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Tell us about your business. What inspired you to create Souqalmal.com?
When I first moved to the UAE, it was very difficult for me to compare the personal finance options I had. Over time, it became clear to me that there was a need in the market for an online one-stop shop that allows users to research all retail banking and insurance products in the market without having to get in touch with individual banks.
The market also needed a platform where banks could reach out to customers instead of cold calling them. After working for two years at Bain & Company Middle East and two more at MasterCard, Souqalmal.com was born in 2012. The concept was to create an online platform which allows an increased level of transparency to the banking and insurance industry in UAE, but more importantly to promote a level of financial literacy never seen before.
How does Souqalmal.com use technology to help people get better products?
We live in a fast moving world and technology should be your best friend if you want to strive and succeed. Since our inception, we have always looked at technology as an enabler to disrupt the conventional way of doing business. We started with the banking industry where we have created a platform that allows people to compare and apply for financial options in a user-friendly way that is mobile optimized.
The same concept we have applied to our insurance business model which was recently launched where we have developed a technology that allowed us to efficiently scale the business and better serve our customers. The main aim of technology at Souqalmal.com is to facilitate the user’s journey and obtain a better experience – that is why we are constantly refining our processes to ensure that.
Who are your typical customers or website visitors?
Souqalmal.com provides users in both UAE and KSA with the opportunity to evaluate all their financial choices before taking any short or long-term decision. It also provides an extensive library of content to promote financial literacy and help users make more sense of the financial world. That is why we have a very diversified user base that is constantly growing.
It’s never too early for financial planning, no matter what stage of life you’re in. Today the site boasts more than 800,000 visits a month with 30% of the traffic going to our Money Doctor section where you can find answers to all the questions you may have about your personal finances.
What is different about Souqalmal.com, in comparison to your competitors?
We always strive to make the customer at the core of our business. That is why we have created our products and content to reflect what the consumer really wants or is asking for. We are very strong about customer privacy where we respect the customer’s choice of which bank they want to talk to.
What’s your advice for women entrepreneurs planning to start their own business in UAE?
My advice to any entrepreneur is to follow their gut instinct and never let fear hinder them from realizing the full potential of their idea. Also, your team is your biggest asset so find people that share your vision; the hunger for success and more importantly are committed to the business.
What’s the next stage of growth you’re planning for the company?
In the last year, we have expanded our operations to Saudi Arabia and have registered a quick growth in our subscription base as there is a high need for good Arabic content. In terms of verticals, we have launched our online car insurance platform in the UAE and our aim in the coming year is to offer all kinds of insurance in both UAE and KSA. In the next few years, our plan is to be in every country across the MENA region.
Profile: Originally from Mauritius, Ambareen Musa holds an undergraduate business degree from RMIT university in Melbourne, Australia. She started her first online business, an online property portal for international students in Australia, at the age of 21. Moving to London in 2004 to work for GE’s financial arm, GE Money, Musa held various roles in marketing, financial literacy, customer advocacy and e-commerce, and led the first online financial literacy initiative in the UK, Moneybasics.co.uk.
Moving on to the UAE in 2008, Musa worked as a consultant for Bain & Company Middle East. She went on to set up the consulting arm of MasterCard Middle East and Africa, where she stayed for two years before founding Souqalmal.com in 2012, the number one financial comparison and insurance platform in the UAE and KSA. Musa has been awarded “Entrepreneur of the year” at the “Entreprise Agility Awards 2015” and “Leading Women in Business” at the “DMCC Awards 2016” and has been selected as an “Endeavor Entrepreneur”. Musa holds an MBA from INSEAD.