In the busi­ness of con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion

Meet the founder of Souqal­mal - on a mis­sion to make us fi­nan­cially savvy

7 Days in Dubai - - TALK FROM THE TOP - By Claire Shar­rock @ClaireShar­rock claire@7days.ae

Peo­ple who meet or work with en­tre­pre­neur Am­ba­reen Musa will know her as an as­tute busi­ness­woman, an in­flu­en­tial dis­rup­tor and a slick op­er­a­tor. They will use words like savvy and sharp to de­scribe her. And she is all of those things - but, as Am­ba­reen will tell you her­self, her suc­cess was born from be­ing caught out by a financial de­tail she missed.

Her fer­vent de­sire to help other peo­ple avoid the same trap has been the impetus be­hind Souqal­mal.com, the busi­ness she started four-and-a-half years ago and now the UAE’s num­ber one financial com­par­i­son web­site.

“The UAE is over-in­debted,” said Am­ba­reen. “And one of the rea­sons we are over-in­debted is a lack of ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness about fi­nances.

“I my­self was caught out seven years ago.

“I ar­rived in Dubai and took a car loan. I loved the rate ad­ver­tised, I took the rate but then I no­ticed that the pay­ments ev­ery month were more than I had cal­cu­lated.

“I con­sider my­self fi­nan­cially savvy and could not un­der­stand why this was. And no­body at the bank could ex­plain it to me ei­ther.

“Fi­nally, after chas­ing the mat­ter, I dis­cov­ered that the rate I was pay­ing was a flat rate, not a re­duc­ing rate. I nearly fell off my chair be­cause, in the other places I have lived, we didn’t use flat rates, we used re­duc­ing rates.

“When I con­verted the rate to a re­duc­ing rate, it turned out I did not have a good deal at all.”

BRING­ING TRANS­PARENCY

It’s her own cau­tion­ary tale that led Am­ba­reen to cre­ate a re­source that all con­sumers can now use to avoid such pit­falls.

Souqal­mal.com is a one-stop shop for financial prod­ucts from credit cards, to loans and mort­gages and, more re­cently, in­sur­ance.

You can compare what is on of­fer and learn about the rel­a­tive ben­e­fits and, more im­por­tantly, rel­a­tive draw­backs of any given prod­uct.

And you can get ad­vice on what you can and can’t af­ford, as well tricky ter­mi­nol­ogy ex­plained and jar­gon busted.

In fact, the ad­vi­sory and ed­u­ca­tional el­e­ment of the site is, ac­cord­ing to its cre­ator, the most sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in its suc­cess. “We have a lot of traf­fic that comes for the con­tent,” Am­ba­reen ex­plains. “The ed­u­ca­tion el­e­ment is so im­por­tant and the core busi­ness, the com­par­i­son part of the site, is run on that con­sumer ed­u­ca­tion - it is all about trans­parency.

“What we have man­aged to grow with Souqal­mal, is a com­pletely in­de­pen­dent, un­bi­ased re­source that al­lows you to know your op­tions.”

GROWTH PO­TEN­TIAL

The most re­cent prod­uct you will find on the plat­form is in­sur­ance - you can pur­chase it through the por­tal too.

It’s a sec­tor of the busi­ness where Am­ba­reen sees real growth po­ten­tial - again, be­cause of the lack of aware­ness of just how im­por­tant it is to pro­tect your­self here.

“We did a sur­vey after one of the re­cent prom­i­nent res­i­den­tial fires,” Am­ba­reen ex­plains, “and de­spite the fire be­ing widely re­ported, 70 per cent of cus­tomers told us they still were not go­ing to get house­hold in­sur­ance.

“There is a mind­set here: I’m only here for a cou­ple of years, I’m rent­ing, why do I need it?

“But what peo­ple don’t re­alise is, if some­thing hap­pens in your apart­ment and it af­fects the one next to you, you are 100 per cent li­able even as a ten­ant.”

KNOWL­EDGE IS KEY

With such a strong ed­u­ca­tional ethos be­hind her prod­uct, it’s clear that Am­ba­reen and her team are pas­sion­ate about mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence as they build a prof­itable busi­ness.

And in a fi­nan­cially in­se­cure world, knowl­edge can pro­tect you.

“Peo­ple have be­come much stronger about wanting to know and un­der­stand what they are get­ting,” said Am­ba­reen.

“We see a lot more peo­ple ask­ing for help and the big­gest sat­is­fac­tion is that peo­ple are un­der­stand­ing that they are em­pow­ered to ques­tion and em­pow­ered to de­mand that some­one ex­plains what you are get­ting into.

“There is no ex­cuse not to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for your­self. The tools to help are ac­ces­si­ble and we con­stantly tell peo­ple to ques­tion, ques­tion, ques­tion what the sales per­son is telling you.”

‘The ed­u­ca­tion el­e­ment is so im­por­tant to the core busi­ness.’ Souqal­mal.com founder Am­ba­reen Musa

IN THE HOT SEAT: Souqal­mal.com founder Am­ba­reen Musa

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