Morocco-Based Aliphia Platform Offers Accounting Software In Arabic For MENA SMEs Essay
Managing finances, invoicing for products or services provided, and other financial tasks may not be alluring aspects of starting a business, but they are undoubtedly key requirements for running and scaling it. While established companies or even startups with deep pockets have the luxury to hire a large finance team or implement systems to automate finance function, it’s often a budget that small businesses cannot afford in early-stages of business.
Being an SME themselves, -based IT solutions company was quick to realize that using large accounting systems required a “long curve of learning,” and needed users with prior experience with such software. In case you are wondering what’s unique about a startup creating a financial software, consider this: after launching its SaaS accounting product in 2011, Sahih Business decided to go one step ahead in 2013 with its flagship product – the “first” Arabic cloud-based SaaS accounting software for SMEs.
“Our objective is to offer a solution, easy to use, that encourages the use of cloud, and actually fits company requirements,” says Mohammed Adnan Morabet, co-founder and CEO, Sahih Business, summarizing the key proposition of Aliphia. “Aliphia offers a true Arabic user experience interface. That means that the software was made
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Morabet’s passion for web design, and his work experience of over 10 years in Morocco and Spain’s SaaS market, kept him going as he spent nearly three years in developing and refining his product, a process in which he was ably supported by co-founder and CMO Asmae Bouabdellah’s marketing expertise. Being a firm believer of a “solid business model” and “strong product,” Morabet says that the startup continues to build varied value-add features, and has structured itself to suit both product and services businesses. Following a freemium Aliphia accepts e-payments thanks to its integration with digital systems, such as PayPal and 2Checkout. As Morabet puts it, the company’s mission goes beyond selling software, and it is keen on providing a full stack support for small businesses to scale. In line with this, Aliphia is also offered in local mode- clients with poor connectivity can enjoy the same Aliphia experience even without an internet connection with Aliphia BOX, a server that hosts Aliphia in LAN/WAN.
Growing from feature to feature, Aliphia now counts an average of 14,000 active users for the product, and has crossed the 500 customers mark just last quarter. Going by flow of orders, the company expects to reach over 1,000 customers at the end of 2017. While it supports bookkeeping in Arabic, English, Turkish and French, Morabet says an average of 3,000 Arabic invoices are created each month on the platform. is its biggest market with a 74% share, and the startup also has users in Egypt, the UAE, Kuwait, Libya, Jordan, Palestine, and Yemen. Bootstrapping and re-investing revenue back into the business, Aliphia is focusing on growth through partnerships with key players in online payments, finance and telecom in KSA and UAE, in the coming year, and is also working on implementing their software on third-party products.
With installable software (that are sometimes free) and simple spreadsheets posing threat to Aliphia’s adoption, Morabet counts “a low price, and pay-as-you-go model,” and unique Arabic support as their selling proposition. Elaborating on what has been the startup’s biggest challenge, Morabet mentions difficulties faced in customer conversions and misconceptions about local providers. He feels that the region’s customers tend to look favorably at foreign vendors, and often see local ones as “less competent [or] trusted.” Another challenge Aliphia faces is inadequate feedback from users, which, Morabet says, leaves them wondering about their retention strategies. “Most of the customers use it and never come back, and you need to know why [this happened] when you have just started.” There is also the awareness gap with regards to cloud-based solutions, especially when it comes to their target customers- But as small businesses struggle to scale up without access to sophisticated financial management tools, and regulators insisting on making Arabic a legal business requirement in the region, Morabet is convinced that there is a sizable market for Aliphia, but also a long way to go for the startup. However, true to his company’s objective, Morabet is very clear on where Aliphia’s focus lies: “We want to help Arabic businesses achieve their objectives of success by giving them access to the right tools that will help them pursue their goals.”
'TREP TALK ME
Mohammed Adnan Morabet, co-founder and CEO, Sahih Business
ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN MOROCCO
“I think that countries like Morocco should learn more from the UAE and KSA; they are a clear example of successful Arab nations growing an entrepreneurship ecosystem with fundamentals. Contests, incubators, mentorship and funding are needed in the [Morocco] region to help entrepreneurs. They must be of quality, and serve a real purpose to the entrepreneurs and not the organizers.”
TIPS FOR ASPIRING ENTREPRENEURS
“First, start selling as soon as possible, and from there improve your product and margins. The quantity of customers doesn’t matter if they are happy using your product; you need to learn about your business from them. Second, know your competition, and don’t do only what they do. Do what they thought they cannot do. Many businesses doing the same stuff can also be a lot of businesses doing the wrong things. Third, don’t believe the information you find over the internet about the MENA region; there is a lot of wrong data. Take it into consideration, but always take decisions using your own business data mixed with in-house tests.”