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Emerging Markets Property Group (EMPG), the Dubai-based unicorn that owns property website Bayut and online classified platform dubizzle in the UAE, has raised US$200 million in a funding round, in a bid to focus on preparing for an initial public offering in “the near future.”
The round was led by US-based growth equity fund Affinity Partners, with new funding from family investment fund KCK, private investment firm Acacia Partners, as well as other investors including global investment group Prosus, which maintains its stake as an earlier investor.
Currently present in more than 50 cities, EMPG operates classified platforms across emerging markets, with a focus on the MENA and South East Asia regions. Besides Bayut and dubizzle, its flagship platforms include Zameen.com and OLX, which operate in Pakistan, Egypt, and Lebanon. In 2020, EMPG and Amsterdam-based OLX Group announced a merger of their MENA and South Asia operations to form a company with assets worth AED 3.6 billion ($1 billion).
Haider Khan, Head of EMPG MENA and CEO of Bayut and dubizzle, states that its completion has been a proud moment for the team. The majority of the investment is set to be allocated for the UAE, which is the company’s largest market in which it operates Bayut and dubizzle.
Talking about the company’s plans for the UAE market, Khan says, “We need to elevate the entire journey for customers, and we can achieve this through investing in building more services for the client base, whether it be for brokerages in the property sector, car dealerships, or our end users who sell and buy stuff on the platform directly. Some of the examples of services the company are looking to enable include easier ways to ship items, digital payments and data insights for the users, among others. The team is also looking to invest significantly in trust and safety on the platforms to “make sure we reward good actors, and try to remove bad actors from the system.”
The company also prides itself in its classifieds and transactional product offering that is deeply rooted in its technology platform. Khan says that EMPG has invested heavily in its technology infrastructure, with its own tech centers consisting of over 500 engineers. With that in mind, it makes sense that the company plans to assign a significant part to further improve its proprietary and highly scalable technology platform to improve consumer experience.
Related: The Unicorn State Of Mind: It’s Not Just About A Company’s Valuation
As an example to this dedication in ensuring a distinct consumer experience, Khan points out how the company has been running quite a few experiments in the background over the past couple of years on dubizzle in different verticals to learn about user behavior and consumer pain points. “Now, with the understanding we have, it makes total sense for us to scale solutions to a broader audience,” says Khan. “We have also worked on a lot of tools for our business clients, and we are looking forward to introducing those in the market as well. Finally, we will be looking for companies that augment what we do, and look to invest in such ventures.”
As part of its larger vision, the company is also now preparing for an IPO, says Khan. “While we have already commenced preparatory work ahead of any listing, we continue to assess the right time for an IPO, while studying prevailing market conditions,” he adds. The company is focused on “growth opportunities,” while ensuring they have a robust team to bring the company forward. “Our recent fundraise amidst challenging marketing conditions highlights the quality of the business, and with the new capital, we are very well positioned to invest in tech and new products to continue to scale our core classifieds business.”
As for Khan’s hopes for the enterprise, he notes, “We believe that the ability to execute on the pipeline of growth opportunities we have over the coming years as well as increasing profitability, positions us really well for a listing in the near future.”
‘TREP TALK: Haider Khan, CEO of Bayut and dubizzle, Head of EMPG MENA, shares his tips for entrepreneurs trying to raise capital
1. Build a good financial model “You need to think about monetization from day one. Your model needs to account for it, and it would be good to have some proof points along the way. The environment has changed a lot in just the last nine months. Last year, a lot of folks were not so focused on the bottom line, but now everyone is looking at that, so make sure there is a path to profitability in the future, and be convinced about it before you try to convince others.”
2. Your concept needs to solve a problem “You really need to solve a problem if you are going to be successful long-term. Giving a slightly different spin to something that is already being done won’t move the needle, unless it does it a lot better and eases some pain that is not being addressed.”
3. Chase the $$$ “Always be raising, especially early on. You will face rejection, but you don’t need everyone onboard. You just need to have a few who understand and believe in what you are doing.”
4. Tell your story, and make it a good one “When you reach out to a large network, you might not raise money from everyone, but they will hear your story, and when you come back for a later round, they will see if you have delivered on what you said earlier. Be passionate and be hungry, but also be realistic and honest.”
5. Invest in the right talent. “You are only as good as your people. Bringing the right people on board, and sharing the responsibilities with them can change the entire trajectory of your growth. This is another aspect that investors will take note of.”
6. Be customer-centric “Don’t spend time concerning yourself with what others are doing. Just focus on your customer, and what you are doing to make their experience better.”
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