Lean And Mean: UAE-Based B2B Startup MeatoDoor Is Taking A Bite Out Of The GCC's Meat Industry

MeatoDoor is a B2B online marketplace that is digitizing the meat ordering process by offering a one-stop solution that ensures quality standardization, transparency, and convenience in the procurement process.

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Much like many an entrepreneur out there, Ambreen Khan's foray into the startup world was ignited when she couldn't find a suitable solution to a particular hurdle she was facing.

Ambreeb Khan is the founder of MeatoDoor, a B2B online marketplace that is digitizing the meat ordering process.

In Khan's case, her issue was in acquiring premium meats, as well as in a lack of access to transparent data on their quality and pricing in the UAE and KSA. "The meat supply chain is highly unorganized with multiple suppliers, stock availability challenges, variation in quality and pricing, and lack of transparency," Khan says, while adding that they are all major pain points for the US$40 billion meat industry in the Middle East and Africa, which has more than 60% of meats imported into the region. It is thus with a mission to solve these issues -while also tapping into the sizeable market opportunity- that Khan launched MeatoDoor, a B2B online marketplace that is digitizing the meat ordering process by offering a one-stop solution that ensures quality standardization, transparency, and convenience in the procurement process.

Before she launched MeatoDoor, Khan had essayed a variety of roles in her career, which saw her doing everything from starting a clothing company to leading sales partnerships for a media publication. Looking out for opportunities is thus something Khan is well-versed in, and that is how she got the idea for MeatoDoor as well. "I remember that one day, we had a dinner party, and we had ordered meats from a butchery in Karama in Dubai," she recalls. "I often buy my meats from my local butchers, as the supermarkets nearby my home do not stock the kind of meats we consume. The ordering process is always a hassle, as I either have to drive too far from my neighborhood to get the meats, or expect delayed/wrong orders if ordered over the call."

But the problems she faced when ordering meats for that particular gathering is what kickstarted her entrepreneurial endeavor. "I would say the issues I faced ordering meat for the party that day was the trigger to start MeatoDoor," Khan says. "The meats did not come on time that day, and they were not the same cuts I had ordered. When I discussed this at the party, everybody there told me they had the same problem of getting wrong orders, meats not cut to their exact specifications, not knowing when the delivery will come, and not having cash at home to pay for the order, and so forth."

Having witnessed the digital acceleration of online grocery platforms during the onset of the global pandemic, Khan was sure that there had to be a better way to make buying meat more effortless. She started to do her own research, which started by discussing meat-buying hassles with everyone in her social circle, followed by a quick market survey of butcheries and the problems they faced- that was how she found out that these vendors too would like a platform to showcase their products, and get support in deliveries and digital payments.

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MeatoDoor's focus is to build a vertical e-commerce solution for the meat industry. Source: MeatoDoor

"For the next month, I executed orders using WhatsApp connecting customers from Dubai's suburban communities with the local butcheries located centrally to test if there was a gap, and how effectively I could fill it using technology," Khan recalls, and all of these efforts eventually lead to the official launch of MeatoDoor in July 2021. "I built a platform aggregating over 70 community butcheries in Dubai, digitizing their ordering process, and providing payments and logistics solutions." MeatoDoor soon went on to showcase over than 10,000 products in 10 different categories, but in December 2021, in a bid to better understand the meat supply chain and also gain control over quality of meats, Khan and her team decided to relaunch MeatoDoor as a B2B marketplace while also increasing its offerings.

Khan says that the business model has since further evolved to become a safe and reliable meat trading community between importers and exporters, traders, wholesalers, distributors, and food businesses. "We are creating an ecosystem for the meat industry by combining technology and data intelligence to make efficient local and cross-border trades possible," Khan adds. "We thus provide a trusted trade community for buyers and suppliers to connect, interact, negotiate, and do business with each other seamlessly through our tech."

Given her startup's focus to build a vertical e-commerce solution for the meat industry, Khan states that MeatoDoor's distinguishing feature is its reverse auction technology for procurement. With the platform, customers can inquire about products easily, get instant replies to their requests for quotations (RFQs), compare prices, and place orders with local and international suppliers. "The platform also allows suppliers to bid for the customer's RFQs, make data-driven intelligent purchases, and liquidate their excess inventory through the platform using the auction feature," Khan adds. "We are disrupting the B2B meat supply chain by creating a marketplace to eliminate inefficiencies in the supply chain."

The platform also offers industry analytics to help food service providers make informed purchase decisions and avoid stock waste. In addition, the startup also aims for its transactions to be secure between verified buyers and sellers by offering trade finance options, credit insurance, inspection, and quality testing services that are crucial for the meat trade industry.

Meanwhile, its focus on the B2B market has allowed MeatoDoor a significant advantage as well. "While there are many direct-to-consumer grocery and meat players, the B2B space is primarily served by the traditional distributors giving us an opportunity for innovation," Khan explains. "Being the first in the region, we have the first-mover advantage."

Khan and her team at MeatoDoor went on to participate in the Riyadh Techstars Accelerator program in November 2021, which concluded in February 2022. As a program backed by Raed Ventures and the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Technology, Khan describes her participation in it as having been a wonderful experience meeting and learning from the community of mentors and fellow founders.

Today, the startup is operational in the UAE, and it has also closed an undisclosed pre-seed funding round which has seen participation from the Dubai Angel Investment Network, along with other angel investors from Kuwait and the UAE. In October of this year, the startup also aims to raise a seed funding round, with Khan also noting that since its relaunch in December 2021, MeatoDoor has grown by 65%, month-over-month. "We have crossed $1 million in gross merchandise value, and tracking close to $3.6 million for the year," says Khan. "Currently serving more than 300 food businesses in the UAE, we have processed closed to 5,000+ B2B transactions and sold 350+ tons of meat."

The MeatoDoor team is keen to "build a global meat community" out of Dubai. Source: MeatoDoor

But while the startup's growth is something to be proud about, Khan admits that she and her team have faced unique challenges at every stage of the enterprise. Khan reveals that putting together an in-house technology team in the UAE turned out to be too costly, and so, they started to look for remote talent to build the platform, and today, MeatoDoor has engineers in four countries coordinating in real-time to work on the enterprise. Another challenge MeatoDoor faced in its early days was in onboarding suppliers, as they resisted revealing their pricing strategy on the platform fearing competitors. "We enhanced our product to overcome these hurdles by creating [our] reverse auction technology," Khan notes. "We now have more than 100 local suppliers listed on our platform."

Besides all of this, starting a venture in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic was also a daunting aspect for Khan- however, she didn't let her fears get the better of her either. "I quit my job to follow my dream of entrepreneurship," Khan says. "It was a significant risk, but I believe taking risks is one of the most vital qualities of a successful entrepreneur." But this is not to say that Khan took a blind leap of faith to start her business- indeed, her advice for fellow upstarts wanting to follow her lead is to be rational and take calculated risks when embarking on their own entrepreneurial journeys.

"If you have a business idea that's driving innovation, disrupting traditional practices, and you have the fire in your belly to execute it, the craziness that makes you jump out of bed every morning, and the resilience to stay strong during the most challenging times, then start today, as now is always a good time," Khan says. "Founders shouldn't get daunted by the COVID-19 crisis and the current global economic downturn, but rather, trust their gut and take a leap." Khan also urges founders to validate their ideas, focus on a sole product, customer, and market, listen and take feedback from customers, and pivot the business model whenever needed. "Follow test-and-learn methods to constantly evolve [your] business model, and take funding early on to grow fast," she adds.

As for Khan herself, she believes her enterprise is well-placed to capitalize on what is a burgeoning industry. Khan points out that with a supply chain that is complex, fragmented, and unorganized, there's a massive opportunity to "digitally eliminate the inefficiencies and address customers' pain points using RFQ-based procurement, fintech solutions and cross-border services to create a secure and trusted meat trading community."

Indeed, the team is keen to "build a global meat community" as Khan and her team at MeatoDoor have started onboarding sellers from meat exporting countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, and South Africa, to connect with the platform's regional buyers. Headquartered at the Abu Dhabi Global Market, it has a representative office in KSA, and it will soon be establishing offices in India, Pakistan, Kenya, Australia and Brazil as well. "We aim to return to serving the customers as the end goal, where we control the entire supply chain from farm to fork to encourage responsible sourcing, minimize waste, and provide accurate information to take sustainable action," she concludes.

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