How can you take your business online in the UAE?

How can you take your business online in the UAE? 

By: Mark Anthony Karam
Interviews

In a post-COVID-19 world, it has become essential for business owners to have an online presence. 

During a time where having an online presence and a digital storefront is no longer an option, it can be challenging for the entrepreneurs of SMEs who have to contend with the day to day of running their business to brush up on the logistics of expanding online. 

Enter Tasjeel.ae, an accredited .ae domain registrar and website hosting company that actually focuses on serving UAE start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Launched in 2009, Tasjeel.ae has helped hundreds of companies take their business online. 

Since revamping its services in 2018, Tasjeel has transitioned from selling .ae/.emarat domains, with a single web hosting package, to providing 100+ domain extensions, seeing the majority of this growth within the 2020 COVID pandemic. The company’s suite of easy-to-use solutions now includes a website builder, cloud hosting, WordPress hosting, Dubai web servers, premium domain names and more. 

So, what should SME owners know before taking the plunge online? The Abu Dhabi SME Hub speaks with Wahid Aziz, the CEO of Tasjeel.ae, who shares insights from the UAE market, as well as post-pandemic trends. 

tasjeel.ae ceo wahid aziz

How did Tasjeel come to be? Was there a gap in the market of domain registrars in the UAE that led you to create your company in 2009?

When tasjeel.ae first started, the market for .ae domain registrations was just opening up. Pre 2008, .ae domains could only be registered through Etisalat, which also administered the namespace. In March 2008, control of the .ae domain space passed to the .aeDA (.ae Domain Authority) – a newly founded department within the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority.

This change allowed new domain registrars to enter the market, increasing competition. But registrations were still painfully slow, with competitors using a manual process that involved in-person documentation checks and took several days to complete.

tasjeel.ae was the first UAE website to offer instant online domain registration services in the UAE by a local company. That was achieved by creating a registration process that integrated with the .aeDA platform. Essentially, tasjeel.ae took a slow manual process and made it simple, instant and automated.

What are the most notable trends today among SMEs when it comes to registering .ae domains?

The main trend is simply the overall increase in .ae domains vs generic top-level domains (like .com). We’re seeing some of the strongest growth among niche online stores and drop shipping start-ups keen to demonstrate their focus on the UAE. There’s also a wider appeal for businesses serving consumers throughout the Middle East.

In my experience, the increased trust in the .ae namespace is the result of two things:

  • Adoption of the extension by major international brands, including amazon.ae, ikea.ae and next.ae.

  • The ongoing success of the .ae authority in keeping the namespace largely free of hackers and fraudsters.

We’re also seeing increased awareness of domain names as a digital asset. UAE business owners are getting savvy to the need to protect their brands, both regionally and internationally. A common way to achieve that is registering the .ae, .me and .com versions of a chosen domain name.

In terms of the kinds of .ae domains being registered, there’s strong demand for short, catchy and SEO-focused names. More often than not, these simply aren’t available when it comes to .coms. In the same way, businesses are increasingly registering perfectly branded domains like MyBusinessName.ae, instead of using workarounds like MyBusinessNameUAE.com.

How has Tasjeel helped UAE entrepreneurs take their business online, and what tools do you provide them with?

The last 3 years have seen a massive expansion of our offering, to the point that we’re now a one-stop-shop for UAE start-ups and small businesses getting online. For less than AED 1 per day, our customers can get:

  • A domain name

  • Web hosting and website building apps

  • Unlimited visitors

  • Twice-daily backups

  • SSL certificates

  • Email addresses

  • And free 24/7 support

We’ve also launched our powerful Website Builder plans, which make it possible to build a site with no technical skills, and include everything needed to get online.

Lastly, we’ve turned tasjeel.ae from a sales-based website into a richly informative resource. As well as support articles, videos, and 24/7 live support, our blog is fast becoming a go-to resource for UAE-focused digital marketing advice.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business? Did you see a higher turnover as more businesses took their business online?

We have, although we’ve actually seen an increase in turnover since 2018 – when we revamped our website and began introducing a wider suite of products and services. This meant we were able to go into the pandemic in a strong position of growth.

In terms of changes brought by the pandemic itself, I see these more as an acceleration of existing trends. Pre-COVID, a start-up owner might have rented retail space in a mall; now they’re positioning themselves online. This shift to online-first has actually been taking place over the last decade, but COVID-19 – and the related restrictions – have definitely accelerated digital adoption in the UAE.

Like many businesses, we’ve had to adapt to the fast-changing conditions. I’d say that we’re even more flexible as a result of the pandemic. We aim to deliver enhanced support where it’s needed, in the form of discounts and additional guidance on the ideal online setup for new or evolving businesses.

From your extensive experience, what are the most important insights and tips that you can share with SME entrepreneurs looking to start their website and build their online presence?

It really all starts with a domain name. It’s the first impression customers have of your business. Remembering it correctly can mean the difference between them arriving at your website, or buying from a competitor instead, so keep your domain short, simple, and easy to spell. Don’t use numbers or hyphens, and if you can squeeze in an SEO keyword too, then that’s a great bonus!

Once you’ve chosen a domain, it’s common to look at hosting next – but you should think first about how you’ll build your site. That’s because the website builder or content management system you choose could determine the hosting plan you need. At tasjeel.ae, we’ve simplified this process by including hosting as part of our Website Builder and E-Store Builder plans. Alternative options include WordPress, Joomla and Drupal; of those three, WordPress is easiest for beginners.

If you choose to buy web hosting separately, it’s important to get a plan that’s good enough – without overspending on resources you don’t need. Standard shared hosting is fine for most businesses, but other options include WordPress hosting and cloud-based hosting. Nowadays, the cloud is a popular alternative to dedicated hosting or a virtual private server, because it combines power with greater flexibility.

Web design really helps define visitors’ perceptions of your business, and a poorly designed website is a little like a run-down storefront or office. You can get a head start by choosing an appropriate template/theme within your content management system or website builder.

Content is just as important as design, and you should be mindful of only publishing words, images or other media that represent your business positively. Keep in mind the importance of SEO – Search Engine Optimisation. It’s a complex topic, but a great starting point is including keywords that match search terms related to the products or services you offer.

From there on, it’s all about staying on top of things on an ongoing basis. That means keeping your site updated and secure. It means keeping your service or product details accurate as your business evolves. And – if you’re serious about SEO – it means publishing fresh content regularly.

Launching your online presence isn’t easy – but, with the opportunity to reach a whole world of new customers, it’s one of the most rewarding steps any small-business owner can take!

tasjeel.ae logo

Tasjeel is a notable.ae accredited domain registrar and website hosting company in the UAE, placing a special focus on serving start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs. Since its launch in 2009, Tasjeel has become one of the fastest-growing domain registrars in the UAE. The company’s focus on the value and service for their customers has seen Tasjeel recognized as the primary distributor in the marketplace. For more information or to set up your own domain visit: www.tasjeel.ae 

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