A Tunisian apparel-retail entrepreneur rides the e-commerce wave

Launched in 2016, Dabchy (which translates as “my stuff”) is now a regional social networking and fashion marketplace with a growing community. (Supplied)
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Updated 12 August 2020

A Tunisian apparel-retail entrepreneur rides the e-commerce wave

  • Ameni Mansouri transformed her Facebook group to a popular online marketplace with 430,000 registered users
  • Second-hand apparel retail is now a $20 billion global industry and is even expected to outpace traditional retail

TUNIS: Tunisian fashion enthusiast Ameni Mansouri never thought that the Facebook group she started almost four years ago to sell clothes and accessories would one day turn into a popular online marketplace used by women throughout North Africa.

Launched in 2016 with co-founder Ghazi Ketata, Dabchy (which translates as “my stuff”) is now a regional social networking and fashion marketplace with a growing community of women who buy and sell their pre-loved clothes.

“When I was living in Paris to pursue my studies, I was passionate about the world of fashion,” said Mansouri. “I was using apps that were giving clients the opportunity to buy and sell their used clothes at a lower cost and in an easy way.

“I said to myself, ‘why not in Tunis?’ and that is when my entrepreneurial journey started.”

Dabchy now has more than 430,000 registered users across Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco and plans to expand throughout the region.

A $20 billion global industry, second-hand apparel retail has been growing substantially over the last few years.

It is even expected to outpace traditional retail, with a projected sales increase of 15 percent annually over the next three years against only 2 percent for traditional retail, according to a 2018 report by online consignment and thrift store ThredUp.

While the idea of buying second-hand clothes may be a new concept in Tunisia, it is quickly catching on. And with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic keeping many shoppers under lockdown, e-commerce has been experiencing an added boom worldwide.

Mansouri said: “We’re experiencing a societal shift. People are concerned less with ownership and more with price, which now takes precedence over other criteria.

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“Clothes are no longer accessible to most of the Arab population, and they are being sold less and less.”

In this sense, Dabchy is an alternative platform for those who cannot afford to buy new and branded clothes.

The concept seems to appeal to young women, who are more likely to purchase second-hand clothes and according to the same ThredUP report, 18- to 37-year-olds are taking this route two-and-a-half times as fast as other age groups.

To grow its community, Dabchy created an easy-to-use app to allow its customers to post and buy items within minutes. Operating across North Africa, the app is a mix between an e-commerce platform and a social network.

Users can create a profile and post their products for sale as well as share their fashion style online.

We’re experiencing a societal shift. People are concerned less with ownership and more with price, which now takes precedence over other criteria. Clothes are no longer accessible to most of the Arab population, and they are being sold less and less.

Ameni Mansouri

The platform is gaining momentum and has recorded 1,200 listings daily from its African users.

However, growing the startup to where it is today has not been easy. “I had to go through the whole journey of converting from a biomedical engineer into a well-rounded business owner,” Mansouri said.

“I also had to learn about marketing, financials, public speaking tricks and hacks when pitching and so much more.”

Attracting and managing investments was another challenge for the startup.

However, the team believes that learning is a never-ending process and relies on advice and guidance from experts to continue growing and scaling the platform.

“At Dabchy, we are always on a learning journey, so we never stop learning new things every day. Also, being a startup that is growing daily and that needs to reach a certain level of sustainability, we are always keeping an eye on our potential investors, even if we are not fundraising,” Mansouri added.

The founders plan to expand the platform to the rest of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region in the near future. They are also continuously working on growing their community and enhancing the user experience by using blockchain technology.

Mansouri said: “I am happy that the mentality is changing toward circular fashion because now is the time to act for a healthier and more sustainable environment.”

  • This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

Pedestrians, wearing face masks, walk in a street of Ankara on November 20, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2020

Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

  • 20% of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return
  • No PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers entering the country. It is a very big mistake

ANKARA: Unofficial sources have warned that numbers of COVID-19 cases in Turkey are skyrocketing.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) estimated that daily COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 47,500, of which about 12,500 are in Istanbul. This would represent a 300 percent increase in November compared to the month before.

According to official data, however, Turkey recorded 5,103 new COVID-19 patients on Nov. 20 — the second highest new daily figure since March — and its highest daily death toll with 141 fatalities.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu announced that 186 people died from “infectious diseases” in the city on Nov. 22 — more than the official countrywide death toll. (The Turkish health ministry is accused of classifying some COVID-related deaths as "infection-related deaths")

The TTB, whose data drew on figures from 1,270 medics in 76 provinces, claimed that someone in Turkey dies from COVID-19 every 10 minutes. It declared that “they have lost control of the pandemic.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms. Following this admission Turkey was put on the UK’s quarantine-on-arrival list in early October.

BACKGROUND

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms.

Reports drawing on Israeli health ministry data say that 20 percent of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return home, which experts consider a worryingly high figure.

Everyone arriving in Israel is obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. There is no such an obligation in Turkey.

“The countries which prove successful in managing the pandemic are those that apply strict quarantine rules and rigorously regulate arrivals in the country. But this is not the case in Turkey nowadays,” said Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul.

“Only one case can again trigger a whole chain of contagion and begin a new wave of pandemic. However, no PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers who enter the country. It is a very big mistake for managing the dynamics of the pandemic.”

Turkey recently re-introduced a partial evening curfew and restrictions on the weekends, although scientists have been urging a full 14-day lockdown.