The market for consumer goods has never been moreprosperous, according to recent advertising businessstatistics. Classified Intelligence reported the market forclassified ads accounted for $30 billion in 2003 in theUnited States alone, a figure that also includes newspapersand online websites. During the same year, the global marketwas estimated at over $100 billion. In the Arab region, AlWaseet classifieds boasts over 4.7 million copiesdistributed weekly and a readership base of over 20 million.With its 26 operations and staff of 5,000, Al Waseet ispresent nine countries across the region.
“Al Waseet provides a medium for people to buy, sell andexchange goods, keeping them updated with the latestpromotions and products featured within eight differentcategories,” said John Fawaz, the company’s managingdirector. Al Waseet includes listings for real estate, jobs,automotive sales, electronics, technology, hobbies and otheritems, and a personal classifieds section entitled BigHeart.
Based in Dubai, Al Waseet International (AWI) is part ofAl Wataniya Group, which owns numerous publications,including Al Balad newspaper, as well as the Layalina, AlHayat and Laha magazines. Operating in Syria and Kuwait,Baladna newspaper, Top Gear, What’s On and Concord OutdoorMedia are also part of the Al Wataniya group. Founded byBashar Kiwan, Mohammed Abdulaziz Al-Otaibi, Sheikh SabahJaber Al-Sabah and Majed Suleiman—who came up with theoriginal concept—AWI’s 26 publications are featured in asmany as 23 cities.
100 Branches by 2012
“Our expansion plan targets 100 branches by 2012, withcoverage spreading beyond the Middle East and Africa,” saidFawaz. In keeping with the company’s growth, an Englishversion of Al Waseet was made available in places likeKuwait, Cairo and Dubai, where there are largeEnglish-speaking populations. To further strengthen its gripon the market, the company also chose to pursue corporateinvestment and franchising deals.
“With AWI’s experience and successful internationalexpansion, no company is more fit to establish a lucrativebusiness model that can be emulated and operated profitablyanywhere in the world. Franchising, therefore, makes a lotof sense for us and has become a crucial step in thecompany’s development. It will undoubtedly take the AlWaseet business model to the next level,” continued Fawaz.
Franchising as a sustainable business strategy dependsprimarily on AWI’s performance in the media advertisingsector. Backed by an efficient market research departmentand advanced computer software, the company is able todetail business processes from marketing protocols todistribution methodologies. In addition, franchisees can gethands-on experience by visiting the Al Waseet Showcase inDubai, a fully functioning Al Waseet branch that serves,according to the company website, as a franchise trainingcenter. The franchise agreement that was recently signedbetween Al Waseet and Nigerian Middle Advertisement Limitedunderscores the company’s approach towards securinginternational stature.
To enhance Al Waseet’s position as a major advertising andmedia player, management has relied on local marketingcampaigns to create brand awareness. Launched regionally,this year’s advertising campaign adopted a unified messagethat was expressed individually according to differentmarkets. “We have the advantage of being a media companythat has companies like Al Wataniya as media partners, whichprovides us with wider coverage. In terms of BTL [below theline strategy], we follow the same marketing approach usedin the FMCG [fast moving consumer goods] business, thusproviding fully-branded materials to various POS [points ofsale] and PODs [points of distribution],” said Fawaz.
The high market penetration and circulation rates indicatethat the company’s marketing approach has thus far been asuccess. Company figures show that 4.7 million copies aredistributed every week, with Saudi Arabia proving thelargest market with a total weekly circulation of 1,050,000copies. In Dubai, Al Waseet’s new English version is showingpromising results with 200,000 copies distributed weekly.The overall Al Waseet market share for the UAE is estimatedat 92.04%; in Kuwait, it reaches 32% and in Syria, 56%.
“With 20 million weekly readers, Al Waseet is currentlythe only regional publication offering such wide coverage,with a cumulative market penetration of 77%. Although westill face competition in many markets, we remainnonetheless leaders in our category,” Fawaz pointed out.
Fawaz added that the very nature of Al Waseet, a massproduct that can be easily positioned in any market,provides an open door to a world of unlimited opportunities.It is for this reason that the company intends to pursuecorporate expansion by identifying new potential markets,opening new branches wherever internal criteria fordevelopment are met.
Focused on small to medium clients
In terms of readership, Al Waseet focuses on small tomedium clients, including corporations and advertisingagencies. In addition to regular ads, Al Waseet alsoprovides mailing services based on geographic location,demographics, nationality, profession and income, withneeds, wants and purchasing habits varying from one marketto the other. Targeted mailing also includes VIP listingsand identifying key figures. “Al Waseet was the first freeweekly classified publication to be distributed door todoor. Today, our regional network is our main competitiveadvantage,” said Fawaz.
AWI is in the process of restructuring call centers toimprove the quality of services and customer satisfaction.It intends to add new products to ranges already offered. The Al Waseet website has also been overhauled and is nowcalled ewaseet.com. “With its new look and features, weexpect ewaseet to provides us with a separate source ofincome and generate revenue once it is launched properly,”underlines Fawaz. The website offers online brandingsolutions, which includes above the line advertising,classifieds and targeted advertising. According to thecompany website, with its 90,000 registered members and200,000 visitors, “the portal serves over 2.2 millionvisitors per month.”
This year, Al Waseet has acquired licensing rights for theGuinness World Records for the MENA and the GCC regions.This includes publishing and distribution activities as wellas management of all related PR events. “Now that we havesolidly established our SOPs [Standard OperatingProcedures], we can say that we are paving the way towardsstock market entry. The IPO is very much on top of ouragenda, but it is not an easy step to take, and requiresmuch preparation,” conceded Fawaz.
Al Waseet market share in Kuwait. source: Al Waseetwebsite, Ipsos stat 2006.
Al Waseet market share in the UAE. Source Al Waseetwebsite, Ipsos Stat 2006