Kuwait's Floward Wants To Be The Go-To Platform For Your Gifting Needs Cut flowers is a US$1.3-1.5 billion industry in the GCC, this Kuwait startup is taking a bite out of the opportunity.
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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 2017, Floward is a full-fledged e-commerce solution offering prime fresh-cut flowers and gift with delivery service across most of the GCC and London, UK. The platform is the brainchild of Abdulaziz Al Loughani, who's had previous forays into entrepreneurship as the co-founder and Managing Partner of venture capital firm Faith Capital, plus as the founding Executive Vice Chairman of the Kuwait National Fund for SMEs Development, as well as the co-founder and Managing Partner of Talabat.com until 2010.
As for the distinctive focus on the niche space, Al Loughani says that cut flowers is a "US$1.3-1.5 billion industry in the GCC, 99% of it is offline, and the market is very fragmented with no local or regional dominant players." The CEO saw the need to provide the consumer with a wide variety of high-quality flowers, bundled with different accessories, brought to the consumer in an easy and convenient way, using the app or the website.
The CEO notes that the first phase of the business was focusing on infrastructure by making sure they have access to the best farmers and growers around the world at the best prices, sorting out shipments and logistics, having local partners for the accessories they bundle their flowers with (chocolates, cakes, perfumes, etc.), developing a user-friendly and smooth experience of viewing their products on the app and website, and finally, managing the last-mile delivery to ensure the best user experience.
Next up, they focused on validating their market size assumptions starting with Kuwait, as their goal was to be the preferred online flowers destination in Kuwait within 12 months, while the next phase was regionalizing the business- which they've succeeded to, as they have since launched operations in 17 cities across KSA, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, and finally London, UK.
Feedback have been positive, as per the company's peer reviews, with Al Loughani noting that during last year, the company has had the highest growth rate compared to its competition, and highest retention figures as well. The secret? Al Loughani says it's all because they have full control on the supply chain of flowers wherein it's purchased around the world and they receive shipments twice a week. They also have their own workshops where florists arrange the best bouquets, with their "designer" team focusing on the website as well.
Al Loughani also spoke about the challenges they faced in 2020 when COVID-19 hit saying "there was a lot of uncertainty as the pandemic affected different businesses around the world, making market-sizing unpredictable. We also faced issues with supply-chain interruptions due to lockdowns and travel constraints." He said that managing growth and expectations as well as spreading and embracing employee culture as the team grew helped with overcoming these challenges.
The CEO also added that there were many lessons learned from 2020 including not being shy and taking bold decisions as every decision you make should affect your 3-years goals and not just your end-of-month results. He also believes that company culture should be by design and not by chance and shortening the learning curve for yourself and others is very important
So, what's next? As for the next phase, the team aims to achieve operational efficiency. Al Loughani explains that they're focused on horizontally expanding their business model to solidify their position as the preferred online flowers and gifts destination in the region and taking that experience more global to better position the company for an IPO.
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Excerpt from a conversation with Abdulaziz Al Loughani, founder and CEO, Floward:
What are some tactics do you use to ensure you achieve your business goals?1. Constantly improving our user experience: We've updated our app/website with major face-lifts more than 20 times in the past year and have improved more than 300 features/experiences in the past year.
2. Improving our pricing points and increasing our customers' value-for-money spent with Floward.
3. Having a fast turn-around-time (TAT) from placing an order to delivering our flowers to your loved ones at an average of 90 mins TAT.
4. Executing our plans rapidly and not being ashamed of letting go of bad ideas.
5. Building a great team where every member is being treated like a co-founder, planning and embracing the culture we currently enjoy.
What are the three main pillars of the profit model of your business? How has that changed over time?
Cost of goods, operational cost, and marketing. Size really matters, and we're here to build for the future, so economies of scale will reduce the % of each of the pillars mentioned against our revenue.
What are some of the main considerations that entrepreneurs should keep when starting up a business in Kuwait and why?
Unit economics are fundamental. We've seen many businesses by their growth and realize with time that they're not sustainable long-term- build a company that lasts forever.
What are some of the opportunities that you see available in the Kuwaiti market today and what would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
In Kuwait and the region, only 1% of our economy is actually online, and I think there are plenty more verticals/industries that can be transformed digitally on a fast timeline within the next five years.
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