DUBAI: Saudi entrepreneur Shahad Geoffrey is reinventing how women in the region shop. In 2021, she launched her AI-powered personal-styling platform Taffi, in partnership with her cofounder Pradeep Bisht. The idea behind Taffi was to democratize personal styling, which is often associated with high net-worth individuals, and make online shopping a more personalized and seamless experience.
Thanks to her father, Jeddah-born Geoffrey was exposed to startups at a young age. “My father launched a tech-startup, so I’m very familiar with the uncertainty and the ups and downs that come with the territory. I’m also very passionate about technology, innovation, and fashion,” she says.
In 2012, Geoffrey moved to France to pursue her Bachelor’s degree from INSEEC in Paris. She ended up staying in the French capital for some time. “After graduating, I worked for a men’s cosmetics startup in Paris before it was acquired by a UK investor, and then I continued to work with them remotely for some time,” she explains.
In 2019, she relocated to the US for a five-week entrepreneurial program at Draper University. “It was life-changing,” she says. “They connected us with major startup entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. I learned a lot of the fundamentals at Draper, and it became an opportunity to start something.” She started working for a venture capitalist firm in the US, where she learned the art of networking, a skill which she believes is critical if you want to create your own business.
During her time there, she and her family were planning a vacation to Hawaii, and she started looking at personal-shopping services online as she didn’t have time to buy what she needed for the holiday.
“I looked at Stitch Fix and Trunk Club and was very inspired by their solutions. I wondered why we didn’t have something similar in our region,” she says. So she decided to come back to Saudi and fill that gap.
Combining her love for styling, her work experience, and her problem-solving skills, Taffi is an online styling platform that uses algorithms and human stylists to recommend looks for customers that are shoppable directly from their website via multiple retailers, including Ounass and Farfetch.
The styling journey begins with a comprehensive quiz where customers are asked to input their measurements, images, and budget for clothes and accessories. Additionally, they are prompted to select from various images that allow the algorithm to better understand the customer’s personal style, color preferences and lifestyle.
“AI then gives recommendations to our onboard stylists, which are presented to the client, so the human factor isn’t eliminated,” Geoffrey explains. “The customer can set up an appointment with the stylist for a more personalized consultation via a video call or WhatsApp, for which we charge a fee.” Alternatively, you can shop the initially recommended looks without the stylist fee.
“Shopping online takes so much time because you see so many products that aren’t relevant to you — the trust factor is missing. The problem we are solving is recommending products based on your attributes and preferences. If we distribute this solution to stores and brands, then consumers can experience the service.”
Taffi’s latest feature, Amira, which will launch soon, is yet another game changer, according to Geoffrey. Through Amira, you skip the human stylist and get instant and hyper-personalized recommendations. Amira uses advanced machine-learning algorithms to analyze customers’ personal data and can pull up recommendations that align with the customer’s style and budget.
“Amira is totally AI. Once you finish your quiz, you can ask Amira questions and get instant recommendations through ChatGPT and visuals. For example, say you want to find a dress for your sister’s wedding in Japan. The engine will use trends, weather, your profile, and numerous data sets and prompt the consumer with multiple options,” she explains.
Geoffrey also believes it would be “revolutionary” for online retailers to have Amira on their sites, directly connected to the store’s inventory database, ensuring customers receive up-to-date product recommendations from the latest collections and stock.
Amira will initially launch as part of the Taffi web app, but Geoffrey says it will be delivered to “various stores” by the end of this month.