Rewind 2018: Kuwaiti beauty ecommerce startup Boutiqaat raises $45 million at a reported valuation of $300 million

Rewind 2018 is a series of pieces featuring big stories we did not (were not able to) cover this year. 

Boutiqaat, a Kuwaiti beauty ecommerce startup raised $45 million (13.5 million KWD) earlier this year from Boubyan Petrochemical Company, a Kuwaiti company with investments in different sectors including petrochemicals, manufacturing, healthcare and education. The investment was announced by Boubyan in January but went unnoticed by English publications including ours.

It is the largest investment ever received by a Kuwaiti startup and came at a valuation between $250 million to $300 million.

Founded in 2015 by a young Kuwait entrepreneur Abdulwahab Alessa, Boutiqaat is an ecommerce platform that sells over 25,000 beauty and fashion products through its website and mobile apps from more than 700 international brands. But that’s not what makes it special. Boutiqaat’s USP is the virtual boutiques (stores) of social media influencers where they add their favorite products, allowing their fans and other customers to easily browse through these curated selections of products and buy whatever they like. Boutiqaat takes care of the entire transaction.

The purchase decisions of Middle Eastern consumers are heavily influenced by the social media celebrities these days. According to some estimates, over 70% of UAE residents take advice from social media influencers before buying products. The numbers won’t be any different for other GCC countries and even other parts of the Middle East. But there are hardly any social media platforms that allow their users or influencers to sell online. That’s where Boutiqaat comes into play. It’s not a social media platform but seems to have done a great job of mixing social with ecommerce.

Boutiqaat’s founder Abdulwahab Alessa, who himself is an ‘influencer’ with close to a million followers on Twitter (that’s probably because he was previously a TV anchor) first thought of this idea when he worked with social media infleuncers to advertise for his restaurant, he had explained in an interview earlier this year.

Abdulwahab Alessa

“In 2011, I created Omedia, a marketing agency for social media influencers, and my work there was going well. I then decided to open up a few restaurants, some of which weren’t successful. Running Omedia, I naturally made social media influencers advertise for restaurants, but in many cases these ads weren’t bringing in customers. When I looked at the comments section for the restaurant ads, which were posted on Instagram, I noticed people commenting on the influencers’ sunglasses and other things that they were wearing, rather than the restaurant itself. Many times, these items are not readily available in stores in Kuwait or are out of stock. I then started to think about bringing these demanded items to people. This is how Boutiqaat began,” said the Boutiqaat founder.

The startup according to Alanba has its own fleet of vehicles to deliver products. They source and buy products directly from brands or the wholesale agents and store them in their own warehouses, Alanba’s story notes.

They currently sell and deliver products all over GCC including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman.

Boutiqaat’s founder earlier this year had said that they will use the investment to expand beyond Middle East, “Our strategic partners like Boubyan Petrochemical and others will assist in our expansion to open up in Asia, Europe, and the United States.”

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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