No-Meetup Classifieds, an $8 Billion Market Opportunity in the Middle East and Growing

This is a condensed conversation with the co-founder of Melltoo, Morrad Irsane.

We’re discussing Melltoo’s beginning and ongoing strategy to become the largest “no-meetup classifieds” in the Middle East.

Ahmed Medien is a Marketing Aid and Customer Experience Manager at Melltoo.

The answers have been shortened for flow.

AM: Why mobile-first instead of building a mobile-responsive website?

MI: When we first started working on Melltoo in 2013, mobile-first was the only way to go. People were eager to download any new app and try it out. Today, in 2017, it is a bit tricky. People don’t want to download an app just to try a product. They prefer to try it on the web first and if it makes sense, they move on to the mobile app. If you are just launching a new product today, go with mobile-responsive web first, then launch an app if your product takes off.

Mobile-first, however, has a better user experience. The native mobile app experience is superior to the mobile-responsive web when it comes to realtime geolocation and push notifications which are very important in consumer-facing products. A mobile app keeps the product front-of-mind and allows a product to become part of a user’s daily routine, making habitual use much more attainable. A good mobile experience should make things easier for the user, hence the importance of both UI and UX for our business. Today’s users are pressed for time and impatient. We work hard to make Melltoo intuitive without a steep learning curve. We know people just want to buy and sell without complex signups, payment methods and other UI friction.

Why “social” classifieds?

A product will become a part of a person’s life only if it’s social. Let’s not talk psychology, but social interaction is a fundamental human need. My dream is to contribute to building a more sustainable world by making it easy for people to resell and reuse. To do that, we have to not only make it easy, but to make it fun, rewarding, and engaging as well. And nothing is more fun than interacting with people in a safe environment.

Classifieds is an inherently social experience. However, the traditional classifieds experience is fraught with risk and as much anti-social behavior as there is social behavior. At Melltoo, we set out to facilitate positive social interactions in buying and selling by being the referee and go-to if things break down. In some ways, we are creating a safe social arena where people build relationships on the basis of their roles as buyer and sellers; for lack of a better term, a social network for buying and selling.

There are practical reasons for keeping things social as well, establishing trust. Part of the experience in Melltoo revolves around building an identity and reputation in the community. Knowing who you’re dealing with builds trust, which is important for successful transactions to take place. Ratings and reviews for previous transactions further solidifies credibility, especially in this day and age where fakes and counterfeits have become a global problem.

We want our users to be engaged in our community and to build relationships with one another. Features like comments and chats not only allow users to discuss and exchange product information, it’s also allows them to build relationships, creating stickiness in the marketplace. When you’re using Melltoo, you’re not just an individual behind a screen dealing with another individual behind a screen, you are part of a community. We are often asked whether the private chat is a leak for us, a way for buyers and sellers to take the transaction off-app to avoid paying selling fees. It probably does happen at times, but we believe that the service we are providing is valuable enough that people will prefer to keep things in-app. Not to mention the fact that transacting off-app does not help users build their reputations in the Melltoo community, which is a key element to successful transactions.

Why do you limit yourself to making money off transactions rather than other more available revenue streams such as selling media banners or premium listings to users?

Our model is purely transactional, we take a percentage off successful sales. Melltoo is not interested in selling mellsters’ data and personal information to advertisers for money. Nor are we willing to compromise the user experience with ads in our app. We have different aspirations. We value our privacy and want the same for our users. Paid listings is not something we do either, we want users to pay us only after they have derived value from the service, not before.

On Melltoo, users only pay us if their item is sold through the app. We believe this is the best way to make money for now. In future, we plan on introducing other paid services that bring value to users.

Why the insistence on remaining peer-to-peer?

Peer-to-Peer is the most difficult business model to build and sustain, yet the most rewarding when you succeed. Think any classifieds, airbnb, Uber, eBay (in the early days), etc. There is no peer-to-peer transactional platform in the UAE and the region. We are tackling secondhand items with fulfillment for the first time in the region. What is amazing about the peer-to-peer business model is interchanging user roles: buyers become sellers and sellers become buyers. This is maximally engaging since users can participate on both sides of the marketplace seamlessly. It also means that peer-to-peer businesses are high-impact businesses since participation is afforded to large segments of any given population.

From a strategic perspective, there are many other businesses doing B2C marketplaces, Amazon/Souq.com, eBay (today) and others. We follow Peter Thiel’s school of thought that prefers to avoid competitive industries and instead focus on achieving monopoly status in our space. In terms of user acquisition, a peer-to-peer marketplace is a notch more difficult to establish than B2C or ecommerce. For this reason, competitors are few. And the good news is that once we establish network effects, Melltoo will be highly defensible and enjoy monopoly profits in the region.

From a personal standpoint, my goal is to be an enabler, to enable people to help make the world a more sustainable place through resale and reuse. In this, power lies with the masses and hence the only way to do this is peer-to-peer.

What is the growth potential in the UAE and the region?

The average UAE household has about USD $2000 of unused consumer goods (e.g. an old iPhone, TV, furniture, toys and clothing) in storage in their homes at any given time. These can be resold and will inevitably get replenished as households continue to purchase. The population in the GCC and Levant is about 160 million or about 40 million households. Assuming about 10% of those households sell their stuff, that’s an $8 billion a year opportunity. If we succeed in our mission of making buying/selling second nature, we can increase the participation rate and the market opportunity will grow.

As you know, Amazon recently announced that they will be acquiring Souq.com. While this deal is great for the region in many ways, it is particularly important in validating the market demographics. We’ve had more than one outside VC questioning our market size. Compared to India, China, Brazil, etc, 160 million souls scattered across multiple countries seems small. However, about 40 million of these people are already online consumers and smartphone penetration is among the highest in the world. Currently, ecommerce represents 2% of total retail spend and the region boasts the youngest populations in the world, which means growth potential is huge. Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to founders of large Indian startups who find the region more lucrative than India in certain categories (restaurant, travel etc). While there may be many more Indians, online consumption among Indian consumers is still low. In addition, per capita income in the GCC countries are among the highest in the world.

I have lived in the region for over 12 years. This is my home and I have no plans on leaving. I’m committed to the region and I’m bullish about it’s growth potential. When I first moved to the UAE, the population was 3 million, today, it’s 9 million (tripled in 12 years). Where there were 30 skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed road when I first arrived, today I’ve lost count, including some of the world’s tallest buildings and 25-star hotels. All signs point to growth.

How have you managed to grow and develop your product, your company and your team over the past 3 years while so many other startups die after barely launching?

Baraka (roughly translate to blessings), hard work and a low burn rate. In this game (startup) the only thing that is not forgivable is to run out of money :). Having said that , we have a great team that works with passion and determination. We all know that we are building something fantastic, something that will make a difference in our world, and that our time will come … We have the right product, in the right place, at the right time. These things are starting to align and we are seeing progress everyday.

It is also incredibly important to be aware of your surroundings and the context we are in. Knowing the users, the socioeconomic context, the funding environment, investor sentiment, other products making waves…these things are important in the decision-making process. A lot of founders just focus on internal data and metrics, that’s really not going to give you enough information to make good decisions. For example, we have the ability to grow very fast. However, considering the current economic and funding environment, growing too fast will mean that we shorten our runway at a time when fundraising is difficult. So these external considerations need to be accounted for when making internal decisions.

What is most important to you right now?

Our users have been and continue to be the most important thing to us. We are continually working to improve the user experience, be it via technology or operations or customer service. To this end, we need to execute fast and to keep ourselves on top of the game. It is all about pleasing the user by building the right features and improve operations to increase new users while retaining old ones.

As the CEO, I don’t do the actual work and all credit goes to my team. However, my job is to build an organization where everyone can achieve their objectives and goals unimpeded. I focus my attention on supporting and building the organization and creating a work environment where talented people can do their thing. Borrowing a page from one of today’s most successful CEOs, Jack Ma, if we take care of the customer and the team, everything else follows.

Why We Built A No-Meetup Classifieds In the Dubizzle Era

When we first launched Melltoo in 2014, we saw ourselves as classifieds on mobile. Everything was moving to mobile, except classifieds. Online classifieds were still just electronic notice boards. We saw the opportunity to bring classifieds into the post-smartphone era and to take advantage of hardware capabilities like geolocalization, instant messaging, and push notifications. The rise of social networks also brought about a paradigm-shift, every product became social, so why not social classifieds?

To be clear, we didn’t pick classifieds from a long list of industries needing disruption after, classifieds has always been in the blood of the founders. Morrad Irsane, co-founder and CEO of Melltoo grew up around buying and selling second-hand. While raising a family of 13 children in France, Morrad’s mother regularly re-used clothes and hand-me-downs were standard. During their annual summer break in Algeria, she had a thriving side business reselling clothing she collected from France.When Morrad invested his savings to launch Melltoo in 2014, he was reviving an old family tradition. Morrad envisioned a mobile app he could take with him anywhere, with a built-in chat so he would never miss a deal.

Finding ourselves

As with all first-time founders, we thought that we would build it and they would come. Launch an app and everyone would use it. We were wrong.

While we grew in our first year, it was a struggle. We had to get creative. We experimented with many different user acquisition models, content marketing, social media, app store optimization, SEO, spamming, even offline events. Name it, we’ve probably done it. In fact, our downloads were healthy with over 500 new users daily with almost no marketing spend.

But, there was no WOW moment. Users came, they tried, they left. Meh. “The app is cool, but…”

While our first iteration was not a huge success, it gave us plenty of opportunity to talk to our users and this is what we discovered.

User Objection 1: “I would like to use your app, but I don’t have anything to sell.”

When someone says this, it isn’t because he doesn’t have something to sell, it’s because he doesn’t want to sell his stuff. Search a bit more and you’ll discover that what he’s really saying is: “I don’t need the money so I don’t want the hassle of selling my stuff.” Yes, selling via traditional classifieds is a hassle. In some cases, it’s downright torture. The main problem is meetups. List something for sale, get a bunch of phone calls from strangers at all times of the day and night, get lowball offers and then take time out to meet with multiple buyers before one finally buys (or not). If you don’t need to, why would you?

User Objection 2: “I don’t trust buying second hand, there are too many scammers.”

Web classifieds are no-man’s land. Anything goes. List something for sale and get an offer from the wife of the ex-president of some unknown country on a continent halfway around the world. People ask you to ship them stuff cash on delivery. You get spammed. Who do you trust, who can you trust?

User Objection 3: “Your app is cool, but nobody is talking to me to buy my stuff.”

Lesson 1: Peruse the startup literature and it is littered with the idea that founders must be “obsessed with the product.” There is no doubt that a great product is important, but a great product that nobody uses is still a flop. It is much more useful to be obsessed with the customer.

Lesson 2: 2-sided marketplaces are among the most difficult businesses to build. You need buyers and sellers, but buyers don’t go where there are no sellers and sellers won’t go where there are no buyers. What do you do?

Armed with this knowledge, we began to realize that classifieds didn’t simply need to be moved from web to mobile and the problem wasn’t one of technology and UI/UX. The problem was that classifieds was broken. People have stopped trusting classifieds and hate the hassle involved. They use it only when necessary, which meant when selling a used car or home and large items that needed to be disposed of, such as furniture. Anything less was simply not worth it. And just like that, we saw an opportunity to re-imagine classifieds, no-meetup classifieds.

MELLTOO IMAGE POLICY – Increase Your Views On The App!

We are really happy that you are using Melltoo to sell your stuff, make extra cash and clear that clutter.

We need you to take note of the policies pertaining to images listed on the app –  this will help you sell faster, and sell more;

DO:

  • Take photos of the actual item for sale and not copy/paste images from somewhere else.

You may think that they look the same, but your item may have imperfections or flaws that don’t appear in a photo copied from somewhere else. Buyers are purchasing an item based on the photo listed and have the right to return an item if it does not match the photograph listed in-app

DO NOT list PHOTOGRAPHS OR IMAGES THAT ARE:

  • Irrelevant or inappropriate.
  • Poor resolution.
  • Appear sideways or upside down.
  • Unclear or blurred images.
  • Images copied from websites or search engines.

DO NOT:

  • Add additional text or graphics to photographs.
  • Create photo montages – you can upload 3 separate images to your listing.
  • Upload images that do not represent your item accurately.
  • Upload photos of items that you do not have on hand or that are for pre-ordering
  • Duplicate listings – one listing for a single item is enough! Others will be deleted.
  • List NEW items purchased specifically for resale in order to make a PROFIT (classified as business selling)

IF YOUR ITEM IS BRAND NEW OR SEALED

Please take a picture of the item that you have IN HAND , READY TO BE SOLD – if possible, remove items from the box to photograph

 

Want help taking pictures? We’ve got you covered here 

Business selling is prohibited on Melltoo! Need clarification on the Melltoo policies for selling? Take a look here 

Not following our image policy could lead to all listings being removed and a user ban – and we don’t want that!

Any questions, you know you can ask us anytime in app via our chat option – and we thank you for being part of the Melltoo family – long may it continue!

#HelpMeSell Movement: Making Online Selling in UAE Easier

Whether you’re decluttering your closet or getting ready to move back home, you’re probably looking for a quick and easy way to sell your stuff. However, that’s not always easy in the UAE, because sellers who post their stuff online are consistently faced with spammers, scammers and time wasters. But Melltoo wants to change that with it’s new #HelpMeSell movement! The goal of this movement is to help UAE residents, across all 7 emirates, sell their stuff, because we know how stressful it is to want to sell something and not be able to do so. Just like you, our priority is to sell your stuff! So, how will Melltoo’s new #HelpMeSellUAE service make online selling easier for you?

1) Selling Advice

HELP ME SELL MOVMENT HOW TO - Melltoo

The first question that probably came to your mind is: does the #HelpMeSell service really work? The answer is yes! It works because we’re online selling experts! We know the ins and the outs of social media selling and we understand the difficulties that people face buying and selling things online in the UAE.  We also know what makes a good selling post and what makes a GREAT one, so we can help you optimize your posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and give you many other useful selling tips! What kind of advice can you expect from the Melltoo team:

  1. Help improving the quality of your pictures
  2. Help improving item titles and descriptions
  3. Suggestions for the best hashtags/keywords
  4. Suggestions for the best time to post

2) Selling Platforms

In addition to the Melltoo app, which allows thousands of buyers to connect with sellers through private chat, Melltoo has also has various social media platforms to help sellers sell their stuff:

Facebook groups

HELP ME SELL MOVMENT GROUP

Facebook Page

Twitter

Instagram 

  • @HelpMeSellUAE

3) Sharing & Promoting 

HELP ME SELL MOVMENT 1 - Melltoo

HELP ME SELL MOVMENT - Melltoo

On a traditional web-based classified, their job ends when you post your stuff for sale. However, that is not the case on Melltoo. When you post your items on Melltoo that’s when our work begins! We make buying and selling more easy and social by helping sellers share and promote their stuff in different ways. When you post on Melltoo we will:

–  Share your post in up to 50 Facebook selling groups

– Share your post on our Instagram account

– Share your post on our Twitter account

– Feature your item(s) on our blog and weekly Hot Deals newsletter

– Give you access to a pool of thousands of active users on Melltoo App (did we mention it’s already been downloaded 190,000 times!

 

Pay and Ship Secure

4) Shipment & Delivery 

Last, but certainly not least, the cherry on top of the #HelpMeSellStuffUAE pie, is Melltoo‘s new Pay&Ship Secure service! This service allows Melltoo sellers to get items delivered to buyers and get paid, all from the comfort of their own home. Thus, solving the big headache of driving around to unknown locations to meet uncommitted buyers! To learn more about the Pay&Ship Secure service watch this video.

 

Help us change the world….(or at least the world around us!)

At the end of the day, we, the Melltoo team, believe that there is nothing more important than being able to sell your stuff with convenience, privacy and ease and that’s why we created the #HelpMeSell movement! We are passionate about promoting sustainability and responsible consumption in the world and everyday we accomplish our vision by helping you sell your stuff. Join our movement and help us change the world!

Samsung note 3 for sale in uae

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GET IN TOUCH WITH SELLER

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PRODUCT’S PROFILE

Type of item: Samsung Phone
Category: Phone/Smartphone
Seller name: Dani Khan
Item Name: Samsung note 3
Location: Dubai
Price for this Samsung note 3: AED 1450

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Samsung note 3’s reviews

Review By zero1000100 on October from Amazon.com

It’s not often that I come across a piece of technology that completely changes my day to day routine. That changes the way that I interact and utilize the tool that’s in my pocket. More so, a piece of tech that breathes life back into my passion for technology and the modern smartphone landscape.

The Galaxy Note 3 is one such device. For a bit of background I’ve used every major OS that is on the market now as well as some casualties of the Smartphone War. I’ve bounced back and forth between the current giants of the land but I’ve at times ventured away towards the outcasts. My last experiment was with a Nokia N9 running MeeGo which overall wasn’t a bad experience but the dated hardware made me forfeit that journey early on.

Enter the greatest smartphone in the World! The Galaxy Note 3! Sorry, I don’t mean to sound so dramatic but at the same time…I do. That’s just how enjoyable this experience has been overall…

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DESCRIPTION OF THE ITEM BY THE SELLER

Phone is in a great condition scratchless and less used. Bcz used as a second phone. It comes with charger, data cable,hand free and back cover. Screen protector is also there with life time warranty. Can negotiate in price.

Samsung Note 3 lte N9005
AED 1450

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SIMILAR ITEMS ON MELLTOO

Samsung note 3 price – UAE
AED 2299

Samsung galaxy s5 4g gold price – UAE
AED 1199

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SELLER’S PROFILE

Username: Dani Khan
Gender: Male
Occupation:
Numbers of item available on the user listing: 2
Joined Melltoo on: Marsh 2015

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HOW DO I CONTACT THE SELLER?

1. Download the Melltoo app
2. Search for the username “Dani Khan” from your activity feed
3. Chat with Dani Khan through instant message

Bandeau de separation Zoom In Categorie

GET IN TOUCH WITH SELLER

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How to Buy and Sell in Dubai Responsibly

So as I’m writing this, I’m debating whether I should buy a new laptop. I have my eye on the 13-inch MacBook Air which I’m told is the best thing since the dishwasher. I go back and forth: My current 10-inch netbook Selling Macbook Air in the UAEworks fine, but it’s really slow and it’s plasticky and pretty old-fashioned. I really need something faster with updated specs. I am a researcher after all, so much of my work requires me to be on the computer, looking for sources, playing with spreadsheet data, writing, communicating etc.

By this point, I’m nearly out the door on the way to Plug-ins to pick up the MacBook Air, having pretty much convinced myself that I NEED the upgrade, but then I feel a slight pang of guilt. Do I really need a new computer when I have an iPad for reading  journal articles and my iPhone of course? Not really. And what the heck am I supposed to do with my netbook? Let it rot away in the closet? Thankfully, I don’t have to ask that question anymore, because we built a marketplace app to solve this problem: Melltoo.
Like most families in the UAE, my closets are bursting, my kids’ closets have burst (literally, the bottoms of drawers have fallen out, hinges have popped) and we are swimming in clothes, toys, electronics and color pencils. In the past, there were only two easy solutions to get rid of something: giving it away or throwing it away. But you don’t have to worry about the “UAE Consumer Guilt Paradox” anymore because Melltoo allows you to download and post your second hand items in less than 5 minutes!Selling Kids Toys in the UAE
But the app is more than just a marketplace, it’s a complete door-to-door service that allows you to buy and sell in Dubai guilt-free! Not only do we help you promote your second hand items to thousands of potential buyers, you can get paid on the app and get items delivered straight to your buyer without getting stuck in traffic or getting lost on your way to a meetup! No one said that being a responsible consumer meant you had to be inconvenienced one!

I love the idea of buying and second hand, because it allows me to reconcile my consumerist lifestyle with the ideas of minimalism and sustainability. Why not recycle the stuff that you don’t use anymore by selling them to others who will use them AND get some money back on your investment- so you can make room for the new stuff. And let’s not kid anyone, we’d feel much better about our consumeristic ways knowing that we’re not just throwing perfectly good stuff out. So get ready to declutter your home, buy what you want and feel good about it with Melltoo!