E-commerce consultancy hopes idea will catch on

A new e-commerce development company are carving out a unique niche market by offering interactive e-commerce, rather than static, sites.

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By  Barnaby Chesterman Published  October 11, 2000

The general manager of a small e-commerce development company based in Dubai has come up with a novel idea that he hopes will catch on in the Middle East.

Faisal Omar, who runs Gainonline, has launched an e-commerce site, called realcatchy.com, that allows customers to participate with the site and set up their own e-commerce sites without shelling out any investment.

The new site was designed to sell a unique product that is designed to act as cheap advertising to affix to the back of cars. The realcatchy.com site sells plastic plates that can be stuck to the back of vehicles either with a magnetic strip or a strong adhesive.

The plates have a metallic effect and can carry a Web site addresses, e-mail address, phone number or even a business name, and act as a form of advertising. The plates are marketed as more up market than stickers and they’re not available from any other manufacturer.

Through this site, Gainonline is offering customers the opportunity to set up their own sites, accessible through realcatchy.com, and in turn to sell plates of their own. “We provide customers with a small two or three page site where they can interact and earn commission on every plate ordered through the site,” explains Omar.

“They do their own marketing and we can even re-brand the site for them so it appears as their product. We make our money through the sales generated. What we are trying to do is make a network of online marketers, so to speak, and we are not just targeting SMEs, but universities and colleges as well because it’s a pretty unique product.”

Gainonline believes it’s a fairly unique company in the Middle East. It’s focusing on dynamic, as opposed to static, Web sites. “We are looking at parking ourselves into a niche market,” says Omar. “We are strictly focusing on e-commerce sites. Although we have done a few static sites on and off, we’ve made provisions for each of the sites to have them e-commerce enabled later.”

Gainonline actually started trading with an experimental product at its inception about a year ago. The original product was a Web site called arabcraft.com which specialised in selling Arabian handicrafts to US and UK customers.

Omar went to Saudi Arabia and Oman and took photographs of antiques from dealers he had struck up partnerships with. He then set up a Web site to trade these antiques online.

Other dealers started contacting him to add their products to the Web site, which now includes a range of authentic Arabic handicrafts such as Egyptian paintings, Jordanian traditional dresses, daggers and coffee jugs. Sales have been slow on the site, though, despite hits reaching around 40,000 per month. So Gainonline branched out into providing e-commerce solutions and consultancy.

It already had two full time programmers and Web designers so it was a natural succession to take on other projects. This proved successful and Gainonline received two requests for heavy database driven sites which it will act as a partner for once the sites have been set up.

A further success came in the form of a second own online brand, flowersdubai.com. This has generated a steady amount of interest with over 700 orders in the last eight months, including 250 single orders on Valentine’s Day.

Although Omar sees solutions provision as the major source of business for Gainonline, he still feels the own brand sites are vital. “To be honest, at the moment we don’t feel the e-commerce market in the Middle East is ready for solutions providers,” says Omar.

The pricing is erratic with varying levels of experience and quality from one company to the next. As e-commerce specialists, though, Omar feels that Gainonline can create an attractive market and is looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“What we do is actually look at providing customised solutions. We actually go in and try to understand the business and see how best to fit that idea onto the Web,” says Omar.

“We feel that e-commerce is the future and the main thing is to have a solid infrastructure so we are able to confidently offer the solutions. Everyone now is talking about e-commerce and making money online. This is a good opportunity to experiment and see what can be done.”

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