It would be a huge mistake to think that auctions are popular only in Europe or America. In fact, people in Asia and the Middle East are no less interested in auction business and white-label auction software solutions. We at Merkeleon recognized this demand. Thus, we have made provisions for a quick and easy start for online auction businesses from these regions one of the key priorities in our auction software development.
We have already added the Arab language version and right-to-left (RTL) layout support to the Merkeleon platform. But we are not going to stop here. In order to better understand the needs of online auction businesses in the Middle East, we met the founder of one of the largest new online auctions in Kuwait.
Vadim, Head of Business Development at Merkeleon: Today we are meeting the CEO and founder of Ebtikar Smart Solutions Dr. Memdoh Naji, who is also a scientist, an international IT consultant, an entrepreneur and above all a passionate motorcycle rider. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to meet with you.
Memdoh: Hello Vadim. it’s my pleasure to be here and thank you for the introduction.
Vadim: For starters, tell us, what do you like about the area your project is focused on?
Memdoh: Well, Vadim, I am one of the few lucky people to be able to combine my hobby with my career. iPillion.io is a smart fully customized auction platform that brings riders together. In creating and developing this platform I get to use my knowledge in AI, Data science, Digital Marketing, System Integration and IT in general to improve the riders’ lifestyle and resolve the challenges my fellow riders face.
Vadim: You are lucky for sure. So, what’s your big goal with iPillion?
Memdoh: Before I talk about my goal, allow me to explain the original idea behind iPillion.
Vadim: Please do.
Memdoh: In 2018 I have noticed that technology was not serving the riders and motorcyclist segment the way it should. When I started to look into the lifestyle of riders and the challenges they faced I found a room for improvement. This can be achieved through the utilization of the latest technology. Apart from few low feature non-comprehensive applications, riders have nothing to help them improve their lifestyle and overcome their challenges. For example, there is hardly any application that addresses the management of riding events, clubs, sponsors and trips. So I thought about building this application for the rider. A feature-rich platform delivered to the rider through electronic delivery channels (Mobile, Web, …etc). One of the iPillion application modules was the auction which was originally planned to be added at a later phase.. However, the pandemic made me rethink my priorities. Instead of starting with the application, I figured riders will need the auction first so they can sell and purchase whatever they need online. Hence, my plan to start an auction business appeared and the more I spend on research the more I know that it will take months and a big upfront investment before I can go live should I go with custom development. So I looked for ready-made platforms. The more I evaluated the more pessimistic I got. Most platforms I came across required further developments to meet my requirements and out-of-the-box features hardly matched 40% of my needs. The only platform that scored 75% in features and 85% in cost efficiency was Merkeleon. So the answer to your question, my biggest goal was to serve the riders and offer them a platform to trade and consume services, improve their lifestyle and to overcome their challenges.
Vadim: Quite a story. So did the pandemic actually affect your decision?
Memdoh: Off course. This is the entrepreneur’s intuition to be vigilant, seize the opportunity and act accordingly.
Vadim: What are the biggest challenges and market opportunities for online auctions in the Middle East region, especially in your industry?
Memdoh: In my opinion, we are very much behind the curve when it comes to online trade in general and online auction in particular. We still do the conventional way of conducting auctions which has many disadvantages and above all are the limited availability time and transaction security. The biggest challenge I will face is customer trust in the platform. This was the main reason I have decided to use Merkeleon. Knowing the company history, the budget spent on security and the company client references gave me a lot of comfort that my clients data is safe. People can securely trade and they are sure that their bid and transactions are always dealt with according to the latest standard. As for the potential, its huge and iPillion is only the tip of the iceberg. I already have many people asking me for information on how to setup an online auction. In fact very soon we are launching a Jewelry auction. So I have a question for you, Vadim: is Merkeleon ready for this potential in the market? I came to know that you have signed a huge deal with a large organization which might consume all your resources.
Vadim: Yes, we see an incredible growth in the auction software requests in the last 6 months and we think this is caused by multiple reasons such as pandemic (which caused a lot of changes in the internal business processes worldwide) and growing interest in the blockchain auctions. We’re growing our in-house tech team in accordance with our expansion plans for new regions such as the Middle East and for the enterprise market. In Q1 2021 we have hired two new engineers for the dev team. Yesterday we got a commitment from another experienced backend developer, but we are still hiring new talented PHP engineers to join us anyway. With our latest projects we are making some improvements in our internal product development processes in order to optimize the delivery and extend the basic online auction bidding software package functionalities to make them applicable and universal for almost all of the industries or use scenarios. I have to mention that, we don’t plan to switch our focus to enterprises from small and midsize businesses (SMB) fully, because we do understand how important it is for these businesses to have a cost-efficient flexible auction software solution which could be used as a core and customized finally in the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) version to enter the market ASAP and explore the huge potential using bidding mechanism in their day-to-day business processes.
Memdoh: Great so you are ready for us and we will not see any delay in your support!
Vadim: Which one of those challenges cost you the most time and money (*for example payment systems and auction management software)?
Memdoh: For me I would say it’s payments systems. In our region we are behind the curve in our payments systems and there is no support for our local currency in PayPal.
Vadim: How are you currently dealing with this problem?
Memdoh: We had to revert to $USD to overcome this issue but we hit another challenge with our local payment gateway as they only accept local currency. However, Merkleon came up with a solution and implemented it successfully. Now I have the luxury of trading for $USD in PayPal and at the same time use our local payment gateway to pay in KWD. I have to say that on many occasions the staff at Merkeleon shared their experience even with issues related to business and helped us to make the right decision.
Vadim: I am happy to hear that and I’ll give the staff a tap on the shoulder. You don’t mind me asking, how much time and money have you spent trying to solve this problem?
Memdoh: This is a tricky question. Merkeleon was a real partner. They were anxious for me to succeed and stay within my budget. Although the solution has consumed more time than anticipated I still stayed within my budget. I believe this will answer your question.
Vadim: Have you stopped looking for a better online auction software solution? If Yes, when did you settle with the best available solution?
Memdoh: I already answered this Q I don’t think we need to continue.
Vadim: What’s good about competitive bidding platforms available on the online market?
Memdoh: Higher level of customization such as changing colors and logos of the platform without the need for starting a full-fledged development.
Vadim: So are you saying that we need to enhance our customization?
Memdoh: What I am saying is I can do everything I need and it’s rare that I will be changing my logo. But for startups changing themes and logos may happen a lot more often, although it’s not that critical. As for the customization – our system admin is doing most of the work without the need to revert back to Merkeleon. So we are good.
Vadim: What plans do you have for the coming year?
Memdoh: Seizing the opportunity is the most important skill for an entrepreneur. Having an idea is one thing and implementing the idea is another. With Merkeleon I was able to turn my idea to reality in no time. I can’t imagine the challenges I would face should I decide to develop our own platform. Accordingly, I will be creating many auction platforms to serve different segments and communities. Next month we are launching our Jewelry auction, after that our car auction and so on. I can’t expose the rest at the moment.
Vadim: We are ready for you. Dr. Memdoh, I enjoyed this conversation and thank you so much for your time. We are looking forward to working with you on your initiatives. We have a backlog of enhancements to our current system most of which we have learned through our interaction with clients such as yourself.
Memdoh: Thank you, Vadim, it was my pleasure.