Fouad Jeryes has a cosmopolitan upbringing, innate charisma, and a prolific entrepreneurial spirit.
Having been born and brought up in Boston for the first seven years of his life, he and his family relocated to Amman as soon as his father lost his job due to the hardships of the US recession in the early 90s.
But no matter where his life was probably destined to unfold in the realm of technology.
While a global recession was hitting again in 2008, Jeryes graduated in Computer Science and Business Administration.
It was back at this juncture that he earned his first stripes as a tech entrepreneur: He started a consulting firm in the US to serve top-level companies like Google and Microsoft, along with an Arabic-content website called d1g.com.
Most significantly, he found himself eyeing an untapped opportunity in the Kingdom—and didn’t think twice before taking a crack at it.
Sussing out needs, removing borders
In Jordan, 70% of the local population does not have a bank account due to a cash mentality, which is pretty much ingrained in the local contemporary culture. “It’s a phenomenon that can be ascribed to a cash-based economic legacy,” Jeryes told Inc. Arabia.
But if no one uses a bank account or credit card, why should we consider Jordan a safe place for e-commerce businesses? Not really, given that the country has an army of click-happy online shoppers.
“The perks that come with the delivery model are hard to resist for a growing number of Internet users in this corner of the world, especially the fact of having something easily served right at their doorstep,” he said.
Cash-on-delivery (COD) has only offered a partial solution. According to some industry experts, it poses a significant challenge for e-commerce players in the region.
This is mainly because about 60% of the online purchases are paid once the goods are delivered, but customers can unexpectedly refuse to hand over cash if they are not 100% satisfied with an item.
There’s evidence that this worrying trend translates to higher delivery expenditures for the merchant who, as Jeryes puts it, loses an average of 35% of the potential revenue.
Not to mention cash flow troubles and the hassle of having to dispose of an order that has already been purchased by the merchant, shipped and now abandoned by the customer at the destination.
In 2014, Jeryes and his friend Sinan Taifour joined forces to try and solve this pain point. An experiment playfully named CashBasha – from the combination of English word ‘cash’ and Turkish translation for ‘boss’ started off soon after.
The CashBasha platform builds up a bridge between Arab consumers and foreign delivery companies that don’t accept local credit cards or payment in cash by leveraging a cash “before” delivery model (CBD).
In this way, a courier collects the money for the merchant, and the product is delivered upon receipt of the payment.
A cost breakdown upfront including transparent shipping and customs charges allows the customer to make a real-time evaluation of each purchase and avoid nasty surprises.
“We specify if a given product can be imported in the country and also allow users to search on Amazon in Arabic or any other local languages, something that has deepened our reach even further,” says Jeryes.
Over two years of endeavors were paid off earlier last fall when the startup received a first-place award at the prestigious event, Istanbul Startup Challenge.
“We were pleased to take part in this one-of-a-kind competition where Asia and Europe get together,” Jeryes said. “Pitching our idea in front of 5,000 people gave us unprecedented networking opportunities with companies in other sectors but also great exposure to investors hailing from Turkey. It was a terrific stepping stone for CashBasha.”
My encounter with Jeff Bezos
Very few companies can say they’ve ever had the chance to sit down with the CEO of the world’s e-commerce titan par excellence.
“Call it a stroke of luck, Jeff Bezos was interested in meeting us,” said Jeryes recalling the pride he felt at that moment.
“We were well aware of what meetings at Amazon were like: No PowerPoint presentations but, instead, a six-page evidence-based narrative thought to drive results meticulously.”
Speaking of the encounter with Bezos, Jeryes said that he agreed with the several comments the American entrepreneur made on the current situation Jordan is in.
The fact that, for instance, local infrastructures can’t be compared to those of Saudi Arabia or the UAE, although the education and human resources assets it has is something other countries secretly envy Jordan for.
Looking towards the future, Saudi Arabia appears to provide a fertile ground for their operations. “We think we’ll cash in on the opportunity to scale in places like Libya, hard-to-reach areas having special needs to fulfill as well as problems in logistics to overcome.”
The path ahead, it seems, is going to be smooth and with no direct rivals, at least for the moment. The company has grown more than 20% over the past three months and had over 70% of return customers rate. Word of mouth has proved a key marketing strategy and is still the backbone of the company’s success.
“Because we are a small team with an engineering mindset and work experience at companies the likes of Google and Microsoft, we always find ourselves being on the same page, and this is what makes us thrive in spite of all the challenges.”
‘Wrapping around’ foreign merchants like Amazon, as Jeryes likes saying, CashBasha is giving the region’s unbanked and left-behind users the seamless shopping experience they have so eagerly waited for.
A small change, probably, but it’s a $7 billion market after all. Jordanian bashas Jeryes and Taifour deserve much credit for creating a system that’s powerfully connecting the dots.