CNME Editor Mark Forker secured an exclusive interview with Husain Makiya, CEO of YOUGotaGift, to find out how the company has completely revolutionised the gifting industry across the MENA region.
YOUGotaGift, has established itself as the leading marketplace for digital gift cards in the Middle East since its inception in 2013.
Remarkably, if the company’s CEO Husain Makiya, had not encountered difficulties when he went online to buy his friend a gift card back 9 years ago, then YOUGotaGift, might never have been conceptualised.
However, YouGotaGift was launched by Makiya, and it has enjoyed phenomenal success in the convening years that have lapsed.
CNME spoke to Makiya to learn more about the company’s incredible journey, it’s continued evolution – and the significance of its new partnership with payments platform Tabby.
Makiya began the conversation by documenting the success enjoyed by YOUGotaGift, – and outlining the primary objective of the company.
“The primary objective of the YOUGotaGift is to connect the top retail brands with consumers and businesses. Our pre-paid gift cards are entirely digital, which means you can buy them online and have them delivered by email or SMS. We work with about 700+ Popular brands, such as Noon, Amazon, Carrefour and Jarir Bookstore, across 20 categories that range from online shopping, retail, hypermarkets and digital products, and we serve about 2,000 corporates across the region, with a reach of just over 5 million users overall,” said Makiya.
Makiya explained that the YOUGotaGift, business is divided into 3 components, the first of which is the consumer business, which he labels as consumer gifting.
“Our consumer business segment is all about e-commerce for gift cards, where users can go online, buy a gift card, and really personalise that card and send it to their friends or family instantly. It’s a fun experience with convenience embedded into it, but the experience element is very important to us. In addition to this, group gifting is another feature of our overall consumer business. It is very popular amongst parents when it comes to teacher gifting, and it’s also generated huge popularity within large organisations for farewells and retirements,” said Makiya.
The CEO of YOUGotaGift, explained the second part of their business, which he described as the first part of their B2B business, in the form of loyalty rewards.
“Essentially, what we do in this space is act as a last mile redemption partner for big loyalty programs. So, typically the loyalty programs we deal with are with banks, telcos, and airlines. A great example of this in the UAE is Etisalat’s Smiles program, a hugely popular loyalty program in the country. When it comes to swapping your points, you are given the option of swapping the points you have accumulated for shopping vouchers, and we enable and power that shopping voucher category within that program. It’s very much API-driven, and we have around 40 banking/telecommunication partners with loyalty programs that we support in terms of points redemption,” said Makiya.
The third element of the YOUGotaGift, operations is what they call employee and customer rewards, which, as Makiya highlighted, is predominantly focused on corporates.
“Typically, corporates will place bulk orders to reward and recognise their employees for their performance or use it if they want to engage with their customers for a new promotion or an acquisition campaign. It is a very useful product driven by a self-service portal where corporates can place their orders and customise their gift cards. In addition to this, they can also have it distributed across the organisation, or to their customers in real time. It is a very simple and lean way of sourcing gift cards and having them delivered,” said Makiya.
Makiya added that YOUGotaGift, operates in both the B2B and the B2C space, and have a proposition for both sides of the market, and is focused on growing its footprint across the region, where they are present in the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, and Egypt.
As aforementioned above, the inspiration behind YOUGotaGift, came from Makiya’s own shopping experience, but as he points out below, the company has really evolved over the years and very quickly moved away from its initial plans to capitalise on other opportunities they saw emerging within the industry.
“I went online to buy a gift card for a friend, but I couldn’t find a destination for gift cards, which led me to begin research to find out how big the industry was on a global scale and to find out how nascent an industry it was across the MENA region. Today, the gift card industry is worth $800bn, and that’s expected to hit $1.4 trillion in 2026, so it’s a fast-growth market. When we first started, we began as a pure consumer player, we felt that the region was very popular with retailers, and internet penetration was phenomenally high. We started by launching a website and listed some of the best popular brands in the region, and then we just expected people to come and help themselves, but what we didn’t account for was that the adoption would be slow. However, in a very short space of time, we pivoted to the B2B space, and we quickly realised that there was a much bigger opportunity in the B2B space, especially when a company like Etisalat identified and discovered our digital solution for their needs,” said Makiya.
When telecommunications behemoth Etisalat was taking its first steps into repositioning itself as a digital player, YOUGotaGift, was in the right place at the right time to service their needs.
“There were at a juncture where they were in the process of switching their loyalty programs from merchandise to a digital experience. The banks quickly followed Etisalat’s lead, so we quickly identified the opportunity. We built solutions, products, and APIs that immediately fitted into this new ecosystem, and what gave us a real edge was how early we moved into these programs; we were in many ways almost entrenched into these programs. We grew these accounts by adding more brands and value-added services because when you deliver such a volume of services to large organisations you have to ensure that your technology is up to scratch,” said Makiya.
Makiya also reiterated the importance of delivering a seamless ‘experience’ in our new digital world, as we know that customers have zero tolerance for bad experiences or interactions with applications or businesses.
“We deliberately built the technology from the start to be able to deal with such large programs, and we did a lot of training on the ground with the merchants and the brands, so the acceptance would be high when a customer walks into the store, and our customer support was second to none. Our focus is all about the end-user, and gifting is a very emotional and sensitive act, so if the experience is poor, everything fails,” said Makiya.
The focus of the conversation then shifted to the partnership announcement between YOUGotaGift, and the shopping and payments application Tabby.
YOUGotaGift, has teamed up with Tabby, to extend the ability for consumers to use Tabby’s flexible payment solutions to spread out the cost of their purchases into interest-free payments.
Shoppers in UAE and KSA can buy now and pay later through Tabby on the YOUGotaGift, mobile app – and this functionality will soon be available on the YOUGotaGift website.
Makiya believes the partnership will allow YOUGotaGift, to unlock even greater value from their portfolio of products.
“This partnership allows us to unlock even greater value for our gifting and payment products. Beyond gifting, customers are increasingly utilising eGift Cards for budgeting or accessing offers. By combining flexible payment options with our multi-brand e-gift cards, customers will be more engaged to purchase for themselves and unlock tactical offers from their favorite brands.”
Makiya concluded a wonderfully candid and insightful discussion that outlined what really differentiates the company from other market rivals.
“We have evolved our business, and our first entry into the B2B space was with our loyalty rewards program, which was very much driven through APIs – but then we moved into the corporate rewards program, so we have adopted a very product-centric approach, and that has led us to success. That focus has allowed us to build great relationships in the ecosystem, and we undoubtedly have the broadest catalogue of brands in the region now, and we also have a fantastic distribution network, That distribution network really is key because retailers want to sell their gift cards, and we are here to help them sell it, and our network of clients and loyalty programs is a very interesting distribution network that every retailer wants to be part of today,” concluded Makiya.