Woman Dot-Com Entrepreneur who founded ‘Souqalmal.com’ reveals how to succeed in cyberspace
Ambareen Musa, the woman entrepreneur behind UAE’s innovative online venture ‘Souqalmal.com’, shared the triumphs and challenges of starting up the UAE’s first financial services comparison website at this season’s fourth ‘Executive Mindset’ workshop hosted by Canadian University Dubai (CUD) in association with Shane Phillips Consultants.
The workshop on ‘The Dot-Com Entrepreneur: Making Money in Cyberspace’ brought together business executives,aspiring entrepreneurs, and CUD staff and students, to hear from Ms. Musa about the strategies and tactics she employed to start her online venture, Souqalmal.com, as well as the challenges she overcame along the way.
Ms. Musa, who hails from Mauritius, started her first enterprise – an online property portal – as a 21 year old student in Australia. During her 14-year career in financial services, she has worked for organizations such as GE, Bain & Company and MasterCard, which gave her a 360 view of the financial services sector.
Recognizing a gap in the market, Ms. Musa gave up a steady job and used her own savings to start up Souqalmal.com in May 2012. Her vision was to create an independent, transparent portal for consumers to compare banking, telecoms, insurance and education products, in one place.
In less than three years, Souqalmal.com has seen considerable growth and is set to launch services in Saudi Arabia. However, this success did not come without challenges.
Ms. Musa explained, “In the beginning I faced a lot of barriers. The banks were very resistant to the idea of a site that put them up against their competitors and it took some time to get them on board.”
With a young child, Ms. Musa was also challenged with balancing the responsibilities of motherhood while raising funding for the new enterprise and marketing the service in an environment unfamiliar with the concept.
“You have to be focused and disciplined”, she explained. “I do set aside time to spend with my family every day, but always carry on working in the evenings at home too. No matter how organized you are, running your own business is a 24/7 lifestyle.”
Offering advice to aspiring entrepreneurs on raising capital for a new venture, Ms. Musa said, “The best approach is to tell a story of growth. I started out with my own funds but once we had a functioning site and started to show revenue it became easier to attract investors.”
Tackling questions on the challenges of marketing an unknown online business, Ms. Musa said finding new ways of engaging with the public – publishing research or using social media in innovative ways – can help to position and grow a brand.
The workshop was presented by leading Executive Search Consultant, Shane Phillips, who gave his own insights into personal branding, advising participants to go beyond a CV in reaching out to employers.
The next workshop in the series will be held on 1 February at CUD, with more inspirational leaders sharing their professional insights into the UAE’s business landscape.