UAE, Saudi coronavirus rules drive enterprises toward e-commerce

New regulations and an increase in online shopping push companies in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region to adopt technology to support e-commerce revenue.

E-commerce and online delivery in Gulf countries, particularly the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are undergoing massive changes as the coronavirus crisis sends people flocking to websites for essential goods and other products.

Though lockdown rules are slowly being relaxed, curfews and social distancing guidelines are still in effect, continuing to curb residents' ability to shop at brick and mortar retail outlets. The change in behaviour -- some of which may be permanent -- has opened up opportunities for enterprises looking to generate more revenue from online sales.

Technology that supports e-commerce is in demand. Rabih Khoury, a partner at Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), claims that startups that offer order fulfilment and delivery, e-commerce services, SaaS (software as a service), and cloud technology, are doing better than others in the venture capital firm's portfolio.

Khoury points to Nana, a Riyadh-based online grocery platform backed by MEVP, which saw the size of its business double in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. While this was a positive outcome, it did raise related issues.

"It doubled so quickly that … they need now more cash and their suppliers are paying late," Khoury said. "So even though you're growing, your receivables are extending and you need more cash."

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