UAE success story: Syrian expat gives up Dh22,000 salary to start Dh1.7m business in Dubai, here’s his mantra

It has been 12 years since Dr. Elias Abboud, 42, a Syrian expat based in the UAE, moved to Dubai to pursue entrepreneurship in the pharmaceutical industry. But long before that, Abboud worked as a medical representative in Syria, a country where he spent his growing up years.

“My first job as a medical representative in 2003 earned me a monthly salary of $250 [Dh918]. Later I joined a pharmaceutical company as a supervisor for $800 [Dh2,938]. Shortly after, I was promoted to marketing manager with a salary of $1,200. [Dh4,407]“, he said when talking about his professional career.

“Three years later, I accepted a salary offer of $3,000 [Dh11,017] from another pharmaceutical company. Later I moved to Dubai earning Dh8000 in 2011 as a marketing manager and later around Dh22000 in 2014 just before venturing out on my own to start a company ‘FemTech’ specializing in sanitary products based on nanotechnology for women.”

What is “Fem Tech”?

Femtech is a term applied to a category of software, diagnostics, products, and services that use technology to focus on women’s health.

The term “FemTech” was first coined in 2016 by Danish internet entrepreneur Ida Tin. In just a few years, it has grown to encompass a range of technology-driven, consumer-centric products and solutions.

Building a foundation for entrepreneurship

Academically and professionally qualified as a pharmacist and with work experience as a medical representative, he gained insight into how the pharmaceutical industry works. This knowledge, in addition to his MBA in marketing, became reasons to start his business.

Abboud revealed how all of his savings so far had gone into the start-up, after which he had his brother invest. Abboud has accumulated Dh400,000 in savings since 2011 when he launched his business in 2020. company.”

women's health

When Elias Abboud moved to Dubai, he was earning $6,000 [Dh22,035] salary in 2014. It was then that he decided to start his own business to launch a “FemTech” company specializing in sanitary products for women based on nanotechnology.

How did you fund your start-up costs?

When starting the business from the start, Abboud reinvested all of the company’s turnover for growth and expansion. However, he intends to hold the company’s first investment round in 2023.

He said: “We are currently in talks with a few VCs [Venture Capital investors] for the same. At the same time, as the business grows and orders increase month by month, I seek to optimize upstream and downstream processes, especially logistics, by closing new deals and renegotiating for better prices. »

What is venture capital (VC) or venture capitalists (VC) in start-up financing?

Venture capital (VC) is generally used to support startups and other businesses with substantial and rapid growth potential. Venture capital firms raise funds from limited partners (LPs) to invest in promising startups or even larger venture capital funds.

Early-stage startups typically cannot access loans or capital markets directly, so they instead rely on venture capital funding. In exchange for venture capital funding, the founders offer investors a percentage of ownership and possibly a seat on the board. VCs can be a critical source of funding.

What led you to do business in feminine hygiene products?

“In 2012, while exploring entrepreneurship and thought-provoking opportunities, I came across an article that said 70% of women around the world experience period-related issues due to pad use. sanitary ware available on the market. For someone with a medical background and awareness of the pharmaceutical landscape, this was a ‘Eureka’ moment for the entrepreneur in me,” he added.

“I began to improve my understanding of menstrual challenges, contacted a few professionals in the feminine hygiene industry around the world, and began product development. I was well aware of the challenges to to come, but I was just as confident about the viability of my products. Although these products partly existed in patents, I could get them ready for market through my company.”

However, even though Abboud has operated successfully on a B2B model (Business-to-business (B2B) model, which is a transaction or business conducted between one company and another, such as a wholesaler and a retailer), he soon realized that the impact was not enough, and its products were lying on the shelves of distributors without reaching end users.


When starting the business from the start, Elias Abboud reinvested all of the company’s turnover for growth and expansion.

Being forced to move to a hybrid e-commerce model

“I realized that direct selling was not financially feasible at the time. Soon, to make matters worse, the pandemic disrupted operations, giving a clear call to adapt or stop. was ever an option, I decided to pivot to a hybrid e-commerce model by going all out and receiving financial support from my brother,” Abboud added.

“We launched the website in August 2020, processed three orders in the first month, followed by 15 in the second and, two years later, processed over a thousand orders per month. There were many cycles of trial and error through 2020, but I’ve managed to sell over two million packs in 14 countries,” he said, while adding that a year after launching the business, he had earned 760,000 Dh and that in 2022, the start-up had earned 1.7 million Dh.

Here are some other key lessons he learned in his early days as an entrepreneur

Lesson 1: Dedicate a majority of revenue to marketing

Among the notable monetary strategies adopted by Abboud, devoting around 70% of turnover to marketing was crucial which he learned early on. He felt that even if you have a great product, customers won’t care about it unless they know about it in the first place.

Thus, for Abboud, filling the lack of notoriety of the product on the market is vital. “I take a long-term investing approach, which is why I’ve deployed a significant portion of my investment capital into marketing, developing and building teams in my business,” he said. -he declares.

We launched the website in August 2020, processed three orders in the first month, followed by 15 in the second and, two years later, processed over a thousand orders per month.

-Elias Abboud

Lesson 2: Monitor customer requirements, adjust accordingly

He highlighted one of his recent challenges after launching the e-commerce model. “The first batch of products had three sizes. However, after receiving initial feedback from customers, we realized that our products did not have sizes that were particularly in demand in the GCC market.”

“We wasted no time and increased the total number of products to eight. The process was demanding and financially difficult, but we ended up meeting customer expectations and being goal-oriented.”

Lesson 3: Minimize expenses by buying raw materials in bulk

“I am constantly looking for competitive prices and market conditions that allow me to negotiate better rates with suppliers and logistics partners, but I have realized that it is essential to minimize expenses by purchasing raw materials basically.”

When asked if he uses other savings strategies when it comes to his professional and personal finances, Abboud revealed how he divides his income and that of the business into several categories.

“Typically, I set aside about 10% of my monthly income as personal savings. Of the money earned in the business, about 60% goes to marketing, 30% to salaries, and the 10 % remaining. percent to miscellaneous.”