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FEATURE: Wadi.com forges own path

by ASC Staff on Oct 24, 2017


Kanwal Sarfaraz, co-founder, Wadi.com.
Kanwal Sarfaraz, co-founder, Wadi.com.
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The GCC’s largest e-commerce platform after Souq.com, Wadi.com, is pursuing a unique approach to its logistics arrangements in the region as it bets on greater consolidation in the regional online retail scene. According to Pratik Gupta, co-founder of Wadi.com, major expansion is imminent for the e-commerce market, which has until now been held back by a lack of customer service.

“Anyone who executes [e-commerce] the correct way in the next couple of years can get into the big league,” Gupta told The National in an interview in June. “This geography is not the same as anywhere else so you have to be diligent. I expect the next five years to be a roller coaster for e-commerce. It will be great for the customer, then I believe consolidation will happen.”

Unlike most e-commerce platforms, which focus on the UAE market and use it as a springboard into Saudi Arabia, Wadi.com has put the Kingdom front-and-centre in its logistics network, recognising the country’s clout as the largest consumer market in the Middle East. “We are more skewed towards Saudi Arabia — purposely so,” Gupta told Gulf News at the beginning of this year. “When we entered the market, the competitive landscape there offered better opportunities for us.”

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It was also no coincidence that a high-profile Saudi investor saw enough in Wadi’s business model to commit to a fairly substantial exposure. The Al Tayyar Travel Group played the lead investor’s role in a US $67 million (Dh246 million) funding round in early 2016, just one year after the platform was launched by a three-person team focused on opportunities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“That investor coming in made us a very Saudi-focused company — there was less competition as well,” said Gupta. “We did not want to get into a lot of things and burn up a lot of money ... fortunately we got investors who understood that.”

One of these co-founders is Kanwal Sarfaraz, alongside Ankit Wadhwa and Pratik Gupta. According to Sarfaraz the company’s Saudi-centric approach to its business has paid dividends. “Today we process more than one million SKUs per month from over 2,000 international brands including Apple, Samsung, Lacoste and Hugo Boss and have a large network of our own delivery system for better customer experience across these cities run by more than 150 delivery vans and drivers.”

The customer experience is the core focus for Wadi.com.

“We found that the ecosystem in the whole region left a lot to be desired and we wanted to bring levels of service that Amazon in India and Flipkart were offering,” explains Gupta. “There was a basic contradiction in the levels of smartphone penetration and internet usage which is among, if not the, highest in the world, and yet the levels of e-commerce was very low – the opportunity was massive.”

“Enhancing customer experience is at the core of Wadi’s 2017 plan with an aim to achieve efficient, around the clock super-fast deliveries. For better customer experience across the UAE and KSA, we have a large network of our own delivery systems run by more than 150 delivery vans and drivers,” says Sarfaraz, adding that, because Wadi.com is a retailer as well as a platform for other third party traders, they’re selective about whom they work with.

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