We Visited Chalhoub Group’s Greenhouse in Dubai

In 2017, we started helping the Chalhoub Group, a leading luxury retailer in the Middle East in their digital transformation. One of the ideas that came out of our collaboration was to collaborate with external startups, in order to move the needle much faster.

Only one year later, the Greenhouse was launched!

We sat down with Dina Sidani, Head of the Greenhouse to better understand how Chalhoub Group is using corporate venturing to foster innovation in the Group.

Dina, can you tell us more about the Greenhouse?

The Greenhouse has 2 key activities. On the one hand, we have our retail-tech accelerator to partner with scale-ups from all over the world. We try to do co-pilots with them and our brands to test their solutions in our stores and online. If the proof of concept is validated after 3 months – and we see success based on pre-defined KPI’s – we then continue with them in a more commercial way.

On the other hand, we have Ibtikar, which is our program focusing on the intrapreneurs in our company and aims to encourage everyone from the Chalhoub Group to submit their ideas. These all go through a selection process and once selected, the co-worker then gets the funding and dedicated time to convert the submitted idea into a viable business.

What are the most sought-after solutions amongst startups for the Chalhoub Group?

Most of the corporate sponsors of the Greenhouse (mainly the brands in our Group) want to know when core customers come into the store and understand (and answer) their needs in a better way.

Secondly, we are constantly experimenting with ways to deliver a better in-store experience for our customers through personalization, customization, etc.

Finally, we are looking very much into the area of in-store analytics. We have access to basically all the information from our online channels, so it’s a no-brainer to try and get the same level of insights from our offline points of sales as well.

How often do the startups interact with Chalhoub Group’s brands?

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how proactive and engaged our corporate sponsors have been with the selected startups. All of them are working on more than one PoC (proof of concept) already, and we are just getting started.

It’s an important responsibility from our side to ensure the connection between the “speedboats” in the Greenhouse and the big “mothership”, that is the Chalhoub Group.

What would be your advice to entrepreneurs and startups in the region to get closer to corporates like Chalhoub Group?

First and foremost: build a solution to an actual problem.

Once there is this “Problem/Solution-Fit”, startups then need to make sure they talk to the right corporate decision-maker inside the companies they want to collaborate with.

I can’t count the times anymore a startup said to me that they “reached out to this person or this person.” But in fact, they are not reaching out to the right decision makers.

My advice would be to always map the corporate stakeholders who could be interested in your solution, but also have the decision-making power – or can refer you to these people – in the company.

Who joined the Greenhouse?

After receiving more than 100 applications from 28 countries, Chalhoub Group selected 5 startups to join the acceleration program:

SizeMe: fitting and sizing service for clothes and shoes (https://sizeme.com/)

EuroPass: Chinese mobile payment solutions (http://europasschina.com/en/)

StoreDNA: plug & play in-store technology to collect customer behavioural data (https://storedna.co/)

Brandquad: digital collaboration platform for retailers and brands (http://brandquad.io/)

Phygitalmind: saas-based suite digitizing in-store retail processes (https://phygitalmind.com/)

Watch the full interview of Dina Sidani here:

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