Interview: Nour Sabri, founder of BorrowMe, on why renting items is good for the planet
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Interview: Nour Sabri, founder of BorrowMe, on why renting items is good for the planet

Interview: Nour Sabri, founder of BorrowMe, on why renting items is good for the planet

Sabri shares what inspired him to set up the business, which enables people in the UAE to rent almost anything they need instead of buying it

Gulf Business

What inspired you to start the company?
When I was moving into a new apartment back in January 2020, I needed some tools to get the place ready. There was no option to borrow these items, so I was forced to buy them. Fast forward to the Covid-19 pandemic. When all fitness centres in the UAE were closed, and I needed exercise equipment to keep myself in shape, I faced a similar dilemma. There was no place where I could borrow this equipment, so once again, I was forced to make purchases, this time even more expensive than the last. This impressed upon me the need for a lender/borrower platform. I thought it would be great to create a peer-to-peer marketplace where people can get what they need and rent what they are not using. And this is how was born.

Users in the UAE can find almost anything they need on our site. They borrow it for an agreed-upon price, and they return it when they’re done. The rental agreement can be securely completed through our platform.

Reusing and recycling things is also one of the best ways to help preserve the planet, and renting helps to lessen the overproduction of items that contribute to waste. At a time when a lot of residents are feeling less financially secure, and more concerned about the environment, now is the perfect time to earn a secondary income by renting out your possessions. BorrowMe is designed to help people connect through building a community of like-minded individuals, and we are doing our part to provide sustainable solutions to preserve the planet.

How does the model work, and how has the response been so far?
Easily accessible on the web and phones, you can browse items listed for rent on the site. Built-in secure messaging allows lenders to communicate with borrowers at ease. You simply schedule a rental for as long as you need and then return the item in the same condition at the end of the rental period. For renters, you simply upload a photo of the item for rent along with a description and price. You agree on a convenient time and place for the handover and then start earning money. Almost anything you own can be rented out, or permanently sold if you prefer, be it that camera that’s been collecting dust or the bike currently locked up in storage.

Since launching in August last year, 30 businesses have registered with us and 1,300 items are listed on the site. We’ve got over 15,000 site visits, and have also signed an agreement with an international hosting company that manages short term rental properties.

We are currently offering free listings to generate interest. However, in our second year, we plan to charge a 20 per cent commission on every transaction. Businesses will have the option of advertising themselves, or specific items, in targeted categories. We will set up dark rental stores to directly rent fast-moving and popular items through BorrowMe. In addition, we will be using third party logistics’ companies for delivery and sanitising services.

With hygiene being an important issue particularly these days, how do you ensure the products are disinfected and safe to use?
We provide recommended guidelines for sanitising items and maintaining high standards of cleanliness. As of now, it’s up to lenders to provide clean items and for renters to return clean items.

What have been some of the challenges so far and how have you dealt with them?
One of the main challenges has been that lenders typically require the borrower to leave a large cash deposit in case an item is broken, lost or stolen. We are planning to solve this issue by offering an insurance service at some point in the future enabled by an online payment capability. Another issue is the possibility of items getting damaged. This will also be resolved with the introduction of an insurance service.

What are some of the most popular products borrowed on the site?
We can record and analyse search keywords to determine what products are in demand. Although high-end fashion rentals are currently popular, we have noticed that people are looking for a range of items, and not necessarily high-end ones. These include products for children such as strollers and car seats as well as outdoor and camping gear.

What are your future plans?
I would like to see BorrowMe becoming the “Amazon” for item lending and borrowing in the Middle East. We are currently operating in the UAE and plan to expand to all GCC countries and Egypt in the future.

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