Welcome to another installment of our entrepreneur of the month series. Our goal for this series is to introduce some of the key business leaders across the Arab world and share their insights on how the region is evolving.
This week we’re chatting with Kareem Elkady from The Sports Shop (TSS) to learn how excellent customer service can build loyalty and differentiate you from the competition.
What was the inspiration for The Sports Shop?
As a football fan, I was always interested in the authentic European club products. I rarely found these items in Egypt, and I knew there were many football fans like me facing the same lack of supply.
Even though I was very eager to see the official stores of the biggest European clubs open in Egypt, I knew that was unlikely and it would take an entrepreneur to capitalize on the demand. I truly believed that I could be the person to make it happen but for a long time I felt the obstacles would be too big and my resources too limited.
However, around a year ago, there was no doubt that demand was growing, particularly for European leagues and UEFA Champions League merchandise. So I decided to give it a try. The idea was to start as small and simple as possible and see how it goes. Over time, what had started as products sold over social media quickly turned into a dynamic, high-variety website that, thankfully, was well-received by our target market.
This success didn’t come over night though – the first 6 products I sold made a loss after shipping and customs were factored in. But that didn’t deter me. Next thing I knew, I was leaving my full-time job to keep up with a rapidly growing business. Now our mission is to be the biggest online sports shop in Egypt, ME and Africa by offering latest products and providing exceptional customer service.
What differentiates you from other competitors in the region?
If I had to summarize what makes us different it would have to be:
- Our flexible customer experience (Easy-to- use website, loyalty program, friendly customer service, fast delivery and returns/exchange policy)
- Our partnerships with some of the biggest European clubs
- Exclusive online store for Zamalek club
- 100% original and authentic products
- Official distributor for a number of football merchandise producers globally
Do you feel ecommerce in the Middle East is still maturing? Are there any obstacles that are impacting The Sports Shop’s growth?
While e-commerce in the Middle East has developed greatly in the last few years, we still have miles to go. If we take Egypt as an example, only 8% of those who are online actually shop on the internet.
The main focus for all online retailers in Egypt should be to raise awareness about the flexibility and credibility of online shopping. If the industry can continue sell the benefits of ecommerce I expect that online shopping penetration will continue to grow.
What role has social media played in growing your business?
A vital one! As mentioned before, it was how it all started, and if we hadn’t received the proper demand at the start, we wouldn’t have been where we are now.
How is cash on delivery impacting your business? Is it a useful tool for completing sales?
The option of allowing customers to pay for their products at their doorstep has played an important role in gaining customers trust. Given that the concept of online shopping is still relatively uncommon throughout Egypt, allowing customers to see the product and pay on arrival has helped bring us closer to our customers and build our credibility.
There is also the fact that only 2.5M people across Egypt own a credit card, so providing the option to pay on delivery is a vital tool for reaching our customers.
What advice would you give to new start-ups in the region?
Persistence makes all the different. If you have a clear vision, work towards it – no matter the obstacles you come across.
The fact that we live amidst an emerging market is both a blessing and a curse – we have many opportunities, but they are paired with a number of hurdles. It is up to you to persevere through the challenges and come out successful on the other side.
Have a question for Kareem? Be sure to leave a comment or reach out on their Twitter at @TheSportsShopEG.