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Ecommerce Platform Noon.com Launching with $1 Billion Investment

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At a launch event today, Mohamed Alabbar, the chairman of Emaar Group and Alabbar Enterprises announced the launch of a billion-dollar eCommerce platform – Noon.com. The ecommerce platform, which will be launched in January next year, aims to grow online sales in the region from two percent of the total market to 15 percent within a decade.

The venture will be headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and is expected to feature over 20 million products across multiple categories including Fashion, Electronics, and Home/Lifestyle. Alabbar, who is leading the venture with prominent GCC investors, said at the launch event, “We come with the endurance to build a customer-centric business for the long-term. For us, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I am pleased to announce that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia will take 50 per cent equity in Noon. In addition, the head office of Noon will be based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.”

Noon’s CEO Fodhil Benturquia, who was previously leading Souq.com’s operations in Saudi Arabia, said, “The customer is the purpose of our being, and we are here to win their hearts and their trust.” The company is currently building an in-house logistics team called Noon Transportation as well as 10 million sq.feet of warehousing, of which 3.5 million will be in the UAE.

The transportation capabilities will facilitate a same-day delivery service. In addition, they’re also building a payment gateway service called NoonPay. Benturquia said they’ve already started onboard businesses on the platform. He said that Noon, through its mobile app and Noon.com website, will be an end-to-end ecommerce retailer.

“We want to be the partner of choice for sellers, whether they’re big or small. We invite them to be part of our ecosystem, working together to change the online shopping landscape for the Middle East customer. Our team not only comes with exceptional backgrounds, but also with an all-consuming passion to change the way things are done,” he added.

Noon’s team has a wealth of ecommerce experience earned at sector leaders including Amazon, Apple, PayPal, eBay, Google, Flipkart and others. With an investment of $1 billion, Alabbar said Noon.com aims to be the “dominant” e-commerce platform in a region catering to over 350 million people. At the event, it was also announced that the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund owns a 50 percent stake in the venture and the remaining 50 percent is being held by Alabbar and a consortium of investors across the GCC countries of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman.

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WhatsApp May Be Building a new Communities Feature

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WhatsApp may be working on a new “communities” feature that allows group admins greater control. With the feature, admins will be able to create separate clusters of people within a group, who are tied to specific activities. For example – some people might be interested in movies, others in music, and group admins can filter them to specific communities.

Group admins can also invite other people into the community by using a link, which can be shared publicly or privately. Another thing to note is that you may not be able to interact with all groups within a community when you join.

The feature was first spotted by XDA Developers and now WABetaInfo has also seen evidence on a recent test build. This means that the feature has not hit Beta channels yet, and is currently being worked on. While unknown at this time, WhatsApp may also ship some advanced tools for group admins when it is released.

WhatsApp will also differentiate Groups from Communities using subtle design cues, like using a square profile image with rounded borders for Communities while maintaining the circular profile image for Groups.

Recently, WhatsApp announced a slew of new features that will roll out on the platform very soon. This includes new Undo buttons while editing images or video, an option to convert stickers into images, a new control bar for videos that use Picture-in-Picture (PIP), an option to enable notifications for reactions, and new privacy settings that gives you more control over your profile and info.

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MakeMyTrip and Amazon Pay Partner up to Offer Travel Services

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Amazon Pay and MakeMyTrip India, a fully owned subsidiary of Nasdaq-listed MakeMyTrip Ltd, have announced a strategic partnership offering travel services on Amazon.in on a long-term basis. The booking options will be available across Amazon’s mobile app and website.

The partnership is likely to help Amazon Pay provide value to its customers with access to MakeMyTrip’s travel offerings. Rajesh Magow, co-founder and Group CEO of MakeMyTrip, said, “There is an accelerated digital shift happening as a result of the pandemic and through this partnership, we look forward to making travel bookings extremely convenient for new adopters, thereby increasing the online penetration of travel bookings.”

Mahendra Nerurkar, CEO & VP, Amazon Pay India, added, “Our partnership will benefit our customers, allowing them to choose from the offerings and services across the country, followed with the ease of using Amazon Pay, facilitating a seamless journey.”

MakeMyTrip will be able to expand its distribution via Amazon Pay’s large customer base, especially in smaller cities and towns and accelerate online booking of travel services across the country. Amazon Pay aims at smoothening the booking and travelling experience for customers, extending the convenience of making online transactions from anywhere to anyone instantly.

Amazon Pay which has a co-branded credit card with ICICI Bank will also let customers earn cashback rewards on bookings and with Amazon Pay Later customers can book tickets and pay next month with no interest.

Customers can also use different payment modes on Amazon Pay, including Amazon Pay Balance & Amazon Pay UPI to make their payments frictionless. Booking of bus services via Redbus is already live on Amazon.in and other travel services powered by MakeMyTrip will be going live over the next few months.

India’s online travel services market in is likely to touch $56 billion by 2024 with MakeMyTrip, Airbnb Inc., Cleartrip Pvt. Ltd., and Yatra Online Inc, being the key players in the segment, said Technavio, a technology research firm.

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Al-Futtaim Launches New Car Subscription Service in the UAE

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Al-Futtaim has announced the launch of its new car subscription service, MOOV By Al-Futtaim, aimed at providing convenient and sustainable mobility for the growing demand from customers across the UAE. Championing a “your car, your way” approach, MOOV By Al-Futtaim primarily caters to the modern consumer’s ever-changing lifestyle and pursuit of practicality.

Through MOOV By Al-Futtaim, subscribers can tailor a package with flexibility and pricing to suit them, a driving period of one to 18 months, as well as a monthly mileage allowance from 2,000 to 5,000 kms. By taking a short-term and no-commitment subscription, users can access a wide variety of car models and trims, all of which are 100-point checked and delivered straight to their door at no extra charge.

The MOOV By Al-Futtaim portal provides choice, flexibility, affordability, and convenience at the user’s fingertips; its seamless online experience guarantees easy booking, with subscribers enjoying full transparency throughout their journey and a paperless process for convenience and sustainability.

Paul Willis, CEO at Al-Futtaim Automotive said: “Al-Futtaim’s entrepreneurship and relentless customer focus enables us to continue to expand and diversify our mobility offering, responding to our customers’ changing needs. With MOOV By Al-Futtaim, we are at the forefront of this increased industry focus on sustainability and will address the growth in market demand for accessible, sustainable mobility. Automotive is no longer a traditional industry, therefore we are adapting our offering through technology and innovative business concepts to address the new demands of our consumers and ultimately how they use their cars. MOOV By Al-Futtaim is the first of many innovations to come.”

According to market trends data firm Statista, UAE consumers are shying away from big-ticket investments, including cars, in a post-pandemic world. The Method Research has found that, despite declining car prices in 2020-2021, many consumers are still unable to afford or are unwilling to commit to buying a new vehicle. Subscription businesses such as MOOV By Al-Futtaim can provide consumers with value, convenience, and personalised offerings while fostering stability and growth.

“The younger generation’s willingness to commit to buying and leasing a car is low and declining. By offering subscribers a service whereby they can schedule convenient drop-offs and collection, transparent pricing and a secure booking and payment system, MOOV By Al-Futtaim provides the youth with a transparent and 100% paperless platform ensures we are addressing the evolving consumer needs,” Willis concluded.

MOOV By Al-Futtaim also features 24-hour roadside assistance, in addition to maintenance, service, insurance and convenient vehicle replacements. In addition to receiving the vehicle at their doorstep at no extra cost, subscribers have the option of switching to an available car model of their choice throughout their subscription period.

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