the e-commerce emirate:

Tom Southgate talks tech, talent, and triumph in the Dubai start-up scene with compareit4me founder Jon Richards

As a key Regional Business Manager for Randstad MENA, Tom Southgate knows top tech talent can change a business for the better. And after working with some of Dubai's most innovative and game-changing start-ups, Tom is well versed in the latest challenges the sector faces, and its future growth potential:

"With nearly three years clocked up on the Dubai barometer and always keeping one eye on the e-commerce market; due to a past career with the retail giant the HUT Group in the UK, I’ve found the city's rise to meet the new appetite for online shopping a fascinating story. At Randstad MENA we are seeing a huge demand for e-commerce talent and the job boards’ littered with vacancies.

"The recent announcement of Amazon buying and the imminent launch of causes great intrigue and excitement and poses for a very different landscape for the retail sector in the region. I think the power house retail giants like Chalhoub, Landmark and Al Tayer launching e-commerce platforms also gives some indication of where they see the market going.

According to Brandex data; The rise in usage of smartphones and handheld devices have hiked the ecommerce trend in developed nations globally. Middle East region is also witnessing an up rise in the online shopping trend among its 90 million users where only 15% of the businesses operate online within it. In 2015 the number of B2C e-commerce in the MENA region reached an estimated height of $15 billion rising from $9 million from 2012.

With such a slight number of business operating online in the region, and with the UAE having the highest global online spend per transaction, according to a recent report from KPMG, the huge growth potential and why companies are hurrying to build sites, capitalize and attract the best talent makes complete and utter sense.

A fine example of a UAE homegrown success story, who shot from 1 to 50 employees in as many months; CEO and Founder, Jon Richards of, who recently gave his point of view on this hot topic."

Tom: What positive changes/trends have you seen in the E-Commerce market in the UAE in 2017?

Jon: "The increased willingness to pay online has been a very positive development this year.

PayFort, an online payments provider, is recording higher and higher numbers for e-commerce transactions – as of the end of May e-commerce payments are growing at 8% per month. That’s incredibly important when it comes to the growth of the e-commerce industry in the UAE.

Another point is that more and more e-commerce companies are receiving funding in the UAE. That means these companies can invest in customer acquisition, which also equals customer education, which will hopefully help grow the number of people who are buying online.

We’re also seeing great results coming out of Saudi Arabia – that market is really poised for an e-commerce boom, with all of the factors mentioned above playing out there. The difference, of course, is that the addressable market is so much bigger, making it really exciting."


Tom: Do you feel that there is the right talent in the region to support the current Tech boom?

Jon: "There is. We have a lot of talent now; it’s not like 2011, when I first came here and you were really hard-up to find people who knew anything about digital marketing, for example. It’s still a shallow talent pool, so, for some specialist roles, you may still need to look abroad.

But I think the digital talent coming out of Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt is amazing. And not only do they have incredible skills and knowledge, but they’re also enthusiastic about innovative products and ideas, meaning they’ll contribute a great deal to growing the market."


Tom: How does attract savvy digital candidates?

Jon: "I think our working environment helps. When people walk in for a meeting or interview, they see that we have a fun atmosphere – things like table tennis and electric skateboards and all those kinds of things. It means that the younger generation are more likely to want to come and work with you.

Also, I think we’re working on some interesting and innovative products. And, above all that, when I think about the higher purpose that we’re all working towards at compareit4me – saving customers time and money when it comes to taking insurance or banking products – the team here buys into the idea completely. We really do save people a lot of time and money, and that gives people an extra reason to want to come to work."

Tom: Who do you admire in the market for their innovation and service offering?

Jon: "When I think about what we’re trying to achieve, which is a multi-market, ubiquitous service offering, the person I’m inspired by would be Ronaldo Mouchawar at What he’s created is a product that spans across markets. He’s solved the localised issues that each one of those markets has, and that’s something we have to do. We look to examples like that when we’re deciding how we’re going to proceed in our regional expansion."


Tom: How do you see the future for the UAE and their progression into becoming one of the world's best known countries for digital and e-commerce?

Jon: "The UAE government and the companies that are based here have moved the market on significantly. It is easier to set up and do business here now, and the fact that there’s more talent here makes it even easier to run good, strong businesses.

But there are still a number of improvements that need to be urgently addressed – in my eyes. Things like visas are still a major problem – issuing visas can be far too difficult. And with the telecoms, the fact that Skype is a debatable issue just seems mad to me as a business owner. Overall, it’s great doing business here, but improvements can always be made."

Randstad MENA are actively assisting companies big and small to attract, hire, and retain skilled professionals the technology sector. If you'd like to know more about how we can help your business grow, or how to find e-commerce jobs in the Middle East, get in touch today.

about is one of Dubai's tech success stories. Founded by CEO Jon Richards in 2012, has rapidly grown into the Middle East's leading finance comparison site.

Already active across 8 countries, assists thousands of people every day by allowing them to quickly compare anything from credit cards to insurance products, from a range of leading banking and financial institutions.

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