Monster.com comes to Arabia. Will other web brands follow?

The first dot.com wave of 1994-2000 barely made itself felt in Arabia. Sure, we had our own little dot.com scene in Arabia. Remember PlanetArabia.com (the domain, which now points to some dating site is for sale if you’re interested!). Then there was Arabia.com (disclaimer: I was a founding member at that company but left before they started burning their US$ 20 Millions of funding). And sure, we even have dot.com survivors from that era. Maktoob.com is alive and kicking (they seem to be up to something big these days). So is Bayt.com (who still have their strange ‘lifestyle engineering’ slogan, which drove everyone in the ‘industry’ nuts before they launched their site, back in the day).

But the last ten years have seen very few major developments in the Arab internet industry. With the exception of MSN Arabia, and Google (who have Arabic language interfaces), we really have not seen any major internet brand take interest in the Arab market. Survey the big internet brands from Amazon to Yahoo. None have a presence in the region.

As for the homegrown development of the dot.com sector, the picture isn’t too exciting either. While there was a clear growth in the number and size of marketing oriented (read: brochurware) corporate websites and the emergence of news oriented sites like elaph.com, CNN Arabic, and AMEinfo.com (acquired by Emap for US$ 24 million) there haven’t been any major breakthroughs in Arab e-commerce or other types of online services.

Enter a Monster.

Monster.com a job search site and itself a US dot.com survivor, has recently launched Monster Gulf. The site is still in beta and there is no Arabic interface. But it is definitely interesting to see a well known internet brand make a commitment to the region. The current oil boom and the increasing sophistication of regional economies perhaps explain why it was a job search site that came to the region first. Companies are constantly challenged by the scarcity of professional people. So Monster.com is probably choosing the right moment to make its market entry.

I predict that within the next 24 months we will see more US web companies making their appearance in Arabia. I wonder how far away Amazon.com is from making a move. In their case, the fragmentation of the Arab market by political borders and customs restrictions might prove to be a major obstacle.

It’s not just a matter of slapping an Arabic interfaces onto a website. That’s the easy part. The real challenge is to establish a website’s support and sales team and to get the logistics right too.

In any case, with or without the global brands, something is moving on the Arabian web. After a long period of sleepiness, I am noticing that more entrepreneurs are thinking about starting up web ventures again. This is really cool. And it will be even cooler if we had some of the big global web companies around in the region this time, as this will definitely raise standards and challenge the local entrepreneurs to create better sites.

And who knows, some of the locals might become targets of acquisitions by the globals.


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One Response to “Monster.com comes to Arabia. Will other web brands follow?”

  1. Khalidah Says:

    I think that more global brands will be penetrating our market very soon …

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