How Omniful’s Pioneering RetailTech Bridges the Brick-and-Mortar Divide

How Omniful’s Pioneering RetailTech Bridges the Brick-and-Mortar Divide 

Omniful is not Mostafa Abolnasr’s first rodeo. The serial entrepreneur has more than 15 years of experience in building, leading, and scaling VC-funded tech ventures in the MENA region. With Omniful, launched in 2021, he created a RetailTech platform that helps brick-and-mortar retailers become truly omnichannel.

How did you get into entrepreneurship and online retail in particular?

I was still doing my Bachelor’s degree when I started my first company in 2007. I just wanted to start a business and I had been looking for different traditional options, from a mushroom farm to an import/export business for textiles. E-commerce stood out for me because of its low-capital start and fast growth. I thought you didn’t need additional injections of capital to keep growing – of course, I learned the hard way that wasn’t true. Then, its scalability, its economies of scale, and the beauty of its business model got me addicted.

[] was one of the first e-commerce startups in Egypt, before even launched, selling electronics as a marketplace and growing quite fast – even though it was sort of a one-man show. Then, I started another e-commerce company, worked for a few startups, moved to the US, to KSA, went to the VC side, and went back to commercial before starting Omniful. 

Why did you create Omniful?

I’ve been working in e-commerce most of my life and have experienced the quality of the operational software out there. If you want something good, it’s going to be very expensive, highly customised, not easy to use, taking a lot of time to deploy, and so on. The cheaper systems are not scalable or reliable. That’s why the larger e-commerce organisations like Amazon, Noon, or Zomato, have built their own technology stacks. 

The lightbulb moment for me was when brick-and-mortar retailers were racing to get online during the COVID lockdowns and were struggling to find the right solution. Most of the technology focus was on e-commerce itself, and they were not paid enough attention. But these retailers, along with the omnichannel ones, have the potential to win the long-term game because customers want fast delivery, which is only possible if you have a retail store nearby. That’s why enabling these retailers was our objective from day one.

How does the solution work?

We’re a SaaS platform that gives retailers everything to operate from an omnichannel perspective on a daily basis – product reception and storage, order preparation, pick-up, packing, invoicing, transport, etc.

Retailers should be able to deliver profitably in one or two hours instead of two or three days because their inventory is already sitting near the customer, but this inventory is usually segregated between their different stores. So, we help them centralise their activities, with each store’s inventory exposed to all their sales channels in real-time, whatever platform they’re selling on, whether online or offline.

Everything is integrated natively in a one-stop-shop, without compromising on your use cases and allowing you to configure the platform the way you want. You just plug and play, without customisation or an implementation partner. To get the same outcome, you’d have to buy five different SaaS or enterprise software solutions, and you’d have to integrate them perfectly together, which never happens.

How did you and your co-founder Alankrit Nishad come together?

I told a common friend, who was one of Omniful’s early angel investors, that I was looking for a co-founder to take care of the technology part. He suggested one guy but didn’t think he would be interested. I reached out anyway. 

Alankrit was the VP of technology at Zomato and he had been building similar technologies in-house over and over again for large companies. But it was never their core businesses, so he actually wanted to start a company exactly like Omniful. He got interested instantly!

What was the company’s journey like? 

I left my VC job in early 2022. We raised a small amount of pre-seed around the time when I met Alankrit. We closed the Seed round in December 2022 and we’ve remained in stealth mode until December 2023, when we announced the investment round and started doing direct outreach. It’s a very complex product and we’re competing with companies that are considered legacy systems. So, instead of just going out there saying we have the full solution, we focused on a few customers and aligned the roadmap with their use cases. 

Someone recently told me, and this resonated with me, that enterprise clients don’t buy features or products; they buy against risk. And, of course, when you’re a startup, you don’t have the track record and the brand name, so it’s hard to compete at that level. Besides, it’s really hard to believe that a tech company came out of the Middle East and is capable of competing against global giants. But, thanks to the team’s collective experience and to the fact that we knew the clients’ exact pain points, we’re happy to have accumulated in less than a year 22 customers across nine countries, including Aramex with whom we just signed for global deployment. 

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