In 2015, five long-time friends were at a bridal shower in Tehran when they came up with the idea to launch a website dedicated to the needs and wants of Iranian women. The five female founders launched the site, Benita, last May which has now grown to 40 employees and a monthly reach of 2 million unique users and 23 million page views until May 2017.
Benita.ir is a female online portal service designed to deliver the latest news on lifestyle, beauty and fashion. Founded in 2016, Benita’s mission is to offer the finest articles in Farsi and aims to be the ultimate source of information for Iranian women’s everyday life.
“We were all gathered together that day, chatting about wedding preparations and shopping, when we asked the question, why isn’t there a single online destination that caters to our needs and wants?,” Faezeh Farahani, a founding member of Benita says. “Why do we have to visit many different sites when there could be one place that caters for it all?”
At that time one of the founders was working for LINE, the tech giant well-known for its popular messaging app, which the founders partnered up with along with a Dubai based regional digital agency, Edoramedia, to develop and launch the platform into what has become Iran’s fastest growing startup in the female portal space.
85% of Benita’s staff are female writers and professionals in diverse fields. These people have collectively produced over 12,000 original articles after one year of operation. The site initially launched covering only three topics: beauty, fashion, and relationships – and now stretches to over 20 categories ranging from entertainment news to niche topics such as herbal treatment reviews.
“Benita’s slogan is ‘everything she cares’, which really speaks to our mission of exhaustive inclusivity,” Hajar Sadr, Chief Editor at Benita, says. “We want to eventually address ALL of the daily issues, needs, and wants of Iranian women, and we’re well on our way.”
12,000 original articles have been published in the past year.
One of Benita’s most popular sections is “Benidana”, an online Q&A service that offers free expert answers from basic knowledge to sensitive questions of women’s lives. They came across the idea after conducting over 50 focus group sessions and street interviews from major cities in Iran.
Benita recruited professionals for Benidana and has their backgrounds published on the site so that its female audience would know that their concerns or questions were being answered by the experts in different fields. It also allows users to choose to be anonymous, which helps them feel more comfortable and safe while sharing in an online setting. To date, over 21,000 questions have been posted by users, 90 percent of which have been answered.
85 percent of the company’s employees are women.
An interesting design challenge unique to Iran became apparent when Benita’s customer support team realized that many of their users aged 29 years or older would fail to register on the site when using the web version. The problem didn’t exist, however, for the same demographic using the app version. This insight allowed them to proactively reach out to this segment of their users through social networking channels or even by direct phone calls in order to walk them through the registration process.
“Our phone call assistance sets another level of customer care because we keep listening to their questions about using internet in general and trying to help as much as we can even after our assistance for the registration is completed,” said Zahra Zali, User Policy and Monitoring Manager of Benita. “By answering more questions, women get educated, and education is empowering women which is something that Benita is working towards,” Zali added.
Monthly average stats: 2 million unique users and 20 million page views.
“Women in Iran aged 25 to 34 have the biggest purchasing power and are the most influential on social media,” Anooshe Hajinoroozi, Benita Service Operation Manager said. “So it was very important that we engage, cater, and attend to the needs of this important and key segment of our user base.”
To mark it’s one-year anniversary, Benita has rolled out a more localized design of the site along with a reward program that allows users to earn points with actions like leaving comments to articles or helping users by answering question at Benidana section. They can then redeem their points through products or gifts available on the site. It’s just another step in the evolution of a site that is dedicated to shaping itself as a mainstay for addressing Iranian womens’ needs and wants online.
“We’re thrilled to see how well-received Benita has become amongst Iranian women, and are convinced that we’ve positioned ourselves exactly where there’s a real market gap,” founder Shaghayegh Vezvaei, said. “The plan now is to go full steam ahead with a continual focus on enhancing the Benita experience and expanding the scope of the portal until there isn’t a single female need, want, or care that we haven’t yet covered.”