Couple launches app that can make friends while you shop

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent) Filed on July 22, 2014
Couple launches app that can make friends while you shop

Founded by husband-wife duo Morrad Irsane and Sharene Lee, Melltoo Marketplace is a mobile app startup launched in the UAE and functions like a social media page.

There is a new way to get rid of the valuable, but unnecessary clutter in your household — Melltoo Marketplace.

Couple launches app that can make friends while you shop (/assets/oldimages/app2007.jpg)

Morrad Irsane shows how the Melltoo app works on his laptop as his family looks on in their office in Dubai Knowledge Village on Sunday. — KT photo by Mukesh Kamal

For example, take the photograph of an old office chair and upload it on Melltoo Marketplace along with a product description. The next thing you know is that your neighbour five buildings away wants to buy it.

Founded by husband-wife duo Morrad Irsane and Sharene Lee, Melltoo Marketplace is a mobile app startup launched in the UAE and functions like a social media page.

“Melltoo is very much like a Twitter and Instagram feed. The posts keep coming and we can scroll up and see what is new,” said Lee. “We like to say that we are a social networking app/site for buying and selling things. More than a place for buying and selling, Melltoo offers a safe, user-friendly experience for online shopping.

“From our market research, we found that when people post details on websites to sell products, they are sometimes bothered with unnecessary calls and messages late into the night. You can avoid all of that with Melltoo.”

Some of the security-conscious features of Melltoo are that users can keep their phone and e-mail details private, opting to chat with other sellers and buyers instead.

“The app has a little over 25,000 downloads and over 60 per cent of the active users are in Dubai,” said Irsane. “We have about 5,000 active users. The app is available across the GCC region.”

Apart from used items and rentals, Melltoo is also trying to encourage local artisans by selling their products on the app.

Apart from locally manufactured handicrafts, it encourages art that is imported from African, American, European and other Asian countries.

Irsane, an entrepreneur with French/Algerian roots, and his Singaporean wife Sharene launched the app in March 2014 from their house in Ras Al Khaimah. They said they launched the site in Dubai mainly to encourage and support the local business ecosystem.

“We want the local system to do well. That is one of the reasons we didn’t go to New York or Los Angeles to launch Melltoo Marketplace,” said Irsane. The duo invested Dh100,000 in the startup.

“However a lot of the funds went into paying for licences and settling into the country, as compared to actually paying for development of the app,” said Lee.

“At Melltoo, our aim is to help build a more sustainable economy by encouraging resale and reuse of personal belongings,” Irsane continued. “We are focused on building our community, both online and off, and to give back to our community because that is the cornerstone of sustainability.”


What is more social or enjoyable than sharing a meal together? This Ramadan, Melltoo Marketplace is hosting nightly virtual Iftars around the Twitter table. The aim is to build a more sustainable community by connecting UAE residents through the sharing of culture and cuisine.

The #halfAdate campaign has over 70K timeline views on Twitter. “The UAE is small and we want to create a sense of community among residents as a way to give back and support one another,” explained Melltoo Marketplace co-founder Morrad Irsane.

As part of the #halfAdate campaign, each night friends and followers of Melltoo share images of their Iftar with the hashtag #halfAdate to signal they are part of the movement.

“Part of sustainability is helping the less fortunate among us,” said Irsane. To this end, Melltoo is donating Dh5 for every ad posted on the mobile app with the hashtag #halfAdate.

“I was looking at my budget to see what I could use for charitable causes. I can’t cut on salaries or rent but there is an amount going to Facebook and Google for advertising. I would much rather give this money to charity.”

Melltoo wants to encourage the community to help the less fortunate among them by taking a simple action — posting an item for sale. While the sale proceeds go to the seller, Melltoo will donate Dh5 from its marketing budget for every ad posted during Ramadan. The fund will go to Human Appeal International UAE for their free Iftar programme. There has been a 60 per cent week-on-week increase in the number of ads posted on the app.

“Our hope is that this movement will make people realise that everyone has a part to play in creating a sustainable economy and that the place to start is from within our community.”

To learn more about the #halfAdate movement, visit and follow @MelltooMarket on Twitter.

Melltoo is available for downloading on iPhones and Androids.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for over ten years. For Khaleej Times, she covers NRI affairs, civil aviation, and immigration issues among other things. She completed her BA in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008 and is currently pursuing her MA in Leadership and Innovation in Contemporary Media at the American University in Dubai. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves food, and is mom to an over-enthusiastic Labrador retriever. Tweet at her @shootsprintrite.

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