Via e-commerce to your eyes: MAGNiTT interviews eyewa Co-Founder, Mehdi Oudghiri

eyewa, a UAE-based tech-enabled eyewear e-commerce startup recently raised $2.5M in a Pre-Series B Bridge round from from Nuwa CapitalWamda Capital and EQ2 Ventures. Following the investment, we caught up with eyewa Co-Founder, Mehdi Oudghiri to explore how the platform works, in which ways the company has been affected by the rising popularity of e-commerce, post-funding growth plans, his big-picture vision for the future, and more.

Q1. To start, tell us briefly about eyewa. How does it work?

eyewa is the largest online eyewear retailer in the Middle East. We sell sunglasses, eyeglasses and contact lenses. We scout the world to identify trendy yet affordable brands and bring them to the region. We coupled a great choice of frames with a simple and accessible eyeglasses offering: you get frames and lenses that best fit your prescription for a fixed price of 399 AED/SAR.

Q2. Have you faced any challenges with user behaviour? E.g. do people in the region struggle to trust in an online eyewear platform as traditionally, this has been more face-to-face. And how have you overcome this?

Customers in the region are more and more comfortable buying fashion items online and eyewear is not an exception. Of course, you will always have some people be skeptical as fit can be a concern. We are addressing that by offering as many images as possible, clearly describing the products and their features and most importantly we offer a 30-days “no questions asked” return policy. We are also working on an exciting Virtual Try On technology that will bridge even further the gap between offline and online, stay tuned. 

Q3. The current climate has now accelerated e-commerce in the region. Do you think these are long-term changes and behaviours that will become the norm? What do you think needs to be done to ensure continuity?

When you look at secular trends in the region, everything indicated that the region was poised for a fast growth of e-commerce. We have a high smartphone and internet penetration, a young population with a good disposable income, yet we are far behind global benchmarks when it comes to e-commerce penetration. While Covid-19 did accelerate the adoption of e-commerce in the region as consumers saw in it a safer way to shop, it only kick-started a revolution in the way consumers shop in the region that was inevitable and bound to happen. 

To ensure continuity in this trend it is our role as members of the e-commerce ecosystem to ensure that we offer the best possible customer experience to become a better alternative to traditional retail. This effort involves not only the online retailers but also logistics players, payments providers and all other enablers of e-commerce.

Q4. It’s safe to assume that after this round, you're going to have some exciting growth plans. Can you share some of eyewa’s short-term plans for expansion with us? (e.g. geographic, product, talent)

We want to double down our investment in technology by building a best-in-class tech team. This investment will allow us to offer a better website experience through innovative features, but also a more robust backend infrastructure to allow for a faster delivery. We will also invest in expanding our product portfolio and strengthening our capabilities in the eyeglasses category.

Q5. What were you looking for from your investors, beyond capital?

We are looking for investors that can support us throughout the journey of eyewa, by sharing their expertise in e-commerce or in the markets we operate in and helping us leverage their network to unlock more opportunities. It’s also important for us that investors are aligned with the long-term vision we have set for eyewa.

Q6. In your opinion, what are the most exciting things happening in the e-commerce world right now?

I am really excited about the rise of AI technologies for e-commerce. AI is enabling hyper-personalization of customer journeys so that each customer will have a completely different experience on our online store, adapted to their needs. This will allow for a significantly better customer experience which is what we are always striving to improve at eyewa.

Q7. What is your big-picture vision for the future of eyewa?

Our vision is for eyewa to be the largest eyewear company in the MENA region. We want eyewear to be accessible to everyone in our region, be it financially or from a convenience point of view. Everyone in our team is working towards building the future of eyewear in MENA.

Q8. Finally, what advice would you give to yourself five years ago? :) 

Leaving a safe job and putting your career at risk to become an entrepreneur is a scary thing, but if you have that entrepreneurship fire burning inside of you then follow your instincts, work hard and get the smartest people you know on board to do it with you, and you will have the most exciting adventure of your life!

Fintech continues to grow exponentially in Saudi Arabia, with the Kingdom's market expected to reach transaction values of over USD 33 billion by 2023! Access more trends and data in the recently launched Fintech Saudi Annual Report 2019-2020.