In 2011, the Internet brought us reports about revolutions breaking out around the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). People in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and Bahrain rose up separately yet together in collective protests that became part of what some inside and outside the region called the “Arab Spring.”
At the time, the Internet gave voice to hundreds of thousands of people demanding change. It continues to serve as a platform to broadcast the personal stories of individuals around the Middle East dealing with changing governments, continued violence, war, and peace. In these ways, the online world has kept both participants and viewers connected to the very real events occurring in the region as they continue to unfold.
On top of the rubble of old governments, the online world has also brought economic success to some individuals and companies, through entrepreneurship and a spirit of inventiveness. These trends are increasingly embraced by young students and adults around the region, who are finding ways to improve upon a past marked by mass unemployment and economic disadvantage.
One company that has thrived in the midst of what some see as chaos is Opensooq, a classified website focused on the MENA region.
Opensooq was created in 2008 by Salah Sharef, an IT worker. The company’s classified website is the first of its kind in the region providing ads for jobs, goods, and services for sale from individuals throughout partnering countries. While Opensooq was initially launched in the United States, Sharef relocated the company to Jordan in May 2012 shortly after it began raking in millions of views. Opensooq hired staff, rented office space, and began to expand quickly to users across the MENA region.
The company grew further under the wing of conglomerate iMENA, which invests in online companies and other local tech startups and grooms them into game changing businesses. As the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Syria continued to reverberate around the world, Opensooq pushed the borders of its online empire further and further.
Now located in Amman, Opensooq has witnessed the rise and fall of governments, revolutions, and the overwhelming power of the people. It has successfully navigated the ups and downs of operating in the Middle East and has consistently connected its users to one another quickly and consistently. The company’s foundation in Jordan has allowed it to operate in a relatively secure part of the region.
Opensooq currently serves users in nineteen countries, some of which are currently experiencing war, civil conflict, or outright revolution. These countries include Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya. What makes Opensooq able to operate in these dangerous and unstable locations is its ability to meet the distinct needs of people in these various countries, and provide a platform for economic empowerment.
As more and more individuals in the region have reliable and consistent access to the Internet, they have found the opportunity to make their lives easier and better. For its part, Opensooq allows people to see prices, reviews, locations, and more with just the click of a button. In countries where normal life has been disrupted by war or conflict, being able to buy needed items or look for jobs from home is an irreplaceable service. Opensooq provides this benefit to its users in Arabic, which is particularly valuable for those in the region who do not speak English.
Opensooq is currently ranked as the number one classified website in Kuwait, Jordan, Iraq, and Libya. This reflects the sense of empowerment the platform has given ordinary citizens. Free to use, Opensooq puts buyers and sellers, employees and employers in direct contact with one another to facilitate free and open exchanges. Individuals not only earn money by selling goods and services online, they can also look for opportunities around the region for employment and economic betterment. In these ways, Opensooq has created a strong community of people with their own market place, far away from the conflicts raging in and around their countries.
Just over a year ago, Opensooq launched its first mobile app which now has over 2.5 million downloads and thousands of subscribing members. Users can do everything on the mobile app they can do on the website, including placing ads, sending messages to other members, and replying to new postings. The app keeps users constantly connected and has great potential in the region, since many people of all ages own one or more smart phones.
The rise of technology and Internet accessibility has facilitated Opensooq’s success in the Middle East despite recent events in the region. Although each nation has its own struggles and triumphs, Opensooq has united users in a community that transcends national boundaries. Taking care of its users, one ad posting and job application at a time, Opensooq’s success and continued adaptation to the situation in the Middle East reflects a vibrant and versatile company that will continue to grow in the years to come.