Is Groupon coming to the UAE? With City Deal and Cobone?

As our readers in the UAE know, we already have a fair share of group buying sites – many looking like clones of earlier ones. So far, GoNabit has been fairly successful in the UAE and has a headstart.

Newcomer Cobone is by the Jabbar Group – the guys who own – and they must have deep pockets we presume because their ads have been spotted by us all over the Google Content network, YouTube and Facebook.

Then, we have Cityloots, YaDig, Makhsoom, UAEdeals, LowCostDubai… is it overkill?

Whatever it may be – it looks like the site that whose name is synonymous with this category – Groupon – seems to be waiting in the wings to land here in the UAE.

Here’s what CopywriterJournalist has spotted on the website

Although Abu Dhabi, Dubai or the UAE are not listed on the website as upcoming cities, and the UAE site’s design and content differs from it, we noticed a perfect match with the design and content of

Although Groupon and CityDeals seems to be working in partnership in some countries with a joint logo, and the Groupon UAE website links to City Deals UAE – the Twitter account linked from is promoting and retweeting Are we looking at a merger? A JV? And why the need for three brand names?

We wish they had named their Facebook page a little more wisely too. Here’s what it looks like:

Groupon in UAE Facebook page

So what exactly is is ‘Arabic Emirates’? Maybe the problem is that the ‘Groupon UAE’ page has already been taken by these guys in the picture below who don’t seem to be affiliated with – the ‘creative’ font and the UAE flag sort of gives it away:

Wouldn’t it be really nice if we had businesses surprising us with innovative new ways of doing businesses rather than showing us how good of a ‘me-too’ brand they can be?

Note: Groupon is a late entrant in a market where its business model reached before it. But how many group buying sites would we have before we’ve had enough?

As marketers, we at hope that the brand positioning and personalities of these players would be built differently and consumers will have a greater choice. Specialised deal sites for different tastes could be fun too!

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About Farrukh Naeem at

Farrukh Naeem is the Managing Editor of Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. His blog is at


  1. “Wouldn’t it be great if brands enjoyed powerful word of mouth recommendations – the way group buying sites are trying to encourage that is by paying out credits for inviting friends.”

    You hit the nail on the head 😉

  2. @Lata – yes – everyone is jumping in but who succeeds, time will tell.
    You’d be surprised at how much negotiation goes on in business deals here to drive the price down. It’s just done differently than India. Players are trying to tap the upscale market with deals on premium brands too.

    Wouldn’t it be great if brands enjoyed powerful word of mouth recommendations – the way group buying sites are trying to encourage that is by paying out credits for inviting friends.

    GoNabit seems to be doing well – and hence the me-too’s I think.

  3. Fahed – sounds interesting. Let us know how it goes :-)

  4. Well said Farrukh, especially since group buying as a concept in UAE is yet to come to some kind of success. To be honest I am not sure if there is a market for it large enough for so many players. Unlike China or India for instance. Indian market pays a lot of care on the money spent and culturally Indians are not against knowing what their neighbor paid for a bag of chicken. Here the customers don’t speak of bargains or haggling in the same way and we are yet to have the breakthrough in revolutionary growth in mobile and social media to carry the word forward.
    Nevertheless, a few promising players have sprung up in the last few years but like you point out, if better imitation is their only USP the climb does seem steeply uphill.

  5. I consulted for a very strong contender against both the groupon style services as well as the entertainer-style print services.

    Unfortunately, though, I don’t think the clients really grasped my vision because their focus moved away from the viral concept and towards something else altogether.

    Its due to launch in a couple of weeks. Let’s hope they didn’t deviate so far that the concept fails.

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