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Setting sight on the future: Alex Tchablakian

Local eCommerce platform LetsTango.com has seen a fair share of ups and downs, here CEO Alex Tchablakian tell us what sets them apart from competitors and the firm’s plans to boost eCommerce in the region

Tell us about LetsTango.com.
LetsTango.com is a homegrown independent marketplace.  We cater to a large number of international audiences and currently have an array of exclusive brands across 50 different categories in our brand roster from all over the globe.

We started our journey in 2013 as an online store selling electronics, whereas today we have transformed into a boutique eCommerce marketplace providing niche products and services, not only in the UAE but overseas as well. I believe we have seen success in building a solid marketplace for brands who can reach out to customers that they may not have been able to on their own. And, with our drop shipping model we can minimise any risks and costs while offering both convenience and practicality.

Along with our active drop shipping vertical, we have our own warehouse. Located in Dubai, where we stock all our unique products exclusively on LetsTango.com, both on consignment and our own stock.

What makes LetsTango.com unique from the rest of the eCommerce platforms in the region? 
We are consistently investing in innovative concepts and are on the lookout for new partnerships for business growth. Recently, we signed our first ever deal with Aramex to power cross-border eCommerce in the region. This agreement will enable both companies to deliver more than 1,000 authentic and exclusive products in the UAE.

We have just established multiple Thai vendors on our platform and will be expanding to other regions in the coming months. Through this exclusive partnership, we are aiming to generate revenue of over Dhs20 million in a bid to exponentially fuel eCommerce in the Middle East region.

This bears resemblance to our past partnership with telecom service provider du, who approached us to setup their eShop. We have also had dealings with American Express, banks, Aimia, Air Arabia, and 3D printing services companies.

We always aim to educate our vendors and allow everyone to function in a fair marketplace environment. As per our business model, we do not allow multiple vendors to list the same products online and ensure that each seller practices a proper guideline to list their genuine products.

The past year has been a challenge for businesses across the world. How has the eCommerce sector fared? 
The year, 2020, has been challenging for all businesses. I have been hearing a lot that the pandemic has not affected our area of business, but that is not the case. As my business is also my partner’s business. It is always a two-way street.  It is true that we were fortunate enough to be able to operate during these periods, some of our partnered vendors were not as fortunate. This resulted in them either being forced to cut costs, downsize or even worse, shut down shop.

As we are a marketplace, we are dependent for our vendors to succeed, as the more vendors we have the bigger our catalogue. In this same period, customers only had one sales channel for them to purchase their necessities – online.

So, while we have absorbed an increase in demand, our supply was limited. Now that restrictions have eased, we are back to operating just as we did before the pandemic. What we have also noticed are the behavioural changes of our customers as well. They are a lot more welcoming to payment in advanced as opposed to cash on delivery options.

Since its inception, what are some of the challenges LetsTango.com has faced?
In the beginning, we had a lot of difficulties with fraudulent orders. Even with 3-D Secure, banks could not fully accept that they were genuine, and it was up to the merchant to determine themselves and hold responsibility. Having endured this difficult period, technology has caught up, and we were able to put in place a fraud prevention module in our payment gateway that is making our lives a lot easier now.

In terms of our challenges in digital marketing, we could no longer maintain the modest budget we had in the early stages. The competition was too strong with the entrants of large companies with a lot of funding, and LetsTango.com being a self-funded start-up, had to resort to more creative marketing campaigns without having to put too much strain on our budget.

Has there been a demand in services since the start of the pandemic?
Yes, we have seen good growth as compared to the previous year. Fortunately, we were able to maintain business with our redemption partners during this period and vice-versa. Many consumers used loyalty card points for products as opposed to flights.

Our vendors needed to adapt as well due to the outbreak, some approached us to educate them on creating their own online stores and have in turn hired us as consultants or to create a store for them. Which we were happy to do, and I am content that their projects are powered by LetsTango.com. This has become quite popular, and we decided to create a proper eCommerce white box service.

In terms of social distancing and hygiene, we have followed the proper strict social distancing norms. Hygiene was our priority, especially with handling and delivering any products to customer.

What are some of the most selling items on your platform?
As experts in electronics, we have seen a good growth in this category, where smartphones, laptops, wireless headsets, gaming machines and gadgets took the lead. We also made extra efforts to expand and were happy with the traction we received on popular Asian fashion products, Korean skin care products, gym equipment and even assorted and premium chocolates.

Do you plan to expand to other cities in the region?
Yes, we have plans to expand our geographical presence and would like to enter Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We are currently working on this now.

What are your plans for 2021? 
We will continue to invest in more innovative concepts that reflect our core values. Expansion is vital for our overall growth. We aim to undertake a lot of segmenting, AI driven, tech upgrades for our website and mobile application. This year, our aim is for more partnerships with other brands who share similar synergies and value as ours.


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