Ritesh Tilani and Alper Celen is the entrepreneurial duo behind one of the most popular MENA startups – joi.

The mobile gifting platform offers a wide of range of gifts for every occasion and taste. The young company currently operates in UAE and KSA markets. It collaborates well with some established merchandisers. The founders created it after they noticed the lack of reliable similar platforms in the region.

The main aim of joi is to make everyone feel special. It is more about the sentiment, not only the gift, said Tilani. All the products are carefully packed to bring joy and positive vibes. In addition to that, the company has its own delivery service, called joi’s Angels. They approach recipients in festive joi uniforms and add to the experience and customer satisfaction.

Joi is a user-friendly and very intuitive platform. It allows users to focus on selecting the right gift. If there are any questions, the clients can always talk online to a customer service representative. People can choose from basically anything – personalized jewelry, grooming products, experience-based options, flowers, cakes, gift baskets, and more. A same-day delivery option is available. The startup also offers a special section for businesses, called joi@work. It gives managers the opportunity to show appreciation and send gifts to their employees or corporate partners for an occasion. If a client is not satisfied with the joi experience, the startup offers a ”sorry-as-a-service” package.

Next to choosing the best present for their loved ones, the senders can also record a video or audio message. The delivery status can be tracked real-time through SMS or push notifications. The clients can also use the built-in calendar to mark significant days and receive notifications with suggestions for gifts.
An automated joi assistant can also recommend presents based on users’ preferences and criteria.

joi was established in 2015. The founders wanted to offer a full service from the beginning and they did not immediately start with a mobile app but with a desktop version. Currently, the company is owned by the UAE-based holding company enhance. The Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups liked the idea, and along with the other US business angels supported the entrepreneurs. At the moment, joi is finalizing a seed funding round of USD 1.5 million.

Asked about the barriers in front of the startups in the MENA region, Tilani said that nowadays, the environment is getting much more inviting for entrepreneurs, investors, and global players:

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He also mentioned that the local governments needed to step up i decreasing red tape and costs of establishing new small businesses, including funding and supporting startups. Talking about the future, the founder said that they were planning joi Luxury, for another market segment and a different marketing strategy. Tilani advised all the young people who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs to focus on a spefic problem that needs to be solved with a startup. He aslo emphasized on the importance of finding the right partners.

 

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