Julien Pascual launched EmiratesAvenue.com, an online tech shop a year ago. The company's founder and chief executive talks about how Facebook helped trigger his entrepreneurial side:
How did you first venture into the online space?
The wife of a guy I was working for was in Harvard and showed us a website. It was called Thefacebook back then. We bought another company that was doing the same thing. We launched in France then sold it three years ago when I saw that Facebook was opening everywhere.
Why launch a site to sell electronics in the Emirates?
I came here on holiday because my wife moved here. I was looking online for e-commerce stuff and I was seeing nothing two years ago. If there was something, it was so hard to find. I decided to set up the business. Basically, I took everything that was great in e-commerce in North America and Europe, and I tried to put it here.
We have live chat help with an operator. We try to explain returns, delivery, who we are on our site. That's part of what I saw that was great in Europe and the US.
Some business owners have complained about the lengthy set-up process here. What was your experience like?
It took me around one year to set up everything. In France, it's quite a pain because administration is terrible. Here it was much better. What took a long time was to find reliable suppliers.
Has that been your biggest challenge?
Yes. I met 50 people in total. You have a great contact then the guy never calls you back. For me, it can't work like that. We must have tried 10 different suppliers. Now, we work with four.
But those suppliers aren't always the authorised dealers for manufacturers. Won't a warranty on, say, the iPad be null in this so-called grey market?
Grey market is a way to make it seem sensational. We tell customers "when you get your iPad keep the box because the warranty is under that and you will activate it when you sign in the first time on iTunes". [Other competitors that aren't authorised dealers] are selling the iPad, iPhone, too. Some people think "if I at least buy from them the warranty will be safe and all", but they ship it to Apple when it's broken. That's the same thing we do because they can't fix it themselves.
You offer free delivery, but isn't that a dangerous way of eating into your margins?
Yeah, it is. Definitely. But, see, that's why we made it free delivery up to 3kg, which is 90 per cent of what we have except TVs. We ship in the UAE now and we start shipping internationally in May to seven countries, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.