The novel coronavirus has pushed countries into lockdown, meaning online delivery has become people's go-to method during this period.
So, would you be surprised to hear that a grocery delivery app in Saudi Arabia has raised millions in funds during this period due to a spike in demand? Well, it's true.
The app, Nana Direct (the first word being Arabic for green mint), has raised a total of $18 million in Series B funding from investors to expand across the Middle East as lockdown measures have pushed people online in nearly all aspects of life. The investors include Saudi Technology Ventures (STV) and Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP).
Other investors who partook in the fund include Watar Partners, Saudi Venture Capital Company (SVC), Wamda, and other existing angel investors.
Following the spike in demand amid the global pandemic, the company has increased its capacity threefold to be able to serve its customers. The company plans to expand it even more so now with the curfew being imposed in Saudi Arabia.
"The penetration of online grocery shopping in the region is very low, and our target is to expand across the region and beyond groceries into other products," founder Sami Alhelwah told Arabian Business.
"Ultimately, we want to become the Amazon of the Middle East and be one of the first technology companies listed in Saudi Arabia."
Founded in 2016, the app allows users to pick and choose groceries from different supermarkets or stores and have them delivered to their doorstep in one-go. The best part about the app is that it allows customers to browse through the aisles of their favorite stores, making grocery shopping a virtual chore rather than a physical one. It looks and feels the same, minus the hassle of getting off your couch.
The startup claims to be the leading grocery marketplace in Saudi Arabia. It is currently covering more than 12 cities in the country, according to its site.
It has raised $26 million in funding to date. Just last year, it raised $6 million in a Series A round.
Why e-commerce is important during a pandemic?
Social distancing has been key in reducing the spread of the highly contagious infection. There have been warnings against physical contact with big groups of people; people have also been advised to restrict contact with the elderly and those who suffer from health conditions that may put them at a higher risk of complications, and in some cases death, if they contract the virus.
To help enforce social distancing, Saudi Arabia has imposed a curfew on residents and has suspended public and private businesses from continuing business as usual. (Most had to resort to remote work.)
Saudi Arabia has tightened its curfew policy, barring entry or exit from Riyadh, Mecca, and Medina as well as movement between all provinces. The kingdom also added four hours in the three cities to the 21-day curfew; as of Thursday, the curfew starts at 3 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. and runs through till 6 a.m.
To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), people have turned their lives upside down to adapt to a new way of life, one that is heavily reliant on technology. Remote work, virtual meetings, online stores, and delivery apps are the new reality in the Arab world. That means e-commerce is people's safest method of interacting with the outside world. So it's no surprise that Nana Direct has seen an extreme spike in demand.
It looks like the virtual world is going to become the new normal, though it is going to take longer than expected for life to function as it used to.