DUBAI: A new UAE-based online marketplace has been launched with the aim of disrupting the artist economy in the Middle East.
With a passion for pop culture and a goal to empower the region’s artists to fairly sell their art across a wide range of merchandise, POPC is the brainchild of Amna Aijaz, Haroon Tahir, and Arafaat Ali Khan.
Between them they have more than 40 years of experience in e-commerce, marketing, design, pop culture, and customer experience.
For Aijaz, the company’s chief art officer, the seeds for the startup were planted in her imagination during the coronavirus pandemic, when she realized that regional artists similar to herself did not have a year-round platform to showcase and sell their work.
While annual pop culture events such as the Middle East Film and Comic Con — first brought to the UAE by POPC co-founder Ali Khan — help, they usually only run over a few days a year, leaving artists to fend for themselves for the rest of the year.
Aijaz told Arab News: “The artwork that we have on the website right now, as it stands, it is very much one of a kind because we are reaching out to artists that don’t have that platform to exhibit or sell their artwork on. They either have those three-day events, or POPC.”
On the POPC website, shoppers and pop culture fans can find merchandise specially designed by creators and artists from the Middle East, who earn a fixed commission on the sale of each product.
Creators are empowered to sell their products through their own individual storefronts within the marketplace at no joining cost, with production and shipping handled entirely by the platform.
Marketing and communications professional, Tahir, said several factors put POPC ahead of the game when it came to online artist marketplaces, including that artist commissions were generally higher than average.
“The problem with international marketplaces that we saw were that you needed a US, or UK, or global bank account and a global shipping address to be able to sell and that was a huge detriment to all the artists that we were speaking to.
“Compared to regional competitors, we’re always focused on art that’s fun, relatable, and quirky. We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Tahir added.
The company’s top priority for this year is to cater for the entire Middle East region by the end of the first quarter.
Tahir said: “Another thing we’re also working on is an Arabic comic book reader, one of the first Arabic readers in the region, which will be home to some really cool titles, including some manga studios, that I can’t quite disclose yet.”