“I did not know how keen everyone is on beauty apps until I came to Kuwait,” said Zaina Al Bader, founder of Kuwaiti beauty salon and spa booking app, Bookr.
The need for salon and beauty services is a global one, but honing in on the Middle East and Africa, the personal grooming industry is valued at $25.7 billion. According to a report by Euromonitor International, this made it the fastest growing beauty market in 2014.
While the world’s biggest consumers of beauty services are found in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, spending $4.8 billion and $1.4 billion respectively, according to the same report. While there were no stats available for Kuwait, Bader is sure it is a quickly growing market.
Launched in December 2015, for both iOS and Android, Bookr allows users to search for beauty salons and book an appointment directly from the app. “Here the need is larger, people go more often [to beauty spas],” she said.
Beauty at your sevice. (Images via Bookr)
It was on moving back to Kuwait in 2011, with a bachelor’s degree from MIT in science, and a job at the Gulf Bank, that she first noticed how into beauty treatments everyone was.
Although Bookr is currently only available in Kuwait, it has nearly 50 merchants and 14,000 downloads, with slightly more male users than female, “despite minimal advertising,” added Al Bader. Those who book an appointment can either pay through the app or in-store.
With plans to expand to the GCC, Albaer looks to Lebanon and Egypt as well. “We had interest expressed from other Asian countries as well.”
At the moment, the founder is in talks with potential clients in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Dubai and Bahrain. “We are trying to find the most suited partner and we don’t want to franchise it out. We want to maintain quality customer service,” she said.
Men need pampering too
Bookr’s expansion to the UAE will face some steep competition.
Beem in Dubai was launched in August 2015 by Samantha Hamilton-Rushforth. The app lets users choose their preferred booking time and treatment, while showing them available options. Spoilee is another beauty appointment app that launched first in Saudi Arabia but has signed up several venues in GCC countries. Vaniday, while originally based in the UK, moved to the UAE a year ago.
Locally, there is the Sparadise Kuwait Spa and Beauty app, but they only lists their own services.
Despite a fair amount of competition in the region, Al Bader believes her business model is a bit different. Been is an appointment request app; Vaniday takes a commission on each booking. Bookr, while having not yet decided on their revenue model (she is currently using personal savings to fund Bookr), might look to a subscription fee with vendors, and a small transaction fee from payment, Al Bader said.
With a development team based in eastern Europe, Al Bader is working alone in Kuwait. She is currently looking for a business partner in order to help her expand.