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Dubai start-up helping to initiate family offices, SMEs across GCC to e-commerce

Dubai start-up helping to initiate family offices, SMEs across GCC to e-commerce

A relatively new and little known Dubai-based start-up, promoted by two female professionals, is dreaming big to become a saviour for the hundreds of thousands of family offices and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the GCC region to survive and scale up in the post-pandemic marketplace. Founded by Ayshwarya Chari and Shraddha Barot Amariei

A relatively new and little known Dubai-based start-up, promoted by two female professionals, is dreaming big to become a saviour for the hundreds of thousands of family offices and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the GCC region to survive and scale up in the post-pandemic marketplace.

Founded by Ayshwarya Chari and Shraddha Barot Amariei ,1115Inc, has taken on the mammoth task of handholding family offices and SMEs across the region to the e-commerce sphere by restructuring their legacy business models.

And ever since the launch in October last year, the start-up has been busy working at almost peak capacity, validating the founders’ assessment of the huge market potential for their business model.

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“The UAE is home to some of the largest global consulting firms that provide similar services like ours, but their fee structure is unaffordable for SMEs and family businesses. We realised that there is no one out there guiding the homegrown, local businesses and family offices,” Ayshwarya Chari, co-founder of 1115Inc, told Arabian Business.

“Both of us – the co-founders – being small business owners, wanted to support our local ecosystem and truly feel that our homegrown brands and businesses have the potential to go global if they are advised and directed in a strategic manner,” added Shraddha Barot Amariei, the fellow co-founder of the start-up.

“Ever since the breakout of the Covid pandemic changed the marketplace, the question no longer is if you should have an e-commerce presence or not, but when and how soon you can launch your e-commerce arm,” they said.

According to a report by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the UAE retail sector is expected to reach $63.8 billion by 2023, with retail e-commerce forecast to grow by 78 percent from 2018 to 2023.

As per the report, the UAE has also witnessed that family businesses in the region have diversified their investment portfolio by investing in new initiatives and start-ups.

Ayshwarya Chari and Shraddha Barot Amariei.

As for the market response, Chari said: “While we aren’t seeing reluctance to move online, the challenge for them (SMEs and family offices) is to be able to translate the legacy business model so that they can compete and scale up in the aggressive online environment.

“This is where we step in and help with the transition by setting up processes and systems to achieve operational efficiency and creating a model that can scale,” said Chari, a microbiologist by education but who started off professionally as a corporate banker before moving into the e-commerce space.

Amariei, who has successfully launched three businesses in Dubai, including The Luxury Network Middle East, before seeding 1115Inc, pointed out that the pandemic drove home the fact to business owners that having an online presence is not optional anymore.

The 1115Inc founders said the trend of small and medium family offices in the UAE and other regional markets diversifying their portfolio investments into the new age and e-commerce sectors is currently gaining ground, spurred by developments like Souq, Careem and Kitopi becoming unicorns and ventures like Anghami getting listed in the US through the SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) route.

“Family offices – many of them acting as venture capitals (VCs) and angel investors – have [now] started believing that there is a clear path to exit and there is money to be made in local and regional e-commerce. This has spurred financial investments across sectors but in a scattergun approach, as it is almost impossible for them to pick a winner,” Chari said.

Food and beverage, retail, consumer and hospitality are among the sectors in the UAE seeing increased investments by small and medium family offices.

Amariei added: “Most family offices also have a business or two that is under threat of being disrupted by e-commerce. Some tried to set up e-commerce platforms in-house but very few have succeeded. One alternative here is to invest in companies that operate within the sector or periphery. As these businesses grow, the family office has a front row seat which gives them intelligence on their sector and also the opportunity to acquire the company entirely to support their e-commerce transformation.”

Food and beverage, retail, consumer and hospitality are among the sectors in the UAE seeing increased investments by small and medium family offices.

Chari said their start-up navigates each area of the e-commerce space – from ideation, creation, tech implementation, launch and further – while helping SMEs to grow and stand apart in the market regardless of their business size or their needs.

She said after expanding their operations in the UAE, they have plans to enter two more markets in the GCC – Bahrain and Qatar – in the near future.

Some of the sectors 1115Inc has already worked in include wellness, grocery, luxury furniture, jewellery and active wear, and it currently has mandates for several projects including a complex pharmaceutical project.

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