Gulf e-commerce newcomer Mara Xpress plans $10M MENA expansion
Mara Xpress will invest $500,000 into an Abu Dhabi facility followed by plans for expansion in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. (Mara Xpress)
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Mara Xpress, the latest entrant to the UAE’s express logistics industry, will set up shop in Abu Dhabi within a month, before expanding to Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in a $6 million (Dh22 million) expansion drive by the end of the first quarter of 2017, chief executive officer Jeremy Skyrme has said.
The Dubai-based company, which describes itself as an e-commerce, last-mile delivery firm servicing online merchants, will raise its investment across the region to $10 million by the end of the 2017, before turning its attention to the expansive African market.
“As soon as you set up here [in Dubai], the first natural place your customers and merchants want to go is into the GCC,” Skyrme said. “For us, it is low-hanging fruit and obviously we need to finish that. Come the end of the first quarter, we will have made the move into the right African destination.”
With the UAE’s e-commerce industry set to touch $10 billion by 2018, Mara Xpress — part of the Mara Group, an African company with interests in technology, financial services, manufacturing, real estate and agriculture — is determined to tap this growth potential.
“The investment in the Abu Dhabi facility is in the region of $500,000. Our next phase, once we finish this in about a month, will be to look at the next destination. We need to be in Bahrain, we need to be in Saudi Arabia. In the kingdom, we are not just looking at one location. We need to be in Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah,” Skyrme said.
“Our plan is to be the [last-mile, e-commerce] service provider across all GCC markets, with a market share of 30 per cent by the end of 2017 and 50 per cent by 2018,” he added.
Skyrme said the budgets and plans for Bahrain and Saudi city Dammam had been finalised, while plans for the rest of the GCC region are nearing completion.
“These markets need a specialist provider. If you look at Saudi Arabia, there are only seven registered courier companies. It is very regulated there, compared to the UAE. Saudi Arabia needs a bit more time, we are going to visit it in the next few weeks,” he said, adding that the kingdom was a huge e-commerce destination.
“We want to be the eighth player in Saudi Arabia, but then, we are not a courier company. We will be the only registered last-mile, e-commerce delivery company, doing exactly what we do here there.”
Mara Xpress is bullish on the future, with plans afoot to incorporate other e-commerce business lines into its model. Skyrme said they would soon launch “an inbound, into-the-UAE shopping product, which we will call ShopwithMara”, affording UAE-based clients the opportunity to buy new products before they land in the UAE.
“Things that you can’t find in the UAE, whether they be new products launched in other markets that are not yet here, [you can use this platform] to procure them cheaper before they arrive here. There is big business for that,” he said.
By Kuda Chikwanda
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