are the product that they sell to advertisers.

At Melltoo, we do things differently. We serve our users, buyers and sellers, who use our platform for buying and selling among one  another. We don’t sell ads, we don’t have advertisers. Our focus is on providing the best user experience and ensuring that each sale goes smoothly. Since we make money off successful sales, we are partners with our users (both buyers and sellers) and they are our priority.

This is reflected in our marketing campaigns where we invest our marketing dollars right into our users’ pockets. Through a combination of a referral program and promo code campaigns, we incentivise purchases so buyers get a good deal and sellers sell fast.

Social Impact

Melltoo is a business with a mission. This mission is to contribute to a sustainable future through facilitating resale and reuse. We strive to reduce our footprint on our planet by reducing the need for overproduction through responsible consumerism (buying used!).

We go to work with the understanding that the 3 R’s “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” are the only way ahead if we intend to keep inhabiting this earth. We are introducing a fourth “R”, resell. Reselling helps us reduce and reuse and is a necessary step before recycling.

Melltoo Remote Work Culture Help Its Women Employees Thrive in Their Jobs

Work experiences differ between different employees even as they execute the same tasks sometimes. I have worked at Melltoo for the past three years where I have seen the exponential expansion of our team from 3 people to 25 employees working in several departments: delivery operations, customer success, marketing, product development and quality assurance.

I often have conversations with my university friends in Tunisia about how work means different things to different people. All of us, males and females, do agree that work experiences are influenced by gender and sometimes class at least in Tunisia. I have seen many young job seekers in Tunisia, often females, be constrained by distance and poor transportation infrastructure when accepting a job or trying to perform well at a job. This is not unheard of in th region. Remote work allows me to be productive anywhere as long I’m dead focused on deliverables that matter.

I have been interested in everyone’s experience at Melltoo for some time. We first published a piece about working remotely and then another piece about collaboration while working around a remote work business models. Now, I want to explore the experiences of our female employees in our own unique “workplace.”

Four women in our team hold central roles chiefly our co-founder and COO, Sharene Lee, who manages the team. Asiya Shakirova, a startup veteran who worked with several UAE incubators, manages our brand online and our partners programme. Yesmin Choutri, Melltoo’s illustrator, is the skilled artist behind Melltoo’s visual branding (on the app, blog and YouTube). Heba is a customer service agent who had been with the team for over a year. Without them, we can’t do our work properly; and just like everyone, Sharene, Asiya and Yesmin, and Heba benefit from working remotely.

I spoke to them privately about their remote experience at Melltoo and what it means to them in their own words as professionals, parents and humans.

Sharene, Asiya, Yesmin and Heba represent different demographic segments that are now the new normal for innovative tech companies. Sharene and Asiya are both momprenreurs who manage both a dynamic career and a growing family. Yesmin and Heba are at the start of their careers, managing different operations. Yesmin executes her tasks skillfully while enjoying a fulfilling work-life balance. Heba speaks to our customers on a regular basis and is in charge of the regular user education cycle about our brand and our operations.

It is not often easy to lead a career in tech as female. Even Sheryl Sandberg, former COO at Facebook, still can’t make up her mind whether it is just enough to “lean in” or if the odds are just stacked against women. According to Pew Research Center, as many as 51% of working mothers in the US say they find it hard to advance their careers. This is the result of archaic work environments that require lengthy hours of work and physical presence in an office to get things done. Nearly half of working mothers would have to interrupt their careers at some point for family reasons.

When Sharene started Melltoo, she did not envision remote work as a possibility but as more people joined and proved able to work effectively by themselves, the choice has become more and more obvious. It was rather economically smarter for the young team to continue to work remotely, spend less on overhead and more on acquisition and user experience.

I asked Sharene about her relationship with work and her family whom I often hear on the other end of every other call. Family is important to me as work is.

“Being close to home and able to respond to my children’s needs allows me to focus better on my work. I know I’m not missing anything and I don’t feel a need to overcompensate after work,” she tells me.

“I think the most positive thing about working from home is being able to share what I do with my kids. Growing up, I don’t think I had a clue what my parents’ jobs were like. However, my kids do look over my shoulder, they overhear me in meetings, they are sounding boards for new ideas, they are beta testers and they are able to participate in my work life in ways that wouldn’t be possible if I were working from an office, she adds.

Because of societal expectations, women have to stop their careers when they become mothers to take care of their newborns. This interruption often puts a lid on women’s career advancement and pay expectations compared to men. It’s referred to as the “glass ceiling” – an invisible barrier that hold women back compared to men. This is also one of the strong reasons some countries are considering allowing working fathers to take some time off to take care of their families.

Asiya Shakirova is also a Melltoo mom. She joined the Melltoo team shortly after the birth of her second child. I asked her the same question about managing work and managing a family.

“When I first time heard about remote job, I really wanted it. When I left my last job because I was pregnant with second child, I realized, how much time and effort I was spending in office. I didn’t want to work like this anymore. So, when I received an offer from Morrad (our CEO), I thought this is the perfect job style for mom,” she wrote me.

Asiya had to hire other people to take care of her family when she had an office job back in Russia before, but she doesn’t see the need to today.

Yesmin Choutri, our illustrator from Germany, joined Melltoo not only as her first remote experience, but also as her first work experience. Yesmin is only going to university this year. Talent has no boundaries or age.

Yesmin and I now speak more frequently when creating illustrations that match our content and engagement campaign visuals.

“Melltoo team is like a family, everyone is kind, respectful, friendly and always there to help anyone. Sharene invited me to join Melltoo even though I knew nothing of graphic design but she believed in in my potential for art and I accepted the challenge. I taught myself and learned how to use Photoshop, illustrator, create graphics, GIFs and videos,” she wrote me on Slack.

The friendly environment around our virtual office often makes it easier when new members of the team join our operations. Melltoo has a very low employee turnover with 90-plus percent of employees having worked with us for at least a year. The level of friendly communication encourages more people to participate regardless of their personal character if they are introvert or extrovert. There are no physical meetings where some people may want to assert themselves physically in the room or shout more to fill an empty space to impose their opinions (me by fault of my height and deep voice). All voices that go through the microphone are equal, men and women. Yesmin, who is a shy millennial, has enough room to suggest edits and opinios of her own to her work freely without any friction.

Heba Mahmoud, our customer service agent, challenged her own expectations with regards to remote work. Living in El Minya in Egypt, a city in Upper Egypt dominated by the agriculture sector, Heba had her own preconceptions when asked to join the customer service team.

“I haven’t expected to love the remote work or that I’ll enjoy the work behind a screen and to sit for 8 hours without feeling bored,” she says.

It is best said that Heba surmounted these fears. She has been with the team for over a year. She is a valuable member of the transactions management team.

A remote job in Heba’s case does not only allow for time flexibility, but is also a gainful job opportunity that offers income stability and upward mobility to young professionals in the Middle East. The state of youth unemployment in Egypt and the vast Middle East region remains staggerly high (~30%) and jobs are scarce.

When given flexibility, our female employees have encountered fewer obstacles to give their 100% to their jobs. The magic formula is work autonomy, good communication and an explicit agreement that despite our geographical remoteness, we are still gathered together via online platforms to brainstorm among each other and get things done. Such is the female experience at Melltoo.

Without Sharene’s leadership, we wouldn’t have gotten ahead with $1.2 million in private funding so far. Yesmin is the creative genius behind many Melltoo characters “Melltoo Man” and the rest of the Melltoo family character.

Asiya has successfully run 3 major engagement campaigns since Spring, as well as our partners programme.  Heba continues to interact and answer our user queries on a daily basis and not surpass our 8-min average targeted reply time. Special shoutout to the former women of Melltoo, Soukaina Rachidi and Yusra Bagsheir.

Share Melltoo Ads On Instagram And Win A Valuable Eid Gift!

Eid Mubarak!

Winning on Melltoo doesn’t end yet. Share an item you’d like to win from Melltoo to your instagram account, tag @melltoo and your friends to enter our Eid competition. Terms and conditions apply.

As always, we’re happy to reward our existing users and invite new users to enjoy the Melltoo experience of convenient and conscionable shopping on a peer-to-peer classifieds platform.

Our Eid campaign focuses on brand awareness and utilizing social traffic to acquire new users on the app.

#Share2Win Eid Campaign

Steps

  1. Share the preowned item that you wish to win from Melltoo to Instagram
  2. Tag @melltoo and at least 3 of your friends
  3. Mention your Melltoo user ID in comments

Terms and condition

  • Share the preowned item that you wish to win from Melltoo to Instagram
  • Tag @melltoo and at least 3 of your friends
  • Only registered* Melltoo users are eligible 

Attention!

  • Your instagram account must be opened during the competition
  • Maximum item price is AED 500 (If above, you can pay the rest. You can also use your free credit to pay the difference)
  • You can’t wish your own item or item of your family members
  • Competition ends on July 1, 2017 at 12.00. Winner will be chosen randomly and announced on July 2, 2017
  • If item has been sold by the time competition ends, winner can select another item with same price or less
  • The prize is non-transferable and can not be exchanged for cash

* A registered Melltoo user is a user who has verified address, email address and phone number

Cranky Customers, More Meaningful Engagement And Other Simple Tips For Your Ramadan As A Business

This is our fourth Ramadan since we launched in mid-2014. Ramadan for Melltoo is a month of work, reflection, preparation and execution. We continuously learn how to accommodate the needs of our customers and partners as well as develop better engagement campaigns that result in improved customer experiences and higher retention

If this is your first Ramadan as a business in the region, we would like to share with you our experience of the past three years.

Invest in Your Core Users

Retailing in the UAE

Peer-to-peer retailing in the UAE is typically slower in the summer since a significant portion of the population (mostly families) travel outside the UAE when school is out. Thus, we, at Melltoo, take this opportunity to focus on our core users. We do not typically launch any new acquisition campaigns during the summer. We prefer to reward and invest our money in customer experience (e.g. discounted products, better-vetted listings, a faster delivery time).

Engagement

Ramadan in the Muslim world has been traditionally a month for hyper consumerism that benefit some industries such as traditional brick-and-mortar retail, food and beverage, beauty services, etc. As retail and other services ramp up, businesses use this opportunity to connect with their customers and offer them deals they can’t refuse. As discretionary income increases during the month, businesses compete to get their share.

Typical engagement campaigns in the Muslim world concentrate on charity and giving back to one’s community since Ramadan is the month of benevolence and philanthropy in the Muslim calendar.

‘Flash sale’

In the last Ramadan, we ran one of our feature discount campaigns called “flash sales.” The basics of the flash sale campaign rest in the name. They’re flash i.e. they only last one to few hours, and they’re primarily sales campaigns. Flash sale campaigns run per category each time. We may run one campaign at a time or a few on the same day. During each campaign, we reward each buyer with 50% credit-back on the value of their purchase. Sellers benefit with a larger flux of engaged buyers who are present in-app to buy.

The primary goal of each campaign was to boost transactions per category. Secondary goals are to push the users to explore the app, scroll down the feed, use the many features of the app such as search, liking and commenting, looking into ratings on seller profiles and ultimately create a more dynamic marketplace. We have run this campaign and other forms of this campaign successfully since launch.

At a time of carefully managed growth, we increased our daily transactions by 50% for the overall month of Ramadan.  

The main distribution channel for the campaign was in-app messaging (automated live campaigns via intercom.io) and social media.

Since last Ramadan, we introduced new changes to the app’s UI. We changed two things. We now run marketing campaign visuals on the app’s  main browse feed. We also outsourced crediting rewards to users. Our staff does not add back credits to users. The users use coupons on the app and add money to their wallets themselves. Thus far, our coupons have been redeemed 1500 times since the first week of Ramadan 2017.

You can read more about Ramadan 2017 reward campaign and earn money on Melltoo right here!!

Understanding Customer Needs

User behavior typically shifts during the month of Ramadan even when the users themselves are not observing the religious duty, they are influenced by trends around them.

In a peer-to-peer classifieds, great customer experience is a combination of efforts from the sellers’ side who provide their pre-loved items for sale, logistics companies who ship the items and the buyers who may accept these items or choose to return them; and of course our operations team’s ability to manage user participation and expectations.

During Ramadan, working hours are shortened. This sometimes results in sellers being unavailable to ship their items on time and logistics companies having fewer hours in the day to complete deliveries. Our team’s responsibility is to maintain a positive user experience despite the inevitable logistical challenges. We take extra care to manage expectations and to be on top of sellers and logistics companies throughout the month. Customers are very reasonable people as long as they provided with timely and accurate information about their order. We let them know if a delay is anticipated, we revise our CS timings to accomodate the fasting schedule, we work with logistics companies to manage the flow of orders to prevent bottlenecks. Authenticity and honesty are key in our approach to customer service. We treat our customers as our partners and regularly update them on the status of their case.

Special Hours And Flexibility

In the UAE and many other Muslim countries, working hours are reduced. While legal hours may not always correspond to your operating hours, in order to strike a balance between both, you have to know your customers and reach out to your partners.

For most e-commerce businesses, you will deal with two important time slots: Working in the day will be crucial to make sure your sold items are shipped. Working the night shift is important because this is when your fasting customers will feel at ease to share their concerns and queries.

Flexibility is important too. We, at Melltoo, operate a location-independent business which means we don’t have core hours people need to clock in and out. We focus on getting things done, right. As a result, our hours are easily flexed to accomodate the needs of the month.

In the words of our customer service manager, Mostafa Gamal, who deals primarily with customers and manages customer-communications, “if you work in a healthy work environment and with a proper mindset, fasting won’t affect your productivity at all. Keeping yourself busy helps passing some time so might as well keep yourself busy with something productive.”

Sharene Lee is our co-founder and COO. She is a person whom I admire a lot for her focus, self-discipline and work ethic. Sharene is a mother of six. She manages several people with several functions. I often wonder how she does it.

“Not having to eat during the day actually makes me more productive because I don’t have to stop midday and figure out what to eat and get everyone else sorted. I like Ramadan coz It gives me uninterrupted time to do more ‘brain-intensive’ things like financial modeling and working on product roadmap and strategy,” she wrote me.

How you can lead the path forward?

Ramadan is a month of blessings for Muslims around the world. It can be time for activity, testing and training depending on your business. The key factor is to know your customers well, to reach out to them and keep them interested in your brand even if they’re not buying. Reach out to partners, find synergies and find out how you can ride the Ramadan wave and stay relevant. Focus on CSR campaigns. If you manage a diverse workforce, it is important to invest in cultural sensitivity trainings to avoid tension in the workplace. If you intend to jack up your growth this month, lay the foundation to measure this growth and speak with your customers as much as you can.