2015 award winner Souqalmal.com impressed judges with its strong growth and pioneering approach to personal finance education

When Ambareen Musa arrived in Dubai in 2008, she was struck by the fact there were 50 banks established in the UAE, but no easy way to compare the products and services on offer.

“I come from a culture where comparison is normal,” says the entrepreneur. “You educate yourself on your options before you buy.”

Musa went on to establish Souqalmal.com, an unbiased platform empowering users to compare over 3,200 retail banking, telecoms, insurance and education products offered by providers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

In recognition of her achievement, Souqalmal.com was named Online Business of the Year at the Gulf Capital SME Awards 2015, held in partnership with MEED.

“Souqalmal.com is a pioneering digital business in the region,” says Dr Karim El Solh, co-founder and CEO of UAE-based alternative asset management firm Gulf Capital. “It was one of the first fintechs seen in the UAE and is an excellent business delivering strong growth.”

Online credentials

Musa has always been passionate about financial education and led the UK’s first online finance education initiative, moneybasics.co.uk. She went on to set up the consulting arm of MasterCard Middle East and Africa, before founding Souqalmal.com in 2012.

The UAE provides many opportunities for entrepreneurs and the company founder was quick to see the benefits of establishing a business in the region.

“There were bound to be holes in services and other areas which was fantastic for entrepreneurs,” she says. “This country has grown in more in 40 years than others have in 200 years. Dubai was on double digit growth and I could find no reason to not ride that wave.”

But being at the forefront of the fintech revolution in the region presented challenges for the fledgling business, and negotiating the tight regulations on financial services when scaling-up the company proved to be even tougher.

“Every country had different regulations to abide by,” says Musa. “It felt that you had to do a start up all over again in every country of the region.”

Following the vision

As consumers around the world become more informed decisions are often made, not just on the quality and cost of a product or service, but also on the ethics and reputation of the provider.

For souqalmal.com this is especially true and having a clear vision about the purpose of the platform has enabled the company to become a thought leader on personal finance, a trusted brand in the industry, and a household name in the UAE.

“That was because we are passionate about educating the UAE resident on how not to get trapped and understand their finances better,” says Musa. “We were on a mission and the success came along with it.”

There have been many important milestones for the company including a launch into Saudi Arabia, the addition of the insurance vertical to the platform, and raising $10m during its latest funding round, attracting investment from UK aggregator GoCompare Group, Ryiad Taqnia Fund (RTF) and UAE Exchange.

Winning the Gulf Capital SME Award in 2015 was significant for the company founder and CEO.

“We were proud of the award and it brought a lot of credibility to what we were trying to achieve.” says Musa. “It was a huge stamp of approval.”

On 24 November 2021, the Gulf Capital SME AWARDS 2021 in partnership with MEED will recognise and celebrate the best small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE. The programme has attracted 1,922 total entries from 1,209 participating companies​, and has recognised 553 finalists​ and 350 winners​ across 17 categories​ with one unifying purpose – to accelerate and enable innovation in the economy’s most vital sector.