Interview With Hala Deals Marketing Director, Mohamad Kaloub

When I look back at Egypt’s group buying site reviews that i did in last August, I figured out that a lot has changed in the group buying market since then. There is no question that Hala Deals is the fastest growing group buying site in Egypt in terms of its fan base, Hala Deals fans based has dramatically expanded from 2,000 fans in mid August to almost half a million fans on Facebook now!

The success secrets are revealed in today’s interview with Mohamad Kaloub the Marketing Director of Hala Deals.

Mohamad Kaloub, Marketing DIrector, Hala Deals

­­Tell us about your journey to becoming the Marketing Director at Hala Deals?

My journey started in Canada when I was in my first year of university studying Business at the University of Toronto. A good friend and fellow business major approached me with a business idea that I could not turn down; an event management agency that catered to the student population. We registered our business, incorporated the mother company as First Ad Solutions Inc., and named our first brand “X Productions”. After a few months, we decided to shift gears and venture off into Direct Mail. We created our second Brand called Consumer’s First. It was a digest that catered to local businesses who wanted to increase their awareness using a cost effective approach. After two years we realized that the print industry has become very saturated with many competitors offering similar, if not the same services. We conducted a market analyses and found that the print industry was in a decline, so we decided to diversify into the realm of Digital Media.

I have to say, the transition was not easy, but the potential reward ignited our drive. Three years later, I received an offer to join the board of Directors at Hala Deals. I was excited about the opportunity, yet skeptical of the challenges that we would be facing. This was a very difficult decision to make for the reason that First Ad Solutions was on its way to breaking record profits. However, I studied my options very closely and accepted the offer. In North America, I have seen businesses under this model fail miserably, and others rise above the crowd so I began strategizing an approach that would take Hala Deals from being a small start up to now one of the leading Group Buying sites in the region. Ever since I came to Cairo, I never once looked back.

Although you launched after other group buying sites you managed to have around half a million facebook fans in a few months, how did you manage to do that?

In today’s competitive business environment, no company can survive without a strong Social Media presence and we know that fact very well. It was integrated into the Marketing Strategy from day one and I am well aware of the return it has to offer. As this industry is constantly changing, it is crucial that we adapt with it, and the key here is to take the consumer along for the ride. Before Facebook came into existence, companies had it easy. They propagated their messages to the market in a one way stream with no care in the world for what the consumer had to say about their product or service. Little did many of them know, word of mouth; the most primitive yet most powerful form of advertising, would be the missing link. Now that these online social platforms have flourished, they will be neglected no more.

You can’t play a poor football game in a full stadium, but you also can’t play a great game in an empty stadium, you have to find the equilibrium and generate attractive content to your fans.

We were very keen on directing our message through a well established Facebook Fan Page, and this is where we allocated a chunk of our marketing budget towards. We launch various online marketing campaigns including Facebook Paid Advertisements and a QR integrated print campaign to enhance accessibility. This however is not the complete answer you are looking for, and this is why I want to top it off with a key point… content. We as human beings react to different things in many different ways, so the point here is to keep our fans happy with up to date content that’s fun, informative and interactive. Here is an analogy that sums this up: You can’t play a poor football game in a full stadium, but you also can’t play a great game in an empty stadium, you have to find the equilibrium and generate attractive content to your fans.

How is HalaDeal differentiating itself in the local market?

It would be a fat lie for me to say that we are doing something that no one else has done before. We are a clone of Groupon’s business model and that’s that, but it’s what we do within our organization that sets us apart from the competition. We are disciplined and creative in the marketing efforts that we run. We are establishing a network of businesses that would benefit from our services and vice versa. Unfortunately I can’t give you too much information on this topic, because if I did, we would be different no more.

What’s your value proposition for local businesses in Egypt who want to offer deals on HalaDeals.com?

Our value proposition is very simple; Brand Awareness through mass marketing. We are an online Marketing Solution that caters to local businesses who need their names heard. We feature their product or service on the website and allow our online and offline marketing tools to do the work. Our weekly campaigns receive over two million impressions and these figures are constantly increasing. When we inform our prospects that this can all be done with minimal if not zero cost associated, it’s a done deal. The key is to focus on long term gain as opposed to short term reward. It’s not about the profit that you will acquire through the deal, but the long-term client that will feed your bank account for years to come. It’s the power of customer retention that needs to be highlighted in every sales pitch. We have found that the Egyptian Merchant does not want to be sold on ANYTHING; they require an emotional engagement first and foremost. They need to trust you, and we build that trust through friendly consulting and honest business; we strive to find the needs of every business and tailor a package that works for them.

It’s the power of customer retention that needs to be highlighted in every sales pitch. We have found that the Egyptian Merchant does not want to be sold on ANYTHING; they require an emotional engagement first and foremost.

How do you guarantee customer satisfaction and that vendors honor their commitments towards the customer?

To get businesses to honor their commitments towards the customer, they first need to be convinced with the package that they are offering, and that is why we work very closely with each merchant to ensure their satisfaction. As I always say, a happy business owner equals happy customers. Having said that, you can never guarantee customer satisfaction and whoever tells you otherwise is naive. Every customer is different and that’s how God made them. Some will be satisfied with a refund along with a sincere apology, and some may ask for a Ferrari to make up for a hair strand on their plate, and I wouldn’t blame the latter, I like my food hairless.

Some will be satisfied with a refund along with a sincere apology, and some may ask for a Ferrari to make up for a hair strand on their plate, and I wouldn’t blame the latter, I like my food hairless.

The point I’m trying to make is that a company can do everything in its power to keep their customers happy but for some, this may not be enough, and that’s why it is our absolute top priority to minimize dissatisfaction amongst our customers. They pay our salaries and cover our overhead, and with the popularity of social media, we cannot afford to receive any negative feedback. We strive to ensure that our Customer Care Team is well equipped and trained to resolve any conflicts that may arise. As a new business concept in a fresh market, we will encounter many questions, but it is always a pleasure to walk the customers through the steps and ensure that their experience is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

What are your target demographics (age-gender-interests)?

Our consumer base varies, but our marketing campaigns target mainly internet users aged between 18 to 35 years old. Many of our buyers are females but we do our best to offer deals that cater to both genders.

What are you expansion plans locally and regionally?

The great thing about this business model is that it is easily duplicated once you have set a strong foundation.  We have been working very hard to build a framework that we can expand around and believe that this has been accomplished. We have expansion plans that we are going to execute in the near future, but due to confidentiality reasons, we cannot disclose when and where exactly.

What are the new things that you are introducing to HalaDeals in 2012?

Very sensitive questions, so I’ll be very brief. Our goal is to be different, but still offer our fans a great service, so we will be introducing a new addition to our business model that will allow customers to enjoy a bigger bang for their buck (More Value). We call it G2.

What are your different CSR activities?

We blocked our website for two days during the violent protests near the end of November. This was to show our respects to all that have been killed during the crises. Profit isn’t everything, we have a conscience and we truly did feel for Egypt.

Hala Deals prides itself in its efforts to support non-profit organizations in various fields and has been very active in doing so. Diversity is the key to a stable and strong line of networks. It is important not to conflict with the relationships that we have established. We are proud sponsors of organizations that promote causes such as fitness, health, education, entrepreneurship and will continue to venture out into different sectors to ensure strong brand presence. Our partners include such organizations as EMSA, IFMSA, Under-ground Bands, ITLC, Cycle Egypt and AWTAD. EMSA stands for “The Egyptian Medical Students’ Association”. They are a non-profit organization that raise awareness on wide spread diseases and illnesses to the general public. They are also involved with educating parents about the prevention of pneumonia with learning aids such as coloring books for the children. IFMSA, also known as “The International Federation of Medical Students’ Association” is responsible for organizing and funding events that support causes for different types of disabilities.

Our involvement with underground artists comes from our core motivation to support up and coming creative talent that are primarily driven by the need to perfect their art. We strongly believe that these activities will promote positive messages to the always evolving Egyptian youth. The “International Transport & Logistics Club” is a university run organization that aids students in discovering their hidden talents with many options offered to help them find jobs in the field of business. Cycle Egypt is an organization that welcomes bikers who want to pursue an active lifestyle by hosting weekly events where a group of participants ride their bikes through a predetermined rout.  AWTAD is the newest addition to our network of partners and it is a privilege to be involved in an organization with a very clear mission; to mentor young entrepreneurs and provide them with a support system that will help them in reaching their goals to becoming a successful business man or woman.

I would also like to mention our two day Website Block during the violent protests near the end of November. This was to show our respects to all that have been killed during the crises. We did not stop operation within the company; we just didn’t sell. Profit isn’t everything, we have a conscience and we truly did feel for Egypt. Hala Deals’ CSR goals have not yet been achieved, but we have a division that specializes in these efforts and we will continue to offer our love and support to the community.

Get in touch with Mohamed Kaloub through linkedin

Visit website

Or visit hala deals facebook fans page at: www.facebook.com/haladeals

Cairo Daily Deal Sites Comparison

Daily deal websites have been around in Cairo for about 6 months since February 2011, during this period the daily deal industry have evolved a lot from offering low quality deals that has lots of conditions and restrictions to much better quality daily deals that offer value to consumer…

As more and more people turn to social media sites, the idea is becoming more appealing to both the local businesses and the consumers, there are now 6 major deal sites in Egypt basically covering Cairo and trying to cover Alexandria as well but not so much success so far covering other Egyptian cities.

I’m writing reviews about all these 6 sites in order to help you know what to expect from each site, that said don’t go crazy with the deals thing and spend your money wisely!

Here is a list of daily deal websites in Cairo and my reviews about them:

Cobone - Best Deals, Great Savings in Cairo

Offerna.com DARE'n'DEAL - Together we win 

GoNabit - A Living Social Company  Dealwaty - Live it up for lesseDealo.me  

Cobone. Cobone is one of my favorite deal sites in Cairo, they are a good money saver as they bring places where i usually go,  so it’s not only about going and exploring new places but rather saving money on everyday places, i bought 2 deals so far one for Trianon Cafe and another one for Grey Lounge in New Cairo. Visit Cobone.com Here >>

Pros

  • Few limits and restrictions, usually deals are valid in all restaurant branches and on all menu items
  • Reputable website with good experience in several middle east countries
  • The offer 5% additional discount when you buy online with Master Card

Cons

  • Invite your friend and win 46 LE is a kind of hoax, i invited a friend before and he purchased but i never for the money, talking to the customer service, they mentioned that the deal value should be more than 46 LE in order to redeem that money but the deal was only for 30 LE. Didn’t like that…
  • The site could use little bit more work on bug fixing, displaying the right map location, importing contacts from email, …

Offerna. is the Egyptian daily deal site with a full local flavor, as the name suggests it means “our offers”.  Due to this reason Offerna is one of the easiest names to remember, as the same matter with other popular sites which has a local name such as Masrawy, YallaBina or FilGoal….

Offerna stared off the wrong foot, when they offered deal with good brand names but with so many restrictions that made the offer lose its value, for example they offered a meal in Abou El Sid with half price, however it was restricted to a certain branch, at certain weekdays and a certain dish! That said, it seems they got over this problem recently when (i got confused, it was darenadeal who made this bad abou el sid offer http://www.darendeal.com/deals/index/4-EGP-89-Instead-of-EGP-183-for-a-Delicious-Meal-of-Authentic-Oriental-Cuisine-for-Two-at-Abou-El-Sid-(Set-Menu-of-2-Salads,-an-Appetizer-and–Abou-El-Sid.mhtml) Offerna made recently a very successful Ramadan Iftar without any restrictions to days or branches, this offer sold 1,382 times! Visit Offerna.com here >>

Pros

  • Most deals are available at prices less than 50 LE
  • Deals are getting better over time

Cons

  • Some venues that offer the deals are not well known
  • Many deals discounts are 50% not more

Dare’n’deal. Darendeal is world class daily deal website, everyday literally you will see a new offer, sometimes two offers are released in the same day. So you will never get stuck with that Thai massage ad for one week on the site waiting for a new offer to be released. Although i have never personally bought a deal from there, you will find a few past deals with over 1,000 or 2,000 purchases like spend a day by the pool for 35 pounds. Visit Darendeal.com here >>

Pros

  • Highest number of deals in terms of quantity
  • The Arabic site is fun to use, it seems that they have specialized editors in Arabic section who write in the same language we speak, not the formal Arabic thing

Cons 

  • You can easily miss a deal if you don’t check the site on daily basis
  • Mostly restaurant deals, not much of  other lifestyle deals

GoNabit. Acquired by Living Social, you would expect the $ 1 billion daily deal giant to dominate the market in Egypt and kill the competition, well No. Unlike expected the website is poor in terms of deals and content, since the beginning of Ramadan i have seen tens of Iftar and Sohour deals on many websites… Guess what GoNabit have for us? Ice cream offer!! Visit gonabit.com here >>

Pros

  • Supported by the giant Living Social

Cons

  • Website and daily deals are below the quality you would expect from Living Social
  • You can’t browse the older deals

eDealo. With deals targeting class A, eDealo is trying to expand the daily deal business to other verticals such as travel, eDealo have launched the vacations sections with Trips inside Egypt including Sahel and Red Sea and outside trips as well. Visit www.edealo.me here >>

Pros

  • Penetrating new verticals such as travel and vacations

Cons

  • Past deals are not listed
  • New deals are not as frequent as other deal sites

Dealwaty. The newest member of daily deal websites, just launched about 2 weeks ago, so it is early to judge the site now. The site now probably started the same way as other deal sites but with the advantage that people know learned the concept in Egypt. Visit dealwaty.com here >>

Pros

  • Upcoming deals is a good idea to present some teasers for the new deal

Cons

  • The past deals don’t seem to do very well, yet it’s early to judge
Updated:
One more site was suggested by members
el7a2.net. Another local daily deal website with the name “Catch it”, so they tell you go and catch it before it expires, the slogan says “Life isn’t cheap…but it comes with discounts” and that’s very true. The website in general looks pretty neat, seems that they had in the past a good deal with Apple tradline that gives you a 1,000 LE voucher at half price to buy apple products, awesome! Probably they need to focus more on Marketing the website and increasing their “Likes” on Facebook to reach few tens of thousands to be more popular.Visit www.el7a2.net here >>

Pros

  • Live online support

Cons

  • Comes in English only – no Arabic

I’m sure more to come soon!

Updated (17/8/2011):

Haladeals. The new Cairo based daily deals site has not started yet its marketing campaign, with less than 2k likes on facebook as compared to 160k likes in other giant sites, you can assume that the message is not reaching the audience. That said the site looks neat and have a few but very nice deals in cool restaurants and cafes specially in Maadi area. This website could make it to the top with the right marketing efforts, now offering iPad 2 as gifts in a competition. Visit haladeal.com here >>

Pros

  • Good quality deals in very nice places
  • Bilingual support

Cons

  • Needs more marketing efforts to spread the word. Also makes you think, are these too many players in the market now, or there is still space for more?

Updated (11/04/2011):

Offeratak. Egypt Yellow Pages have just joined the daily deals and group buying sites business by launching its daily deals aggregator Offeratak.com. Offeratak is a patent pending daily deals aggregator that collects deals from Cobone, Offerna and Dare’n’Deal. Visit Offeratak.com here >>

Also read this nice comparison to the popularity of daily deal sites in Cairo

Learn more about Offeratak by visiting Offeratak blog