Back To Blog

How do you do market research for a start-up idea in Dubai

April, 2022

Dubai, in more ways than one, is the gateway to the entire Middle East, comprising the rich economies of the UAE itself, along with Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest economy, Qatar, one of the world’s richest countries, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman. Additionally, the USE also serves as a key hub for various central and south Asian markets.

Over the years, UAE has successfully diversified its economy to become a key financial and tourism hub, using its key central location to service both the east and the west. It is home to a large number of conglomerates and hosts regional offices for some of the largest companies in the world. It’s two airlines, Emirates and Etihad are amongst the biggest and best in the world and ferry millions of passengers to this growing cosmopolitan and glitzy city, that has become the playground for the rich and famous.

Given the backdrop, it is obvious that Dubai has become the land of opportunity and has seen a multitude of start-ups growing and thriving over the years. They cater to virtually every need that the market identifies, hoping to provide solutions to problems, complex and simple, and creating unique niches for themselves in the process.

Giving the plethora of start-ups, there is obvious and crying need for providing market research and assessing feasibilities of various ideas in this space. There are a few basic hygiene steps that every company in this space needs to cover in order to comprehensively research and evaluate the start-up ideas.

Before any meaningful market research can be carried out, it is important to ask some very basic questions of the start-up and their business proposition. So, hygiene questions to ask at this stage are - Is the star up a B2B start-up or one directly selling to customers? Which industry is the start-up focused ln? Is it a mature industry or one that is emerging and only just starting the grow? Is the idea a product or a service? There could be many more, and a detailed questionnaire is prepared customized to every project.

Most of these questions are directly answered by the founders and the core team of the start-ups, and ensuring that they are fully aware of the playing field becomes a core responsibility of a consulting firm. The forms that a market research exercise takes, is greatly influenced by the founders responses to these questions. Most consulting firms usually have a questionnaire that they try to fill out with founders and key stakeholders of the start-up before embarking on the market research exercise. At The Strategy Boutique, we call it a Visioning study.

This step often sets the groundwork for proceeding with the research. Once this is established, the actual market research process can begin.

The next step is identifying the total addressable market for the idea or product. Dubai has an extremely diverse and cosmopolitan population, so identifying and measuring the size of the target market is critical. This helps determine whether the idea by itself would have enough takers to grow and achieve economies of scale.

This is followed by a detailed research on customer preferences. Since customers would be the ones eventually paying for the offering, understanding what they want and also the package in which they want it, is critical. The offering needs to be rolled out to them seamlessly and conveniently to ensure that they actually benefit from it, thereby ensuring that they are willing to pay for it. Some great ideas are often not easily monetised, simply because customers do not perceive a monetary benefit and hence, aren’t willing to pay for it. This step is critical to ensure that the start-up would be a growing and viable concern.

The next step in the market research process is to identify any potential competition, big or small, that are already in the market, doing similar things and serving a similar addressable market. Understanding the competition out there helps position the start-up as not just a me too brand, but a brand built to provide a unique and bespoke solution, which is either more effective. Or more affordable. Or both. This steps also helps to learn from experiences of other companies, and helps the start-up avoid common pitfalls and mistakes, and in some cases also improvise and better their product or idea before it’s rolled out to customers.

Lastly, it is important to do an extensive market research in neighbouring markets, since most start-ups, while using UAE as a base Also seek to expand into other countries which similar demographics and customer profiles as the UAE. Most of these neighbouring countries present a very attractive opportunity for start-ups and this bit of research is critical to ensure that the start-up grows and becomes more Multinational.

While market research is usually a complex topic and sets the foundation for a company’s entire business plan, any good consulting firm has its checklists to ensure that most bases are covered and this task is as comprehensive and accurate as is required by virtually every company. This is often to first step in launching a new business, and the success of any business is intrinsically tied to the success of this this step.

At The Strategy Boutique, market research is an area that we are very strong in, across most of our target markets. Having a strong local presence is imperative, since customer preferences can be best mapped by locals, and that’s always been one of our fortes with our colleagues based out of multiple regions and geographies ensuring that even subtle nuances are well taken into account.

Nothing illustrates this better than an actual project. To drive home this, we’ll refer to a recent project we did for an app that sought to connect wholesalers and retailers with a view to simplifying local UAE trade between supermarkets on one hand, and importers and wholesalers on the other. Sensing a massive asymmetry and gap in the current system of procurements, our client set out to streamline this, by creating a platform for the two parties to collaborate, and further down the line, offer value added services like credit financing, warehousing, deliveries and so on.

The project kicked off with an in-depth meeting with the client’s management team, understanding what their objectives were that prompted them to enter this space, and how they saw themselves grow in the short, medium and long terms. The opportunities and risks of this space were discussed at length, and once both sides were aligned, we moved to the next phase of the project – mapping the total addressable market.

The involved a detailed market sizing of the size of the retail market across all verticals, using extensive primary and secondary research, and determining the potential in this space. This involved in-depth interactions with key stakeholders in the industry, and extensive secondary research. One the market segment was deemed to be viable for this business, we set out to map consumer preferences.

This was B2B business, and we needed to understand what were the big pain points felt by both categories of business customers – wholesalers and importers, and retailers. Understanding their current operations, and finding opportunities to streamline them were the key outcomes of this exercise. Also understanding if customers were willing to pay for this product was critical, as in order to monetize the service, it was imperative to ascertain revenue streams, and optimize them.

Post this, we moved on to a study of the competition, both direct and indirect. A detailed SWOT was performed for each competitor, and the objective was to understand which part of the market were they dominant in, and how they were faring.

Scalability is a big part of any business, and our research moved to other markets in the GCC where this product could be scaled up. This is imperative, since once the business proposition is established, it is important to roll it out as many markets as possible.

A detailed market research report is then prepared, and presented to the client. At this stage, there is extensive back and forth between the client and us to ensure that everyone is on the same page, all points clarified and questions answered, and the next steps in the overall project identified.

This in a nutshell comprises a typical market research study. We have of course simplified this case as much as possible, an actual project is a lot more complex and has subtle nuances that are always kept in mind during the scope of the project. Feel free to drop us a line if you’d like to understand more about our tools and techniques for market research. We would love to hear from you!

  • Written By Abhinav Srivastava

Abhinav, a highly skilled management consultant, is one of TSB’s co-founders. He prefers to obsess over a BlackBerry in a world of iPhones.