With a string of online ventures to his name, serial entrepreneur Yazin Al-Irhayim is on his course to smoothen the pathway of e-commerce in Bahrain.
Twenty-six year-old Yazin Al-Irhayim can be best described as a computer geek. His hands haven’t strayed away from a keyboard since he enrolled into a Visual Basic course as a 12-year-old.
Yazin earned money for the first time by using his computer skills at 16, when he was paid a few 1,000 dollars for custom-made content management systems. After spending five years at General Electric (GE), the tech world drew him away into a series of online ventures, where he is currently exploring fresh challenges in e-commerce.
Woman This Month (WTM): What made you quit a stable job at GE?
Yazin Al-Irhayim (YI): I loved my time at GE. I remember the day I received an email congratulating me on completing five years at the company — that was a wakeup call. I knew I wanted to give entrepreneurship a shot; it was now or never. It was a tough decision.
WTM: Tell us about your printing and canvas.bh ventures.
YI: My sisters were doing a lot of large format printing for their design and architecture courses. I remember being really annoyed that print shops charged customers on the size of the print rather than the amount of ink used. The person would look at the image and throw a random number at you; you had to pay it.
A friend and I developed an algorithm that analyses ink usage and calculates the actual cost. I bought printers and made the Print.bh website, where people could upload documents and have printouts delivered to their homes. It didn’t work because it was a low margin business. I had to close it down one month after launch.
Since we already had the printing machines, I got the idea from Bahraini photographer Rasha Yousif to launch a niche printing business, which became Canvas.bh, where we make canvas art from Instagram images. Within the first two weeks, we broke even and recovered the money we’d lost on Print.bh.
WTM: What’s holding back the growth of e-commerce in Bahrain?
YI: E-commerce in the region is booming, but it’s hard to process payments online. Paypal isn’t a great solution because their support for the region is very limited. You lose money in currency conversion since they don’t support local currencies.
Payments have been a challenge I had to deal with every time I’ve started an online company. If we could get past this problem, many more businesses will go online, reduce their costs and become more competitive.
It’s a complex problem, which presents a great opportunity.
WTM: So what are you doing to solve the problem?
YI: I’m starting a solution called ‘White’ that makes accepting payments online as simple as signing up for an email account. The UAE, Lebanon and Jordan have the largest volumes in regional e-commerce. We’ve started talks with banks in these countries. If things begin to click, we could start processing online payments in as soon as two months’ time.