We recently caught up with Yousef Al Refaei, one of the founders of Outwest, a trendy Kuwait-based online retail store for lifestyle products, streetwear, and luxury brands, to talk about their latest venture Virtual Film Lab. 

Yousef is part of a team of five passionate and creative entrepreneurs who are always on the lookout to provide a unique shopping experience while inspiring and connecting with customers. They have now launched Virtual Film Lab, a service that provides fast development and scanning service from the comfort of your own home through an app and website. In addition to that, the lab serves as a breakthrough when it comes to the film industry. It makes it easier to shop for film and go shoot and get your rolls developed and sent back to you without the hassle of having to find a developer. 

Bader Al Asker, Fahad Al Humaithi, Abdullah Al Essa, Khaled Al Yaseen and Yousef Al Refaei are childhood friends who happen to share the same level of dedication. Every single member plays a vital role in the company. 

“As a startup the roles aren’t always defined, but between us as friends, they were from the start. But of course, there are days where that all goes out the window and we pull all-nighters and do each other’s work before a huge launch.”

“We here at Outwest are very driven when it comes to technology. We always think about scalability and how we can build things that can scale. For so long newcomers to film photography have always been hesitant because of the long process of having to get the rolls developed. We wanted the users who shop from Outwest, to have one place to shop and develop no matter where they were. Furthermore, we know how complicated the whole process is especially for casual photographers, so we wanted a solution that would simplify the process as well as build a tool that we could build on top of in the future.”

Speaking to us about their interest in films he says “We have a very special relationship with film and have always been interested in photography ever since we were young. Film in specific is something that we started diving into in 2017. Our love for film grew as well as the community since then. We love film not just because it’s such an interesting form of photography but also because the film community is something that you can’t find anywhere else. Film gives us this sense of nostalgia that’s unexplainable.”

The virtual film lab started out as a Kuwait exclusive but has recently added all GCC countries. In order to ensure they deliver the best quality to their customers, they work with every major film lab in Kuwait, as well as a few abroad. Their own in-house Film Lab is also opening very soon.

The target audience would be people that look to have an online shopping experience that is both simple and fast and millennials so far make up the largest share of their online sales. 

“The content creators are the foundation of what we do. We mean that literally. The creators are the people who show us the way when it comes to our product offering, they teach us how to produce content. We work with them directly to learn about what the creators need, what the industry lacks. We build based on that directly.”

In order to stay competitive pricing is the most important factor. The team is always re-evaluating and trying to lower pricing whenever they can. They also don’t charge delivery fees on the development service and that’s ultimately due to how much consumer businesses they get on our services. 

The goal is to create an international platform and a global community that other labs can also join and build off. The team is passionate about making film more accessible to everyone and to bridge the gap between the past and the future where people could shop for film, shoot and develop all in one place. 

“This is an open call to all film labs and creators. We want to build a virtual film lab with you. We want to offer our services to you and help you grow and learn from you.”

Words by Saira Malik

Images by Outwest

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