Working with people who were new to Dubai, the entrepreneur Sylvia Youssef was well aware how confusing relocating to the UAE could be.
The more she thought about it, the more she realised she could do something to help.
“There was a big gap in the system,” says Ms Youssef, who moved to Dubai six years ago from her home country of Australia to work for a company formation specialist before launching her own business, how2uae.
“A lot of people were moving into Dubai who didn’t know the dynamics. There are so many different brands and so many different rules. As we were meeting new people coming in it was the same questions, where can I get this done? Can you think of the best way to go about it? It was constant questions,” she says.
Her answer was to launch Home Gift Box, a company that delivers boxes that include information about the local area such as schools, types of visa and services such as Dewa. There are also discount vouchers and grocery products – from tea bags to coffee granules, snacks and cleaning items.
Estate agents partner with Home Gift Box, paying a delivery charge of Dh30 to send a box to their customers on moving day to make their lives easier and the experience dealing with the agent more memorable. There is also an online option to send a box to a friend or order one for yourself for a Dh60 delivery charge.
The company delivered its first box in May and by the middle of last month had sent out about 3,000.
“While we officially launched in May, we have been going through the set-up structure since as early as November last year. So we were ready. We were prepared,” says Ms Youssef.
While the box itself costs the company Dh15, its contents are free to the mover and the charges only cover delivery.
This might not seem like a good deal for Home Gift Box, but it makes its money another way. It partners with the producers of household products such as Unilever, for example, that want to target movers and receive feedback. Companies subscribe for a set period, such as three months or a year, and the contents of the box, therefore, depends on what the companies want to promote.
“Unilever [has] just changed the ingredients on their soup and the taste is a little bit different so they want to get it out to market again, and one way they can get people to try it out is to give them a free sample in the box. That way they get to trial it and get the feedback from the clients as well,” says Ms Youssef.
To gauge that valuable feedback, Home Gift Box sends out a survey two weeks after a customer has the box, asking them a few questions about its contents. Secondly, discount vouchers and offers can be tracked to see how successful the marketing campaign was.
The boxes contain dozens of products. One sent out in late May, for example, included: tissues; a packet of 16 Oreo cookies; Moroccan mint Lipton tea; four flavoured sachets of coffee; scented bin bags; a jar of Nescafé Red Mug; a bottle of Clorox disinfectant attached to floor mops; a small bottle of Persil; Coffee Mate; two Frosties cereal bars; and Signal toothpaste.
There was also a small pamphlet on different types of property investment visas, produced by how2UAE.com, as well as a leaflet and voucher for the Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding.
“Basically what [the Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding] is trying to reinforce is that there is a culture that exists here. They have an invitation in there inviting people to come and learn more about it and attend a day out,” adds Ms Youssef.
The company has not sold many boxes to private buyers so is concentrating on building its business with real estate agents, who are offered the option of including a welcome letter or branded mug.
It has only been a couple of months, but estate agents that have partnered with the company are already seeing the benefits.
“We are a British-run company, so we are always looking for things that we can bring across from the European market. That’s why we were interested in the Home Gift Box because it is quite a similar concept to something we used to do in the UK,” says Chris Whitehead, the managing director of ERE Homes.
“The thing for us is it is about giving someone a memorable service. People remember us. To get a present is always a nice thing. Customers are actually ringing us to say thanks for the gift.”
Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter