From Strength To Strength: AEserver.com Founder And CEO Munir Badr Badr has big plans for the future of AEserver.com, and he considers focusing on consistency and scalability as a building block for achieving them.
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In 2005, when Munir Badr was launching web presence specialist AEserver.com out of his bedroom in Dubai, he was right to believe that the idea of offering .ae domain name registrar and web hosting services was good enough for business to today serve to over 20,000 clients globally.
These days, however, AEserver's founder and CEO Badr says that his company is enjoying even stronger growth. "The UAE's country code top-level domain (ccTLD), the .ae, is facing an ever-increasing demand, with registrations surpassing 270,000 domain names as of March 2023," he says. "AEserver is the second largest out of 23 registrars that are accredited by the registry, the .ae Domain Administration (aeDA), which is part of the UAE Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority. The increased registration volume denotes a healthy business environment, as many new entities are being established, and existing ones are turning to digital to grow the business and stay competitive."
Inspired by this success, Badr and the AEserver team are taking an extra step this year by organizing a new event -entitled Domain Days- that is expected to gather industry professionals to share best practices, know-how, and knowledge in Dubai this year. "The event will target our community and gather experts from all over the world to discuss the incredible opportunities revolving around domains," Badr says.
Yet, the current business environment for internet entrepreneurs in the UAE is in stark contrast to 2005 when Badr, then a high school student attending The Westminster School in Dubai, decided to venture into entrepreneurship - he describes it as "poor and expensive connectivity, a small domestic market, and zero business experience." The first obstacle consisted of difficulties in setting up a business identity. "While today it is almost a trivial task that is entirely managed online with dozens and dozens of valid alternatives, in those days, it turned out to be a complex and laborious task, absorbing time and energy in great quantity," he says. "But that was just the tip of the iceberg, because I aimed to sell digital services -or intangible goods- offering an end-to-end online experience. In 2005, it was unique and innovative."
Another issue at the time, Badr recalls, was the limited adoption of credit cards and the widespread reluctance towards sharing personal details on the internet. "It might sound anecdotal, but I still remember one client driving from Abu Dhabi (over 100km) to pay a small invoice in cash," he explains. "Things improved over the years thanks to the incredible acceleration on the digitalization front imposed by local authorities, the introduction of many forms of online purchases, and the entrance of Souq.com (now Amazon), which has revolutionized e-commerce and how locals shop."
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Today, Badr continues, startup founders have easier access to business resources and a skilled labor force, including remote workers, and therefore, they can "set up their digital presence in a matter of hours." Plus, Badr adds that the COVID-19 pandemic "has taught everyone valuable lessons regarding managing an organization, from where the workforce should operate, delegation, automation of processes, and collaboration." He explains, "As any other company launched years ago, AEserver still has a main office where we used to get together and work, supporting our customers 24/7. In the last three years, we have evolved from that typical hierarchical model, embracing a more 'unstructured' approach favoring flexibility and productivity. Initially almost forced due to the contingent situation, it now has become part of our culture and modus operandi."
After the COVID-19 pandemic, Badr has embraced remote working, and explains that recruiting the right talent is more important than their physical presence in the office. "Nowadays, everyone works remotely even though access to office space is always an option," Badr explains. "We have people residing in the UAE and others working from abroad, and as a solution addressing the need to provide support 24/7 to a broad set of customers living on every continent, this is an integral part of our business."
When asked for any other advice for founders looking to grow their businesses, Badr says that optimizing business processes by investing in technology proved to be a good decision for his business "For example, our phone system has always been on the cloud," he explains. "During the lockdowns during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, we continued operations smoothly without missing any calls. At the same time, some large companies in the UAE were not reachable over voice as they were not technically ready for a hybrid scenario."
AEserver.com founder and CEO Munir Badr. Source: AEserver.com
Since the pandemic, AEserver has experienced an acceleration in its growth rate, not only in the number of clients, but also in the variety of services it offers and the markets it geographically covers. "We recently became an accredited registrar in Bahrain for the .bh domain name in addition to .qa for Qatar," he says. Badr has big plans for the future of AEserver.com, and he considers focusing on consistency and scalability as a building block for achieving them. "As part of our unconditional commitment to our customers, after-sales support is a vital step in maximizing each customer's life-term value," Badr says. "This will help spread a positive image of their brand via online reviews and other channels that will generate new business for the brand. The business community in the UAE and internationally as well is very large, but also very well networked at the same time. Most entrepreneurs know each other via second- or third-degree connections, so brand image is paramount."
When it comes to scaling the operations of AEserver, Badr defines it as identifying the best solutions and services for new and existing clients. He explains, "Competitive prices are just one of the many factors in this area, but as consumers, we all know that is just one of the many pieces of a more elaborate puzzle. Earning our customers' trust results from hard work and an almost maniacal attitude towards quality in every form and manifestation." On the global front, Badr has noticed a slowdown in the domain industry after the boom induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Using Verisign, the registry operator for the .com domain and the largest domain zone, as an example, they have publicly stated they expect its domains under management in 2023 to grow between 0% and 2.5% year-over-year, but it grew just 0.2% in Q4 2022," Badr notes. "New units sold in Q4 2022 were inferior to the same period of 2019. I guess volumes matter most these days due to the constantly increasing costs of domains (.com has seen multiple price upticks, and others have been announced) and the higher bills of the hosting infrastructure. Hence, we make sure that our growth rates are strong, and our churn rates are under control."
As we come close to the end of our conversation, Badr tells me that he's most proud of building AEserver without any capital injections from investors. "The business is healthy, and a large portion of the profits are re-invested back into growth, marketing, processes, and the organization," he says. "However, we are always open to new ideas and partnerships to propel the business to the next level. Venture capitalists, investors, bankers, funds, and aggregators are constantly approaching us. AEserver is in a strong financial position, and I haven't considered injections of capital from outside."
In his opinion, Dubai -and the UAE in general- are also in the stage of healthy growth, which, Badr believes, will only continue. "In the last 18 months, the demographic explosion registered in Dubai has meant an increase in new businesses and entities launched locally, with almost everyone having a digital side, as expected," he explains. "Setting up a business in the UAE is extremely easy, and you get lots of perks such as tax-free living, ease of doing business globally, and access to world-class infrastructure. I believe that the business land space will continue to evolve and flourish due to all the positive decisions that are being announced and implemented in terms of the UAE's vision to remain at the forefront of an ideal place to live and work."
'TREP TALK: AEserver.com founder Munir Badr's tips for running a successful digital business
1. BE CURIOUS, AND FORCE YOURSELF OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE "Leverage local resources and the thriving ecosystem of knowledge, events, people, and shows regularly scheduled throughout the year. In my situation, the UAE is the epicenter of major global events in various fields."
2. EXPAND YOUR NETWORK, BOTH ONLINE AND OFFLINE "As the old saying goes, 'Your network is your net worth,' we all know the power of personal and business relationships and the contribution generated by positive customer reviews and feedback. There's so much knowledge to be proficiently exploited to accelerate your business growth and elevate the experience offered to current and new customers."
3. BE LOCAL AND INTERNATIONAL AT THE SAME TIME "Dubai has historically been a trading hub, connecting several areas. That's true today as well, even more so if considering the possibilities offered by the internet and being online. Moreover, you can test various business ideas in the UAE by targeting different nationalities and industries, making your global expansion easier with the experience you gain."
4. INVEST IN YOUR SOCIAL IMAGE "Today's business face requires its founders and management team to be visible and reachable via social media platforms. This is important for transparency and trust, especially for online companies. You must maintain your social following by posting regular updates about the company, its activities, achievements, and results to stay ahead of the competition."
5. DON'T REST ON YOUR LAURELS "Technologies are evolving extremely fast, with potential disruptions or newcomers around the corner. Being vigilant and attentive to emerging trends requires some investments, a desire to constantly experiment in areas, sometimes even out of your comfort zone, and potentially taking some risks."
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