From Lebanon to Nasdaq – the Region’s BIG Growth Story

Keynote Presentation by Mohammed Ogaily, VP – Product, Anghami

Mohammed Ogaily: Good Morning, everyone! My name is Mohammed Ogaily, VP of Product at Anghami and I am here to tell you our story and to give you some tips on what helped us make it there.

So ten years ago when we started, our dream was just to give everyone access to music everywhere across the MENA region. Today, we’re leading the music industry in MENA and just recently as you just heard we became the first Arab tech company to launch on NASDAQ in New York. We currently have 70M registered users worldwide, more than 18M active users spread around all the GCC region, North Africa and even elsewhere in the world and this journey included many firsts if you want.

1:14 – Anghami’s Journey From 2012 Onwards

Mohammed Ogaily: In 2012, we were the first legal music platform in the MENA region before any other platform existed in the region. In 2013, we were the first to launch with Telco operators and do mobile payment with Telco operators when payment online was extremely hard and today we have more than 30 Telco operators integrated with us. In 2015, we introduced music videos. We were the first to introduce music videos. We were the first to introduce social features like chats and stories and live radio. More on that later on. In 2018, we hit 30M users, it was the first in the region and finally, just a few months ago in 2022, we hit the first Arab tech company on NASDAQ. It was a very steady challenging path in growth to reach these points and of course, there’s a lot still to do.

2:22 – Elements Behind Anghami’s Success

So I’m not here just to brag about what we’ve done. I don’t think you’re here to listen to that. I’m here to tell you how we’ve done it. There are many aspects, many elements to this. I don’t think we have time to cover all of them now. Between the product and everything you need to do in your own product to actually get users to engage and grow from there.

All the partnerships and the Telco operators and all the partners in the region that help you grow or the content or all the licences that we got from the different music labels in MENA and the international music labels in convincing them to actually work with that small company based in Beirut or the team we are able to build across the years between the five different countries we have offices in. All that building of skills and knowledge in an area where we didn’t have lots of people that already had all that accumulated knowledge in the music industry. All the branding was done to actually push the brand and build top-of-mind awareness and simply to be fair.

We happened to be lucky and luck is part of many different journeys of many successful companies but today I want to focus on the part I know more of and the part that I think is more relevant to this summit which is the product part.

3:54 – What Is Product-led Growth?

What the product does is actually it gives you product-led growth. I know most of you have probably heard a lot about the product that grows. You’re probably going to hear that statement 20, 30, 50 times today which is great because we don’t talk about product-led growth.

Sometimes we just say it out loud and nobody understands. Okay, product-led growth, what does that mean? It means that you would build a user-centric, a data-driven, a unique product, and that product on its own sells itself and gets you the users you want. Marketing alone is not enough. If you don’t have a good product, you will not grow. So what does it mean? What does it mean to be user-centric, data-driven, and unique?

4:46 – What Does It Mean To Be User-Centric?

Mohammed Ogaily: First, what does it mean to be user-centric? So, when you’re user-centric you need to think local. Your edge, your advantage against most of your competitors is that you’re here, you’re in your market, and you’re special. What you’re building, you’re building for those people who are in this market with you while your competitor is sitting somewhere in San Francisco thinking about globally and your user is different, they are definitely different. Even if you think they’re similar, they’re very different and if you start thinking of them and what they need, things will change drastically.

Two, you need to keep listening and talking to your users. Data is great and we’ll talk about data but data will only give you questions to ask. Data will not give you answers. Data will guide you towards where you should be asking the questions but to answer the questions, there’s one simple way to do it – just go ahead and ask.

Go to your user, go to your customer and ask the question. Ask them what they like about you, what they don’t like about you, and what drives your most engaged user to actually engage with your product. What makes them love your product? Find those who are obsessed with your product. Figure out what they need more, fix it and then bring everyone else who is “Meh” about your product or “just fine” with your product. Bring them to love your product. Read the feedback on the play store or in the customer reviews or in the emails or just go out and actually talk to people. All that feedback is trusted and even if your team is telling you this is not a priority because the numbers are low or this is not a priority because it requires so much effort. If two users are complaining about a small thing that you have, there are two thousand users behind them that have that problem and are silent and if you fix that problem, a lot would change.

Number 3, focus or even obsess with your customer, not with your competitor. When competition entered the market here in MENA, it was very challenging but at the same time it was one of the best things that happened to Anghami and the reason is that competition helps you, challenges you to do better and pushes you to actually try to win better and to achieve more. But if you obsess with the competition, you can end up doing exactly like them. When you’re going to focus on the business and the different features that they’re building and you’re going to do like them and do the same marketing campaigns like them. What you end up having is just the same exact product and you have no edge. There’s nothing special about you.

In the music streaming industry, between all the different competitors, if you go check them out, you’ll see that most of them are actually the same. You find music, you play. It doesn’t matter which platform you use. This functionality is the same. Even the music player actually. If you want a different product, it is almost exactly the same because it is a simple thing but if you obsess with those competitors, you have nothing special and your users will not come to you. Instead, obsess about the user you have, it is about their needs. Your user is different from your competitor’s users even if they’re in the same market, even if they have the same background. You need to look into your users and push yourself to do what they need and what they’re asking you to do.

8:31 – What Does It Mean To Be Data-Driven?

With being user-centric, we need to also still be data-driven. What does it mean to be data-driven? Data is also what you’re going to hear 100 times today. It’s worth it. Data is tricky. Lots of people interact with the different data they have every day but when you wanna be data-driven, data needs to actually drive your actions and decisions and for that, you need to start, you need to take a step back and start from somewhere else.

Define what data you need to be looking at, and define what matters. Not all the metrics matter, you need to define the goal you need to reach and after you define it, you need to force yourself to think of how you’re going to track it or measure it. It is not very easy to track all those numbers. If you’re going to need three data scientists and engineers to get you how many users you have, you’re screwed. You won’t get anywhere. You need to automate stuff. You need to invest in actually getting all the different platforms that help you measure and track your different metrics. To make it simple for the junior marketing person or the product manager to look at all the numbers first thing in the morning and know the metrics they define, they wanna know how it is doing right now without the help of anyone. This is crucial for growth.

After you track it, you get to the fun part – impact it. Keep doing and doing and doing and doing until you see that metric moving. The day you go to the office and you see that metric move by 2% is the day you know you are data-driven. You looked at the metric, you did things and then these things impacted your metric. You’re done. Do it again and again. 80% of the time, it’s not going to work out. You’re going to lose stuff and the metric will not move. Sometimes, you’re going to come to the office and you’re going to see the metric drop by 10%. You’re going to spend the day looking at why. You might, might not figure it out and that’s fine. And another day, it’s going to jump 10% and you’re not even going to figure it out but you will be happy about it. Some other days, you’re going to be impacting it and it’s very hard to switch from whatever thinking or methods you have to work with to switch to being data-driven. You’re going to get a lot of pushback from your team and think you’re a bit slower but for the long term, it’s worth it because once you’re data-driven, you start more and more looking at outcomes, not outputs.

If at the end of the quarter, you’re like, we released five new features, we did this and this and this. Okay. How are your numbers? You’re not achieving growth, you’re just building up your features and that’s not good. Instead, at the end of the quarter, it doesn’t matter what features you build and didn’t build. How are your numbers? Those metrics you define, how well are they doing?

11:48 – How Do You Build a Unique Product?

Now, the third question is how do you build a unique product? How do you ensure that your product is different than anyone else in the market? In music streaming, they all look the same.

In our case, the number one thing we did is standing for our beliefs. We believe that listening to music is a social behaviour. You listen to music with your friends, you share songs with your loved ones, you try to know what your friends are playing, you play at parties, you play in the car with each other, you sing together. It’s a social activity and we believe that social activity needs to happen on a music platform, not somewhere else. That’s why we took a leap of faith and actually started adding many different social aspects to our music streaming platform. We got a lot of people saying but what are you doing, why are you doing this? This is just for music. Then we added musical stories where people can share snippets of songs with friends. Then we allowed users to actually share songs with their friends through the platform itself. Instead of taking that song, sharing it on WhatsApp or somewhere else. Why should you do that? It’s just more convenient to share it on the platform itself. Then a couple of years ago we launched live radio which is a place where you can listen to music together with others, at the same time chat and even talk through audio together and have conversations over the music.

We had a lot of people questioning what are you doing there. Why would you do that? Look at others, how they’re doing just the music and the podcast, why are you doing this? Eventually, it proved itself that it works. Now, our most engaged users or most obsessed users with Anghami are the users who are using those features. Even if their percentage is not high, those users who use this aspect are users who never want to leave and obsess about live radio, for example, because we gave them something special, something they can’t find somewhere else, it took some time, and sometimes it didn’t work directly. Once in 2016, we built a feature that had an opportunity to be just like TikTok but it didn’t work out at the time. It wasn’t the right time, it wasn’t the right tech, it wasn’t the right marketing, and it didn’t work out. We dropped it and it was the right decision to drop it at the time but we tried it again and we figured out something else and that worked.

Number 2, you need to be creative. It’s fine to be creative, it’s fine to go wild. Take the engineer out of the room so that they don’t freak out about all the stuff that you’re dreaming of. Then bring them in because they are going to need to be creative too and think about what can be done even if it does not make sense right now. Keep thinking and thinking and thinking. In our case, for example, every single Tuesday we sit for an hour in a room and just throw a problem and think of it together and just throw different solutions for it and you’ll be surprised where the different solutions come from. In many companies were used to going to our marketing and creative teams to think of ideas but sometimes you’ll be surprised how your customer support team, engineering team, your product team, or different teams across the company that have ideas actually do work out. You will reach somewhere and you will reach somewhere very different than where your competitors are reaching and that again will give you an edge.

Then, of course, the thing you need to do also is that you need to iterate. One mistake many people do is go big or go home. They plan something big, they spend six months and a year working on it and then they release one big thing. That one thing fails. Now you have wasted a year, wasted money and effort and you need to do something else. Instead, after being creative and building your dreams and putting all those goals, chunk it into pieces until they are small enough for you to actually get some results.

With iteration, there’s one very important and crucial thing. You should always try to iterate on quantity but never on quality. Do not release something that is “ehhh” on quality just because you want to finish right on time. Your early adopters are going to hate that product and are going to drop out. And if they hate it, good luck convincing them that it’s better now. We had that problem. Our search two years ago was horrible because we iterated on quality. We just used a third party and did simple stuff. And the quality of the search was not good. Our users back then used to search, not find the stuff they want. Anghami is bad at search. They leave. We invested a lot and a lot and a lot in search and our search are now really good. But good luck convincing that guy that they should come back and give you another chance to try your search. That’s extremely hard. Always try to find ways to keep the quality high but the quantity of the stuff you release and the number of features you have there and the number of detailed nitpicking you have always end up with a high-quality limited iteration and that will get you to places.

At Anghami, we have built a lot of different features, a lot of different products and it’s insane. With time, you realise that there is no recipe for success. It’s different for industry, for company, for everything but when you step back and look at it, you see a lot of learnings that apply to many other industries. I think today, we’re going to be seeing people from very different industries between telcos, e-commerce, music and everything else and you’re going to realise it’s the same learnings that apply from here to there. It’s the same thing. You just need to take it and see how it is in your case and you’ll get somewhere. That’s it, thank you!

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