Dubai-based Keza wants to optimize the food journey from farm to fork

FoodTech is perhaps one of the most crowded verticals in MENA. There are literally tens of regional startups trying to solve different problems of F&B industry. What’s very interesting though is that many of them have had great success until now. And when we say success, we’re not talking about their ability to raise funds but also to exit the startups, with Talabat & Carriage being two of biggest exits of the region.

Most of these FoodTech startups are either focused on helping users order food from restaurants or selling restaurant management solutions to F&B outlets. Keza is not one of them. The Dubai-based startup that was founded last year does it all.

Co-founded by two sisters, Nida Sumar & Maryam Sumar, Keza had initially started as a restaurant discover app but has evolved with time to become much more than that. It claims to optimize the journey of “food from farm to fork.”

They do it with three products; restaurant management system, supplier marketplace, and a diner app. So think of them as Talabat, Zomato, Sapaad and BlueCart grouped into one. It does not really have reviews like Zomato but you can discover different restaurants through their diner app that have been rated by other users who’ve been there.

“Since founding, Keza has evolved, realizing that the problem runs deeper than just service for F&B industry. Technological advances in the F&B supply industry are archaic, especially in this part of the world, and food safety is a real concern when the GCC is largely an importer of foods,” Nida Sumar, the co-founder & CEO of Keza told us.

Keza’s SaaS platform acts as a cloud-based POS (Point of Sale) system for restaurants that allows them to manage their menus, orders, tables, payments and a lot more. The system also allows restaurants to manage their staff and gives their customers ability to split the bills. With all the transactions processed through the platform, it obviously can generate different types of analytics and reports that can help the restaurants improve their operational efficiency. Keza also lists all the its restaurant partners on its diner app to offer them free exposure.

Their supplier marketplace allows suppliers of F&B industry to market their products to businesses including restaurants and hotels or individuals. The marketplace aims to make it easy for the restaurants to procure goods by streamlining and modernizing the procurement process.

“The logistics of food from farm to its consumer is loaded with logistical inefficiencies, most of them stemming from the labor intensive and manual process the industry still adopts. We are digitizing the manual logistics in order to make the process seamless and increase the efficiency in the food service industry along with better margins for the farmers,” said Nida, speaking to MENAbytes.

Keza’s diner app allows customers to discover restaurants, reserve them or order food from them to be delivered to their doorstep. When we tried the application, it didn’t have many restaurants and reservations took us to phone dialer. But that’s probably because the application is still in beta.

The startup currently has 107 paying businesses using their different products which also includes some big names like Al Rawabi and Emirates Poultry.

Currently, Keza has a team of 9 employees working from their offices in Dubai and India but it hasn’t been a smooth ride esp. when it comes to talent. Hiring and retaining the right talent has been one of the biggest challenges for the startup but Nida thinks that even though it took them some time, they’ve been able to build a great team and can now entirely focus on improving and selling their products.

Keza was one of the ten startups to have graduated from Sheraa’s first cycle earlier this year. Being part of the accelerator, Keza had received $10,000 as grant from Sheraa. Speaking about their experience with Sheraa, Nida told us: “They helped immensely by introducing us to their wide network and we have greatly benefited from the PR that Sheraa brought us, along with the invaluable mentorship and guidance we continue to receive. It was also a crucial time in our business when we were offered the grant, without which, Keza would not exist today.”

Apart from the Sheraa grant, Keza has raised another $25,000 from a Dubai-based angel investor.

Going forward, the startup aims to digitize the health food and snack access to market and are now looking into working with health and safety measures using blockchain in association with some of their clients.

Normally startups are advised to go after a particular niche in any vertical or industry. Keza has chosen a completely different path by offering a complete suite of solutions to different stakeholders in the industry. It will be interesting to see how it turns out for them.

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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