Taking a page from Amazon, Awok to roll out its own private label products

An IPO is also possible in the next few years, chief executive of e-commerce site says

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES -  Ulugbek Yuldashev, Founder & CEO AWOK.com at the Smart Data Summit at Sofitel, Palm Jumeirah.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Alkesh Sharma's story.
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

E-commerce website Awok.com plans to go public in the next few years provided market conditions are conducive and, taking a page from Amazon's playbook, will roll out its own private-label products to sell across 30 consumer categories.

The online retailer has not decided on a timeline to go public but Ulugbek Yuldashev, founder and chief executive of Awok, told The National the aim is to float shares within two to four years.

For now, Mr Yuldashev's focus is on manufacturing products to further tap into the fast-growing e-commerce market in the region.

E-commerce sales in the Middle East and North Africa reached $8.3 billion in 2017, and is expected to treble by 2024, according to consultancy Bain & Company. The GCC and Egypt, where Awok is focusing its expansion, accounts for 80 per cent of online transactions in the region and is growing twice as fast as the rest of Mena.

For a decade, global e-commerce giant Amazon has leveraged its customer data to manufacture and sell its own range of products exclusively in its marketplace. Amazon has launched nearly 450 of its own brands, and last year, sold nearly $1bn worth of goods, according to US-based TJI Research.

Mr Yuldashev said Awok plans to do something similar after hitting a merchandising sweet spot, with low-cost, non-name brand products, 80 per cent of which are shipped from China.

“The mid to low-income segment of customers account for nearly 70 per cent of the UAE population. Their budget is limited and our idea is to help them relate more with our brand,” he said.

Awok, which was founded in 2013 with an initial personal investment of $30,000 from Mr Yuldashev, started with selling low-cost electronics before expanding into 30 other categories including watches, clothing and household appliances.

The Dubai-headquartered company has 700 employees, 90 per cent of whom are based in the UAE, and the rest are scattered across offices in China, India, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, the company plans to open three warehouses in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam this year.

"In a couple of months, we would have a full-fledged team in Saudi Arabia and going forward, we will be generating thousands of jobs there," said Mr Yuldashev, adding the company wants to replicate the same UAE business model in the kingdom and Egypt – independently catering to customers, from processing the order to final delivery within the country.

Awok, which has doubled revenues and sales in each of the past five years, is aiming for more robust growth.

“Considering the fact that we are going to launch our operations in much bigger markets than the UAE, it will allow us to maintain the same growth in terms of revenues, customer acquisition and sales,” said Mr Yuldashev.

Earlier this month, the company also announced opening its online marketplace to third-party sellers and said it is looking to double or treble its headcount figure by year-end.