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With superapp Uzum, Uzbekistan gets its first tech unicorn

The Uzum digital ecosystem includes an express delivery service, traditional and digital banks, a BNPL service, an automotive marketplace and an app for entrepreneurs.

Uzum, a leading digital services ecosystem in Uzbekistan, this week secured 114 million US dollars in funding through a combination of a Series A funding round and debt financing, making it the first tech company in Uzbekistan to achieve unicorn status with a post-money valuation of over one billion US dollars.

Uzum plans to use the funds to develop the country’s IT and logistics infrastructure, as well as to fund its own buy now, pay later (BNPL) service.

Uzum secured 52 million US dollars in equity through a Series A funding round consisting wholly of primary investments. The round was led by the global venture capital firm FinSight Ventures (whose portfolio companies have included Intercom, ThoughtSpot, Automation Anywhere, Toss, GupShup, Razorpay, Bumble, Rappi, Carta and others), joined by Xanara Investment Management, a multifamily office in the UAE, and Uzum’s senior management team.

The company separately raised an additional 62 million US dollars in debt financing.

Investors taking part in the Series A funding round will receive stakes of less than five per cent in the company. Given Uzum’s strong performance in 2023—its first full year of operations—and the ecosystem’s enormous potential, the shareholders decided to not substantially dilute their ownership stakes during the funding round.

In 2024, Uzum plans to raise additional financing of approximately 200 million US dollars in a Series B funding round from investors in the Middle East, the United Kingdom and the United States.

An Uzbek superapp

Combining e-commerce, fintech and banking services for individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises, the Uzum digital ecosystem includes a marketplace, an express delivery service, traditional and digital banks, a BNPL service, an automotive marketplace and an app for entrepreneurs.

All of the ecosystem’s components are now being integrated into two superapps: Uzum for individuals, and Uzum Business for firms. By the end of 2023, the Uzum ecosystem had 10 million monthly average users and net profit just shy of 100 million US dollars.

Meanwhile, Uzum’s retail banking and fintech businesses were among the leaders in the country in terms of profit, and its e-commerce business was the largest online platform in Uzbekistan by the number of users and number of orders, with turnover of around 150 million US dollars.

In 2024, Uzum plans to launch the largest logistics complex for e-commerce in the country, which is expected to increase e-commerce turnover on its platform by more than 150 per cent during the year. It also plans to launch a number of ecosystem products for unsecured lending to individuals as well as small and medium-sized enterprises.

National tech leader

According to Djasur Djumaev, Uzum’s founder and CEO, digital services in Uzbekistan today are incredibly popular.

“We see this in the growth rates of the markets that we work in as well as in our own experience. In a little over a year, we have built an ecosystem whose services are used by more than 10 million people in Uzbekistan every month. Last year, we earned nearly 100 million US dollars in net profit, and we intend to increase this figure this year, partly by integrating services within the Uzum ecosystem,” Djumaev says.

“We also plan to add new business streams and services for business and private users to the ecosystem this year. We see tremendous interest in the Uzbek market and in Uzum’s digital ecosystem as one of its drivers and, of course, this would not have been possible without the extraordinary team of world-class professionals who created the first tech unicorn in the country’s history.”

Investors appear to happy too. Alexey Garyunov, managing partner at FinSight Ventures, says that by combining convenient payment solutions with an e-commerce platform, Uzum achieved impressive results in just a year and a half, launching one of the top three apps in the country in terms of the number of downloads, trailing only instant messengers and social networks.

“Uzum has already become the national leader in its key business verticals (fintech and e-commerce) thanks to strong network effects and synergies between its various businesses,” he adds.

“Uzbekistan is one of the markets where consumers moved from offline directly to mobile (bypassing the web browser stage), which makes this market ideal for creating a superapp that combines banking, fintech, e-commerce and other services in an ecosystem for consumers and entrepreneurs.

“We witnessed the success of in creating a superapp in neighbouring Kazakhstan, Rappi in Latin America, and Toss in South Korea, and we are confident that Uzum, which has the necessary talent, resources and products, will repeat this success to become the national tech leader in Uzbekistan.”

Central Asia’s fastest growing market

According to KPMG, Uzbekistan is home to the fastest-growing e-commerce market in Central Asia, with the potential to grow up to sevenfold by the end of 2027.

At the same time, the country’s GDP grew by six per cent in 2023, and Uzbekistan plans to double this figure in the next few years.

Experts note that the country’s economy has the potential for growth and rapid digitalisation thanks to several factors, including a high rate of Internet penetration, a young population, as well as a currently low penetration rate of banking and financial services.

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