The majority of new ideas are born out of a need or, in some cases, a convenient want to have. This was the case with Anghami, a music streaming service that made it possible for the MENA region to have music on the go, for a low price and during a time when technological advances related to apps and smartphones were only just starting.
Frustration leads to ingenuity
Eddy Maroun, one of the co-founders of Anghami found frustration in having to download music onto a phone while one-day skiing in a Lebanese mountain resort. He pitched his idea to his now partner and co-founder Elie Habib and the two of them founded the company at a time when the western world was seeing a rise in streaming platforms.
Initially, raising money was one of the main goals, and signing partnerships would secure a growing future for the company yet the demand for streaming music was relatively small in the area.
Technology in the face of local challenges
The early 2010s created different challenges for a startup such as Anghami. Among the obstacles, two stood tall in the face of growth: A low internet penetration rate that was improving but at a slow pace and a user base still carrying Nokia phones while the more capable Android and iOS devices were just starting to make their way into the area.
This is not to say that the 3G networks at the time could not handle streaming music but the combination of the different challenges stated above would only make it sound impossible to accomplish in today’s terms. Nonetheless, Anghami and its co-founders pushed forward and carried on with their vision.
Enter monetization and telecom companies
At a time when less than 20% of the region’s population had a bank account, attempting to convince people to pay for Music was not something they were familiar with. A freemium model was in place, providing a seamless experience that was rarely interrupted by an ad yet converting users to subscribe required a different mindset.
Telecom firms provided a solution through direct billing, often offering with it free data or flexible payment options which, for music lovers, meant an easy and low-cost way to have their long sessions of music listening and without dealing with third party providers or banks. This proved successful to the point that Du in the UAE and KSA’s Mobily invested some of their own money in the company. Needless to say, this was the missing piece that would help boost Anghami towards new heights and help it focus on expanding and improving what was already working for it.
New obstacles and the way forward
Today, the company has dozens of telecom partnerships, helping users pay for the service through direct mobile billing which remains the top method of transacting. In the face of growing competition in the area, Anghami stood out, getting acquisition offers and continued its path of growth with an astronomical 80% over the last 3 years. At the same time, the pandemic shifted users' attention towards news channels as the world kept a close eye on daily developments yet with any online-centric business, the company bounced back.
The future is here
With Anghami going public on Nasdaq, the company will expand its team and relocate its headquarter to Abu Dhabi following new funding from Abu Dhabi Investment Office. The reasons behind it? Easier access to talent and a government that supports the growth of local tech companies, to name a few.
While the presence of Arabic tracks is part of the company’s strong points, there remains an imbalance in supply and demand given that half of the users consume Arabic music which only accounts for 1% of all the music available. For the Anghami team, this screams opportunity following the newfound freedom created by going public.
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