Shipping app Fetchr taps into Middle East’s growing e-commerce business

February 7, 2016 6:14 pm

How has the journey been for Fetchr since it was launched in MENA markets last year?

Fetchr has seen most of its growth over the past ten months. Since July 2015, Fetchr has expanded from the UAE into Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. We will be launching Fetchr in additional markets within the next quarter.

While we have had a lot of success in pan-MENA market expansion, we have also invested heavily in lateral growth by opening up new business lines. What started as a pure logistics play has evolved into four core services/products: Fetchr for B2C deliveries, Fetchr for SMB, Sellr by Fetchr and the peer-to-peer delivery app. Fetchrs’ technology stack now supports peer-to-peer delivery automation and optimisation for banks, e-commerce, fulfillment and F&B. The objective has been to revolutionise the way we send and receive packages in emerging markets.

After humble beginnings, in the past year, the company has grown six times in terms of staff and seven times in terms of revenues. We, however, still feel like this is the beginning of a journey that will take us to 20+ countries in the next 18 months.

There a number of local and international companies with a strong presence in the region in the logistics business. How does your business model differ from the ones of these companies? How big is your network and who are your partners?

Currently existing delivery businesses operating in the region are working hard to bring delivery standards up to par with standards that have existed for almost half a century in the Western world. We are not trying to catch up to what everyone else is doing, but leapfrogging beyond existing shipping businesses and standards.

Fetchr recognises that the world is changing through technology. With our technology, we bypass the need for a conventional address system in itself, using technology and your cell phone’s GPS location as a way to find your customers. We think that it is about time someone integrates last-mile operations with the customer’s out and about, finding a way to connect the dots in the Cloud. As a mobile app for deliveries, we are leading the way; however, we anticipate that there will be a flurry of copy-cat attempts. We will, however, keep on working on improving the product and [we will always] provide a better experience. That’s what is driving the company.

Last-mile delivery is one of the greatest reasons why e-commerce has not reached its full potential in the Middle East. My mission is to empower delivery through technology. Other address-finding apps only offer a location service while Fetchr offers the utility and convenience of peer-to-peer delivery and offers an end-to-end solution for any businesses. Our core strategy is to provide a legitimate service that connects people and makes their lives easier. We are solving a real issue that everyone has faced at some point in their lives and we enable deliveries for e-commerce, solving their biggest challenge.

You are entering the market at a time when many are planning to exit. There is a growing uncertainty, particularly in the region after the fall in oil prices. How do you view the current uncertainty in the emerging markets?

Consider 2008 to 2012, as many markets faced recession, some businesses closed their doors while others like Groupon, Airbnb and Uber launched and thrived. While there is a lot of uncertainty and weary confidence in financial markets and fluctuating oil prices, we feel that Fetchr is definitely in the right place at the right time.

We also feel like investors understand the need to have a better delivery option in their home markets and understand how game-changing that can be, notwithstanding the overall business environment.

There must have been hiccups as a startup…?

As a startup, challenges are plentiful: legal setting and fees, finding the right talent, finding a technology team and retaining the team against tough competition and mature companies, but also funding, the absence of debt financing. The list is long. Dubai, however, has this entrepreneurial energy where things happen. The startup community is burgeoning. As the space becomes more mature, competition becomes tough. We are, however, still very far from the level of saturation you can experience in the US or in other more mature markets. It is still a great time to start an online business as the market grows more than 30 per cent year over year. Some segments of the e-commerce space are becoming more competitive, ultimately giving better value for money to the end consumer.

Despite high Smartphone and Internet penetration, e-commerce has not yet flourished in the region. Please comment?

The Middle East is well-poised for substantial e-commerce growth. However, this growth is stunted by the slow evolution of shipping/delivery. While the rest of the world flirts with the idea of same-hour delivery, we are lucky to achieve same-day delivery in the UAE. Fetchr’s vision is to enable all deliveries through our technology and we are addressing local logistics issues with our application of technology.

I also believe that e-commerce has shown tremendous growth in the past years.

How could you raise much of the funding from Silicon Valley for a business in the Far Middle East where e-commerce has not gained significant popularity?

The Middle East is an area of the world that is largely overlooked by Silicon Valley. Raising $11 million Series A funding was not an easy task for us. Sheer determination for almost a year saw them knocking on every door and educating [investors] about the tremendous opportunities that exist in these markets. What kept them going is their belief in the vision of Fetchr and the legitimacy of the technology and utility of what they were building. The delivery logistics industry is well established in Europe and the US, while, in the Middle East, it is still underdeveloped. We hope this investment from one of the largest funds in the world will open the doors to foreign investment into tech businesses that are founded in the Middle East and put Dubai on the map as a technology hub that harbours talented entrepreneurs seeking funding.


Mujeeb Rahman
By Mujeeb Rahman
Mujeeb Rahman is a business journalist at AMEinfo. His areas of focus include economy, markets, politics and international relations in MENA and Asia-Pacific regions. An ex-BBC digital journalist, he delves deeper into the subjects that matter most.