When it comes to the development of new apps in the realm of social engagement, the main thing to consider is whether it is up to the task of going against existing apps and platforms that currently reign the social networking space. Given the arguably saturated market of social engagement apps, how does MyHUBBER –a UAE-based app and web platform aiming to provide a shopping experience that is both rewarding and engaging- plan to stand out? Well, according to MyHUBBER founder Omran Yousef, MyHUBBER is “not just an app, it’s an experience. We aren’t competing with independent apps or social media platforms, our concentration is on our customers and their needs.”
Essentially, the app hopes to retain its users by offering them a rewards system in exchange for use of its various features. Users can have access to its marketplace listing as a buyer or a seller, an online retail space to buy products, share, update and chat with users in real-time with video and audio messages, listen to an “experience-driven” radio station, use the directory to look up promotions of nearby stores and restaurants, stay updated with news curated based on user activities and interests, and all the while, earning points to convert for products and services.
“Their continued use of MyHUBBER, be it shopping on HUBStore, connecting on HUBChat, or buying and selling on the classifieds option at HUBBoards, points are accumulated and can be converted into Etisalat and du talk time; you can convert the points towards payment for your DEWA bills and even convert the points towards payment of cinema tickets at Reel Cinemas.” As for the app’s strategy for onboarding and retaining users, Yousef believes users will respond to the app’s benefits. “MyHUBBER isn’t just giving users one specific aspect of the app, we are giving an overall redefined experience to users. We believe our user downloads will come from the value the user gets back from the app. We will continuously create value for our users, and ensure that they get the right information, best value and a good experience.”
Yousef’s background stems from the service industry, starting his career in banking, and then moving on to private placement, wealth management and property development. He was the Managing Partner and CEO of HiPHONE, and is currently the founder and CEO of Idea Prodigies, a software development firm specializing in loyalty platforms, e-commerce and digital solutions development- such as MyHUBBER. The idea for the platform came after Yousef studied retail trends and customer behavior for years, bringing him to seek solutions to improve customer satisfaction and ensure value for money for buyers.
“The inception of MyHUBBER came to place with the idea of fulfilling the requirement of efficiency with customer’s time and value for money,” says Yousef, adding that one of the motivations for the app was to help consumers be educated and smart on their spending habits. Customers are always looking for a better deal, and Yousef says he and his team understands this, and that’s what pushes them to improve on their offering. MyHUBBER recently received an undisclosed amount of financial support from AJSM Investments, which is headed by Chairman H.H. Sheikh Saeed Obaid Al Maktoum.
As an advocate of the entrepreneurial UAE community, Sheikh Saeed and AJSM launched the AJSM Hero initiative to support new businesses in the UAE, which is what MyHUBBER benefited from. And fresh from the initiative, besides the financial support, Yousef is also thankful for the guidance they’ve received in making a scalable product. He recommends aspiring entrepreneurs to apply to the program, saying, “The immense support I’ve received from AJSM is unparalleled in comparison to what I have seen in other incubations.”
On the generating revenue front, MyHUBBER has a fairly simple premise- consumers use the app for a better shopping experience, and merchants are provided with tools to facilitate that. A fee is charged to merchants for items sold on MyHUBBER’s store, with a percentage of the fee shared with the user in the form of points as cash back, redeemable with services and items. The app’s objective is to “digitize customer engagement and retention,” with a revenue stream of providing businesses and merchants various methods to engage with consumers and reward them for retention.
In terms of marketing, the team felt online marketing was the effective way to go, using Google and other channels with specific campaigns for target demographics. They’re also looking into ATL and BTL advertising and mall campaigns, but their key strategy is to target universities and campuses in UAE to get them to engage with the app.
Social engagement and a rewarding shopping experience– can the app do it all seamlessly? I suppose we’ll have to find out and see for ourselves. MyHUBBER will be available for download at the end of August 2016 on all app stores, with its web version currently in beta testing phase.
Omran Yousef, founder, MyHUBBER
ON LESSONS LEARNT FROM STARTING HIS BUSINESS “The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that for any startup, there are always critics and negative feedback, [but] you need to look beyond the negatives. Be around the right network of people, and learn to filter out the unwanted feedback from the useful ones.”
ON PITCHING TO INVESTORS “I believe in ‘seeing is believing’, and therefore before I approached any investors, I had a semi-ready product in my hand to present. Investors are very skeptical with technology startups and therefore it is important to be fully prepared. I used a lean strategy first to explain to my investors of the benefits, gaps, pros and cons of our app, showed them the potential of the app in terms of development and scalability of the project. Three elements are most critical: concept, cost and creating a solution. Fortunately for me, AJSM is a very well aware and tech-savvy company, they are very familiar with trends and technologies and they shared my vision of what the potential of the app is. When finding an investor, it is important that they understand the industry and its dependencies; AJSM was a perfect fit for us.”
ON THE APP BOOM “I believe that apps will only evolve, the potential of app development is only going to scale up. Hardware may go obsolete, but apps will keep moving to newer applications; for instance, apps have now moved to smart watches and VR technology. I think apps have still not reached its full potential. With AI and augmented reality, we as development companies, still have a lot of space to explore.”
ON STARTING A BUSINESS IN THE MENA
Research “Information is key- continuously keep your research ongoing; the more you learn, the more you can apply.”
Ask for help “Don’t be shy to seek help! Talk to mentors and friends and family about their thoughts about your concept; keep an open mind to your ideas.”
Stay lean “Cost is how you can control your business success, so ensure you keep your costs low; always look for effective and efficient ways of getting things done.”