G42-backed Astra Tech acquires VoIP app Botim after $500m funding round

The move boosts the Dubai-based investment firm's plans to launch an 'ultra app'

Founder Abdallah Abu Sheikh said Astra Tech will add 'several services' to Botim. Photo: Astra Tech
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Astra Tech, the Dubai-based technology-focused investment firm backed by Abu Dhabi's G42, has acquired popular Middle East internet calling platform Botim as it prepares to launch an “ultra app” to serve a wide range of consumer needs.

The acquisition will give Astra Tech access to Botim's 90 million registered users — 25 million of which are active — after a revamp of the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service, Astra Tech said on Thursday.

The deal came after Astra Tech started a $500 million funding round led by G42. However, the company did not disclose the value of the transaction or specific plans on how it will relaunch Botim.

However, the plan includes adding “several services” that would unite “scattered digital offerings”, Astra Tech founder Abdallah Abu Sheikh said.

The move would “re-steer economics in the right direction, while giving customers, merchants and investors a fair deal is paramount”, he said.

“Botim will be the first of its kind in the region to simplify interactions of hundreds of millions of users, allowing them to engage and transact seamlessly.”

Additional plans for the platform will be announced within the first quarter of 2023, the company said.

Apps have played a major role in the digital lives of consumers, who have relied on these to access any service, including finance, shopping, health, transport and home services.

Astra Tech's plans to launch an ultra app would rival super apps such as Dubai-based Careem, which is one of the most recognisable super app in the Middle East.

Careem became the region's first unicorn — a start-up with a valuation of more than $1 billion — when US-based Uber bought it in 2019 for $3.1 billion.

Astra Tech previously said that its “ultra platform” would be a first in the Arab world and would allow sellers and consumers around the world to directly transact with each other on a single platform, eliminating the complexity of using several apps.

The Botim deal comes after Astra Tech recently acquired FinTech platform PayBy and UAE-based home services app Rizek.

Astra Tech's funding round, which was announced in July and started in October, will be used to acquire other consumer platforms globally, the company said previously.

Botim, which was developed by US company Algento, was introduced in the UAE in 2017 as one of only two licensed VoIP apps, the other one being C'Me.

Currently, the UAE's two telecoms operators, e& by etisalat and du, have Botim, Voico and GoChat Messenger — the last exclusive to e& — listed as options for internet calling plans.

Aside from VoIP calls, Botim also offers money transfer and bills payment services.

Updated: January 13, 2023, 7:40 AM