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.


US calls for credible probe into ‘overwhelming’ Beirut blast

Updated 58 min 25 sec ago

US calls for credible probe into ‘overwhelming’ Beirut blast

  • The explosion has pitched Lebanon into a new political vacuum since the resignation of the government
  • Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric said the Lebanese people and the international community had run out of patience with ruling politicians

BEIRUT: The United States called on Saturday for a transparent and credible investigation into the massive port blast in Beirut that killed 172 people and said Lebanon could never go back to the days “in which anything goes” at its ports and borders.
The Aug. 4 blast, which the authorities say was caused by more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been unsafely stored at the port for years, injured 6,000 people, damaged swathes of the city and left 300,000 homeless.
Some 30 people remain missing.
“Seeing it on television is one thing, seeing it up close is another. It’s really overwhelming,” David Hale, US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, said after visiting the port.
“We can never go back to an era in which anything goes at the port or the borders of Lebanon that had to contribute to this situation,” Hale said. “Every sovereign state controls its ports and its borders thoroughly and I imagine all Lebanese would like to return to that era.”
He added that FBI agents would be arriving this weekend, at the invitation of Lebanon, to help find out what exactly happened and what led to the explosion.
The blast has fueled anger at ruling politicians who were already facing heavy criticism over a financial meltdown that has sunk the currency, left savers unable to withdraw their money, and fueled poverty and unemployment since October.
President Michel Aoun has said a probe will look into whether the cause of the blast was negligence, an accident or “external interference.”
The heavily armed Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, said on Friday it would wait for results of the official Lebanese investigation into the blast.
But if it turns out to be an act of sabotage by Israel then it would “pay an equal price”, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address. Israel has denied any role in the explosion.
Nasrallah also said his group was against an international investigation because its first purpose would be to “distance Israel from any responsibility for this explosion, if it had responsibility.” He said the participation of the FBI in an investigation would serve the same purpose.
The explosion has pitched Lebanon into a new political vacuum since the resignation of the government, which formed in January with backing of Hezbollah and its allies including Aoun.
Lebanon’s most senior Christian cleric said the Lebanese people and the international community had run out of patience with ruling politicians.
In his strongest intervention yet since the blast, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai also said the church reserved the right to veto any proposals that further jeopardize Lebanon.
His comments in a sermon were reported by Lebanese broadcaster LBC.
The Maronite church exercises political sway in a country where the head of state must be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim.
Iran backs Hezbollah and in a visit to Beirut on Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said international efforts should help Lebanon rather than “impose anything on it.”
Western visitors including French President Emmanuel Macron and the US State Department’s Hale have called for Lebanon to implement reforms including anti-corruption measures that the country’s leaders have avoided for years.