VoucherSk­out chief wants to re­de­fine foot­fall

The National - News - Business - - Front Page - David Dunn busi­ness@then­ational.ae

VoucherSk­out is a voucher-based value de­liv­ery plat­form, of­fer­ing 50 per cent off deals on a pay-as-you-go ba­sis. It gives users dis­counted ac­cess to F&B and five other cat­e­gories when they buy cred­its, while driv­ing cus­tom to mer­chants. Chief ex­ec­u­tive David To­bias, 47, moved to Dubai in 1994 and launched an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, half of which he sold to fund VoucherSk­out’s launch in Septem­ber 2016. The mar­ried fa­ther of two re­veals he has his sights set on tak­ing the app global.

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What prompted you to launch VoucherSk­out? a

The idea was hatched in 2011. I woke up at four in the morn­ing; bolt up­right, like a light bulb had gone on in my head. It took me four years to re­ally act on it. I brought my fam­ily up here. We’ve been pretty avid En­ter­tainer users. The premise be­hind VoucherSk­out is not to save peo­ple money; we’re ac­tu­ally try­ing to get peo­ple to go out more of­ten. Our brand essence is “en­joy more”. Rather than go out once a week at 100 per cent, go out twice at 50 per cent. You can still do it on the same money.

So what’s in it for the mer­chants?

I wanted a way of rais­ing ex­pen­di­ture in mer­chant out­lets. I knew per­cent­age-based dis­counts give a big­ger spend on av­er­age than a sin­gle item con­ces­sion. Value-seekers know in­tu­itively that if they’re get­ting 50 per cent off the to­tal food bill they order more food. As a re­sult dwell time within the out­let in­creases. It takes longer to eat three cour­ses than one, so the con­sump­tion of drinks in­creases. We’ve tried to re-en­gi­neer the busi­ness of foot­fall driv­ing. No restau­ra­teur wants to dis­count their own menu be­cause they have to give it to ev­ery­one. To solve that they turn to com­pa­nies that can de­liver an in­vis­i­ble dis­counted foot­fall; the only peo­ple that see our dis­count are peo­ple car­ry­ing our app. The ra­tio­nale be­hind VoucherSk­out is to help them fill seats they’ve not been able to through their own mar­ket­ing ef­forts. Restau­rants are very much like aero­planes; fixed costs are ex­tremely high, it’s bet­ter to take off with seats filled, even at 50 per cent off, than for that plane to fly empty. The chef doesn’t get paid ex­tra for making another 100 starters. Even at 50 per cent off they’re still making profit.

Is your sys­tem avail­able to tourists as well as res­i­dents?

I felt there was mas­sive op­por­tu­nity within the tourist mar­ket com­ing into the UAE. I wanted a sys­tem that would be very ac­ces­si­ble, free to down­load, first usage free and there­after you top up your wal­let. All of our vouch­ers are priced in cred­its. Those cred­its are sold in bun­dles and don’t ex­pire. You don’t have to worry about sub­scrip­tion. From a con­sumer propo­si­tion it’s a no-brainer; if you use (the app) great, if you don’t, it’s cost you noth­ing. If you’ve got tourists com­ing in from dif­fer­ent mar­kets and they’re not sure about dirhams they can turn credit bun­dle pricing into a se­ries of other cur­ren­cies.

So have the public and out­lets taken to VoucherSk­out?

With fairly lim­ited mar­ket­ing we’ve gone from zero to 36,000 regis­tered users – most achieved through ei­ther word of mouth or lim­ited click to in­stall ads on so­cial me­dia – and 300 out­lets across six cat­e­gories in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Aj­man, Shar­jah, RAK and Al Ain. We’re focusing at the mo­ment on Dubai but tak­ing on mer­chants who call from other emi­rates. We’re in the process of ac­quir­ing ad­di­tional fund­ing so I can ramp up the sales team. F&B is the most im­por­tant one (cat­e­gory) for us, be­cause peo­ple eat ev­ery day and might get their hair cut once a month. The big­gest amount any­body has saved with our app in a sin­gle voucher was Dh6,375, which was for half the term fees at Kidville Nurs­ery, when we first started. They paid Dh15 for the voucher; three cred­its. Our cus­tomer base is re­ally var­ied. We have the chair­man of a ma­jor pri­vate bank, CEOs of avi­a­tion com­pa­nies. I wanted to get to a point where a user was de­fined as some­body who does some­thing once a month.

What are your plans for VoucherSk­out?

We built the app to be en­tirely scal­able. We went with a credit sys­tem so in the fu­ture if we want to sell off city ter­ri­to­ries – if we prove the busi­ness model suc­cess­ful here – and some­body wants to take VoucherSk­out to Sin­ga­pore, all they have to do is buy the fran­chise rights and build the net­work. Any­body who bought credit bun­dles in Dubai and sub­se­quently flew to Sin­ga­pore would be able to use the same cred­its in the wal­let. That’s where the ex­cit­ing part starts to come in. We take some­thing and re­ally grow it. Even­tu­ally we might have an ex­ten­sive net­work where this credit sys­tem be­comes a univer­sal cur­rency.

David Dunn for The Na­tional

David To­bias says the idea for VoucherSk­out was a bolt from the blue that woke him up in the mid­dle of the night.

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