While the MENA region had been slow to adopt e-commerce compared to the rest of the world, owing to logistics challenges and a hesitant consumer base, things have been ramping up exponentially in the past few years, owing to the rising purchasing power of millennials and Generation Z, with an additional boost triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, however, research shows that the e-commerce sector in the UAE, its top proponent in the region, is now the fastest-growing economic segment in the Middle East. The UAE retail e-commerce market, specifically, reached a record $3.9 billion in 2020, a 53% year-over-year increase, with a projected value of $8 billion by 2025.
While big e-tailer giants have played a major role in powering this evolution of digital retail, an influx of small businesses into this space has played an equally important role. For many of them, however, setting up an online presence can be a costly and complicated effort. While retail SMEs have the option of selling on major platforms like Amazon, this often comes with strings attached, high commission fees, and a lengthy application process.
As a result, we’ve seen many small and micro businesses shift their attention to a surprise pick: Instagram. Over the years, the Facebook subsidiary has paid attention to this trend, and gradually implemented e-commerce features to accommodate it.
But what if these businesses were looking for a more simplified and dedicated option?
Mouza Al Mansoori, Partner at M7L (left) and Sajid Manzur, CTO of M7L (right)
M7L, an Abu-Dhabi based e-commerce multi-vendor startup, has created a solution to this problem, offering a platform for UAE SMEs to start selling online with minimal delay.
This is what Sajid Manzur, CTO of M7L, said in a conversation with the Abu Dhabi SME Hub. He was also joined by Mouza Al Mansoori, Partner at M7L.
In development since 2020 and having launched in 2021, M7L offers SMEs a commission-free model where vendors only pay three fees:
- A subscription fee (AED 600 for 6 months);
- A delivery fee per order of AED 15;
- A 2.7% fee to the payment gateway handling transactions.
All that is required from a seller is to have a valid trade licence. Within 1-2 hours, a store can be approved and ready to sell, through a simple hassle-free process.
For further convenience and peace of mind, M7L handles delivery in-house, as well storage and inventory management, Mouza explained.
“This is a great opportunity because not a lot of small businesses in the UAE have access to all these features [when looking to sell online],” she continued.
Additionally, vendors and buyers receive real-time notifications regarding orders on WhatsApp.
Mouza also explained that M7L offers personalized advice to sellers, to help them grow on M7L and as an e-commerce business.
“if a client comes to us with a license that does not match their intended business activity, for example, we would guide them to obtain the right license,” she said. “We also notify them about best-seller items in their specific [niche], which products they should produce more of, and how they can be more creative in their approach to the business.”
Growth and expansion
While it’s been less than a year since M7L launched in Abu Dhabi, Mouza noted that they are fully capable of hosting stores for sellers based in other emirates, while also being able to ship all across the UAE.
Sajid emphasised that they want to propagate word-of-mouth to build up brand awareness for M7L, as a platform where anyone call sell anything while paying zero commissions.
Powered entirely by personal capital, the company is currently looking for strategic funding opportunities that would help drive its growth, having rejected some investment offers that it received from fellow SMEs. Currently, they are aiming for a Series A round.