Makhtoum – an online marketplace promoting Tunisia’s local products and handicrafts

July 11, 2022

In Beni Khedache, in the governorate of Medenine, Ayoub Zammouri decided to take the big leap into digital entrepreneurship with the launch of Makhtoum – an online platform for the promotion and marketing of local products.

6 years earlier, Ayoub had a different view of his future: “I had just graduated in IT and I was seeing life in pink.” Shocked by the reality of unemployment, even more pronounced in Beni Khedache, Ayoub threw himself wholeheartedly into social action to support unemployed graduates and became the leader of their association. “That was where I learnt a lot of things. Including that the public sector in Tunisia is saturated and that a fixed salary didn’t necessarily meet my expectations in terms of financial autonomy or personal fulfillment.”

In 2017, he started a job as manager of a café-restaurant in Beni Khedache, where he learned about commercial management in the tourism sector and began to develop his own network. Then, in 2018, he left for Libya, convinced that to evolve, he had to change his environment.

But during these years, Ayoub still invested in his community in Zemmour, to support women artisans of the region and help them launch their GDA or SMSA, to develop their know-how around local products and to create a legal framework for income generating activities.

From Libya and in the midst of confinement, he participated in a call for projects from an NGO working to promote agricultural production and pastoral systems. The time had come for him to innovate and do more to help the women of his locality to develop a treasure that had not yet been explored.

“The idea of an online platform was always in my mind. I just had to work on it to develop a vision that makes our local products, whatever it is, a product presented in an innovative way in a world of everything connected.”

On his return from Libya at the end of the confinement, and encouraged by the subsidy granted by the fund, Ayoub doubled his efforts and multiplied the steps: market study, business model, launching procedures. A difficult task where the legal texts don’t take into consideration digital and green business and especially the launch of his online platform.

The period of confinement and the COVID-19 crisis has strongly accelerated the trend towards digital transformation in Tunisia. Faced with this new situation, entrepreneurs quickly changed their business model and started using online sales services on a regular basis. This was also the case for Beni Khedache who, thanks to the support of Mashrou3i, launched Makhtoum, an online marketplace for local products and handicrafts.

The world todayis connected, we have no other choice but to adapt,” emphasizes Ayoub. “I wanted to combine the digital world with the developed sectors of agriculture and handicrafts, to promote local products while taking advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital transformation. To launch my project, I perfected my digital skills, I expanded my network for 5 years, then I worked on my marketing strategy before officially launching my online sales site, thanks to the support and various training courses provided by Mashrou3i. As I didn’t have the resources to hire a photographer at the moment, the photography training offered by Mashrou3i has been particularly useful to me to improve the quality of my online storefront.”

Today, Ayoub no longer fears the competition. “I’m positive about the future and the potential of Makhtoum. Thanks to Mashrou3i, I have understood that it is necessary to focus on the control of quality and supply and to excel in after-sales services.”