Home Entrepreneurs UAE success story: Syrian expat gives up Dh22,000 salary to start Dh1.7m business in Dubai, here’s his mantra

UAE success story: Syrian expat gives up Dh22,000 salary to start Dh1.7m business in Dubai, here’s his mantra

by Ozva Admin
UAE success story: Syrian expat gives up Dh22,000 salary to start Dh1.7m business in Dubai, here’s his mantra

It has been 12 years since Dr. Elias Abboud, 42, a Syrian expatriate based in the United Arab Emirates, moved to Dubai to start in the pharmaceutical industry. But long before doing so, Abboud worked as a medical representative in Syria, a country where he spent his growing up years.

“My first job as a medical representative in 2003 brought me a monthly payment of $250 [Dh918]. Later, I joined a pharmaceutical company as a supervisor for $800 [Dh2,938]. Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to the position of Marketing Manager at a salary of $1,200. [Dh4,407]”, he said, when talking about his career path.

“Three years later, I accepted a salary offer of $3,000 [Dh11,017] from another pharmaceutical company. Later, I moved to Dubai, where I earned Dh8,000 in 2011 as a Marketing Director and later a salary of Dh22,000 in 2014, just before venturing out on my own to launch a ‘FemTech’ company specializing in medical based sanitary products. in nanotechnology for women.”

What is ‘FemTech’?

Femtech is a term applied to a category of software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology to focus on women’s health.

The term ‘FemTech’ was first coined in 2016 by Danish internet entrepreneur Ida Tin. Over the course of just a few years, it has grown to encompass a range of consumer-focused, technology-based products and solutions.

Building a foundation for entrepreneurship

Academically and professionally qualified as a pharmacist and with work experience as a medical representative, he gained insight into the workings of the pharmaceutical industry. This knowledge, in addition to his MBA in marketing, became the foundation for starting his business.

Abboud revealed how all of his savings up to that point went into the startup, after which he had his brother invest. Abboud has amassed Dh400,000 in savings since 2011 when he launched his business in 2020. “I’ve kept things even when it comes to money, which continues to reflect on the company’s finances.”

women's health

When Elias Abboud moved to Dubai, he was earning $6,000 [Dh22,035] salary in 2014. That’s when she decided to venture out on her own to launch a company ‘FemTech’ specializing in nanotechnology-based sanitary products for women.

How did you finance your startup costs?

By starting the business from the ground up, Abboud reinvested all of the company’s turnover in growth and expansion. However, he intends to make the company’s first round of investment in 2023.

He said: “We are currently in talks with some venture capitalists [Venture Capital investors] for the same. At the same time, as the company grows and orders increase month by month, I look to streamline upstream and downstream processes, especially logistics, by striking new deals and renegotiating for better price points.”

What is Venture Capital (VC) or Venture Capitalists (VC) in seed financing?

Venture capital (VC) is typically used to support startups and other businesses with the potential for rapid and substantial growth. Venture capital firms raise money from limited partners (LPs) to invest in promising startups or even larger venture funds.

Early-stage startups typically cannot access loans or capital markets directly, so they rely on venture capital funding. In exchange for venture capital funding, the founders offer investors a percentage of ownership and perhaps a board seat. Venture capitalists can be a critical source of funding.

What led you to do business in feminine hygiene products?

“In 2012, when I was exploring business opportunities and brainstorming, I came across an article stating that 70 percent of women worldwide face menstruation-related challenges due to the use of common commercially available sanitary napkins. For someone with a medical background and an awareness of the pharmaceutical landscape, that was a “Eureka” moment for the entrepreneur in me,” he added.

“I started to improve my understanding of menstrual challenges, connected with some professionals in the feminine hygiene industry around the world, and started developing products. I was well aware of the challenges ahead, but just as confident on the viability of my products. Although such products existed partially on patents, I could prepare them to go to market through my business.”

However, although Abboud operated successfully in a B2B model (business-to-business (B2B), which is a transaction or business conducted between one company and another, such as a wholesaler and retailer), he soon realized that the impact was not enough, and their products were sitting on distributors’ shelves without reaching end users.

Opening

By starting the business from scratch, Elias Abboud reinvested all of the company’s turnover for growth and expansion.

Being forced to switch to a hybrid eCommerce model

“I realized direct selling was not financially feasible at the time. Soon, to make matters worse, the pandemic upended operations, issuing a clarion call to adapt or quit. Since the latter was never an option, I decided to pass to a hybrid e-commerce model by going all-in and getting some financial support from my brother,” Abboud added.

“We launched the website in August 2020, processing three orders in the first month, followed by 15 in the second, and two years later, processing over a thousand orders per month. There were a lot of trial and error cycles leading up to 2020, but I managed selling more than two million packs in 14 countries,” he said, adding that within a year of launching the business he earned Dh760,000, and in 2022, the startup earned Dh1.7 million.

Here are some other key lessons you learned when you started out as an entrepreneur.

Lesson #1: Put the majority of business revenue into marketing

Among the notable money strategies Abboud adopts, devoting around 70 percent of revenue to marketing has been crucial, and he learned this early on. He reckoned that even if you have a great product, customers will only gravitate toward it if they know about it in the first place.

Therefore, for Abboud, closing the product knowledge gap in the market is vital. “I take a long-term investment approach, so I’ve deployed a significant portion of my investment capital to the marketing, skills upskilling and team building of my company,” he said.

We launched the website in August 2020, processing three orders in the first month, followed by 15 in the second, and two years later, processing over a thousand orders per month

-Elias Abboud

Lesson #2: Monitor customer requirements and adjust accordingly

He highlighted one of his recent challenges after launching the eCommerce model. “The first batch of products had three sizes. However, after receiving early customer feedback, we realized that our products did not have sizes that are particularly in demand in the GCC market.”

“We wasted no time increasing the total number of products to eight. The process was demanding and financially challenging, but we ended up meeting customer expectations and with purpose.”

Lesson #3: Minimize spending by buying raw materials in bulk

“I am constantly looking for competitive price points and market conditions that allow me to negotiate better rates with suppliers and logistics partners, but I have realized that minimizing spend by purchasing raw materials in bulk is key.”

When asked if he uses any other savings strategies when it comes to his business and personal finances, Abboud revealed how he divides his and the company’s earnings into multiple categories.

“As a general rule of thumb, I set aside about 10 percent of my monthly earnings as personal savings. When it comes to the money earned in the business, about 60 percent goes to marketing, 30 percent to salaries, and the remaining 10 for hundred to several”.

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