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Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Meet our founder of the week: Gahez Market’s co-founder and CEO Wael Olama

OUR FOUNDER OF THE WEEK- Wael Olama, co-founder and CEO of Gahez Market (LinkedIn).

My name is Wael Olama, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Gahez Market. I have been immersed in the textile industry since I started my professional career and worked with industry giants such as Li & Fung Group, where I was both chairman and a shareholder of the firm’s Egyptian subsidiary. I’m also the co-founder and treasurer of the Egyptian Food Bank, and the chair of Perfect Spinning, a spinning company that makes and exports recyclable, sustainable textiles.

I co-founded B2B fashion marketplace Gahez Market to tackle inefficiencies in the interaction between the manufacturing, trade, and retail sides of the local and regional fashion industry. Our goal is to connect fashion retailers with suppliers. We provide retailers with credit facilities and facilitate settlement with suppliers. We handle logistics, supply, and provide both sides of the coin with key insights and analytics.

Our business model starts with the manufacturers. We’ve created an online platform where they can showcase their products to retailers. In this way, we’ve enabled retailers to gain access to thousands of manufacturers with a click of a button, instead of having to go to exhibitions and shops to connect with a handful of traders or suppliers. This tech-enabled approach has empowered retailers to operate in the same way as global fast fashion players, offering a different fashion season every week to their customers.

We recently launched Gahez Express, which enables manufacturers to store their products within our dark stores so we can enhance fulfillment and deliver to retailers faster.

Our long term goal is to replicate the Gahez Market model in similar emerging markets, after we are satisfied with the success of our model in Egypt. We also want to establish Gahez as a manufacturing brand.

Our short term goal is to further enhance our operations locally, before we start exporting starting next quarter to select African markets. Our aim is to enable small and medium-sized factories to bring their products to foreign markets with ease by connecting them with importers using our tech platform. We will handle the logistics and payment, among other aspects.

I love witnessing the social impact side of the business. A great part of the job is being able to empower SMEs — many of whom offer quality products but lack marketing and distribution channels — to reach their full potential. We also have a team on the ground that is educating small sellers, including street vendors, on how to use our app so they can become part of the Gahez community. We are also helping reduce imports by sourcing local, which I believe is paramount. But the best part of the job for me is working with our team, which is made up of young people who are truly impressive.

Customer satisfaction is one of the most important KPIs we focus on. We are changing the mindset of our customers, so we care deeply about reshaping the way they do business in a meaningful and seamless fashion. We are also focused on optimizing our process, whether it be our tech, logistics, or offline services.

The founder journey was not a lonely voyage for me, partly because I started multiple businesses prior to co-founding Gahez Market, and also because I have a great team, co-founders, and board members. I resigned all my executive roles in other businesses in multiple countries to focus on my entrepreneurial journey as the CEO here.

Gahez Market raised USD 2 mn in our pre-seed funding round, which was led by Disruptech Ventures. Egypt Ventures, EFG Hermes’ Tanmeyah, LoftyInc Capital’s Afropreneurs fund, EchoVC, and other angel investors also participated in the round. We plan to raise more funds in 2022 from pre-existing and a few select investors.

If I had to do it all over again, I would still go down the investor route. I believe that bringing in the right partners accelerates the business on so many levels. Investors obviously bring capital to the table, but they also bring strategic insight and can help you expand into different markets. We partnered with two African VCs to help us with our expansion plans. Partnering with smart money that can add value to your business is essential.

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