By Gavin Gibbon
Founder Ulugbek Yuldashev blames coronavirus for demise of online platform, a year after winning $30m in financing
UAE-based e-commerce platform Awok.com has shut down, with the company blaming the current global Covid-19 pandemic for sealing its ultimate demise.
The company, founded in 2013 by Kyrgyzstan entrepreneur Ulugbek Yuldashev, attracted over 10 million visitors per month, offering about 300,000 products and employing over 700 employees.
In April last year, Yuldashev announced the completion of the company’s first external round of financing - $30 million – which he said was to be used to pursue ambitious growth plans.
However, a statement on the company’s website said: “Awok's journey as a mass market e-commerce player has unfortunately come to an end, and the company has ceased operations.
“After seven incredible years of saving money for our customers by creating regional business and a platform for our suppliers and sellers, we are sad to inform you that given the current global situation it left the company no other choice than to close its platform for good.”
The company refused to expand further in terms of the impact on staff and suppliers.
“The ambition of the company was to bring choice and affordability to everyone in the MENA region by building infrastructure and platforms to enable businesses, but this ambition did not survive the current business environment to come to fruition,” the statement added.
The closure comes at a boom time for the region's e-commerce sector as the sudden switch to online shopping during the enforced Covid-19 curfew and lockdown periods has fueled increased demand in the industrial and warehousing market in Dubai, according to real estate giants Savills.
The country’s e-commerce sector was issued the highest number of licences – 196 - in May, according to data from the National Economic Register, while the first five months of the year saw a 300 percent rise in consumer demand for e-commerce services.
“There was a sudden urgency among companies to shore up their online presence and invest in logistics and warehousing supply chain. As a result, demand for Grade A industrial and warehousing space witnessed a strong increase across Dubai. This is a marked shift from the subdued activity levels which we reported twelve months ago," said Swapnil Pillai, associate director research Middle East at Savills.
A shift in consumer buying habits also saw a double-digit growth in e-commerce businesses operating from Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza).
Stats released by Jafza in July revealed at 10.6 percent increase in the retail and e-commerce sector with a total trade value of AED37.6 billion.
Mohammed Al Muallem, CEO and managing director, DP World, UAE Region and CEO of Jafza, said: "The recent pandemic has caused a shift in consumer buying habits, a behaviour that impacted a positive outcome proving that the internet is the major catalyst in shaping human lives and digital profiles.”