Storat: Go Online or Go out of Business
Abu Dhabi based Tech Start-up is revolutionising the online marketplace concept. Mustapha Ramadan, CEO of Storat.com envisions to place SMEs at the centre stage in the age of disruptive technology.
Storat.com is not your conventional online marketplace, it is an innovative platform with a Unique Selling Point that focuses on client identity. "Our vision is to help web-enable small businesses in the region through a high performance, high quality social marketplace. Users can create their own Arabic and English website on a domain in few minutes for free," says Mustapha Ramadan, CEO of Storat. "During 19 years of working at Microsoft, I have seen the disruption caused by technology all over the world. Basically we are at a critical stage where businesses should go online or they will go out of business! I wanted to help small and micro businesses in the Middle East to have a fighting chance before they are wiped out by other companies that are able to web enable," he adds.
With 78 per cent of Middle East customers searching for services or purchasing products online, building an online presence has become imperative. "On the surface, Storat appears like a marketplace or classifieds website, however upon closer inspection, it is much more. We are a technology company with a clear mission, of propelling the businesses that lacks digital marketing and IT capability.
"Micro businesses only invest when they see value, as they usually have low to no budget allocated to digital marketing or building a web presence. What we found is that it is easier for smaller businesses to aggregate in marketplaces, and Storat.com aims to assist them on their web enabling journey," he adds.
Often, technology providers focus on large enterprises, leaving SMEs and micro businesses in the lurch. "Small businesses are the backbone of any region. In order to strengthen their stance amidst the tech revolution, they need to transform. Storat.com has a simple process, which involves the user to sign up followed by creating a profile page about their business. The profile page supports Arabic and English. The user can upgrade the profile page to a website at their own domain name and have access to professional business email," he says.
What differentiates Storat.com from their counterparts is their passion towards giving every business in the Middle East the opportunity to flourish online. "Our focus to give an immense amount of value to our users which entails everything that falls under web enablement and integrated digital marketing. The problem nowadays is that creating a website without a digital marketing strategy is like owning a store in the middle of the desert. Digital marketing is about generating traffic and converting this traffic to business. This is where Storat magic comes in, user content will be published automatically to their own website, on Storat, and social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter. What distinguishes storat.com also is the social ability where users and stores can follow each other, therefore building a network."
Storat is quickly gaining traction in each country it launches in. It is available in the UAE since October 2016 and it just launched in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. It will launch in the rest of the Middle East in 2017 with plans to go worldwide in 2018. In less than six months of its launch, Storat.com was able to attract more than 20,000 sellers of which 60% are small and micro businesses." It is notable to mention that we were able to achieve this feat on a very limited marketing budget. We are simply doing digital marketing to promote our platform which is the strategy we are telling our customers to adopt, Go Digital All the Way," says Mustapha.
Storat has been reaping the benefits of their labour since inception. "We started monetising from the first month. That is the big secret of our platform and the component, which gives us the competitive edge. A traditional online marketplace, either social or e-commerce, must achieve what is known in the industry as 'the Network Effect' before having a chance of monetization. However, Storat is offering an immense in-platform value to users at a competitive price that a lot of users are converting to Storat paid subscription plans."
The future is exciting for the tech start-up. "We have a lot in development, in terms of both business and technology. Business-wise, we are working on implementing a scalable model for our paid services and expand it to the countries. On the technology front, we are working on adding more features to the platform and its ecosystem of services including: adding new websites themes which would appeal to a range of businesses, adding e-Commerce functionality, launching the mobile application, and a rating management system to certify and rate sellers," he concludes.
If Storat.com reaches worldwide adoption, it will be a proud moment for UAE Tech Start ups that a company based in Abu Dhabi was able disrupt the traditional online marketplace model and make it adaptable worldwide. So IT innovation will not necessarily come from Silicon Valley, it can also come from Abu Dhabi, UAE.
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