Anass Boumediene and Mehdi Oudghiri, the Co-Founders of eyewa.com speak about the brand and their entrepreneurial journey thus far
Tell us about eyewa.
eyewa is a recently launched, UAE-based, startup in the e-commerce industry, specifically offering eyewear (sunglasses, eyeglasses, contact lenses) with the vision of becoming the leading vertically integrated, technology enabled eyewear specialist in the MENA region.
eyewa seeks to simplify the eyewear shopping experience by providing an easy, affordable and trustworthy platform to buy sunglasses, prescription glasses and contact lenses.
What products and services do you offer on the market?
The online platform carries thousands of products and more than 50 renowned brands including Ray-Ban, Oakley, Emporio Armani, Police, Prada, Marc Jacobs, Lacoste, Michael Kors, Carrera, Fendi and Chloe. All of our product catalogue can be found via eyewa. We currently cater to the UAE and KSA markets.
What is your startup story? How did you conceive the idea behind the company?
Before eyewa, the offering for curated eyewear online was inexistent and the experience in optical stores within the region is focused towards the practicality of product rather than it being a fashion accessory; that is an important part of our visual personality. We wanted to offer a different way to shop for eyewear, that is more in line with the needs of the young population of the Middle East.
Mehdi Oudghiri and Anass Boumediene are the co-founders of the business. Mehdi is an MBA graduate of Stanford University and did his Bachelors at ESSEC. Anass has a MiM from ESCP Europe and is a CFA and FRM charterholder.
They have been working together for several years now. First at Bain and Company where they met as strategy consultants in a project for the GCC government, then at Foodpanda where they were co-managing directors for the online food ordering business in the Middle East. At Foodpanda, they successfully built one of the largest and most profitable operators in the region, which was then successfully acquired by Delivery Hero, a listed company worth more of $8 billion.
Did you come across any challenges when starting up?
We faced two big challenges:
Technology: It took more time than initially planned to get the right setup in place to develop the correct technology with the accompanying integrations and features. Finding good tech talent is hard, finding good tech talent at a reasonable cost is very hard.
Suppliers: At eyewa, what we wanted from the beginning was to partner directly with the brands to get the supplies directly from them. That way, we ensure that 100% of our stock is authentic and that we get the latest collections. Identifying, meeting and agreeing with the different suppliers took a lot of time and efforts.
What is the USP of your services compared to similar service providers on the market?
We have more choice than any physical optical store, with ~2,000 SKUs and growing, and shopping with eyewa is more convenient as it can be done at anytime from anywhere. We have very competitive prices and we also offer free shipping.
What is the strength of your team?
We do not hire anyone if we are not 100 percent sure that we share the same values and principles. We spent several weeks at the very start of our company discussing, challenging, and then finally agreeing on our values and vision. It is very important that everyone that joins our team carries the same values and principles so that we ensure that we build a solid culture.
Practically, this meant that our first hire had to go through five rounds of interviews before we made him an offer. We went through a similar process with all of our 10 colleagues that joined the eyewa journey since we started eight months ago. We built a team that works together with the same goal of ensuring the best possible customer experience, as that is our number one priority.
What is your plan for the company in the next, say, 6 months?
We plan on increasing our exposure to the consumers of the UAE and KSA. We want to focus on these two core markets in this period and make sure that we establish ourselves firmly as the eyewear e-commerce solution. To do that, we will be launching very exciting new tech features, and will produce great quality content.