Kuwait Luxury E-Commerce Fashion Platform ZAY Pivots To Marketplace Platform Amid COVID-19 Crisis
With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting businesses everywhere, they've decided to pivot as a marketplace platform on a commission basis to small businesses.
This article is part of a series on pioneering entrepreneurs in Kuwait that Entrepreneur Middle East has built in collaboration with Kuwait Finance House. Kuwait Finance House is considered a pioneer in Islamic finance or Sharia’a compliant banking, with it being the first Islamic bank established in 1977 in the State of Kuwait, and is today one of the foremost Islamic financial institutions in the world.
Founded in 2019 by Sara N. AlAteeqi, ZAY is a luxury e-commerce fashion platform with a focus on sustainability and rentals. The brand was started with the concept to empower the everyday women to expand her closet while reducing environmental waste, which they intended do to by “creating a sharing economy albeit via sharing closets.” AlAteeqi says, “Women in the Middle East have the best closets and endless events/parties. ZAY was the answer- instead of buying clothes, you come to ZAY, and rent items for your occasions. If you had an overflowing closet, you can consign your items with us, so that we can sell or rent the items on your behalf.”
ZAY is not AlAteeqi's first foray to entrepreneurship too- her background includes innovation consulting in Kuwait and London with Kuwait Ventures, and she had also launched Kuwait fashion brand Fourteen. With an initial investment from the founders of Carriage, a Kuwait food delivery platform that was acquired by Delivery Hero, AlAteeqi and her team entered the market with ZAY and soon received an influx of vendors. While initially designed as a fashion rental and consignment business, their revenue streams were soon coming from sales and rentals of clothing as well as bags and accessories.
Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting businesses badly, ZAY has decided to pivot into becoming a marketplace platform on a commission basis. As someone who runs a business and knows the issue of generating demand, AlAteeqi says that this informed her decision on how ZAY would work. “I decided to turn my current problem into a ‘we’ solution by offering our platform (both our app and website) to small businesses to sell for 0% commission for two months... This way, we created a network effect for all those small businesses joining and helped ourselves along with our extended community grow instead of shutter during this crisis.”
In term of future plans, AlAteeqi says she aim to expand ZAY's marketplace offering to the GCC and worldwide to increase the number of vendors they have. They’re also looking to going back as an environmentally friendly business by allowing pre-orders by customers to once again reduce waste and eradicate dead stock for suppliers.
‘TREP TALK: Sara N AlAteeqi, founder and CEO, ZAY
Can you share your advice for fellow entrepreneurs on surviving the impact of the COVID-19 crisis?
"These are unprecedented times. Don’t be hard on yourself or your team, your team is your most important asset. Know that the fundraising landscape is non-existent, so try to cut as much costs as you can to extend your runway, and reduce your monthly cash burn. Be transparent with your team about your financial situation in case you need to temporarily cut salaries until better times are here. Get rid of your office if needed, and work from home."
What are some of the opportunities that you see available in the Kuwaiti market today? What would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
"I would say that opportunities are in creating cheaper tech solutions for medium to large sized companies that can no longer afford expensive tech stacks, along with offering products/services that enable digital transformation. My advice will always be to test, get feedback, test again after incorporating feedback, and build your product last. Also: hire as you grow, don’t over hire."
Pamella de Leon is the Startup Section Editor at Entrepreneur Middle East. She is keen on the MENA region’s entrepreneurship potential, with a specific interest to support enterprises and individuals creating an impact.