Noon launches in the UAE, tapping into regional e-commerce boom

BMI Research forecasts Mideast online retail sales to more than double by 2021

Noon, the US$1 billion e-commerce platform founded by the Emaar Properties chairman Mohamed Alabbar, started operations in the UAE on Saturday to tap into the region's fast-growing e-commerce industry that is forecast to double in size by 2021. 

The platform is set to go live in Saudi Arabia "in the coming weeks," the company said in a statement. 

"Today we are excited to deliver orders to our first customers," Mr Alabbar said.

"We are proud to take this important first step in our journey, and we are committed to making Noon the region's Arabic-first e-commerce platform. 

"As digital technologies cause disruptions across industries and geographies, it is important for us to shape a digital marketplace that is relevant to our local markets and serves as a growth platform for brick-and-mortar retailers." 


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Noon is a joint venture project between Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund, and a number of prominent Gulf investors led by Mr Alabbar. 

The creation of Noon comes amid a flourishing of e-commerce businesses in the region, and on the heels of Amazon's purchase in March of the online retailer, based in Dubai, for US$580 million. 

The Middle East's e-commerce sector is growing faster than anywhere else in the world, with online sales expected to double to $48.8 billion by 2021, according to BMI Research. 

"While partly due to low base effects, we believe the Middle East is on the cusp of a major e-commerce growth spurt," said BMI.

"With young and affluent ­consumers, developed transport networks for logistics and high internet penetration levelshe Middle East is home to a number of attractive e-commerce markets, led by the United Arab Emirates," BMI said last week. 

 The e-commerce sector has been rapidly growing in the UAE thanks to the country's affluent and digitally savvy population.

Mergers and acquisitions in the sector have picked up pace over the past year. 

There is also a notable push by a number of home-grown brands to go beyond brick-and-mortar operations that have traditionally defined the retail landscape, with a pivot to develop the online shopping industry and directly challenge the likes of Souq and Noon. 

"Noon means there is going to be more competition, more digital adoption of commerce and retail, more consumer options and new funding going into the digital start-ups. As they say, 'let the games begin,'" said Fadi Ghandour, founder of the courier service Aramex and head of the regional venture capital firm Wamda Capital. 

"E-commerce is here and is eating into everyone's margins, retail operators need to come on board or they will die. I also think retailers that have strong physical infrastructure are going to be huge beneficiaries if they know how to use their bricks to attract clicks with the ability to be local, fulfil locally say within no more than two hours." 

Noon customers can browse the platform's catalogue of brands by visiting or by downloading the Noon Mobile App via the Google Play Store.

A mobile app via Apple Store will be available in the coming days. The platform's launch has been long awaited, as it had originally planned to go live in January 2017. 

In July, it appointed Faraz Khalid, the co-founder of online fashion retailer, as its new chief executive, to help steer the company through its launch.

Last month, MH Alshaya, the Kuwaiti franchise operator which is present across the Arab world, Turkey and Russia, bought a stake in Noon, although the size of its investment was not disclosed. 

MH Alshaya will list its portfolio of international brands covering fashion, health & beauty and home & lifestyle categories on Noon's platform.