We speak to co-founder Alaa Khalil on how the startup raked in a six-figure investment for the Cairo-born online furniture store.
The blitz of the Coronavirus crisis is layered. As much as it brought on an economic downturn, there was also an accompanying e-commerce revolution. Or less of a revolution and more of a reckoning. In pre-coronavirus Egypt, before the clamour of lockdowns and curfews, e-commerce was this industry ‘with potential’ that’s been slowly creeping up. Only 8% of Egypt’s internet users regularly made online purchases, according to the Institute of National Planning (INP). Then a pandemic hit, and it might’ve just paved the way not only for a considerable increase in the amount of online shoppers, but the value of each shopper’s transaction.
In a market that already has its fair share of reservations when it comes to online buying, you can double that for shopping for furniture. So how would a furniture startup that only sells online fare at this crossroad of economic distress and e-commerce boom? Drowzy, an online Egyptian furniture and home accessories store, were at this specific intersection where they both got caught in the pandemic’s vortex, but then because of the unique space they occupy in the market, the vortex ended up working in their favour.
“It’s one thing to have a physical store, and an e-commerce platform setup to go alongside it. But when you solely exist online, especially as a furniture store in Egypt; a market that hasn’t fully adopted online shopping into its culture yet, then you’re going to face a heap of challenges,” Drowzy founder Alaa Khalil tells Startup Scene.
Already a fierce industry in Egypt, with longstanding industry leaders that a majority of shoppers continue to flock to, a startup new to the block will need a considerable USP to set them apart. For Drowzy, that special offering was delivery time. “Most D2C furniture stores take long periods of time to deliver products that can span from 20 days to three months,” notes Khalil. “The time’s compounded more and more if you’re buying from a marketplace that’s dealing with several manufacturers and brands. So we sought to offer not only quality products, befitting a modern and practical lifestyle, but also to ensure 8-10 day delivery for all of our orders.” By the end of 2020, Khalil’s aiming for Drowzy’s already competitive delivery time to drop to 2-3 days.
On top of e-commerce exponentially soaring during quarantine in Egypt, people stuck at home were also starting to realise maybe it was time for a crib revamp, a Project Runway-ing of the household. After all, it’ll be the only scenery anyone’s seeing for the foreseeable future. “COVID-19 kind of inadvertently helped us. Of course there was the hard initial hit that almost any businesses in any industry had to endure, but then after the mayhem started to settle, people were now getting with the e-commerce programme, and way less reluctant to buy furniture online,” says Khalil.
The minds behind Drowzy, Khalil and co-founder Mohamed Lotfy, both hail from architecture backgrounds, and quickly picked up a knack for designing. So much so that they’ve won competitions that have taken them from Cairo to Milan. Drowzy’s products all boast this minimal Scandanvian aesthetic that appeals to all generations. And what started out as small-scale home decor, is now growing to include a broader product portfolio.
“Right off the bat, we wanted to enamour ourselves on the in’s and out’s of the industry,” Khalil adds. “We’d get signed up for summer training programmes that would have us in the thick of furniture manufacturing. So after winning us a few coveted titles, and getting the industry know-how, we decided we’re ready for our own venture.”
In July 2020, Drowzy raised a six-figure USD investment from a UAE-based angel investor, and Khalil is already setting the path for great things down the line for the store. “With this investment, we’re really looking forward to starting to sell an even wider range of products, to become a one-stop-shop for those in the market for affordable and contemporary furniture. We’re also eyeing a regional expansion, and to start developing a DIY product line.”
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