Melltoo Commits to Sustainability As Driving Force Behind Its Business

Not so long ago, we published our manifesto to our users, readers and the startup community. It has taken us three years to figure out how to communicate the vision and passion that have been the driving force behind our business and work culture.

Aa a peer2peer classifieds business, we have empowered thousands of individuals in the UAE to sell among one another, reuse, resell, make some money, save some money and conserve our planet’s resources.

Mellsters love a good deal and love to make some money off their old stuff. However, that’s not the only reason they buy and sell secondhand, they do it because they want to conserve our only planet. Every effort in extending the life cycle of a product contributes to extending the life cycle of our planet.

The unheard story of cotton

Sustainability is often an abstract notion for many people, but what is really? It is the notion that we ought to preserve the resources on earth and in our words “strike a balance” between the need or the urge to consume and its consequences on the planet.

Let’s take cotton, a major component in clothing and apparel. Fast fashion trends in recent years have accelerated the consumption of clothing as people continuously add to their wardrobes in an effort to keep up. While consumption is good for the economy, it comes at a cost.

Cotton products exhaust our water resources. Water is long thought of as a renewable resource, but with decades of droughts in different parts of the world, this no longer seems to be true. Add to this the effect of industrial polution and it’s no longer clear how renewable our water really is. Additionally, many security organizations now say that water has become a major security concern. Therefore, water (or lack of thereof) are potential sources of conflicts in the near future (think of the Nile dam tension in Eastern Africa).

Twenty thousand liters are spent to produce 1kg of cotton ergo one t-shirt. If 20,000 displaced refugees had a liter of water every time we produce a new t-shirt, the world would be a better place today. We would be able to save lives instead of producing more t-shirts that will eventually end in garbage bins and landfills.

Questionable labor conditions

Market forces ensure that basic cotton t-shirts do not sell for more than 5 dollars a piece. A major department store would typically pay between 1 to 2 dollars to a factory in Bangladesh for a T-shirt. The 2 dollars would be spread between overhead and labor costs. The Bangladeshi factory worker typically receive cents for their labor.

Mass production and the economics of  t-shirts encourage wage stagnation in manufacturing countries. These laws and regulations are often proctored and protected by the government in many countries. We do not want to be part of the problem.

Waste management

Waste management is a significant financial and environmental problem in many countries. UAE is not an exception. While the UAE recycles only 25% of its waste, we should aim higher.

eWaste

Electronics have become a major source of waste with new editions of different devices released every year. Technology changes rapidly and things become obsolete in a matter of months. In the age of the new normal, people prefer to pay up the price difference for a new device rather than get stuck with an old design. TV’s, mobile devices, PC’s all need to be recycled.

eWaste is an ever-growing problem because electronic products consist many non-renewable resources, the most important being metals. Once extracted from the earth, metal doesn’t grow back. In addition, if not properly handled, eWaste is toxic and pollutes, affecting communities in developing nations such as India and China where waste from developed nations are often exported.

What’s being done?

The UAE is making it easier to recycle e-waste. Thanks to an assisted UN project and an investment of about US$200 million, the UAE plans to install 8 recycling centers for e-waste across the nation. E-waste management is not just a tedious duty to save the environment but rather a profitable economic opportunity since metals can be extracted from discarded electronics, then reused and resold instead of newly mined.

The region is also coming together with a colossal investment in Masdar city and waste management companies such as Ecyclex. Masdar City’s annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week bring world leaders and businesses around sustainability. Splash, one of the region’s major department stores, is leading the initiative and collecting used items for reuse at their stores.

What can you do?

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. These are the 3 R’s of the environment. Let’s add one more, Resell.

Reduce consumption where possible and don’t buy things you don’t need. This will help your pocket as well. Another way to reduce consumption is to buy used or secondhand. If you have to buy something, make the responsible choice and buy secondhand where possible. Certain products like furniture are often discarded before their time. A family that is leaving Dubai generally doesn’t have the luxury of taking their furniture with them and storage is too costly.

Resell and reuse. Reusing something extends a product’s lifecycle and reduces the need to produce a replacement unit, thereby preserving the earth’s resources. Reselling stuff also aids the class of economic participants who cannot to afford to buy certain products new. Giving them access to high quality products at lower prices reduces the production of cheaper alternatives that get trashed far more quickly due to poor quality.

Finally, recycle. Many of the resources we need are trapped in products that are simply buried in landfills because they weren’t recycled. There are recycling bins all over the UAE, do your part.

Join the movement. Anything you do helps. A small group of environmentalists doing everything is not going to make a difference. We need everyone to do just one small thing and THAT will make a huge difference. Going green is not about doing everything, it’s about doing something. Help us make our planet and our economy more durable and more sustainable. Resell and reuse and make an impact on the planet today.

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.