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Amazon MENA's Director of Seller Success, Jasmin Frick, On How The Company Is Enabling A New Generation of Women in Business The online retail space in the MENA region presents a significant opportunity for women entrepreneurs to reach customers across wider geographies and demographics.

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Amazon MENA
Jasmin Frick, Director of Seller Success at Amazon MENA

In the MENA region, entrepreneurship is considered to be a key enabler of economic diversification, promoting innovation, and facilitating the development of the private sector. At the same time, entrepreneurship is also a key factor in accelerating women's socio-economic progress.

According to the World Economic Forum, women-led entrepreneurship can add trillions of dollars to the Middle East economy by 2026. Plus, promoting women entrepreneurship drives financial empowerment, helps reduce poverty, incentivizes education of the next generation of girls, improves women's health, develops communities and ultimately contributes towards building stable and resilient societies.

It is therefore important for both public and private sectors to create more welcoming business environments for women, and support their success. We spoke with Jasmin Frick, Director of Seller Success at Amazon MENA, to understand how the company is taking significant steps to enable female entrepreneurs in this regard, especially in the digital realm– excerpts from the conversation are below:

What is the opportunity for female entrepreneurs in the online retail space?

The online retail space in the MENA region presents a significant opportunity for women entrepreneurs to reach customers across wider geographies and demographics. Indeed, the MENA e-commerce market is expected to reach US$57 billion in 2026, up from $37 billion in 2023.

As online retail continues to grow, it provides a level playing field where gender does not limit participation. Women entrepreneurs can leverage the digital space to overcome traditional barriers to entry faced in brick-and-mortar set-ups. Additionally, the flexibility offered by online retail allows women to balance their entrepreneurial ventures with other responsibilities, such as family commitments.

I have seen several women sellers in the region -from micro-businesses to home-run ventures- growing into successful brands by leveraging the power of online retail. One such business is Cross Global, a startup by an inspiring entrepreneur, Adèle Sayegh. Cross Global's story of growth reflects the potential of online retail. Starting from a homerun set up in the UAE in 2002, Adele started selling on Amazon in 2022, and, today, her products are shipped to customers across the world.

Adèle Sayegh, Managing Director, Cross Global. Image courtesy Cross Global.

In recent years, governments in the region have also introduced programs offering mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities specifically tailored to women, fostering an environment conducive to their success. In the UAE, for example, women-owned businesses constituted half of the small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in 2022, indicating remarkable growth, as well as reflecting the government's dedication to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

The United Nations theme for International Women's Day 2024 is "Invest in Women." What are the benefits of investing in women for companies like Amazon?

Women have an important role to play in shaping the socio-economic trajectory of nations by uplifting families, creating thriving communities and contributing to economic growth. The ripple effect of women in business is undeniable– it is good for families, good for communities and good for economies.

For Amazon, increasing the participation of women entrepreneurs in our seller base also leads to several business benefits, making it also good for our customers. As a customer-centric company, we are committed to delivering what customers want- low prices, vast selection, and fast delivery. A more diverse cohort of sellers means a wider selection of products, competitive pricing, and a better experience for customers.

Related: MENA's Women In Business On What Empowerment Means To Them

Why is the UAE a good market for women to venture into business?

The UAE is home to a young, tech-savvy population: almost three-quarters of the country's population is less than 40 years old, and internet and smartphone penetration are among the highest in the world, offering women business owners a large, young customer base that can be reached online. Women entrepreneurs have an opportunity to experiment with their products, test the market, and tap into the UAE's robust purchasing power and spending habits- after all, 96% of consumers are shopping online.

The UAE's business environment is especially supportive of women entrepreneurs. In addition to easy business set-up facilities, the country offers funding programs and grants specifically targeted at women-led businesses, making it easier for women entrepreneurs to access capital . Networking and support infrastructure such as Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC) and the Women's Economic Empowerment Principles empower women in the workplace and community. Accelerators and incubators like DBWC's #SheLeads, Tamkeen and NYU Abu Dhabi's startAD, Sharjah Advanced Industry Accelerator and the Abu Dhabi SMEHub's Women Innovators (Win) Fellowship provide training and support for budding women entrepreneurs.

Over the past decade, women entrepreneurs from the UAE have created businesses that have raised millions in funding, made substantial profits, and achieved multi-million dollar exits, with several going global. The UAE's position as a global hub and a reputed business destination presents boundless opportunities for women to plot long-term paths for their businesses, scaling geographic boundaries. Several of our sellers on reach customers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, who can browse and shop thousands of items, which will then be shipped to them from the UAE.

Cross Global's Adèle Sayegh had this to say about her journey of growth: "Amazon has been instrumental in expanding my reach globally, providing a platform where my products can shine on an international stage. Fulfillment, once a daunting challenge, has become a cornerstone of my success story. Amazon's robust delivery infrastructure ensures seamless customer experiences, bolstering my brand's reputation, while safeguarding the trust of my clientele. Thank you, Amazon, for empowering me and countless other women to revolutionize the way we do business, reaching the millions of customers who visit the Amazon store, and understanding the diverse needs of our audience."

Image courtesy Amazon MENA.

What is your advice to enable women entrepreneurs to accelerate their growth online?

Customers today demand speed, convenience, and reliability, and they easily switch brands if customer service falls short. Even if a startup gets all this right, the game changes entirely with scale. Expanding to reach new customers and markets requires additional infrastructure, expertise, and investment. Many entrepreneurs risk overextending resources in an attempt to execute every aspect of their business from end to end. Today, my advice to women entrepreneurs is to focus their efforts on the core strengths that give them a competitive advantage, while relying on partnerships and collaborations in areas where they lack the expertise or infrastructure.

Supporting small businesses is a key part of our mission at Amazon. Women entrepreneurs who aim to scale their businesses can leverage our state-of-the-art global innovations that simplify the online selling journey from product listing, advertising, and brand building, to shipping and fulfillment. A new global registration service opens door for sellers, connecting them with hundreds of millions of customers worldwide through a single registration, expanding horizons and boosting revenue potential.

Several of our sellers also utilize our Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) model, which means that we store, pick, pack, and ship customer orders, while they focus on product innovation and growth. An Arabic mobile seller app makes it more accessible and convenient for local women entrepreneurs to manage their online stores on the go, in their language of choice. Amazon also invests in various tools to help entrepreneurs gain visibility and support discovery of their products. Equipped with data-driven insights and tailored training to optimize Amazon's tools, women entrepreneurs can take their businesses to new heights of success.

Related: Delivering Happiness (Sustainably): How Amazon Is Smashing Its Net-Zero Goals With Cutting-Edge Technology

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