CMU-Q alums create Shnaita, a Qatari platform to trade gently used original handbags
“Shnaita, a Qatari platform to trade gently used original handbags” appeared in T Magazine
By Kareem Imam
Shnaita is a unique shopping concept developed by four entrepreneurs in Qatar who embraced an innovative business idea that was non-existent in a booming and consumer-driven local market. The project, called Shnaita, started as an online marketplace for trading used original handbags. Soon after, the four young entrepreneurs opened a shop at one of the biggest malls in Doha. Thanks to their efforts, this shopping concept has become one of the most successful projects developed by young entrepreneurs in Qatar and the region.
Mohammed Rashid Al-Matwi, Noora Al Jardi, Haya Al Dirham and Falah Al Dossari founded Shnaita to tap into the robust market for high-end handbags in Qatar, using both electronic and retail platforms to sell used items. Shnaita’s founders first conceived the idea when they were students at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q), which opened its campus at Qatar’s Education City in 2004.
T Qatar had the opportunity to speak with Mohammed Al-Matwi about Shnaita’s development. “We came up with the idea for Shnaita when we were students at CMU-Q,” he says. “At that time, we were thinking about how to set up a platform for reselling used original luxury handbags and accessories in Qatar, the Gulf region and across the world. The main idea of our project was to reuse these luxury handbags from Doha by providing non-traditional buying and selling outlets.”
“The idea came to my mind as I observed the behaviour of the people on CMU-Q’s campus. We are always described as a consumer society that acquires more products than it needs and doesn’t know how to dispose of items it no longer needs,” he continues. “We focused on the Qatari market to establish and promote the culture of only investing in something if it is valuable and precious. We encourage people not to keep stuff in their cabinets without using it by providing an alternative way for them to benefit from their investments.”
Role of CMU-Q
Al-Matwi spoke also about the role CMU-Q played in developing the Shnaita concept, and the university’s larger mission of supporting different projects that serve society. He says, “CMU-Q taught us how to be dynamic entrepreneurs, and gave us the ability to solve problems by finding innovative solutions. We started Shnaita on social media, based on what we learned at CMU-Q. We also received support from Qatar Business Incubation Center and took part in the Reyada Qatari Entrepreneur Awards organized by the Social Development Center ‘Nama.’”
“We took this approach because we felt that the best way to develop and serve the community is to be part of it. We then switched from displaying our items on the internet to taking part in exhibitions. As a result, we saw a big rise in demand and we met people who wanted to buy other items, which was a nice recognition of our efforts,” Al-Matwi says. “After that, we partnered with Qatar Development Bank and Tawar Mall to open a permanent shop inside the mall at the old souq. In addition, we continue to operate on our permanent online platform on Instagram @Shnaita.”
With regard to the unconventional nature of Shnaita, Al-Matwi says, “We do not design or produce the handbags. We only provide a platform that helps consumers sell the handbags and accessories that they no longer need.”
The Future of Shnaita
Al-Matwi also spoke about Shnaita team’s future goals. He says, “We strive to reach universality, particularly in light of the fact that the used-products market generates $100 million in profit each year in the United States. I can safely say that we are the first entrepreneurs to bring this kind of trade to Doha on a large scale. We provide display outlets on the internet, space at different exhibitions, and display spaces in our shop at the mall. Currently, we are developing a website to receive products from all over the world.”
With regard to Shnaita’s future plans, Al-Matwi says, “We are ready to take Shnaita international through partnerships with other companies to expand our network. We also would like to establish an international platform in different countries around the world.”
Clients of Shnaita
Al-Matwi explains that Shnaita boasts a diverse clientele, from those who enjoy owning the latest styles to people who need a new handbag, as well as those looking to sell theirs. He adds that both men and women use Shnaita.
“We offer the lowest prices for those who buy from us as an alternative to retail shops, whose prices are often high. Therefore, we are the perfect destination for consumers who want to save money and get original handbags at the same time,” Al-Matwi says. “As for those who have handbags and want to reinvest them, we believe that such handbags have great value despite being used. Consequently, we provide Shnaita as a platform for them to sell their bags. It is kind of like recycling for handbags.”
He explains that Shnaita makes its money via sale commissions. As a broker company, Shnaita receives 35% of the handbag’s price from the buyer, while the remaining 65% goes to the seller.
Following in Shnaita’s footsteps
Al-Matwi says he expects Shnaita to expand with new shops in Doha and internationally in the near future, with the online platform also helping reach users around the world.
At the end of our interview, Al-Matwi advised students who are aspiring entrepreneurs “to find an opportunity to pay back to the State of Qatar: as young people, we should offer our ideas to the community. We can start without a big capital or financial resources. Qatar deserves the best from its citizens,”he said.
“There are many options and businesses that can turn into successful stories, but people must play their roles and exert their utmost to achieve their dreams.”