While the number of online shopping portals have shot up and the volume of transactions grow exponentially, not many ventures have been able to record consistent profitability. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: There is no question that starting a business is a challenging affair. Many people, who think they have a great product or service, are often put off by the high start-up costs.

Fortunately, for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) or individuals who have something to sell but can’t afford to set up a physical shop, there is a new initiative being introduced in the UAE and it could just be the answer to their start-up woes.

DubaiStore, the first local online marketplace to cater to home-based businesses (e-traders) and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is scheduled to go live in the third quarter of the year, and eventually, even expatriates can access the programme and sell their products.

This was announced on Sunday by Digital Economy Solutions (DES), a joint venture between emaratech and the Department of Economic Development of Dubai (DED).

According to a source at DES, the e-commerce site will allow home-based traders in the UAE to sell their items legally online or promote their business, and they don’t have to worry about the high costs associated with starting a business. It will be able to create and manage online stores and orders, and provide analytics and advisory services to traders.

At the moment, however, the programme is open only to nationals in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, but it will eventually be available to expatriates at the “future stage,” Abdallah Hassn Ahmed Hassan, CEO of DES, told Gulf News.

Those who are interested can use the platform as long as they secure a license from the DED for a cost of only Dh1,370 per year. They also need to present a proof of identification and bank account.

“DubaiStore aims to support the economic growth of Dubai by encouraging e-commerce as an efficient trading channel, government by Dubai’s laws and regulations. It is a government initiative under the operational control of DES,”  Hassan said.

According to DES, the the features of DubaiStore include:

1. Elevated brand identity through distinct company/brand logo, name and description;

2. A dedicated e-store within the marketplace;

3. Enhanced customer interaction through onsite message centre between the seller and the consumer, and various messenger and social media integrations including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram;

4. A level of autonomy of operational and commercial functionalities, controlled by the merchants, such as defining product bundles, using their own pickup locations and their own courier service;

5. Integrated ‘noqodi’ payment gateway to facilitate online payments as well as integration with ZAJEL courier service to facilitate deliveries;

6. Increased confidence in consumers due to marketplace affiliation with DED and its departments such as the Commercial Compliance & Consumer Protection, which guarantees consumer rights, fair trading and the participation of 100 per cent trusted licensed businesses;

7. Exposure through the marketing activities of DubaiStore;

8. Full guidance and assistance with regards to on-boarding process and store management.