QUICK, EASY SOLUTIONS

Kuwait 2016 | TELECOMS & IT | COMMUNIQUÉ

Abdulhamid Al Omar, CEO of Talabat.com, on how the company got its start, advice for entrepreneurs, and expectations for 2016.

How did Talabat get its start, and how have you seen the company grow over the years?

Established by passionate Kuwaiti young entrepreneurs, Talabat is a mold of a concept that they experienced during their study abroad. Coming back to Kuwait they believed that with the wave of internet domination and need for easy, quick solutions it would be relevant to the fast-paced market. With limited resources, they overcame many odds and brought life to Talabat in 2004. Depending solely on basic online marketing and building a diversity of restaurants profile to cater to the online ordering community, it began gaining visibility. In 2010, Mohammad Jaffar bought the concept where the size of Talabat was at only 700 orders a day, and now Talabat has grown to achieve more than 50,000 orders per day. Talabat is no longer just an online ordering platform, it has become a driver for food purchase decisions whether it's at home or to dine in. People use Talabat to check out menus, restaurant reviews, prices, and menu variety even before they visit a restaurant. I recall one of the best moments I have had is hearing people say to each other “Yala Talabat-it” like “Google it”. Seeing the metamorphosis of the brand within the past five years, has left my team and I more determined and focused to cloak each house, each person, and each phone with Talabat orange.

What does the $170 million acquisition of Talabat by Rocket Internet signify about the online food delivery market in the Middle East?

I think it is worth highlighting that, the Middle East and specifically the GCC, according to a study made by the US Consensus Bureau worldwide that internet penetration in the GCC is almost 85% and smartphone penetration is 80%. Compared to the rest of the world with only 46% internet penetration and in the Middle East at 52%. In terms of customer behavior, GCC citizens like to stay informed, want quick and stress-free solutions that are customizable to their liking combined with the high income per capita, young expanding population, demographical dynamics and increasing demand of food delivery both by customers and businesses makes this market a very ripe one. In Kuwait alone, the restaurant industry revenues exceed $2.4 Billion in the year 2014 of which between 30-40% is generated by home delivery and Talabat dominates 95% market share for online food ordering in Kuwait currently. Market dynamics and industry value coupled with the increased performance of Talabat, led to the valuation, as it factored in the potential prospects and future growth of the business to dominate the entire Middle East. Again the market is a ripe one that Talabat during its peak took advantage of and positioned itself as a pioneer of online food ordering.

How does Talabat's story give credence to the potential that is out there for Kuwait's entrepreneurs?

Talabat is an inspiring story, especially for passionate young entrepreneurs in the region. We were approached by numerous entrepreneurs in Kuwait curious to learn the secret recipe and we were always glad to stretch the support and provide the guidance. Entrepreneurial development here in Kuwait although receives attention presents plenty of opportunities that are supported by private and government supported initiatives, such as Kuwait National Fund for SME's. We can only hope that Talabat' s story will inspire further drive in the business sector to give more consideration to sponsoring relevant ideas that support entrepreneurs in Kuwait.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in Kuwait who are looking to grow like Talabat has?

Interesting ideas and concepts spur everywhere in Kuwait, but great ideas and concepts need to have commercial and practical feasibility applicable to the market. Thus I would advise entrepreneurs to stay loyal to their idea, determined to see their idea come to life, and reflect on the idea to further develop it into a business plan that makes it feasible for implementation. It requires full time attention to build the model with the support of key elements and key functions. Although it may be vague in the beginning as with Talabat, building a high performing team with key roles is essential to any business. I cannot reiterate enough how important it is to have a great team and maximize on their expertise. I have always been proud to be part of the team and even more proud that the team that I have worked with always supported each other, which is interpreted now as the Talabat culture. We work together as a family to support each other to drive business performance and growth.

What other potential opportunities exist in the e-commerce space in the Gulf region?

E-commerce in the GCC is an undiscovered forte with lots of opportunities. Numerous e-commerce projects have become visible and successful in the region, in for example retail and tourism. More effort is needed to raise awareness to the use of online services and the added value they present to companies and customers alike. The potentials for e-commerce in the Gulf is very high and by 2020 this industry is valued at approximately $41.5 billion according to recent studies. E-commerce should be tapped and exploited, through educating the public and supporting retail e-commerce projects, which will present value worth to both the customer and merchants. Talabat is a premier example of this, it only requires a few steps to place an order and removes the hassle of traditional phone ordering.

What is the biggest impediment to conducting business that you currently face?

As any business the only impediments that we face are external factors that could affect the overall key performance indicators of the business, and managing our decisions effectively around making them to our advantage rather than touch the business. Since any business depends heavily on the human element to succeed, we are always hungry for young experienced talents. There are challenges finding the right talents especially in the e-commerce industry, but the picture looks far more optimistic these days.

What are your expectations for Talabat in 2016?

Keeping focus on performance, growth and continuously improving on the product and the value proposal offering is at the heart of our vision for 2016. Our objective is to increase our market share and expand to dominate the MENA region in the coming period. Talabat's main competitive advantage lies in its name, which means "orders" in English, giving it versatility for future endeavours and service line expansions and diversifications. With our current holding group, Delivery Hero, we work together closely to reinforce our platforms performance.

Abdulhamid Al Omar
ABDULHAMID AL OMAR
CEO, Talabat.com
ABOUT ABDULHAMID AL OMAR Abdulhamid Al Omar, CEO of Talabat.com, the leading online food ordering service platform in the GCC, has joined the company as the head of Business Development and Product Management in 2010. With an MBA from the University of Leeds and a BS in Computer Science from the American University of Beirut, Abdulhamid was the e-channels team leader at Kuwait Finance House (KFH), one of the leading Islamic banks in the Middle East prior joining Talabat.com. Talabat.com evolved from a Kuwaiti based start-up to become a market leader in the e-commerce business. In 2015, Rocket Internet acquired Talabat.com for $170 million dollars, representing the largest internet technology acquisition in the Middle East till date. The ownership of Talabat was later transferred to Delivery Hero, a global player in the online food delivery operating in more than 35 markets with a network of 200,000 restaurants.