An online shop for mums run by mums

December 31, 2013 | By RetailME Bureau, a Dubai-based e-commerce portal for mothers shopping for their new-borns to 12-year-olds, is more than the sum of its several parts. CEO Mona Ataya founded the company in 2011 to ‘empower mothers to make the most informed decisions for their families’ by offering them an online option to shop intelligently and at leisure for their offspring. She has now taken empowerment to the next level, ‘revolutionising’ options for women by offering them investment opportunities in the portal so they can become financially independent while contributing to society – without compromising their children’s upbringing.

“Educated working women are almost always confronted by a difficult choice – whether to stay at home or go back to work post childbirth. Our women-only investment opportunity seeks to give these mothers the chance to again contribute, either as silent investors or active workers. They can invest in a business they believe in to become financially independent. That’s not all. With almost 50% of our staff being mothers, we are a brand for mums by mums. They understand the psychographics of a mother, having used our website extensively in the past, so they are extremely passionate about ensuring that each product we retail is useful and of highest quality,” observes Ataya.

How it all started

But let’s first go back a bit in time and begin from the beginning to understand this evolution in thinking. Ataya is a Palestinian-American who grew up in Kuwait, graduated with double honours in marketing and finance, joined Proctor and Gamble in the US when she was 21, shifted to Johnson & Johnson in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and then joined her brother in Dubai in 2000 to help develop his into the largest recruitment portal in the Middle East.

She opted for motherhood in 2003, which led to a prolonged break in her corporate career, following which she decided to get back into the workforce, but this time pursuing a business that would give her enough flexibility without compromising her role as a care-giver. It wasn’t difficult to make the choice, given the problems she had faced when shopping for her children during their growing years in brick-and-mortar stores.



“As a mother I felt frustrated when shopping in offline stores. I always felt I was not given enough choice or information about products and brands so it wasn’t easy making sensible purchases at the right price. Since then, products, stores and choices have proliferated several-fold, further complicating things for parents, who are now looking for easy and transparent yet comprehensive shopping options. Like me, they want to search for products, compare prices and make purchases at their convenience. That’s why I set up in November 2011 in both English and Arabic languages, a month after introducing the concept on the website,” recalls Ataya.

There was no looking back in her ambition to make the online market leader in mother-and-baby shopping, the must-visit destination built by mothers for mothers. Within a month of going online the portal was offering 15,000 products, selling 60,000 SKUs in the first year. It multiplied its sales 23-fold and grew its number of registered users six-fold within 18 months. With their number expected to touch 200,000 by 2014, it stocks 90,000 products today, including the latest apparel, nursing equipment, educational toys, books, furniture, prams and strollers and so on, making it the largest mother-and-child store in the MENA region.

Euromonitor International valued the baby-and-toy segment in MENA at $8 billion in 2010 while the total e-commerce market in the region is expected to touch $15 billion by 2015. So the potential for growth is explosive. A year after its launch, was the most-visited online baby retailer in the Middle East with over 1.2 million visitors and sales growing 50% quarter-on-quarter. Visitors spend around an hour on the site, averaging 60 page-views per visitor, almost ten-fold the average on other e-commerce sites. Customer loyalty hovers around 45%, with repeat customers visiting for 3-to-4 buys.

“Last year we shipped to 20 countries – GCC, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Spain and Australia – and continue to receive enquiries from across the world, given our vast portfolio of Middle Eastern, European and American brands offeredat competitive prices. MENA is our focal region, more specifically the GCC, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar being some of our biggest markets,” reveals Ataya.

Building life-long relationships with mothers’s range of local, regional and global brands for families includes more than 250 brands, 70% from regional suppliers and manufacturers and 30% exclusive to the portal, whose core audience comprises mothers of children aged 0-to-4 years, although the site offers products for children aged up to 12 years.

“We hold the hands of these mothers. Spoilt for choice, they feel lost, not knowing how to shop for their first-born. We provide all the information to help them decide what to buy. Our dialogue begins even earlier, with would-be mothers and the maternity products they might require. The relationship builds up over the years as they shop for their growing children, so they get to feel a sense of comfort buying products from,” Ataya shares.

“It’s natural for a would-be mother to consider all available brands across a category, be it a bed, stroller, diapers or pyjamas. Every consumer is different. We always bear this in mind while selecting brands for their quality and pricing. Take the example of our stroller segment. It has a wide range of brands in different price points to cater to a wider audience. Our brands range from Chicco and Philips Avent to Graco, Orbit Baby, Maclaren and Quinny, Lego, Disney, Mattel, Lamaze and OshKosh B’Gosh,” explains Ataya. has regional bestsellers, global award winners, unique finds and everyday must haves, including products not available in the MENA such as Irish brand Clevamama, whose range of cushions and pillows is globally popular. “For example, the Clevamama Clevasleep Positioner elevates the baby to aid digestion and ease any discomfort caused by reflux, colic or nasal congestion. Another of my favourites is Cocoona Baby, which helps position babies to sleep on their back by perfectly supporting their spine while preventing the flat head syndrome. Then there’s the Dr Brown’s range of baby feeding products – offering several benefits such as preventing reflux by not allowing gas to go in while the baby is drinking water from the bottle. All these are among our fast selling products, with the Arabic scrabble being a best-seller,” she elaborates.

“Mothers like their children to look good, so they are fond of dressing them up, especially the girls. This drives sales of our accessories segment, which is not really among our best-selling segments because these products are good to have but not mandatory. We do not offer too many electronic items but strongly advocate books that help develop a child’s curiosity, knowledge base and vocabulary. In fact, we have signed up with Oxford Books to offer popular titles such as the Oxford dictionary, Oxford general knowledge series and the Beef and Chips series, among others. We plan to do a lot more in this space,” Ataya asserts.

Leveraging the e-commerce platform

“I believe e-commerce is the single biggest trend of the decade. We see more and more stores and brands the world over looking to establish an online presence. The reason is simple – the consumer is changing. Consumers maintaining a busy lifestyle now look for convenience as well as transparency, which they find in the online medium. has been meeting these needs and performing quite well, exceeding our expectations on multiple KPIs. Our goal is to become an indispensable online extension of amother’s life, delivering her expectations every single time,” observes Ataya.

She points out that items ordered online are delivered within 2-to-3 working days in the UAE, 5-to-7 days for the region and 7-to-10 days for the rest of the world, with door-to-door delivery being free for all orders over AED200 to any address within the UAE. Moreover, if a consumer is unhappy with an item it can be returned within a week in its original condition and packaging. Or if a product is unavailable on the site the company claims it will procure it for you.

“New technology is what ensures high expertise levels. You need to understand the technology, supply chain, logistics and the entire infrastructure when launching an e-commerce brand. The courier system and payment gateway must allow you to take the platform forward. If the courier system is not efficient, you cannot accommodate huge volumes. Another crucial element is acquisition of talent with the required skill-set. Then there are the consumers, who tend to be hesitant, following a trial-and-error methodology, because the online platform is still new to the Middle East. However, the scenario is changing as consumers are gradually taking to the e-commerce platform. I strongly believe the online space in the region will evolve significantly over the next five years,” she believes.

“We always try to do things differently, raising the bar in terms of quality standards and expertise. It’s still early days for us so there’s plenty more to be done in the days to come,” she concludes, her eyes firmly on the future.



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