UAE firms eye camels to milk Double 11 demand
By Jacob Greaves

Camel milk might not be the first UAE export that springs to mind, but companies have increasingly turned to Asian e-commerce markets as they look to weather the impact of COVID-19. 

Camelicious, a firm selling everything from camel milk confectionary to drinks made from the product, views Double 11 as a chance to make up for a slump in sales. 

The company is expecting an increase of 80 percent owing to the world's biggest online shopping event, said General Manager Saeed Bin Subaith.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted sales, delayed projects and dented revenue, the sales growth could be crucial.

Pre-pandemic, Chinese tourists visiting the UAE had become a staple for firms selling camel milk products. Now they've had to adapt by intensifying e-commerce operations to make up for the shortfall in foot traffic.

"Almost 75 percent of our sales go to the Chinese market and we're expecting an increase," said Subaith. 

It's a sentiment shared by another Dubai-based firm trying to cash-in on camels. 

The Camel Soap Factory, which sells beauty products based on camel milk, also view China as their major growth area with efforts underway to boost their e-commerce footprint.

"The next step for us is to go onto one of the really big platforms like Tmall," said CEO Stevi Lowmass. "It will take probably five to six months. So I'm hoping by the middle of next year that we will be properly set up with a really solid e-commerce store front in China."

It's not exactly a strategy unique to camel milk or the UAE. Around the world, firms have been forced to push online sales as travel restrictions and lockdowns impact facetime with customers. 

But for the regional trade and tourism hub of Dubai, it provides welcome relief. The emirate has been hit badly by the pandemic with the International Monetary Fund estimating its economy could shrink by 9.8 percent this year. The latest Purchasing Managers Index by IHS Market shows the non-oil private sector eased in October, registering it slowest output growth in five months.