Improvising, Dealing with Stress and Building a Reputation: Here’s What Drove Our CEO and Founder Idriss to Build Fetchr

Fetchr
Fetchr
Jun 27 · 5 min read

Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. Idriss Al Rifai, founder and CEO of Fetchr, shares some of the inspirations, challenges, and motivations for creating his business. From the conflicting feelings about whether to start a business, to the lonely feelings of being at the top, we see what he does to power through and make heads turn in the e-commerce world.

What motivated you to start Fetchr?

Idriss Al Rifai: I was coming from the other side of the table, from the e-commerce side. When I was at MarkaVIP back in 2012, we saw, not only a lot of issues with the logistics players, but also the fact that:

1) They did not really understand technology. We were looking for a logistics partner who could really bring customization, reports, and performance. And we realized that none of the players were ready or willing to do so.

2) We found that a lot of the logistics players, especially the traditional big ones, didn’t really have the solutions to cope with the two big issues that you have in this part of the world — the Middle East, but also emerging markets to a big extent — which is 1) a solution that really deals with cash-on-delivery; and 2) a solution that really solves the problem of no address.

This is a problem that you have not only in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, but also in Pakistan, Nigeria, or India. It’s quite a prevalent problem. And if you look at e-commerce and e-commerce platforms, they still are looking for addresses. They still rely on addresses to get stuff delivered. We believe that addresses are not only irrelevant for more than four billion people, but they will also become obsolete soon as people are becoming more and more mobile and want the logistics company to be flexible enough to match their lifestyle and not the other way around.

Starting Fetchr was almost something that I had to do. Somebody had to do it, and hopefully I’d be the guy. That’s how it got started.

What is the toughest part about building a startup?

Idriss Al Rifai: You’ve got two parts. Starting a business in any part of the world is difficult. You have all these doubts. You have all these naysayers. Honestly, you need to be fairly schizophrenic to be able to get started.

All the evidence points to one conclusion; that you should not start for your own sake. We know that most of the entrepreneurs actually become less wealthy than when they choose a regular career. We know that 70% of all startups fail, with all money from the founder and CEO gone. It’s not logical.

So, you have all these issues for starting a business. Then you have the issues of starting a business in this part of the world. Which is, like, crazy. You have problems with funding. You have problems with how you’re going to recruit talent. You have problems with building your own tech teams, and so on.

All these issues do exist in other parts of the world, but here it’s so much more acute. Back in MarkaVIP days, there were no bankruptcy laws. So, I would say the liability was so much higher. It still is in quite a few countries.

Building a startup is slightly different. Basically, once you get to a certain level, once you’ve managed to create quite certain amount of traction, then how do you build a company that can go 10x, 20x, 50x? That’s a different question.

The startup ecosystem has been maturing over the past few years. Five years ago it was a lot less startup friendly than what it is now. But we feel now that startups are facing existential issues.

I found that the regulations and just the cost of doing business is extremely high in this part of the world. You have both the regulation issues, you have both the “cost of living” issues, and then you also have the issue of heavy fragmentation. What we call “the GCC” (Gulf Cooperation Council) or the Middle East is extremely fragmented. People see it as unified part of the world, but that’s misconception. That’s simply not the case.

What inspires you today and every day?

Idriss Al Rifai: First, I’d say this job — startup founder — is an incredibly lonely job. It’s very lonely, and honestly quite a bit schizophrenic. Because it’s very difficult for you to share your doubts with anyone. Even with your own family, your close friends, or with your employees.

The reason it’s so hard, is because you always have to be the face of the company. Every day, clients and investors say ‘no, no no.’ You keep getting knocked out every single day, but that’s not what people see from the outside. They only remember the good side of the story. The successes. Not the failures.

For example, you’re getting rejected for an entire day. Then, the next day Fetchr gets featured in the newspapers after we raised a large amount of money from investors. And that’s what people remember. Not the hundreds of times you’ve been told ‘no’. It’s almost like it doesn’t matter to anyone, and I’m sure it actually doesn’t. But keeping yourself motivated after so many no’s is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur. You have to pump yourself up every single day again, to keep going, keep pushing, keep growing, etc.

I’m a firm believer that motivation is something that comes from within yourself; you have to be self-driven. Even if you have doubts and ups and downs, you have to get back up and keep on fighting. I found that this is the biggest part of what pushes me every day.

When I think about role models, someone like Ronaldo (Mouchawar) comes to mind, the founder of Souq (now Amazon.ae). I can only imagine the type of challenges he must have faced throughout the period he was building his company. I always think about how it must have been, fifteen years ago, and how thick his skin must have become throughout the process. It is an incredible achievement and a testament to not only the great level of execution he showed but also of his tremendous willpower to power through this marathon of a journey.

Just because it is difficult, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it. Fetchr is solving the problems of logistics and last-mile delivery, which is exactly what we were meant to do. Starting a business is about filling a need and doing it with the drive to get the job done.


We are Fetchr; a company specialized in e-fulfillment. We help e-commerce entrepreneurs grow their business in the Middle East. Let’s make it happen! One box at a time. Learn more here.

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This blog is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be considered business or legal advice. MENA 360 DWC-LLC (Fetchr) will not be held liable for the use, non-use or misapplication of this information, lost profits, personal or business interruption, or any other loss.

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We’re on a mission to build the next generation of e-commerce entrepreneurs. Let’s make it happen. One box at a time!

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