Rayan, please tell us something about your academic and career background?
Yes, of course. I graduated with a degree in finance from Bentley University at Waltham, Massachusetts, which is nine miles west of Boston in the United States. The degree included credits in marketing and entrepreneurship. After graduating I went back to Saudi Arabia. I was interesting to work in consulting and starting my career there. I got a job with Deloitte’s consulting practice where I worked for two years with different clients and industries helping them in their operations.
How did the idea for Crate come about?
During my relatively short time at Deloitte I gained a lot of experience but I felt con- strained. Because I was at an entry-level position I was not able to do too much. I started working on different ideas and around July 2016, I came up with the idea for Crate. It actually started with my sister who had a business on Instagram selling cakes. I noticed she was facing a lot of issues in managing her business – tracking her financials, getting new customers, managing the orders and so forth. I wondered if other people had similar problems running businesses on Instagram. I brainstormed with friends and we decided to develop a questionnaire which we sent out to businesses on Instagram. After a short while, we got the answers and discovered that these kind of problems were very common. In Saudi Arabia there are a huge number of home-based businesses but there is no help or support available to them. That’s how Crate came into being. The idea was to provide services to home- based businesses. Together with three friends – Ribal Alkhatib, Abdul Malek bin Shihon and Bilal Sabri – we started the business in May 2017. I’m the CEO and responsible for managing the business and running the day to day operations. My partners help me with strategy and envisioning where we want the business to go in the future.
We had twenty-eight clients with us from day one. Today we have over sixty and so we’re very pleased about how fast the business is growing.
What are the different kinds of services you offer?
We help home-based businesses in two ways. First, we offer space in our retail store. This is a real brick-and-mortar store in Jeddah. We rent clients the space and the equipment they need based on the products they offer. So rather than trying to open your own store from the beginning which is costly, dealing with the government, finding employees, designing the store and so forth we let you avoid all the headache. You just rent a space in the store and start selling immediately. In addition to renting space in the store, we offer our clients our services in five principal areas sales, marketing, inventory management, delivery and market research.
Yes, of course. In terms of sales, we have a dedicated in-store sales team that sits down with the client to fully understand the business – the brand, the story, the products etc. – so that they can properly represent the client in the store. We send the client a sales report twice a month. In terms of marketing, we promote the client’s brand through in-store events to which we invite influencers and the general public to come and take a look at the products We also promote the brands online through creative stories and posts on Instagram. In terms of inventory management, every- thing in the store is barcoded so a client can know what products he or she has at any at moment in time. This ensures a client’s products are available and that customers find what they need. 80% of our clients are women and they struggle with finding a way to deliver their products to the store. So, we came up with the idea of a pick-up service which picks up the products from the client’s house and delivers it to the store. Finally, our ongoing market research focuses on customers and who exactly is buying the client’s products. We try to figure out the target markets for each brand in terms of gender, age group, customer feedback and other factors. In addition, we identify the brand’s top performing products so the client knows where to invest time and money. We also give the client feedback on pricing, branding, social media to help the client grow and develop the business.
What is your vision for the future of Crate?
Well, in short, our aim is to be the number one service provider for any home-based start-up in Saudi Arabia. Clients can come to us and test their idea and actually see if their products work in the market. Our vision is to expand Crate to Riyadh and then throughout Saudi Arabia and possibly into other GCC markets. We believe home-based business is set to grow. Consumers are always going to be interested in home-made or hand-made products. We already have people coming to our store from different countries and they all ask us why we don’t open stores in those countries.
Our aim is to assist clients to introduce their products to the market and grow into established businesses. In a sense, we see ourselves as a stepping stone. Once they reach a certain level they don’t need us anymore. One of our clients who manufactures chocolate was with us for just a year and was then able to open a store. This proves our business model works.
Vision 2030 focuses on the need to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy. Rather than focusing on oil we need to focus on so many other industries such as technology, healthcare, retail to name just a few. I believe entrepreneurs will lead the way. Entrepreneurs are people who are willing to take risks to create a business from scratch and it’s those businesses that will enable the Saudi economy to grow. They are like the thread in the needle that can turn Vision 2030 into a reality.