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UAE’s price comparison portal pulls in $10m

New shareholders in Souqalmal.com include GoCompare and UAE Exchange Group

Image Credit: Courtesy: Souqalmal
The Souqalmal team. The portal generates revenues from advertising on its platform as well as from fee generation.
Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai-based Souqalmal.com, the price comparison website for the banking and insurance sector, has pulled in some major investor interest to the tune of $10 million (Dh36.73 million). The new shareholders include GoCompare Group, which operates the UK comparison website GoCompare and is making this its first investment outside of its home market.

It joins the UAE Exchange Group (through its UX Holdings ltd banner) and the lead investor in this Series B funding round, the Riyad Taqnia Fund from Saudi Arabia. The latter is a venture capital-focused fund operator.

“UAE Exchange coming on board immediately puts us in reach to its 15 million customer base, and that definitely extends our market reach,” said Ambareen Musa, CEO of Souqalmal.com, which launched operations in the UAE earlier this decade and then widened its coverage to Saudi Arabia. While its primary focus was comparing fees on multiple products in the banking sector, it has since added motor insurance premium comparisons.

Going forward, it plans to take on travel and health care-related insurance premium coverage as well, though Musa declined to get into a specific timeframe.

Price comparison through digital/online portals has become commonplace across industry verticals, right from comparing those of tech gadgets to checking out the rates for hotels and airline tickets. Retail banking and insurance products are one of the fastest growing subsets of the price comparison universe, as consumers shop around for the best deals over the web.

“It’s still very early days for the web-based price aggregator business in this region, and not older than five years,” said Musa. “A handful of players are currently there in the marketplace, and that’s always a good thing at a time when the category is still growing. Not one single operator can grow the category on its own.”

Investors sure seem to be liking what they see in the price comparison space. Bayzat, which provides insurance compare and HR services, raised a combined $7.5 million over the last 24 months. Its platform allows the comparison of more than 100 policies in real time, as well as of the benefits and network strength.

According to Musa, the new funds will be utilised to top up its online exposure in Saudi Arabia, and this is where expanding on the insurance side can help.

The portal generates revenues from the advertising on its platform as well as from fee generation from providing firm leads to banks and insurers from the web traffic the platform generates.

“In the last 12 months, we have seen an 800 per cent growth on the insurance side of the business,” said Musa. “And the average traffic on the platform has been 750,000 a month, which we hope to raise through going bigger in Saudi Arabia.

“Service optimisation have also enabled us to slash our customer acquisition cost by 80 per cent.

“We do a lot of pre-qualifying of the individual before they move to buy a product from a bank. That allows us to do a bit of monetisation of our services. On the insurance side, there’s a revenue sharing arrangement with the broker.”

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