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Exclusive: Marico signs up Wadi.com founder to lead digital transformation, ecommerce

Exclusive: Marico signs up Wadi.com founder to lead digital transformation, ecommerce
Pratik Gupta

Pratik Gupta, co-founder of Dubai-based grocery retailer Wadi.com and a founding team member of fashion e-tailer Jabong, is joining consumer goods major Marico to lead its digital transformation and ecommerce portfolio, a person privy to the development told TechCircle.

Gupta will be responsible for creating and managing all digital initiatives at Marico besides heading the FMCG major’s e-commerce business and digital transformation, the person cited above said. He will be reporting to Saugata Gupta, managing director and chief executive officer of Marico. Email queries to Pratik Gupta on the development didn’t elicit responses at the time of publishing this report. “Pratik Gupta is with us as head - digital transformation," Marico said in an emailed response.

Gupta, an ex-PwC executive, joined Jabong in its very early days where he was the director of operations. He led the Rocket Internet backed fashion etailer’s customer experience, order operations and strategic projects besides managing its offline (omnichannel) stores.

In early 2015, he left Jabong and teamed up with Ankit Wadha, an ex-McKinsey consultant and Faraz Khalid, former co-founder of Rocket Internet company Namshi (currently CEO of ecommerce platform Noon) to launch Wadi.com in Dubai. Khalid left the firm later and Kanwal Sarfraz, also a former McKinsey consultant with stints at Unilever and Gallup in Pakistan, joined as his co-founder at Wadi.

Started in 2015 by the Middle East Internet Group (MEIG), as a joint venture between German internet platform Rocket Internet and South African telecommunications provider MTN, Wadi began operations as a horizontal marketplace featuring products across categories including fashion, beauty, home and kitchen, and electronics. It competed against a handful of ecommerce players in the region, particularly Tiger Global and Naspers-backed ecommerce portal Souq and Namshi. 

Wadi, with its unique value propositions around customer service, return policy and best price money back guarantee, soon become the second largest ecommerce player in the region after Souq. In 2016, the company raised $67 million from Al Tayyar Travel Group ((now known as Seera) and MEIG. However, following Amazon’s $500 million acquisition of Souq, and Emaar Malls’ (the retail unit of Emaar Properties) entry into ecommerce with Noon.com (also an investor in Namshi), Wadi decided to pivot to a pure play grocery platform. It sold fresh produce, dairy products, household supplies, kitchen essentials and personal care brands predominantly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In 2018, it raised $30 million in fresh funding from Dubai-based retail giant Majid Al Futtaim group. One of the largest conglomerates in the region, Majid Al Futtaim owns and operates a host of businesses including shopping malls and hotels across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Majid Al Futtaim is the exclusive franchisee for French supermarket chain Carrefour in 37 markets across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. With the investment, Carrefour become Wadi’s long-term strategic partner for supplying food and non-food groceries. Majid Al Futtaim eventually acquired Wadi for an undisclosed amount in May this year and the grocery platform is now totally integrated into Carrefour’s own mobile app.

Marico, known for products such as Parachute oil, Hair & Care, Saffola, Revive, and Livon, has been aggressively pushing its digital transformation agenda over the past few years. Online sales account for less than 5% of Marico’s overall domestic business currently. In May this year, it launched its digital exclusive brand Studio X under its male grooming brand Set Wet on Amazon. Later it launched botanical hair tonic True Roots on Flipkart. 

The company has also been gradually upping its startup bets over the years. Most recently, Marico decided to increase its stake in fitness and wellness platform Revofit to 37% from 22.5%, according to regulatory filings. The company said that the aim of the investment was to explore the hybrid physical-digital business model and offer integrated fitness solutions to consumers. 

Read: Priya Kapadia on Marico Foundation’s unique approach to fostering innovation

The consumer goods giant was founded in 1988. It posted net sales of Rs 5,971 crore for the year ended March 2019 compared with Rs 5,181.32 crore the year before. Apart from India, the company is present in South Africa, Egypt, Malaysia, Vietnam, some West Asian nations and Bangladesh.

Marico has struck a few deals in recent years in its quest for expansion. In 2017, for instance, it acquired South African hair styling brand Isoplus for about Rs 36 crore ($5.6 million) and Indian grooming venture Beardo.

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