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Friday, September 18, 2020

Qatar retailers, customers connecting on WhatsApp

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Fruit and veg boxes
A delivery of fruit and vegetables from Duniper.

A growing number of entrepreneurs are adding a high-tech twist to the traditional business of selling flowers, fresh fruits and other foodstuffs in Qatar.

Many say the popular mobile messaging tool WhatsApp is becoming an important link between them and their customers, allowing them to overcome language barriers, customize orders and improve service with more accurate delivery directions.

“WhatsApp is brilliant for ordering. People don’t need to have great English, but can still explain exactly what they want through images,” says Rebekah Gomez, the co-founder of fruit and vegetable delivery firm Duniper.

“Or if they want a particular fruit and vegetable that I don’t know the local name for, then I can see what it is from the picture they send us,” she said.

Preferred app

WhatsApp is a free smartphone application that allows individuals to send other users text, image, video and audio messages.

A recent survey conducted by Ipsos Qatar for the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQatar) found that WhatsApp has become the most used social media and messaging tool for the country’s residents.

Social media report - ictq - nationality

Some 87 percent of Qatar’s total population (expats and nationals) reported using the app regularly, while as many as 97 percent of Qatari residents polled said it was their messaging form of choice.

The application’s popularity stems in part from its ease and speed of use, ability to send and receive different forms of media and low cost of use for those with a mobile data plan or access to a Wi-Fi network.

Doha News spoke to several business managers who are using the technology to increase sales and communicate with their customers.

Fruit and veg boxes

One of them is Duniper, which delivers fruit and vegetable boxes direct from the Wholesale Market in Abu Hamour to clients’ homes across Qatar.

Duniper co-founder Rebekah Gomez
Duniper co-founder Rebekah Gomez

A Qatar resident for just over a year, Gomez and her business partners took over an existing box delivery facility and is now expanding and diversifying to improve service.

The boxes of fruit and vegetables are mostly preselected, using in-season produce where possible, although customers can request some changes.

The ordering and delivery process is conducted in English, but because many of the company’s customers are not native speakers, some have problems explaining a particular fruit or vegetable they would like.

Using WhatsApp, these customers often draw pictures or take photographs of their desired order and send them through to Gomez and her colleagues, who can immediately see what they want, without lengthy or confusing explanations.

Example of shopping list received from customer via WhatsApp
Example of shopping list received from customer via WhatsApp

The service has also apparently improved delivery times normally hindered by Qatar’s notoriously complicated street system.

“Not everyone lives in a big compound. We ask the customers to send us a pin of their location, then we can get an exact address from Google maps, which we send to our driver,” said Gomez, who is originally from the UK.

However, as the business expands with more customers, Gomez said she will be introducing email alongside WhatsApp, to help improve the ordering system and to market to clients, which is more difficult on the messaging system.

She also admitted that the instant messaging nature of WhatsApp can also have some downsides, as many customers expect an immediate response, even late at night.

“I would recommend other business people using it to have a separate work phone, to clearly set out your business hours and to switch off the phone after hours to avoid confusion with customers,” she added.

Detox deliveries

Meanwhile, health food business Raw ME has been growing its business with the help of Whatsapp. The company was established in Qatar since 2012, and already has a strong base of customers who order deliveries of its detox cleanses, fresh juices and corporate fruit baskets.

Qatari-American founder Layla Al-Dorani told Doha News that WhatsApp is an powerful tool for communicating with customers, and also for group messaging her 10 staff members.

“Customers can easily place orders via WhatsApp, update their orders and give us delivery information and they know that they are communicating directly with a real person. They can have a conversation about any issue and get a quick response.

As a business, WhatsApp has been great for us as a means of talking to our customers, but it’s also been a useful means of communicating with our staff.”

juice Raw ME
Raw juices

Using group-chat enables instant dissemination of the same information to everyone, and allows employees to talk to each other about issues, making them feel more involved in the business, Al-Dorani adds.

“We can keep everyone informed, and it’s transparent – all our staff know what’s going on at the same time. It’s a very efficient way of getting messages out,” she said.

The app has also been an invaluable tool for one resident originally from Palestine, who founded a bespoke cake and patisserie business in Qatar late last year.

Asking not to be named, she said her homemade celebration cakes, desserts and bakery goods have already proved popular. WhatsApp allows her to share creative ideas with her clients, she told Doha News.

“A customer may not always know exactly what they want, but they can send a photo or an image of an idea, then we can quickly and easily talk about what is possible.

And because it’s instant, I can easily see if I get a new request from a client. They can see I’ve viewed the message and I can quickly reply to them. Whereas on email, I find it’s easy to miss a mail,” she said.

Poultry service

Another Whatsapp-friendly business is run by Ahmed, an Egyptian who asked not to have his family name published. He runs a free-range poultry ordering and delivery service from a farm he works on in Al Khor.

After moving to Qatar 16 months ago, he noticed a gap in the market for providing fresh poultry to customers, straight from the local farm.

He told Doha News: “In Egypt, no one buys frozen chicken from the supermarket. People want really fresh products, from a local farm where they know the conditions of the animals.”

He continued:

“The farm I came to has free-range turkeys, geese, chickens, quail and duck, as well as rabbit, and doesn’t use any GMO products, but not many people knew about it.

I started telling people and very quickly word spread. As it approached the holiday season before the end of last year, we had so many orders, I was amazed,” he said.

An Arabic and English speaker, Ahmed said he communicates with his customers using WhatsApp because it’s a cheaper form of messaging, especially with a large number of clients.

“It’s easy for customers to get a hold of me, and place their order. I can quickly get back to them to confirm and when you are messaging 200 or 300 clients at a time, it is much cheaper than talking by SMS,” he added.

Do you use WhatsApp to communicate with retailers? What are the pros and cons?

13 COMMENTS

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Misha
Misha
5 years ago

Sounds kind of fishy if a company doesn’t want to be named. It’s a shame because I would be interested in free range non gmo poultry and have yet to find it in Doha.

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed
Reply to  Misha

I would guess that most of these “entrepreneurs” are working illegally, that these “companies” are not registered at the Ministry of Business and Trade, and don’t have offices, phone numbers, or bank accounts registered in their name… They probably have a fake name/logo that they use on WhatsApp and online…

Misha
Misha
5 years ago

My thoughts exactly.

terracotta
terracotta
5 years ago

Who will the customers blame in the end? These “entrepreneurs” or the government?

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed
Reply to  terracotta

Food businesses are highly regulated here, if a “food business” isn’t registered then they have no health check at all!!!

It doesn’t matter who will be blamed, illegal work is ILLEGAL!

terracotta
terracotta
5 years ago

Exactly! My point is the same customers and their well wishers will start blaming the authorities if some tragedy as a result of these kind of illegal businesses.

fullmoon07
fullmoon07
5 years ago

you’re so right that they should start closing down all the fatty fast food chains…..

Saeed Ahmad Khan
Saeed Ahmad Khan
5 years ago

Brother. Same my thoughts.

Raw ME
Raw ME
5 years ago

Dear Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed,
We appreciate your concerns, just to set the record straight Raw ME is a 100% local Qatari company that has valid CR and all health certificates that are required. We do all of our orders online at raw-me.com for the convenience of our clients, but do have a physical production kitchen in Barwa that you are more than welcome to visit anytime between the hours of 7am-3pm.

Osama Alassiry AlMaadeed
Reply to  Raw ME

Thank you.

Marie
Marie
5 years ago
Reply to  Misha

I understand where you’re coming from, Misha – as someone who ran a successful, small business in the UK, let me suggest how it appears from the other perspective. In the UK, I got qualified, got professional indemnity insurance, registered myself as a sole trader with HMRC for tax and National Insurance purposes, and off I went. After many years working at my business, I move to Qatar and want to offer my service (yoga for children, and disability yoga) to schools here. I make sure my professional indemnity insurance covers me for international work, then I speak to a few schools, but they all say they can’t employ me if I’m not registered at the Ministry of Business and Trade. That’s reasonable, so I look into it – I need 250,000QR in a bank account, but a) I don’t have that sort of cash, and b) I’m not allowed to open a bank account as a ‘trailing spouse’. I also need an office – why? I wouldn’t earn enough to cover the rent, and I’d never use it, I’ve always worked from home and got tax relief for it. I’d also have to find a Qatari sponsor, and don’t have a clue how to go about doing that, as I never meet any Qataris, and they would probably want to take a cut of what is already a very small income – i.e. a sole trader. In fact, it’s so small they’d probably not be interested in the first place 🙁 There are also no community halls to offer the service outwith schools to the general public. After several months of trying, I give up completely and resign myself to becoming a housewife, and taking up some hobbies. Bang goes another potential business offering to enhance life in Qatar, improve well-being for a few hundred kids, may be help some children with disabilities. It’s small in the greater scheme of things, I know – but it’s the same story for the lady that bakes cakes, or offers an exercise class, or so many other people with skills to offer who are effectively ‘administrated’ out, by unnecessarily onerous and financial demands. I understand the need for accountability for big business, employing thousands of people – that’s entirely right and proper. This is not meant to be a criticism of Qatar, just an insight into the insurmountable obstacles faced by genuine and well-meaning, potential sole traders who could bring a wealth of opportunities and possibilities to the country. I hope a way can be found to let us operate easily and legitimately.

Misha
Misha
5 years ago
Reply to  Marie

Dear Marie,
I agree starting a small business here is so tough and most times after everything becomes unprofitable especially needing an office. Although i was told not all categories of business need one (i havent looked into it). You really see the difference in Dubai where so much is offered in terms of services, food and classes.

It is a shame that someone is offering a service like free range poultry and one cant find out how to be in touch. It is also unfair for small businesses that do register and have to put in the time and the money.

With your case I am surprised a yoga teacher has to register (if you are freelance and not trying to open a studio). Again I dont know the regulations. It sounds like a great service, depending how much you are charging you may want to check compound club houses for community space, existing personal training companies or battitude spa that would have classes taught by freelancers in their facilities. There are things that are allowed for example with the market at the museum once a month people are able to sell stuff Im sure they arent all registered. Maybe seek out existing yoga teachers here and ask how they did it?

Althani
Althani
5 years ago

I like the ones on Instagram

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