The SME Story
A healthy meal subscription app, a tech solution to solving workflow problems among deskless frontline workers and a sustainable jewellery company are on our radar this month
Interviews with entrepreneurs and insights from experts on how the regional SME ecosystem is evolving
What were you doing before you started Count’d?
I previously co-founded Under500, a healthy food brand that was the first restaurant to publish each meal’s macros on food delivery aggregators. Under500 has proven itself as the leading brand out of the 100+ brands on the Kitopi platform and has the highest retention.
The process to start Count’d has gone over a number of iterations during the past year. We saw a large market need based on a customer research process, numerous discussions with industry professionals, the global trends we are witnessing and personal frustrations that we faced as we looked to eat healthier.
What is the USP of Count’d?
Count’d is a personalised healthy meal subscription app that leverages insights in real-time to achieve health goals. We do this by offering on-demand curated healthy meals from the health-food restaurants in the city. Count’d offers a simple and effective experience where customers can easily browse and select healthy meals, connect with their fitness tracking wearables and manage their goals – all in one place.
With over 300 healthy meal options from restaurants in the city such as Little Erth, Fitness Feedz and BR8 Kitchen, customers now have the option to subscribe to one, two or three healthy meals per day. Orders can be pre-scheduled for the entire month, with all calories and macros accounted for. We have partnered with cloud kitchens and a number of individual restaurants, where we work with 20+ brands at the moment.
What is the potential market size of the nutrition and wellness tracking market within the UAE/GCC region?
This is an addressable wellness market of $1bn in the UAE and approximately $3bn in the GCC. Dubai Fitness Challenge alone has a million active participants. We also have 400+ gyms in Dubai. We understand that coming out of Covid, people are looking to eat healthy and be mentally and physically fit, however many do not have the time or the energy to plan and prepare their meals.
What are some of the further innovations you plan on the app?
Personalised nutrition is expected to be a $64bn industry by 2024. We are doing considerable research by talking to our target market of millennials, working professionals and wellness enthusiasts. They want more personalisation and hence we are building a product that caters to their needs. In theory, we should receive custom nutrition advice based on our individual biology or genetic profile. With that goal in mind, we will look to engineer individualised diets.
What are your expansion plans for the business?
We are currently only in Dubai, and plan to start operating in Abu Dhabi by October 2021. In 2022, we will enter Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain followed by other international markets.
The one lesson of entrepreneurship that you learnt the hard way?
There have been many, but an important one that I learnt was that things always take longer than we plan or expect. As entrepreneurs, we tend to be very bullish and optimistic, which is extremely important. However, in reality, building a business can cost more and take more time. This impacts the budget, cash flow, fundraising process and the goto-market strategy.
One solution is to onboard experienced advisors to learn the best processes and manage expectations.
Founder and CEO, Arrow Labs What is the concept of Arrow Labs?
Arrow Labs provides a solution to make deskless work simpler, better and more productive for frontline workers. We work to solve the disconnect by bringing innovative digital tools through the MIMS platform to empower frontline workers with technology to increase productivity and digital contribution to their organisations. The MIMS platform connects workers to the back office from the field and orchestrates daily workflows and tasks to be executed with simplicity.
What prompted you to start Arrow Labs?
Spending close to 10 years in [the] corporate [world], working in technology focused on the public sector, it became apparent to me that there was a huge gap in access to tools between frontend and backend operations. While there were a plethora of tools available for the digitalisation of back-office operations, the frontline relied on rudimentary and archaic tools such as clipboards, walkie talkies and paper forms to capture information and execute workflows. This gap created challenges in the streamlined flow of information, often leading to loss of critical data due to the disconnect, as well as loss in efficiency due to lack of access to real-time information by frontline workers. Something had to be done to address this problem that affects close to 80 per cent of the workforce globally.
Give us a sense of the scale of the current business?
Today we serve clients in MENA, the US, UK, mainland Europe and South East Asia. The Arrow Labs MIMS platform serves top tier enterprise customers in telecom, oil and gas, logistics and utilities. [We work] with customers such as Bnet, Linde, G4S, and DP World, to name a few. The team is expected to exponentially grow over the coming 18 months to about 60 people, onboarding talent in the US, Europe and MENA.
Towards what end will the $5m Series A funding you received from Tim Draper be used?
The strength of our platform has led us to partner with Draper Associates, Global Ventures and B&Y. We continue to invest in developing our AI capabilities to connect data sources, analyse and automate workflows, as well as invest in resources to expand our offering in the US market and MENA and onboard thousands of new frontline workers with the MIMS digital tools. Our goal is to build a global category leader to connect 80 per cent of the deskless workforce.
What are some of the future areas of uses/industries where MIMS can potentially be deployed?
MIMS was designed from inception to serve as a
horizontal fully modular platform with plug and play capabilities that allow our customers ultimate flexibility in choosing options to solve gaps and pain points in their existing technology stack from the first lines of codes. We believe what the market needs is this flexible horizontal platform rather than limited vertical solutions.
The outlook for the future is bright with much untapped potential in mining, transport infrastructure, construction and others. Just recently, we launched MIMS Optimise, a machine learning based route optimisation-centric capacity planning and task distribution system to provide an optimal solution on distributing service work orders to field personnel, based on skill, booking time, routes, travel time and equipment availability. We are now exploring new potential developments involving IoT sensors and machine vision technologies that will pave the way for exciting new features in the near future.
Emanuel Brendarou Founder and CEO, Terrasuya You have a background in consulting at Bain and also fashion. How did that lead to Terrasuya?
I found the perfect intersection between the two things I enjoy: being part of building a company that works as a positive force in our communities, whilst also creating elegant everyday accessories and making these accessible to everyone. I felt like the timing was right after years of advising in the region and finally decided to make the jump.
There are plenty of jewellery and accessory brands in the market. Why did you decide to start another?
That’s right, there are many different brands out there. But there’s always room to introduce new ideas in a different and better way. With Terrasuya, we strive to build a GCC native brand that incorporates cultural elements into the company DNA. On top of this, we still see a window to design and sell elegant accessories in an affordable segment. To date, brands in the GCC are predominantly international, of which many are focusing on the higher price ranges.
What are some of the core collections at Terrasuya?
Our core collection combines earrings, bracelets and necklaces handcrafted in gold vermeil. Most pieces have been designed with a minimalistic orientation. As we grow, we’re looking to introduce more bold pieces, incorporating local elements and inspiration from our surroundings. I think this will become more evident with our next collection – which will be pearl oriented. We’re very excited about that launch later this year.
What is your approach to sustainability?
We look at sustainability across different layers, with the product at the core. This is where we’re currently focusing, by designing quality products that last longer, while also trying to promote a quality-oriented mindset rather than constantly pushing volume through discounts. To us, real sustainability starts with addressing product lifetime and the way we “consume”. Further to this, we only work with selected production partners based on local certifications that require compliance to high sustainability standards. However, we’re still a young brand, and at this scale, it’s very hard to control every step of the value chain.
What is the size of your operations at the moment?
We’re still just at the beginning of our journey, with the brand being introduced in early 2021. Our focus is to provide the best customer experience in the GCC. We offer free delivery in the UAE and Saudi Arabia today, with same-day delivery in Dubai. As we grow, we’ll be eyeing new markets outside of the region as well – we already see traction in some of the larger European markets. Today we mostly sell through online channels – mainly our website – but we’re also looking into expanding offline via retail partners in the GCC.
What are some of the main challenges you are facing when trying to scale Terrasuya?
Finding new ways to reach customers at a lower cost is one of the main challenges for any online oriented business today. In the last decade, we’ve seen many success stories that rode the wave of influencers and/or various digital marketing channels. Many of these channels have now become saturated, with prices increasing significantly, accelerated even further by the coronavirus [pandemic]. We’re working towards a five-year roadmap – with the ambition to grow Terrasuya into a global brand.