Investment group

Emirati investment group Astra Tech to raise $500m to develop ‘ultra’ digital platform

Astra Tech, a UAE-based investment and technology development group, is seeking to raise $500 million in funding as it prepares to develop and launch a new digital platform that aims to simplify the consumer shopping experience.

The “ultra platform”, considered a first in the Arab world, will allow sellers and consumers around the world to directly transact with each other for services and products in one place, eliminating the complexity of using multiple apps, Astra Tech said. tuesday.

The group has made strategic acquisitions, which will be unveiled soon, and recruited global talent to expand its operations, said Abdallah Abu Sheikh, founder and chief executive of Astra Tech.

“Our goal is not to reinvent the wheel, but to reuse familiar platforms to create what we call an ‘ultra platform’,” he said.

“The company’s vision is to simplify the way people communicate, shop, pay and transact. [The platform] will enable businesses and suppliers around the world to effortlessly connect with customers across a variety of everyday essential services and products, enriching users’ lives with speed and simplicity.”

E-commerce sales in the Mena region are expected to reach around $50 billion in 2022, according to Dubai-based e-commerce company CNNB Solutions.

This will be driven by increased online shopping, access to digital finance, improved logistics and delivery options and brands adopting direct-to-consumer strategies, he said. declared.

The rise in adoption of digital transactions and cross-border payments has particularly supported small and medium-sized businesses in the UAE, which were earning more than they were before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, said financial services major Mastercard in a report last month. .

Meanwhile, investments in the fintech sector will continue to remain on the radar of venture capital (VC) and investment funds, despite slowing economic growth and growing concerns about a global recession, the GCC continuing to be particularly attractive, experts told DIFC FinTech Week in June.

Venture capital firms have invested around $500 billion globally in start-ups, including $7.5 billion injected into Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan, according to startup data platform Magnitt.

Astra said it was specifically aimed at addressing “platform fatigue” resulting from an oversaturation of platforms that seek to integrate multiple semi-tied services into their core app offering, resulting in poor user experience.

This has the effect of placing an “unnecessary burden on vendors and partners through unfavorable revenue structures for the many services provided”, he said.

The company’s vision is to simplify the way people communicate, shop, pay and transact

Abdallah Abu Sheikh, Founder and Managing Director of Astra Tech

Mr Abu Sheikh said this complexity leads to an “overabundance of complex and slow digital platforms that are not fit for purpose”.

“We’ve seen how, in an effort to overcome profitability issues and poor unit economics, platforms have moved across industries in an effort to force users to perform more transactions with them,” he said.

“We want users to accomplish so much more on a single platform without the need for additional apps or a poor user experience.”

The platform will also support the business objectives of suppliers and partners, who will benefit from the reduced complexity of having to deal with customers on multiple fronts.

“We have worked to shape Astra Tech into a comprehensive, interconnected ecosystem that is equipped to realize our massive ambitions and continue to be pioneers in our space,” Mr. Abu Sheikh said.

Updated: July 20, 2022, 07:09