From a one-man company to 30 employees and a six-figure pre-seed investment: Orderii’s Shakir Ayad has come a long way since his Orange Corners days. Taking advantage of the growing digital literacy and smartphone use among Iraq’s young population, his cross-border e-commerce platform is perfectly set to provide Iraq’s customers with sought-after foreign products now and in the future. We spoke to Shakir about Orderii, doing business in Iraq and how Orange Corners helped him get where he is today.
To start, could you quickly introduce yourself and your company?
I’m Shakir, the founder and CEO of the Orderii app. We’re a cross-border B2C e-commerce platform, we help Iraqi consumers to buy authentic and original products from around the world. From Europe, the United States, the Gulf region or China for example. Products that aren’t available in Iraq, such as ZARA clothes or equipment tools. Or products that are available, but expensive and cheaper to ship. Orderii covers the whole supply chain process for the customer. They choose a product they like, and we do the procurement till the last mile delivery, all the way to their home. It’s easy and simple: it takes them 5 clicks to order, we do the rest. And we do all this through e-payments. Our app is the first in Iraq that supports e-payments instead of cash on delivery.
What inspired you to start Orderii?
There was no Orderii before Orange Corners. Orderii started as a one-man business, when I was selling stuff from the United States in university. When I joined Orange Corners, I decided to do things a bit differently. Before I made some mistakes, this time I wanted to do it the right way. With an application, a brand, employees, finance.. these things are essential for any startup.
I decided to build the app when I joined, only in the middle of the cohort we decided to call it Orderii, and we registered the domain and these things. It took us a year to build the application. But we went live at the end of the cohort, and parallel to this we built our structure, our human capacity.
What made you apply to the Orange Corners programme?
It was a spontaneous decision. It was in the middle of the night, my friend called me asking “Why don’t you apply to Orange Corners?” So I applied to Orange Corners. And I met the people from KAPITA, presented my project to them, and they liked it. So I thought “Let’s give Orange Corners a shot”. I believed in the project, but I knew I needed to do something different to grow it. I believe you should knock all possible doors to achieve success. So I knocked the door of Orange Corners.
How did Orange Corners help you grow as an entrepreneur?
Orange Corners showed me that I should build a business structure, take care of finance, legal matters. Most startups, including myself, don’t care about finance or accountants. We just take money and spend it. Through Orange Corners I learnt this money belongs to the company, that I should not spend this money. I learnt that I should hire an accountant, a finance manager, employees to do operations, customer support, marketing, legal help to register the company. Learning how entrepreneurship and startups work worldwide helped me build a good structure for my own startup. I also received an OCIF investment. I couldn’t have done all this without KAPITA and Orange Corners, the information, training, coaching, help to build the infrastructure. I’m proud to be part of Orange Corners.
How was your journey after graduating from the Orange Corners programme?
After I graduated from Orange Corners I joined KAPITA’s ScaleUp Academy. This programme also helped us to focus more on finance, human capacity building, and we got a little help to build our application. We went live in February, and after that we started to talk with potential investors. After negotiating for about 9 months, we got a deal with Iraq Venture Partners (IVP). So since then we’ve been doing this, growing, capacity building, building the infrastructure for Orderii.
Shakir has what it takes to grow a business in Iraq. He is operationally savvy and knows the Iraqi consumer. He has built a strong team and shown impressive traction without any external funding thus far. Now with funding, we look forward to seeing him take Orderii to the next level.Zahi Hilal, Investment Manager at IVP
What were the main challenges you faced as an entrepreneur?
There were two main challenges. The first challenge was to register the company. It took me and my lawyer five months. It was also very expensive, 3,500 dollars. I didn’t have this money, so I borrowed from a friend. This is a problem for many entrepreneurs. And dealing with logistics can also be challenging. Logistics in Iraq aren’t stable, because you’re dealing with ports, airports, so there are always delays. But we’re working to fix this!
Is there anything you are particularly proud of?
I’m proud of my team. I’m proud of what we’re doing as Orderii. We have a great team and are hiring more people. This helps Orderii and also the community and the private sector. The private sector in Iraq is not so strong, so I’m so proud of what we’re doing as a company, offering jobs, recruiting people.
What are your plans for the future?
Our main focus in 2023 is building the infrastructure for the logistics. As a cross-border e-commerce platform, we want use our global experience to build something that helps Iraq with the last mile delivery. We’ve seen how the last mile delivery and logistics work in Europe, the United States, the Gulf, and we want to build something similar in Iraq. It helps Orderii, but also offers jobs for many people.
What would be your advice to young, aspiring entrepreneurs?
They should believe in what they do. If they believe in their project they should fight for it until they make it happen. If you always dream about having a company in your sleep, this is not a coincidence, but inspiration from God. And you shall have it, as long as you try. Try it multiple times, make sacrifices. It will happen if you believe in it!
Thank you Shakir for sharing your story, and we’re very proud to have you as part of the Orange Corners family as well! We can’t wait to see how with your recent investment you’ll take Orderii’s success to even greater heights. Best of luck in the future, and keep dreaming big.