Saudi Souq.com opens its doors

The Middle East's online auction portal launches a version of the site dedicated to Saudi Arabians.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  October 3, 2007

The Middle East's primary online auction portal, Souq.com, has launched a version of the site for Saudi Arabia, a full year after this move was first planned.

The internet marketplace, which already offers buy/sell services to users in the UAE and Jordan, now offers Saudi users a fully Arabic site that its creators claim boasts features that have been customised for users in Saudi Arabia and includes numerous product categories, ranging from mobile phones and computers, to health and beauty products, cars and properties. An English version is also available if clicked.

According to Souq.com CEO, Ronaldo Mouchawar, the site was originally slated for launch in Q3 or Q4 of 2006, however in January this year he explained to Windows Middle East magazine that it would be further delayed another three months, to April 07.

"We have now started the execution of the expansion plans to Saudi, and we plan to be up and running in the next three months," he said at the time. "We felt that we needed to roll out key features in the UAE such as a credit card payment tool and our fixed price selling service called ‘Buy Now' first, before we go ahead with the expansion."

Asked to explain this year's additional delay this year, Mouchawar commented at the KSA launch: "In 2006 we wanted to solidify the Souq.com brand and position in the UAE. Many new services and enhancements were rolled out and successfully deployed: ePayment, fixed price selling, and so on. These are now key elements in our offering, so expansion was shifted to 2007, our brand became widely known and accepted among internet users in the UAE and the Saudi expansion became the logical next step.

"Even though the Saudi site uses the same underlying platform, many features were altered to meet the needs and usage patterns of Saudi users. The site is in Arabic, our support and CRM is also in Arabic, and we have a local team in Saudi driving our business and supporting our users."

As a debut special offer during the holy month of Ramadan, Souq.com is running a special promotion with SAMA airlines that sees it offering tickets to and from Jeddah starting from one riyal.

In terms of Souq.com's useage method, Mouchawar this week reiterated how the eBay-esque site works: "Registration to the website, bidding, listing, buying and shipping of items are free, while sellers will be charged a nominal percentage of a successful sale as a fee. Upon winning a bid, Saudi customers will be able to choose from various payment methods including direct bank deposits, cash on delivery, payment by prepaid cards such as cashU and ‘OneCard', and credit cards."

Souq.com claims to have over 80,000 registered users and receive 165,000 unique visitors a month. Its average number of items listed each month currently stands at 30,000.

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