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Dialing up the impact of digital natives in the MENA region with Google Cloud

May 8, 2023
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Tarek Khalil

Director, Middle East and North Africa

Ziad Jammal

Head of Startups and Digital Natives, MENA

Entrepreneurs with the passion to drive positive impact have been selecting the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as the launchpad for their businesses since 2015, based on insights from Google Cloud’s digital natives unit. Today, the region is taking center stage due to the thousands of startups, digital natives, and web3 companies thriving. With more than 5,500 technology startups in the region, an amicable business climate, ample access to venture capital, and digital transformation being a top priority on government agendas, digital natives in the region have been on the rise.

Forbes recently announced the Top 50 most funded startups in the MENA region. Collectively, these companies raised a whopping USD 3.2 billion in 2022, with startups in the region continuing to attract significant funding to date in comparison to other regions. The list also highlighted that UAE-based companies were the most represented for raising USD 964 million in total funding for that year, followed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) where USD 946.7 million were raised, and Egypt reigning third place for raising USD 508.5 million.

On the list, UAE-based fintech Tabby ranked second with USD 275 million in funds, and Sary, a Saudi based online marketplace, came in seventh for securing USD 112 million. Breadfast, an on-demand supermarket and household essentials provider based in Egypt also secured USD 26 million in funds during the same year.

Tech-enabled success for digital natives in the MENA region

The common factor between companies such as Tabby, Sary and Breadfast is that they are all fully tech-enabled businesses running on Google Cloud. These three companies leverage Google Cloud’s scalable, secure and reliable platform, and innovative cloud solutions to create seamless experiences every day for their customers across KSA, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Kuwait, and Pakistan.

Tabby provides “buy now, pay later" solutions via an online application that has been built on Google Cloud from day one. Tabby has successfully grown a customer base of 2.5 million active shoppers in the region since its start in 2019, with the support of the scalability provided by Google Cloud that provides uninterrupted and secure financial services to customers. 

With an online retail boom on the horizon for the MENA region, Tabby is poised for a growth trajectory as the volume of active e-shoppers will continue to rise and more markets become activated in the region’s digital economy. Tabby’s development team is able to take several strides ahead of market demand by developing a seamless and innovative product that can accommodate an average of 10 million shoppers per day. By running the entire IT infrastructure on Google Cloud, the team dedicates their time and resources to focus on what is important to the business and that is to provide a product that caters to customer and market requirements, rather than exhaust resources on time consuming tasks such as the daily management of IT assets. 

Tabby also believes in the power of big data and turns to Google Cloud’s data analytics solutions such as Big Query to roll out new monetary policies for customers. Before a new credit policy is introduced to shoppers, Tabby tests its viability on Big Query and analyzes different implementation scenarios in real-time to test out its effectiveness. This helps the team roll out policies that have been proven to be effective with shoppers.

Throughout the year, the MENA region experiences a peak in shopping cycles connected with local festivities such as the holy month of Ramadan, White Friday and Christmas. It is around high peak shopping periods that Tabby’s application experiences significant spikes, as the team manages 140 million requests per day in comparison to 80 million requests on a regular day. Nonetheless, with the support of Google Cloud’s scalable infrastructure Tabby holds a record of zero down-time during peak periods, and can scale operations successfully with low latency — ultimately locking in an excellent service to customers.

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“From the first day Tabby went live in 2019 to date, we have experienced zero-downtime in our systems during high traffic periods because of Google Cloud’s scalable and flexible infrastructure. We are able to support 2.5 million shoppers across the Middle East because we run on a robust and reliable infrastructure. Scalability is key for the team at Tabby. We are able to build new products very quickly on Google Cloud in comparison to other cloud providers.”

A report by eCommerce DB revealed that Saudi Arabia is the 27th largest market globally for e-commerce with a projected revenue of USD 11,977 million by the end of 2023. Mordor Intelligence also revealed that the Saudi e-commerce market is expected to show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 13.9%, resulting in a projected market volume of US$20,155.8 million by 2027. 

Enter Sary, a Saudi-based B2B marketplace that connects businesses of all sizes to millions of shoppers in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan via mobile and web applications. Sary is not a common marketplace, it aims to support local businesses and empower homegrown names to reach customers at scale via its platform in the countries where it operates.

Sary is home to 70,000 businesses from all walks of life and as the company set out to expand its footprint it was time to move away from an unsophisticated cloud setup to a more advanced and robust cloud provider that provides the security and scalability that supports plans to tap into new markets.

Sary attributes a big part of its success to running a robust infrastructure on Google Cloud, as it witnessed an 84% increase in operational system throughput since migrating the entire IT infrastructure. This means that businesses relying on the platform as their main marketplace are able to process orders at scale without any down-time or system interruptions, and generate positive revenue streams. Sary also leverages Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) to automatically scale system bandwidth based on the volume of traffic the website or application receives. This solution helps the company manage IT costs effectively, while still delivering an uncompromised service to customers.

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“The support we receive every day from the Google Cloud team has been phenomenal. They have been with us every step of the way. We are able to free up time to focus on what is important and that is to deliver business value to our customers who depend on Sary for their success.”

Egypt is another country that is rising as a strategic player in the MENA digital natives scene over the recent years. The 2022 Egypt Venture Investment Report revealed that the startup ecosystem observed a 168% year-on-year increase in capital investments to reach a new all time high record of USD 491 million. 

Breadfast is one of the companies disrupting the scene in Egypt as an early adopter of operating a cloud-native supply chain, before the arrival of rapid online grocery delivery companies in the country. Now a household name, Breadfast is a cloud native on-demand supermarket and household essentials provider that delivers to over 200,000 homes in Cairo.  

The team at Breadfast built a fully tech-enabled business across all operational touchpoints that comprises manufacturing facilities, supply fulfillment points, 30 dark stores, 15 specialized coffee outlets and last-mile delivery. Running a tech-driven business generates additional costs that can be optimized when working with a cloud provider. And ever since Breadfast migrated the entire IT infrastructure to Google Cloud in 2022, the company has become more profitable as operating costs were reduced by 35% while improving system throughput with the support of Google Cloud’s scalable and secure infrastructure. 

To fulfill its brand promise of product delivery within 60 minutes anywhere in Cairo, Breadfast also turns to Google Cloud‘s resilient infrastructure that delivers efficient operational throughput to ensure no interruptions affect server vitality and impact order processing timelines. Breadfast successfully increased system up-time to 99.5 % since it migrated to Google Cloud, and was able to deliver six million orders across the city within a span of 30 minutes in 2022.

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“In our line of business time is of the essence. Two minutes of downtime in our systems takes 12 hours to fix on ground, which can have a downward impact on our customers. We decided to migrate our IT infrastructure to Google Cloud as the trusted cloud provider because of its resilience and the operational uptime is now at 99.5% ever since we made the move. This enabled Breadfast to deliver millions of orders in 2022.”

Build your business with Google Cloud

Google Cloud opened up its secure and scalable infrastructure to businesses in the Middle East and North Africa region, where artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is embedded in cloud solutions that bring meaning to data and can help automate almost everything. Google Cloud also provides digital natives with the freedom to run applications where they need them with open, hybrid, and multi-cloud solutions. This way, an application is built once and can run anywhere, even on-premises.

With no configuration required, digital natives can access limitless data effortlessly with Google Cloud solutions such as Big Query and Looker. These unique data analytics solutions are the single source of truth as they rely on AI and ML to design solutions that provide a deep understanding of customer data. Powered by data-driven understanding of customers, businesses today can preempt customer trends and bring them the right products and solutions based on their needs. Businesses can also accurately track down granular information such as if a driver delivered an order on time, and which item needs to be restocked in a warehouse.

Google Cloud provides data loss prevention solutions which help digital natives encrypt critical data like customer information and financial records. Businesses can also discover, classify and protect their most sensitive data and detect customer churn or fraudulent activity using machine learning capabilities embedded in Big Query.

To help entrepreneurs in the MENA region supercharge business growth, Google Cloud runs the Google for Startups Cloud Program that offers access to startup experts, cloud cost coverage up to USD 100,000 for each of the first two years, technical training, business support, and Google-wide offers. Sign up here for the program.

Note: All customer metrics featured in the blogpost were derived from direct customer interviews with Google Cloud.

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