If it can be compared, we want to compare it – Souqalmal.com
Kippreport speaks to Paula and Ambareen, founders of Dubai-based Souqalmal.com on how it started and what it means to them.
January 15, 2013 11:00 by Muhammad Aldalou
Ambareen Musa says that before souqalmal.com came along, it was extremely difficult to find information about financial products. Screening the websites of the fifty-something banks that are in the United Arab Emirates would be moot because – not only would it be an extremely dull and long process – but that the information available on them would be scattered. There was no room for consumers to compare products and information and that’s how the comparison site was created. It is the brainchild of both Ambareen Musa and Paula Wehbe.
When Ambareen worked in London, she frequently dealt with a website called MoneySupermarket.com, which she describes as having been extremely popular at the time. “It was a concept I already knew but when I came here in 2008 and struggled to find the right credit card for me, I assumed there would be a similar comparison ‘go-to’ site that everybody used. There wasn’t. There was no way I could spend all this time contacting all the banks separately because it would take time to get through to each of them. There was nowhere I could go where the information was reliable, up-to-date and clear.”
With their strong financial background, both founders launched the official version of Souqalmal.com in May of 2012, with the hope of providing the ultimate transparent and unbiased platform for users to compare products that they are interested in.
“Pretty much what we’ve done is put every single product with all its information in one single format. We did our homework,” explains Musa. “We’re moving into different verticals now with sections like mobile plans, air miles and schools in the country. Still, we’ve both been in the industry so we’ve built our credibility among many of the banks as well as brought our experiences to the table.”
She explains how their essential focus is mostly on providing clarity and transparency. You don’t need to go through twenty different sites, she says. “You don’t need to rely on each and every one. Normally, you’d have to figure out what banks are out there, who provides what and what are the contact numbers. Once you have that, good luck to you staying on the line for twenty minutes. All we’ve done is put it in one place where you can search and filter depending on what you want,” she adds.
Were banks reluctant to continue providing you with transparent information?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult as such. What we really did is get over the education process; explaining to banks what it is we were doing, says Paula, co-founder. The minute we got over that process, it became very easy, they’ve understood what we’re doing, they believe in it and have become very supportive in helping us update the platform.
The biggest hurdle that we’ve had to go through yet is the education process. Having to go through that brought us back to education, if that makes sense, adds Ambareen. Now all we hear is how badly needed a site like ours has been.
Fear of too much information?
It’s not just pushing the information out there. It creates a nice platform where the consumer listens to the bank and the bank listens to the consumer. It is actually an opportunity – thanks to our review section – for banks to really hear what their customers are thinking.
Why decide on an education section?
In Dubai, looking for schools is a nightmare for parents. A woman has to worry about getting her child a secure position when she is still pregnant, says Ambareen. I have a 19-month old, and trying to find an available place has been horrendous. I’ve heard about it before but never experienced it. It’s a hot topic and on everybody’s mind.
What would you like your main achievement to be: transparency or change?
I think it’s definitely a bit of both. Whatever is out there, let’s bring it together in one place for everyone to see. It’s an interesting point but whenever you bring transparency to any industry, it brings about change. Many of the banks we deal with actually started using Souqalmal.com as a competitive platform to compare themselves with other banks.
If there is something to be compared, we want to compare it – Ambareen Musa.