Conversation with Wafir Manakad,
CEO- Mabel

  • Wafir, your entrepreneurial journey has been really inspirational! Could you please share your experience with us?
  • Technology has always fascinated me, especially when it can be used to make people’s lives easier. I have a background in mechanical engineering, and had a stint at Daimler for a couple of years. The inspiration behind starting up was simply the desire to build something valuable, and we are on our way to achieve that.
    There have been plenty of challenges over the past year, but we somehow manage to overcome them as we move forward. Regular pivots have been a part of the journey, and I can foresee a roller-coaster ride up ahead.
  • You talked about the inspiration behind launching a startup, do share with us how Mabel came around and the story behind it?
  • The beauty and wellness industry has largely been offline in the UAE until recently. The per capita spend is one of the highest in the world, and the booking process is something that we felt could be made easier.
    We built Mabel to help people discover venues and book their appointments online. We are essentially in the business of saving people their time, by reducing the average wait time at salons (currently this is around 15 minutes in the UAE).
  • We understand that the the inspiration behind Mabel was to help common people. How far do you think technological movements in the UAE are contributing towards this goal and how are the common people reacting to it?
  • Traditionally offline industries such as beauty and wellness, food delivery and transport are all coming online at a quick pace. More importantly, the adoption and acceptance of these platforms by the population has been pretty impressive.
    The country is known to take up challenging projects, and the most recent one is the Hyperloop One led by Colin Rhys. Apparently, it can take you from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (150 kms) in 12 minutes.
  • Speaking of challenges in the field of technology when it comes to the UAE, could you shed some light on the specific challenges faced by you?
  • Establishing a company in the UAE was easier than anticipated. The systems in place are designed to help companies set up shop quickly and efficiently. The policies and regulations defining what technology companies can do and not do are very clear. Although our company is registered in Dubai with a local partner, many tech startups here choose to setup their company in a ‘Freezone’, which is a great alternative for young expats.
  • How would you describe the attitude of the government and the role it has played in supporting entrepreneurship in the UAE?
  • The government is playing a significant role in supporting entrepreneurs with ideas that will benefit the ecosystem as a whole. Various incubators, both private and government-backed, have come up recently in the UAE.
    We are lucky to have visionary thinkers at the helm, who are helping accelerate the growth of entrepreneurship locally. Setting up a company is easier than ever, and the policies in place are clear in terms of the limits a company has. Companies setup in Freezones do not require a local partner, and such a company can usually be incorporated in a couple of days.
  • Can you elaborate more on the current trends in E-commerce in the UAE?
  • The UAE is witnessing a very exciting phase of growth in the adoption of technology companies, due to various factors. The region has an internet penetration of 92%, high disposable income in most age groups, and the ability to attract great talent from all over the world.
    The ecommerce market is predicted to reach $10b by 2020, which is a staggering figure considering the relatively small size of the geography. Digital payment is still an area that has huge potential for improvement, with the major payment methods being cards and cash.
  • Given your understanding of the market and ecosystem, which e-commerce companies would you say are leading in the UAE?
  • Careem was the latest startup to join the unicorn club in the country. They are a homegrown company competing directly with Uber, and have a larger market share currently. Souq.com was recently acquired by Amazon for $650 million.
    Noon.com , backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is set to compete strongly with Amazon’s Souq in the GCC.
  • Taking que from the acquisition and backing of these startups, do you see Mabel being backed by an investor anytime soon?
  • Funding is definitely possible and we have had multiple offers. But we want to really stay true to our core mission and hence have rejected offers to get funded. We will try to bootstrap as much as possible.
  • This has been quite eye-opening! Thankyou! Coming to our last question, how would you say Codilar Technologies has been instrumental in helping you achieve your objectives?
  • Codilar has been instrumental in developing our platform. There were many challenges throughout the development phase, but each one was overcome with efficient solutions. Collaboration and project management was done well, and I look forward to continue working with Codilar.