Souqalmal.com attracts international investor
Personal finance comparison website Souqalmal.com has raised $10 million in a Series B investment, notable for both its size and the high profile of the investors for a significant portion of that figure.
GoCompare Group plc, which operates UK comparison website GoCompare, joins co-investor UAE Exchange Group (UX Holdings Limited) and lead investor, Saudi-based Riyad TAQNIA Fund (RTF) which is owned by Riyadh Bank, announcing strategic partnerships with Souqalmal.com at a press conference in Dubai this morning.
“We have been experiencing significant growth in all our markets and our insurance business has increased by 800 per cent over the past year. Service optimization and customer focus have also enabled us to slash our customer acquisition cost by 80 per cent. The time is now to build on our strong foundation and take the company to the next level. The funding will largely be used to launch new business lines, develop our platform’s technology, and invest in marketing to further raise awareness and reach more people,” said Ambareen Musa, CEO & Founder of Souqalmal.com.
She added that these partnerships go far beyond funding. GoCompare brings best-in-class expertise and technology; partnering with UAE Exchange will improve Souqalmal’s customer reach across the GCC, while RTF will facilitate expansion into the Saudi market.
This fundraising announcement is fantastic news for SMEs in MENA region, since it quickly followed the announcement of Amazon's acquisition of Souq and Didi's backing of Careem, in e-commerce and transport respectively, which Musa said should show investors that interesting things are happening in the region.
“I think [approaching investors for] fundraising is already a super-bold move. You need to get your act together and have your story prepared and have your track record speak for itself, and I think if you have a solid business, things will shift. There are more and more opportunities coming out of Saudi. But I do believe, having seen the three of us [Souq.com, Careem, and Souqalmal.com] do it, there are more opportunities to go out there and tell people about successful SMEs in the region, because a lot of investors do not even know that we exist here. The start-up infrastructure and ecosystem is getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger and it’s growing extremely fast. Fintech was only really spoken about a couple of years ago. Now there are a number of fintech hubs coming up. I think whoever is looking for funding should not just look within the region,” said Musa.
Ivo Detelinov, Vice President and Head of Private Equity Funds at Riyad Capital echoed the optimistic sentiment that this announcement could well boost the profile of SMEs. “There is an understanding that the region must move away from [its dependency on] oil and Vision 2030 is just one example. Then there is a number of ministries–commerce, labour, finance–with multiple projects, within Saudi Arabia but the UAE as well. Each of those countries has an SME authority. There is recognition that there is a funding gap for the SMEs, banks may or may not loan and SMEs need equity, not debt.”
He added that this announcement is a celebration for Souqalmal, but it will also be reflected in the media, which will hopefully encourage more funds that will come into existence, with more attention from the public sector and governments institutions to focus on SMEs, because SMEs will be key for employment in the region.
“Souqalmal.com is much more than a comparison website. Financial literacy is a priority for Saudi Arabia and Souqalmal.com can play a leading role in this”, said Adel Al-Ateeq, Acting CEO of Riyad Capital. “The company’s personal finance services will also help financial products be more accessible for all in the Kingdom and promote innovation in our financial services sector. We are excited to help Souqalmal.com share its expertise and extend its footprint in Saudi Arabia.”
Souqalmal.com empowers consumers to make the right choice by bringing together on one convenient platform all the latest deals on more than 3,200 banking, insurance and education products offered by providers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which is a heavily regulated market when it comes to insurance. Within the next few months, once all the regulatory aspects have been sorted out Souqalmal with enter the market and expand its insurance offerings to include health, travel, and home insurance. Musa added the partner broker in Saudi has already been selected.
Matthew Crummack, CEO of GoCompare said the company was delighted to make its first international investment with Souqalmal.com. “It is the clear leader in financial education and personal finance comparison in the Middle East, and is fully aligned with our mission to help people everywhere to save time and money. With a youthful and tech savvy population, the potential for growth in the region is huge and Souqalmal.com is the ideal partner for us here.”
Promoth Manghat, Group CEO and Executive Director, UAE Exchange added that while assessing how to go that extra mile for its customers, Souqalmal.com’s rapid rise has been watched with interest. “We have a wide customer base of over 15 million customers, to whom we offer a wide range of services at our stores. They look up to us for the convenience we bring to them by partnering with various service providers. We are happy to associate with Souqalmal.com and are now looking forward to introducing its unique services to this wide customer base across our extensive network.”