Behar to launch new portal for retail fish shopping

Buoyed by the success of its fledgling platform for wholesale trades in fresh fish, Behar – the only such portal of its kind in the Sultanate – is now preparing to roll-out its spinoff catering to the retail market.

Behar Plus will offer an online marketplace for fresh fish sellers and stores to offer their merchandise to individual customers in the first such platform primarily targeted at the retail segment of the market, said a co-founder of the popular start-up.

“We are preparing to launch in the coming days a portal that will allow for individual consumers to check out what’s on offer in their neighbourhood fish stores or local outlets, select the fish and quantities they want online, and request delivery of the purchased items at their doorstep,” said Salim al Huseini, one of four enterprising Omanis who came together to launch Behar a week ago.

“Unlike the parent portal, Behar Plus makes it simple for individuals and families to do all of their shopping for fresh fish online, without having to step out, and thereby adhere to the ‘stay at home’ guidelines championed by the Omani authorities amid the current pandemic,” Salim explained. “Once rolled out, Behar Plus will invite fish stores to register as sellers.  For now, any payment to the seller can be settled at the time of delivery of the goods.”

Behar is one of three Omani start-ups selected by Oman Technology Fund (OTF), a specialised government-backed fund that invests in IT and innovative startups, for funding support from an endowment of RO 1 million earmarked for Omani entrepreneurial initiatives spawned by the COVID-19 crisis.

Behar came online earlier this month in the wake of the shuttering of the Wholesale Fish Market at Al Felaij in Barka wilayat – part of measures by the Omani government to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus.  Fishermen and brokers can now use this integrated platform to offer their fresh merchandise to leading supermarket chains and other distributors operating across the Sultanate.

As a bidding platform, sellers quote a minimum price as the starting bid on their goods and solicit offers from registered wholesale buyers.  Offers close within five minutes of the goods being posted on the website with the highest bidder eventually clinching the deal.

Shedding light on the process, the entrepreneur explained: “Say a fisherman drives in from Suhar to sell a truckload of fresh fish on the Behar portal. Arriving at Al Felaij Market, the merchandise is properly sorted according to their different fish types and sizes. They are checked for quality and freshness. Pictures are snapped and posted online, along with the seller’s minimum price.  Once sold to the highest bidder, the successful bidder turns up at the market, settles the payment, and takes delivery of the merchandise. All of these transactions typically take place between 10am and 3pm.”

Given the popularity of the platform, Behar plans to expand its geographical coverage for the benefit of wholesale sellers and buyers elsewhere around the Sultanate, according to Salim.  “We have plans to extend our reach to places like Suhar, Qurayyat, and so on.  But this can only happen once public fish markets reopen in these areas, which is likely only during the post-pandemic phase. Additionally, we have plans to introduce online payment facilities,” he added.