Muscat: Shopping for groceries from the comfort of your home could soon become a reality in Oman.
Mohamed Al Araimi, 28-years-old, is the founder of shoponclick.me, a website that not only arranges to deliver groceries to customers’ doorsteps, but also does the shopping for the public, which means they never have to leave their desks.
The online service is expected to be rolled out by January 2017.
Users who wish to use the website’s service can add items they need to an online cart, and then pay for these items at checkout. A team of shoppers then goes to the supermarkets to purchase them, after which a driver drops them off at a scheduled time.
Born and raised in Dubai, the Sur native was working in a comfortable job at Petroleum Development Oman when he realized he wanted more from his professional life.
“My mother used to make a shopping list thrice a week, and then split her grocery requirements across three supermarkets,” he said. “For fruits and vegetables, I used to go to one supermarket, and for dairy, to another. I ended up making a three-hour journey to get the things she wanted. So I thought to myself, why not have a website where people can see the best prices for products and then shop for them online?”
Although Mohamed first began his business in both the UAE and Oman, he realised that the challenges in both nations were very different. “To be honest, in Oman there was no infrastructure for it, in contrast to Dubai, where even the smallest shop has home delivery,” he said.
“We initially faced a challenge here because we had a model where the supermarkets, themselves, delivered items, and we needed to make sure all deliveries went as planned. Deliveries sometimes took four hours.
“Also, here I wanted to hire riders on bikes to deliver supplies, but it’s not possible to get licenses for them anymore,” he added. “If I want to hire riders, I need to hire Omanis, and not expats, so this added to my costs, as well.
“In Dubai, the cost for a visa may be a lot more, but it is easier to find labour because the restrictions are not so strict,” said Mohamed. “Also, getting a trade licence in the UAE was easy because it was free and I received it very quickly.”
Mohamed, therefore, decided to focus on one market at a time, and returned to Dubai, where he worked closely with Astrolabs, a start-up tech service run by Google. In September, he launched his service in Dubai, signing deals with Union Co-op and Aswaaq Supermarkets, before agreeing on terms with both Carrefour and Spinneys.
Now, he delivers to about 200 customers a month.
“We went to each supermarket and offered to advertise their products online,” he explained. “We could, therefore, let them reach additional people without a brick-and-mortar outlet. Online customers shop for everything.”
Although Lulu does have an online shopping system in Oman, what sets Mohamed’s website apart is that shoppers can compare prices of various goods from different shops, and choose the price that best fits their budget.
With his country’s online opportunity currently valued at US$ 1.6 million, Mohamed is meeting venture capitalists in the UAE and is expected to close a deal for added funding next month, and is looking forward to repeating his model in Oman.
“In Oman, this model of online groceries has only just begun, so the market is very new,” he revealed. “We believe that this model is repeatable. If I took this model here, it would work. If I take this model anywhere else, it will work, as well.”