A year after launching operations in the UAE, Souqalmal.com (Arabic for ‘money market’), the only independent personal finance comparison website in the UAE, is expanding its remit to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, writes Sona Nambair for Zawya.

“We will be going regional from [May 21, 2012] and will also be available in Arabic in addition to English,” Ambareen Musa, chief executive of Souqalmal.com, who set up the site in June 2011 with an initial investment of less than AED 100,000, told Zawya.

Musa claims the site has more than 60,000 page views per month and features over 450 products online for comparison. Also on the cards is an impending partnership to take the company to the next level.

“We are working on a major deal and hope to make a major announcement in the next few weeks,” she said, without elaborating.

Souqalmal.com allows consumers to navigate, search, compare and choose credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, auto loans and bank accounts that best fit their needs. Users can access detailed product information and also make a choice based on reviews posted by other consumers.

Souqalmal.com allows consumers to navigate, search, compare and choose credit cards, mortgages, personal loans, auto loans and bank accounts that best fit their needs. Users can access detailed product information and also make a choice based on reviews posted by other consumers.

“This is a proven concept with Moneysupermarket.com in the UK and Bankrate.com in the US. Money Supermarket today has around 3.5 million visitors a month and they have diversified in comparing many different items outside financial products,” said Musa.

Saying that it is an idea whose time has come in the region, Musa cites the example of independent travel sites popular with net savvy global travelers. “Today, if you wanted to travel, you would use a site like Trip Advisor, not just to get the best rates for hotels and locations in a city, but also to check out the reviews written by other users before making a decision. We live in an online world where people read other user reviews on products and services.”

Souqalmal.com has identified and addresses this niche in terms of financial products, Musa said. “It allows customers in the UAE, and, from now, Saudi and Kuwait, to go online and use a single platform to rate and choose financial products. It also has helped to build an online community, to raise transparency in the UAE, and gives the customer a chance to make an informed decision that goes beyond rewards and rules.”

Her personal experience with choosing a credit card when she came to Dubai from Australia in 2008 combined with a background in online marketing culminated in the creation of the site. “The last year was a testing phase for us. In the past six months, we have been trying to understand our users and have got a lot of feedback. We did all the legwork where you can compare apples to apples on a single platform. You can also specify if you wish a call-back from the bank for a specific issue. We are also expanding in terms of categories in the coming year. The market is now hungry for such a product, according to our studies.”