RIYADH: Local grocery delivery app Nana Direct has raised $18 million for an expansion across the Middle East in order to meet the rising demand for delivery services created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nana Direct is an online grocery shopping and home delivery service in Saudi Arabia, developed by Saudi youth who “aspire to build a sophisticated shopping and delivery system.”
The app promises that all groceries and products will be carefully chosen and packaged for customers to be delivered directly to their houses — an appealing concept to many under the present circumstances.
According to Bloomberg, the funds were raised from investors, including venture capital fund STV and Middle East Venture Partners.
Nana Direct has tripled its capacity and plans to expand further due to the newly imposed curfew in Saudi Arabia.
Founder Sami Al-Helwah spoke in an interview about the company’s objectives, as well as the opportunity to expand into a still-growing market.
“The penetration of online grocery shopping in the region is very low, and our target is to expand across the region and beyond groceries into other products," he said. "Ultimately, we want to become the Amazon of the Middle East.”
Online shopping in general is still establishing roots in the region, but several strong players have already achieved renown, from food delivery services such as Talabat and HungerStation to clothing delivery services like JollyChic and SheIn and general shopping websites such as Souq and Noon. Plenty of the Kingdom’s citizens and residents are now turning to the internet to get their shopping done.
However, online grocery shopping is still a new concept to most Saudis, who are more accustomed to doing their own grocery shopping or sending a driver or maid to the store to take care it instead.
Ahmad Al-Shammari, a principal at STV, said that Nana Direct could be a game changer during the pandemic and highlighted how this could affect the future of online retail.
“Nana is helping Saudi Arabia deal with the breakout of coronavirus and has seen a big increase in user numbers,” he said. "We are hoping this will accelerate the shift to online grocery shopping in the region.”
Currently confined to their homes and restricted by a curfew, Saudis seem to find the idea enticing enough to try, provided the company can deliver on their promises.
“I would definitely try it out,” said Huda Al-Haqbani, who currently sends her driver to do all her shopping. “I wouldn’t go to the supermarket these days. That’s just asking for trouble. But if they really do send quality produce and follow proper hygienic practices, I would love to give it a try.”
Ali Al-Zahrani, a high school assistant principal and youth counselor, said: “It’s great to see Saudi youth working so hard to benefit other people. This is exactly the kind of result you want to see from a crisis like this.”