Faraz Khalid, CEO of noon
“The risk is not in the known incumbents - it is in new ideas that are coming through,” says Faraz Khalid, CEO of noon. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Whatever it takes – that’s the mindset needed to win the retail wars of the present.

“Customers will give you a shot - and once they do, you have got to do whatever it takes to keep them happy, said Faraz Khalid, CEO of noon, the e-retailer. “If you can deliver that package of convenience to the customer, they will reward you with loyalty.”

Overcoming the pandemic

Khalid said the pandemic helped noon to accelerate the digital transition in the retail and payment sector. He said it was about constant innovation, “[We] had to innovate and become a grocery company overnight and innovate and shift to almost 100 per cent digital payments overnight.”

He said in such a dynamic space [ecommerce companies] need to have a healthy scepticism for long-term planning. “It’s a dynamic multi-variate problem after the pandemic and moving along with that speed is what keeps us ahead of the rest.”

Talking about the digital ecommerce market and fending off global giants like Amazon, Khalid said the core of the noon business is about establishing a relationship with the consumer. “The mode might be digital, but at the end of the day, we are a retailer and people trust us to bring the convenience.”

Khalid, who co-founded online fashion retailer Namshi in 2012, focuses on improving noon’s infrastructure, particularly in Saudi Arabia, building its tech platform, and establishing partnerships. noon is a $1 billion joint venture between top-notch Gulf investors and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Compared to likes of South Korea (40 per cent) and China (30 per cent), the Gulf’s ecommerce volumes - at 5 per cent - has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to ecommerce penetration, he said. “This is the very start of something massive. These are the early rounds of revolution in the retail space and certainly an exciting time to be a part of some like this.”

“The central driving force for us is that we have been attracting a phenomenal group of people who believe that the future will be very different from the present. We are taking a long-term view of life and really building for the long term.”

Competing with Amazon

“Now, it seems sort of like somewhat real, but four years ago, it wasn’t,” said Khalid when asked about noon’s growth in the regional market. “Amazon had acquired a company here. How do you wake up in the morning and go battle with the scariest company in the history of capitalism?” he said. (On December 12, noon celebrated its fourth anniversary.)

“I am bullish that ecommerce will grow quite aggressively faster than most other parts of the world,” said Khalid while talking about the aggressive shift to digital sales channels. [We] have adopted the omnichannel route to cater to our customers. So that’s a hybrid of pure online coming from warehouses, ecommerce coming from stores, and then offline, grows and changes format and becomes more engaging from an entertainment experience perspective.”