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Fri 13 Sep 2019 10:08 AM

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UAE VC firm aims to disrupt e-commerce in emerging markets

ASA Ventures says to launch ZON in the UAE in early 2020, plans rapid roll-out across emerging markets

UAE VC firm aims to disrupt e-commerce in emerging markets
Arif Saiyad, founder and CEO of ASA Ventures.

ASA Ventures, a venture capital firm based in the UAE, has announced plans to disrupt traditional e-commerce in emerging markets with the launch of ZON, the region's first fully decentralised mobile based network.

The mobile-first e-commerce venture has completed its pilot test successfully and will launch in the UAE at the start of 2020, the company said in a statement.

It added that it plans to quickly expand to other emerging markets following the UAE launch, without naming any countries.

ZON has already received a seed investment of $5 million from Arif Saiyad, founder and CEO of ASA Ventures and the seed fund has been deployed for market research, product development, expanding its retailer network and pilot testing.

Saiyad said the network has already on-boarded, tested and trained over 30,000 sellers – nearly twice the number of sellers active on the country's largest online marketplace - and has over 16 million SKUs (stock keeping units) currently registered on its platform.

"For the past four years, we have been using proprietary machine learning algorithm to collect and analyze data, which has made it possible to fulfill orders using real time inventory information across every product category, regardless of the size of the seller," said Saiyad.

"The key aspect of ZON is its decentralized model that allows for in-situ order fulfillment and real time image-based validation of stock. We are launching in the UAE and will look to grow aggressively in other emerging markets thereafter."

The company is now in its Series A fundraising round, which is expected close by October 15. 

Arif added: "By virtue of expanding the universe of options for consumers, ZON is able to offer almost any product for cheaper than the cheapest e-commerce deal and deliver any product almost instantly, so we are confident consumers will embrace and love it.
"The real time geo-tracking and advanced search capabilities that allow for price and proximity filters makes the ordering process fun and entirely transparent."

According to data gathered by UAE-based Mashreq Bank, e-commerce spending in the UAE rose by 48 percent in 2018. Last year, a BMI Research report forecast the region's e-commerce market to grow to $48.6 billion by 2022, up from an estimated $26.9 billion in 2018.

Arif Saiyad & Associados, better known as ASA Ventures, was founded in Portugal in 2003 and is now based in the UAE.

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