ZON, the region’s first fully decentralized mobile-only e-commerce network, has closed its seed funding round at an unprecedented US$8 million, making it the largest recorded single seed round in the UAE. The seed round was led by ASA Ventures and a consortium of private investors looking to support the disruption of the e-commerce sector in the region and beyond.
According to Arif Saiyad, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of ZON, the platform transforms traditional e-commerce by giving consumers access to the larger network of retailers across UAE and delivering orders via a decentralized fulfillment process and geo-tracking technology, ensuring lower prices, wider product range, and shorter delivery times while also decreasing the frequency of product returns because of pre-purchase stock validation. ZON also empowers the digital transformation of smaller retailers, giving them direct exposure to more customers by providing a plug-and-play mobile platform completely free of charge.
“At a time like this – when price consciousness and delivery speed are transforming customer expectations – we must be able to provide a better e-commerce experience to the modern consumer, and more importantly give smaller, offline retailers a chance to keep their businesses going by facilitating their transition to online sales where they have more opportunities to connect with customers,” Saiyad says.
“Because of the global health crisis caused by COVID-19, retailers have observed a 40 to 50% downturn in brick-and-mortar sales for the first quarter versus the previous year. More recently, due to mobility restrictions and fear of going to public places, consumers are turning to e-commerce for their daily needs.”
Marwan Al Damrawi, a healthtech investor and digital entrepreneur who, along with two individual investors, made it possible for ZON to close its US$8 million seed round, believes ZON will not only e-commerce in the UAE, but also in the wider MENA region and other emerging markets in Asia and Africa. “UAE is a haven for entrepreneurs, looking to build out tech-based platforms that can then be scaled and exported or aggregated to larger markets. It is one of the best places in the world to incubate a revolutionary idea,” says Al Damrawi, who was an executive at Arab GT and has over 8 years of successful investment track record and considerable media followership with over 2 million followers.
“I see tremendous potential for the decentralized real-time demand-supply matching technology of ZON to scale internationally and change the game in other parts of the globe, where retail business ownership is fragmented and where smartphone penetration is on the increase,” says Al Damrawi.
With the aim of making virtually every product available 24/7, across all locations in the emirates, ZON has already signed up over 32,000 sellers and over 17 million SKUs registered on its platform. The ZON customer app is scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2020.