Two Minutes with a Founder is a series of quick interviews with founders from the Middle East & North Africa.
Hussein Mohieldin is the founder and CEO of Robusta, one of the leading technology and product agencies in Egypt (with an office in Germany as well) that has worked with local, regional and international businesses to help them implement different digital transformation programs. Robusta’s head office in Cairo is home to over 100 engineering and design consultants and its office in Germany engages with their clients in Europe with a special focus on Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Hussein had founded Robusta in 2013 after working with Quick Wins, a Dubai-based management consulting firm, for three years. He holds an M.Sc of Computer Engineering from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EFPL) in Switzerland and a B.Sc of Computer Science and Engineering from German University in Cairo.
Last year, after working with tens of retail and ecommerce businesses, Hussein and his team at Robusta launched E-Commerce Summit, an annual event that wants serve as a platform for building future of ecommerce in Egypt. E-Commerce Summit’s 2019 edition is taking place on Tuesday, September 17. We have covered some details about what E-Commece Summit offers as an event in a piece that you can read here.
But in this interview piece, we talk to Hussein to learn how’d a tech agency (aka software house) ended up in the business of events around ecommerce and that is precisely the first question we start with. Here’s our chat.
How’d a software house ended up in the business of events around ecommerce?
When we first started thinking about this few years ago we started off by thinking about it as a developers conference focused on technology, platforms and solutions and over time as we worked with more clients and partners we realized technology was not the bottleneck for ecommerce and that all market players big or small encounter similar challenges across different fronts from content to technology, to logistics and customer experience to developing internal capacity and setting a strategy to manage all this together.
Accordingly, we work extensively with our content partners to design a holistic experience that is as much as possible inclusive to the different players coming from 15+ different industries and different levels of expertise when it comes to management of ecommerce. And this evolved into an annual event that brings together 80+ speakers and 3,000+ attendees in trendsetting content and insightful exchange of experiences.
What do you think makes Ecommerce Summit special? Why someone should pay money to attend it?
E-Commece Summit is an event that is designed by people from the business for people in the business. It stands on two key pillars: content & commercials. We’re very much focused on bringing the world to Egypt by attracting key speakers of high relevance and fresh content that’s well-matched with our audience profiles of C-Levels, Directors and decision-makers alongside parallel modules that facilitates the exchange of business and increases potential of collaboration across the different market players like the E-Commerce Summit Marketplace and the master classes. Both of which are two new additions to this year’s edition that we’re very much excited about.
What will be different about this edition? What are going to be some of the biggest highlights of E-Commerce Summit 2019?
The masterclasses provide an in-depth workshop delivered by industry experts who have been in the ecommerce business day in and day out to a smaller group of attendees with the objective of education and triggering action. In parallel, the E-Commerce Summit Marketplace is an exhibition that brings together the providers of services and products to the ecommerce merchants in one stop shop for the merchants to compare the best and most compatible offerings and get their ecommerce quickly off the ground.
What do you think are the three biggest challenges faced by ecommerce businesses in Egypt?
In my opinion, the biggest three challenges that ecommerce businesses are facing in Egypt are logistics, customer experience and readiness of the merchants to expand their own capacity to serve the online market, which is quite different in expectations and demands to the traditional brick & mortar business.
What role do you think government needs to play to help grow ecommerce in Egypt? Are they doing enough?
Lots of progress has been taking place on the policy and taxation sides in Egypt. We’ve been invited to different round tables and hearing sessions by our policy partners on data privacy, e-transactions and taxation laws and the government more than ever has been trying to be as inclusive as possible to the different stakeholders and we see actual amendments being made to the laws in light of the feedback delivered by the stakeholders. We look forward to similar efforts and advancements on the connectivity and education aspects that could really help grow the market bigger and drive it forwards.
Which particular niche/sector in ecommerce do you think will grow the fastest in the next few years in Egypt?
Household and consumer electronics is obviously topping the market like most of the other markets. We see still quite a big room for fashion and grocery businesses before they reach their full potential and in a country like Egypt. We see the biggest potential, however, in the B2B sector.
If you could invest in one regional ecommerce startup in the Middle East & North Africa today, who would that be?
My favorites are ones serving the mobility & logistics like Halan, Bosta, Swyft and FwRun and in payments I’d say Accept. Brimore comes across as quite an interesting startup as well reaching out to a yet untapped market. On B2B side MaxAB is winning grounds quickly.
What do you think ecommerce in Egypt (and MENA) would look like in the next ten years?
In Egypt and MENA we have the luxury of predicting the future by looking at more advanced markets and see the trends and patterns cascading into the region. This gap closes rapidly though as adoption of digital and connectivity becomes higher and as millenials and Gen Z take over who’d almost always buy into convenience made possible through ecommerce.