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Uzum: Uzbekistan’s pioneering unicorn revolutionising the digital marketplace

Uzum, Uzbekistan's groundbreaking e-commerce startup, becomes the nation's first unicorn, promising a digital revolution.

In the heart of Central Asia, a groundbreaking venture is rewriting the rules of digital commerce. Uzum, an innovative e-commerce startup from Uzbekistan, has recently achieved a significant milestone by raising US$114 million in , catapulting its valuation to an impressive US$1.16 billion. This achievement marks Uzum as the nation's first unicorn and highlights the untapped potential within Uzbekistan's burgeoning digital marketplace.

A fertile ground for innovation

Uzbekistan presents an ideal backdrop for digital startups. A substantial portion of the population, nearly 60%, is under 30, contributing to a vibrant and dynamic consumer base. Coupled with an almost perfect literacy rate and significant internet and smartphone penetration rates, the stage is set for digital ventures to flourish. Despite these favourable conditions, the e-commerce sector remained surprisingly underdeveloped, accounting for a mere 2.2% of the retail market as of December 2022.

Uzum's inception was a response to this glaring gap in the market. Traditionally, Uzbeks relied on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Telegram for online shopping, a method that was informal and limited in scope. Recognising the opportunity to introduce a more structured and comprehensive online shopping experience, Uzum established a robust logistics network and a diverse marketplace that promised efficiency and convenience.

Expanding horizons

With its marketplace launched in October 2022, Uzum quickly gained traction, amassing over 8 million monthly active users and partnering with over 9,000 merchants. Offering over 600,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs), Uzum has eclipsed the scale of traditional markets, boasting a selection that rivals the largest street bazaars in the country. Its foray into with a buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) scheme has further cemented its status as a versatile platform, with nearly half of its transactions utilising this service.

The recent Series A funding round, a mix of equity and debt, has provided Uzum with the capital to deepen its foray into fintech and expand its e-commerce capabilities. Plans are underway to launch new products, scale up unsecured lending, and enhance IT and logistics infrastructure, aiming for a significant boost in gross merchandise value (GMV) and a doubling of its credit portfolio.

A vision for the future

As Uzum looks to the future, it aims to consolidate its offerings into two super apps, catering to consumer and business needs, while establishing the nation's largest logistics complex for e-commerce. This ambitious expansion reflects a broader strategy to integrate and optimise its diverse services, from digital banking to daily transactions, all while focusing on Sharia-compliant products that appeal to a significant portion of the population.

Uzum's trajectory is a testament to the potential of digital innovation in emerging markets. By providing a cohesive and comprehensive digital marketplace, Uzum is challenging the status quo and laying the groundwork for a digital revolution in Uzbekistan, signalling a new era of convenience, efficiency, and growth in the Central Asian digital landscape.

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Gabriela Gavrailova
Gabriela Gavrailova
Gabriela is a freelance news editor at Tech Edition, where she writes about technology and often does listicles and product reviews. Based in Austria, Gabriela is a person with many and diverse hobbies. If you don't find her reading a book at home or baking something, she will probably be out hiking or taking some classes to learn a new skill.

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