Souq.com, the Middle East’s answer to Amazon, raises $75m
E-commerce site plans to invest in technology, eyes other markets after new funding from Naspers
Souq.com, a Dubai-based ecommerce website, has raised $75 million in funding from South Africa’s Naspers in one of the biggest deals to date in the Middle East’s blossoming internet space.
Ronaldo Mouchawar, the chief executive and co-founder of Souq.com, said the company plans to invest in technology and study new markets following the investment.
Souq, which some consider as the Middle East’s answer to Amazon.com, has now attracted a total of $150m in funding from Naspers and fellow investors like Tiger Global Management and Maktoob co-founder Samih Toukan, Mouchawar said.
The site, which employs more than 1,000 people, sells goods directly and through partners in categories such as electronics, fashion, watches and jewelry.
The latest investment will see Souq make a greater push towards reaching customers on their mobile phones, Mouchawar said.
“The user is more on-the-go and you have to personalize quite a bit,” he told Al Arabiya News. “We’re lucky in this region that there is a huge trend towards mobile… We see a huge opportunity and shift coming in the next year or so.”
While the site is currently focused on countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Mouchawar said it will explore growing operations in other parts of the region.
“We’re definitely focusing on Egypt as a market. But also, with that money, we might now explore [rolling] out more local operations in other GCC countries… the Levant is not as big a focus, but there are definitely other countries that we will look at,” he said.
Mouchawar declined to confirm the value of the company, reported elsewhere in excess of $500 million. But he said that the total sales conducted on the site had increased tenfold since October 2012.
Naspers previously bought a stake in Souq.com in late 2012. The South African firm has other interests in the region including a stake in the Dubai-based classifieds website Dubizzle.
Previous big investments in the Middle East internet space include Yahoo’s $165m acquisition of Maktoob in 2009.