In a bid to help small businesses through tougher economic times, a Qatar-based company has launched a new online network that allows firms to swap goods and services in lieu of cash.
But it has also attracted interest from bigger companies, Fahad Al-Ameri, founder and CEO of Al-Ameri International Trading, said.
Speaking to Doha News, he explained that businesses can register with the bilingual (English and Arabic) site, and for a QR1,000 annual charge, can post as many times as they like, offering to exchange anything from advertising space to left-over stock with other companies on the network.
The concept is based on the ancient model of bartering that was used throughout the world without the need for cash.
Al-Ameri told Doha News that he first thought of the idea nearly 20 years ago, but felt that it wouldn’t be popular when the economy was booming.
But falling global oil prices and the resulting effects on businesses in Qatar made him reconsider the plan early this year, he said.
“When the oil prices decreased, I started listening to business people saying they were not getting paid on time and the problems they had with this.
The market has slowed and it has become difficult to find liquidity. As a businessman I wanted to do something that would assist small enterprises particularly but also bigger holding companies, to allow them to conduct commerce without using cash,” he said.
Deciding that now was the “right time, right place,” Al-Ameri returned to his idea and worked with Pakistan-based Al-Rehman Technologies to develop the platform.
While the site is currently targeted at businesses, Al-Ameri said it may later be developed for individuals to trade with each other.
Cartoons in English and Arabic on the website describe the idea behind the network, and how it operates.
Companies can register with their email address and some basic details and after paying an initial QR100 fee, can start advertising what they want to swap.
Companies interested in the offered deal can then message them to negotiate the trade.
Barters currently live on the site include an ironing company requesting a trade of services with a construction company and a car exchange.
“I wanted to make the site as simple as possible to use. We don’t charge commission and we trust people to conduct the trades fairly. The QR1,000 annual charge covers the cost of running the site, but we wanted to keep costs to a bare minimum, for small businesses to be able to afford,” Al-Ameri said.
Al-Ameri ultimately aims to attract interest from companies across the Gulf and the wider Arab world.
“The after-effects of these low oil prices will be felt for years to come, and the time has come now for barter to come back into play, to help businesses,” he said.
Encouraging more entrepreneurship and the development of the private sector is at the heart of Qatar’s national vision, which aims to diversify the economy from oil and gas.
Authorities have in recent years introduced a number of measures aimed at making it easier to start and establish a business.
Last month, the Ministry of Economy and Commerce rewrote some of the rules that entrepreneurs had previously said were potential blocks to getting their initiatives off the ground.
For example, one of the most onerous requirements, needing to raise QR200,000 before applying for a commercial registration, has been done away with.
However, other changes such as barriers to opening a bank account remain problematic, entrepreneurs said.
Would you use this site? Thoughts?