Category Archives: Shopping

E-commerce site Wadi.com Co-Founded by a Pakistani Raises $67M Funding

By | Asia, Business, Dubai, Ecommerce, Economics, Pakistan, Shopping, Startups, Web | No Comments

Wadi.com offers 150,000 products among 40 categories and 3,000 brands from around the world.

GCC based e-commerce platform Wadi.com, operated by Dubai-based Wadi International General Trading LLP, has raised $67 million (around AED 246 million) in Series A round of funding led by the Saudi based Al Tayyar Travel Group.

Wadi.com in particular is eager to be a market leader. Launched in 2015, Wadi.com is part of the Middle East Internet Group (MEIG), a joint venture between Rocket Internet and South Africa telecom provider MTN. It currently operates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia, offering an assortment of more than 150,000 products from “more than 3,000 local and international brands including Apple, Samsung, Sony, Lacoste, Victoria’s Secret, Nike and Hugo Boss. The products range from watches from Hugo Boss to electronics from Apple and Samsung to motor and self-balancing scooters.

“Wadi.com has developed in an impressive way. The funding will enable us to grow further within the region and deliver exceptional service to our customers,” said Pratik Gupta, co-founder and managing director of Wadi.com. “We are proud of having raised the largest funding in tech history of the Middle East.”

“Wadi.com has a strong proven capability to adapt to the market and build a huge portfolio of products. We are confident about seeing the company growing further, especially with the cargo and logistics support our group will be offering,” said Abdullah Bin Nasser Al Dawood, managing director and CEO of the Al Tayyar Travel Group.

Series A Round Funding Investors

  • Al Tayyar Travel Group Holding Company is a Saudi joint-stock company and has invested in operations across tourist destinations such as Saudi Arabia, nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Canada.
  • The Middle East Internet Group (MEIG), a joint venture of Rocket Internet and MTN, is the leading Internet platform in the Middle East and supports some of the most vibrant Internet companies in the region. Founded in 2013, MEIG’s mission is to accelerate the growth and success of the Internet economy throughout the Middle East. MEIG’s network currently consists of Wadi.com, Helpling.com, Vaniday.com, Easytaxi, Lamudi.com, and Carmudi.com.

While the competition is strong, Wadi’s co-founders aim to be the leading online store for everything in the Middle East by concentrating on creating experiential transactions by offering 24-hour deliveries, an unbeatable customer experience and increased time on returns. Ex McKinsey employee and COO of Wadi, Kanwal Sarfraz, said “we felt there was a clear need for a big player like Wadi.com in the broader online retail segment. KSA and UAE are demanding markets and I think that this is a good time to meet those demands with superior service and a great fulfillment platform. Wadi’s core strength is its very talented and passionate team – we strongly believe that we have what it takes to set a new standard for this market.”

Wadi.com Founding Team

A GCC based e-commerce platform Wadi.com is co-founded by LUMS Pakistan alumna Kanwal Sarfraz former McKinsey consultant with stints at Unilever and Gallup in Pakistan, Pratik Gupta, formerly of Jabong’s founding team and Ankit Wadha, also an ex-McKinsey consultant who served clients in the Middle East.

Kanwal Sarfaraz, Co-Founder & COO

Kanwal, who studied BSc Economics with distinction from LUMS Pakistan, has been involved in entrepreneurial activities since her college days. She has completed her MPhil in Economics from the University of Cambridge in 2010, where she was awarded a Commonwealth and Noon Shared Scholarship.

As one of the Co-founders and the Chief Operating Officer of Wadi,com, Kanwal is responsible for all support functions (HR and talent acquisition, finance and business intelligence, legal and corporate), investor relations as well as broad cross-functional strategic projects (strategy and special projects). She owns the Wadi.com business plan and plays a big role in helping functional teams make the right strategic choices to ensure that the plans are met.

Prior to Wadi.com, Kanwal worked at McKinsey and Company, Dubai where she served leading GCC and Pakistani enterprises on topics of strategy and operations. She has also worked with Unilever and Gallup Pakistan and as a Teaching Assistant at LUMS Pakistan.

Apple Pay was Co-Invented by a Pakistani

Apple Pay was Co-Invented by a Pakistani

By | Business, Business Apps, Finance, Mobile, Mobile Marketing, Personal Branding, Shopping, Technology | No Comments

Like all things apple, the tech giant’s Apple Pay promises to be a game changer. In this case, iPhone users are now able to securely and privately make swipe-free payments at, to begin with, some 220,000 stores in the U.S. using credit and debit card information stored on their devices. One of the seven men behind this bigger-and-better product is Pakistan’s Ahmer Ali Khan.

Khan, 38, hails from Rawalpindi, graduated from the Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering Sciences and Technology —where friends knew him as The Programmer—and moved to Silicon Valley in 2000. He worked a number of short tech gigs until landing his first full-time job at a startup. On his first day there, Khan was asked if he knew the Java computer language. He didn’t. But he was ambitious and determined. “‘I promise I will know it by tomorrow,’” Raza Shaukat Latif, a friend of Khan’s, recalls him as saying at the time. “Sure enough, he bought a book and crammed the entire night.” By morning, Khan knew the language. “That is just how brilliant he is,” Latif told Newsweek. “He has had the tech bug in him for a very long time.”

It was at the now-defunct ViVOtech, a company specializing in Near Field Communication software, that Khan first tried his hand at building a cell phone-based, contactless payment system. In 2011, Apple picked Khan to work on its “top secret” digital payment system aimed at revolutionizing shopping and, potentially, retail banking.

In February, Khan and six other co-inventors filed their patent for what Apple CEO Tim Cook would unveil to the world on Sept. 9 as Apple Pay. It “will forever change the way all of us buy things,” Cook said at the launch in Cupertino of the new technology, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch.

Khan lives in Milpitas, California, with his wife and two children. Citing Apple rules, he declined to comment for this piece.

Apple Pay allows a shopper to simply hold his Apple device, an iPhone or the Apple Watch, which comes out next year, to a contactless reader to make payments, which are confirmed as transmitted through a short vibration or beep. Credit and debit cards can be added to the device’s Passbook app using the phone camera. All transactions are entirely secure and private, says Apple.

“With Apple Pay, instead of using your actual credit and debit card numbers when you add your card, a unique Device Account Number is assigned, encrypted and securely stored in the Secure Element, a dedicated chip in iPhone and Apple Watch,” it says. “These numbers are never stored on Apple servers. And when you make a purchase, the Device Account Number alongside a transaction-specific dynamic security code is used to process your payment. So your actual credit or debit card numbers are never shared by Apple with merchants or transmitted with payment.”

In case the device is lost or stolen, banking and other information can be deleted remotely.

Google Wallet preceded Apple Pay but failed to take off and replace plastic. Apple’s recent past is a good indication that with Khan and team’s Apple Pay, it will hit pay dirt.

This post originally appeared in the October 5, 2014 edition of Newsweek Pakistan