Aladdin.life, a UAE-based startup is looking to disrupt the retail landscape in the UAE and the wider region.
The company is expanding its current online marketplace for mobile and broadband services to a smart, multi-sector, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain-enabled shopping and rewards platform. Customers get 100 per cent value back when shopping on the platform in the form of discounts on its online Reward Store.
At the outset, the new Aladdin Magic platform is targeting mobile service users to reach the UAE’s largest consumer segment and offer them greater value. The 100 per cent value back will soon be extended to multiple sectors through partnerships with brands and retailers, online and offline.
The promoters are activists for digital sustainability, digital access as a consumer right, and see an era of smart spending in the aftermath of the Covid-19 outbreak.
While the Covid-19 period brought to focus the importance of the telecom sector, there are urgent issues in the sector which the founders also seek to address with this venture.
Global research shows that a lack of clarity when buying plans, and low consumer confidence in their current price plans and bills are key issues in the $1.1 (Dh4.04) trillion mobile industry with five billion users.
Significantly, telecom operators worldwide are struggling with exponential growth in consumer data consumption without commensurate growth in customer spending, thereby reducing investment capacity to continuously upgrade network infrastructure and build more capacity.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) data suggests that the global investment gap in digital infrastructure will reach $251 (Dh921.25) billion in 2025 and $456 (Dh1,674.93) billion in 2030.
“Consumer buying behaviour in service industries is shifting towards online comparison engines and marketplaces. Look at the travel, financial services and insurance industries. Consumer behaviour today involves online research for discovery and comparisons before purchase. Such a comparison engine cum marketplace was missing in the telecom sector in the region,” said Subhra Das, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of aladdin.life and a former senior executive with 25 years’ experience in the telecom and digital sector.
Das, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, and Harvard Business School (HBS) has been in Dubai since 2005. He has held several chief marketing officer (CMO) roles for telecom operators in Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa. In the region, he was the founding executive president (EVP), marketing of du (2006-13), chief commercial Officer (CCO) of Ooredoo Oman, and the founding CEO of digital mobile operator Jawwy-STC in Saudi Arabia. Other key positions were at telecom operations owned by Vodafone, Orange, Airtel, Glo and Lebara Mobile Europe.
“The emerging consumer consciousness is about smart spending and in areas that are either essential or purposeful and matter deeply to them. However, navigating the current world of discounts and offers from a myriad of brands and retailers can be confusing and overwhelming. We want to make shopping, and telecom shopping in particular, effortless and rewarding through simplicity and gamification,” said Das.
Consumers get 100 per cent value back for their monthly spending on telecom plans, prepaid recharges and purchase of devices. The value back is given in the form of discounts from various leading brands and merchants. For every one dirham that customers spend, they receive one dirham of discount on the online Aladdin Reward store.
The Reward Store features thousands of consumer electronic products in 16 categories, including smartphones, tablets, computers and accessories. The Reward store is being extended to other categories and offline retailers.
Customers are credited with Aladdin Reward Coins when they shop on aladdin.life. Existing consumers of UAE telecom operators can get full value back every month for six months by a single action of sending a screenshot of their latest summary bill page via WhatsApp to aladdin.life’s business account. The coins are then used for the discounts.
Users’ digital access is effectively going to be “free” as customers offset their monthly cost of telecom services with discounts from multiple leading brands and sellers in relevant sectors.
Customers get to spend every dirham in a smart way. They will be able to save more money and have more freedom to spend on daily necessities or invest in growth.
For telecom operators, the 100 per cent Value Back Rewards becomes the world’s first such programme designed to increase customer confidence, affordability and spending in the telecom sector, together with the potential to boost telecom operator’s revenues, profitability and investment capacity. As a global first, the platform will increase consumer’s buying power for telecom services with the contributions from brands and sellers to eventually uplift the telecom sector and ensure digital sustainability.
Besides, the platform will help brands and sellers to manage their acquisition and retention costs efficiently and enable them to support consumer’s right to digital access.
“By the end of this year, we aim to be in several markets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Our mobile and broadband online marketplace is currently available in the UAE. We’re getting ready to roll out the marketplace in Egypt this month, followed by Saudi and other countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. Our 100 per cent value back shopping platform for telcos is live in the UAE. We’re focusing on extending its scope to cover multiple retail sectors in the UAE for now. We intend to roll out this platform to Saudi Arabia and Egypt by the end of this year,” said Ganpat Singh Rajput, a serial tech entrepreneur and the co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) of the startup.
He was also the co-founder of Infibeam, one of India’s first marketplace technology companies with successful listing in the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in 2016. Infibeam powers Reliance’s Jio Mart and the procurement platform for the Indian government e-marketplace (GeM). Rajput, who divides his time between the USA and India, is an information technology (IT) professional for the past 20 years.
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