In the wide world of internet companies, directing vast numbers of consumers to advertisers is usually central to the business model. But one Emirati start-up is growing fast and turning a profit by delivering some of the most valuable eyeballs in the world. Yebab, named after a colloquial term for the ululating sound made by Arab women at weddings, is slowly assembling the authoritative online portal for Emirati brides-to-be, most of whom are likely to spend Dh200,000 (US$54,451) or more on their weddings. Many will spend more than Dh1 million.
"Traffic numbers are important, but at the end of the day, what we are reaching is a very valuable group of Emirati brides who are using the site to spend a lot of money," said Murshed Mohammed Ahmed, Yebab's founder. "If you have seen an Emirati wedding, you will know that this is a big, big market." Launched in 2008, Yebab has doubled its traffic over the past year and now serves up about 100,000 page views each month to its audience. The site includes listings for the various suppliers and services needed at a wedding, from caterers to dressmakers, artists, photographers and traditional musicians.
About 80 vendors pay a monthly fee to have a dedicated page on the site, outlining their services and answering frequently asked questions posed by brides. Fees begin at Dh5,000 a year and rise according to the size and scope of the advertiser. Yebab is profitable, employs five staff and has received a number of expressions of interest from venture capital investors, Mr Ahmed said. The company has received funding from the Mohammed bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development, a Dubai Government body that funds Emirati entrepreneurs.
While a number of successful internet businesses have emerged in Dubai, Yebab is a rarity in its successful commercial focus on a niche Emirati market, rather than the pan-regional theme of most sites. "We understand what Emirati brides want; we have a connection to their needs, to the culture and to the specifics of this market," Mr Ahmed said. "It gives us a privilege of being able to provide unique and relevant content that no one else is providing."
An example given by Mr Ahmed is the question of the "preparation room", where a bride gets ready for her wedding, usually sited in a hotel or marriage hall. With privacy and discretion being a priority for local brides, the location of this room and the walk they take to get to the main reception is often a high priority. "This question is asked every time a bride contacts a hotel, this is something almost every bride will want to know," Mr Ahmed said. "It's an important piece of information, but a lot of hotels and wedding planners will not have the answer ready."
Yebab's solution to the problem is to film the preparation room and the walk from the room to the main event for each of its advertisers offering wedding facilities. "This is a whole new idea, it is bringing to the internet something that was not there before," Mr Ahmed said. "If you look at the advertisements in bridal magazines, sometimes all that there is is a picture, a phone number and a PO box number - who uses a PO box number anymore? So we wanted to change all of that."