MENA startup founded by ex-McKinsey consultant raises $2.3 million

30 October 2020 3 min. read
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Glowing success: Wahaj Ahmed is a former McKinsey consultant who was previously the youngest ever General Manager at Dubai-based ride hailing platform Careem. His latest venture – B2B startup Retailo – has now raised more than $2 million in pre-seed funding.

Ahmed got together with former Careem colleagues Talha Ansari and Muhammad Nowkhaiz to form Retailo – a digital platform built to ease the procurement process for small and medium enterprises in the retail sector using tech and real-time data. A statement noted that Retailo is “focused on offering SMEs competitive pricing; a one-stop-shop to discover products and the ability to order whatever they need, whenever they need." 

Target markets are the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan, where Retailo aims to serve more than 10 million SMEs. To start with, markets in focus are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan – a $100 billion opportunity per the statement.

MENA startup founded by ex-McKinsey consultant raises $2.3 million

Enticed by the value proposition, Abu Dhabi-based seed venture capital giant Shorooq Partners led a pre-seed funding round for Retailo, which drew participation from 500 Durians – a Silicon-Valley-backed startup fund focused on Southeast Asia. Also in the mix was venture capital firm 92 ventures, and a host of other seed and angel investors.

The funding round raised $2.3 million – the largest amount ever in pre-seed funding for a Saudi Arabia headquartered startup. The business model is deemed solid, and particularly relevant in a maturing ecommerce landscape. That being said, Shoroog Partners Founding Partner Shane Sin revealed that the talent of the founders was the real clincher for Retailo.

“Seed stage investing is all about backing the right people. We have looked at this space deeply and are proud to invest in the dream team behind Retailo who we believe can successfully build a strong, regional, and international business.”

The team

Ahmed started out professionally at startup builder Rocket Internet as a Regional Channel Marketing Partner. He joined Careem – an Uber subsidiary – in 2016, where he was put in charge of the firm’s growth in Karachi, Pakistan. Within five months, he had driven growth of 150%, with annual revenues from Karachi exceeding $100 million.

Within eight months of his leadership, the Karachi business had grown by a factor of 10. He left Careem to join McKinsey & Company as a Fellow in 2017, and had risen to the rank of Associate before leaving the consulting firm in June to launch Retailo.

Fellow Careem Alumna Talha Ansari was the youngest ever CEO at Foodpanda – at 25 – before joining Careem as Senior Director of Operations, while NowKhaiz was Careem’s Head of Strategy in the wake of the Uber takeover. “We strongly believe in creating impact in the lives of people by giving them opportunities to improve their earning potential,” said the three co-founders in a statement.

For them, Retailo is about unlocking the vast potential in the MENA & Pakistan retail landscape. “This region is home to 700 million individuals & 10 million SMEs; and its unorganised retail sector presents the perfect opportunity to increase the efficiency of supply chain by utilising technology and real-time data.”

With ecommerce as a whole witnessing a boom in the region, the market opportunity for Retailo is only growing larger.