Since the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, the country has suffered from instability and perpetual conflict. However, sectors such as e-commerce and delivery have been booming despite the absence of electronic payment services in the country.
In 2014, Ammar Ameen founded Miswag, the first e-commerce platform in Iraq. His goal was to help local merchants in Baghdad with little capital to start selling their products online. Ameen explains, “We consider ourselves a company focusing on solutions to problems specific to the Iraqi market .”
Taking a Stance Against Counterfeit Goods
The founder saw the e-commerce business as an opportunity to work with key suppliers and distribution networks. At the time, Ameen noticed there was a lack of regulation within the local market. As a result, counterfeit goods were widely available, and there was confusion about pricing. This ultimately led to ineffective supply chains.
Consumers were left in a position where it was impossible to be sure whether they were buying original products. It was an unreliable environment for consumers. Miswag wanted to offer a space within which Iraqi consumers could be sure that they are procuring verified genuine products. This approach has proved popular with both brands and consumers.
“We knew the problems that vendors faced in the market, so we decided to invest in logistics, and improve the services provided to ensure quality. We tried to create a new pattern in trade.” Ammar Ameen, CEO, Miswag
Ameen explains to WAYA that Miswag is helping vendors as well as consumers. Ameen tells WAYA, “We knew the problems vendors faced in the market, so we decided to invest in logistics, and improve the services provided to ensure quality. We tried to create a new way of conducting trade.” By studying the market, the problems faced by vendors became apparent. Miswag provides the technology that vendors need to reach a wide consumer base. Ameen says vendors “are able to display their products on the platform and sell them, to make a profit.”
Funding was an obstacle for the e-commerce startup. Few international investors want to invest in Iraqi startups and the government is focused on the geopolitical situation. As a result, Miswag started off as a self-funded project, but, in 2019, Miswag received investment from Iraq Tech Ventures.
Today Miswag’s sales have reached nearly $1 million. It has expanded to Mosul, Baghdad, Kirkuk and Kurdistan, and aims to conquer the entire Iraqi market to reach even more vendors and consumers. The business is growing at an incredible rate, which is a testament to the work of its employees.
Entrepreneurship in Iraq
Besides financing, entrepreneurs also faced problems related to the lack of technology-based infrastructure. There is a general lack of technology-based-solutions in the country that is stunting tech startups.
Notably, the biggest problem for entrepreneurs is the war with ISIS. It forced the Miswag to completely stop operations for a period of six months. Although, when conditions got better, the Miswag team was able to pick up the business where they left off.
“The road to entrepreneurship is always dangerous, and a pioneering leader must always be ready to take the first step…if we take that first step for others, the situation of our country will improve.” Ammar Ameen, CEO, Miswag
Additionally, Ameen told WAYA that the Iraqi government was not interested in entrepreneurial projects due to the war. The Iraqi government allocated $840 million to finance small and medium-sized companies, but startups have yet to receive any financing. Ameen says, “The road to entrepreneurship is always dangerous, and a pioneering leader must always be ready to take the first step…if we take that first step for others, the situation of our country will improve.”
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