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Exclusive: UAE startup and ‘re-commerce’ innovator Cartlow sheds light on its successful business model

AMEinfo speaks with Cartlow founder and CEO Mohammed Sleiman to learn more about the success of his company over the past two years, and its journey so far.

Cartlow was founded in 2019 to innovate the re-commerce industry, where returned, excess or damaged goods are resold to consumers for a discount "Cartlow works alongside a series of well-trusted global brands and recognized household names, helping to turn-over their aged, overstock, and returned inventory to reduce unsustainable practices" "During COVID-19, we witnessed higher conversion on visits versus transaction rates"

In 2019, we covered an interesting new company that was making waves in the e-commerce sector in the UAE. The startup, Cartlow, was tackling a niche that hadn’t been given much attention in the region. 

Essentially, Cartlow operates in the secondary market retail industry, where returned, excess or damaged goods are resold online to consumers for a discount. It does this by partnering with some of the leading retailers and distributors in the region, providing them with a cost-effective solution for unloading their undesired/unsellable goods. 

The goods might have damaged packaging, a slightly scratched surface, or other imperfections that make them unsellable in a regular retail setting. However, for many consumers who are willing to brush these details aside, they can secure their desired products for attractive discounted prices, and this is where Cartlow comes in. 

Hoping to learn more about this exciting company and its journey in the region, AMEinfo spoke with Mohammed Sleiman, Founder & CEO of Cartlow. 

Mohammed Sleiman, Founder & CEO of Cartlow

Can you share with us what market need/niche you were trying to address when you created Cartlow? The ‘re-commerce’ business model isn’t new, but you’ve still managed to find a significant amount of success in the UAE in a short period of time. 

Cartlow is pursuing the secondary market niche that is usually overlooked in this region. Since ‘classified’ is the main channel of buying and selling used stock in this region, consumers will always have trust concerns. Through Cartlow’s innovative eco-system, we focus on adding value propositions while structuring, digitizing, and raising the quality bar of used products. 

The ‘re-commerce’ business isn’t new, however, no other re-commerce company quite does it in the same way as us! Cartlow works alongside a series of well-trusted global brands and recognized household names, helping to turn-over their aged, overstock, and returned inventory to reduce unsustainable practices. We offer our customers a wide selection of products, a ten-day return policy, one year warranty, assembly and installation after-purchase services. Besides that, we provide customers with several payment options and installment plans to make their purchases even more effortless. 

All of these values contributed to the success of Cartlow in a short period of time.

You recently closed a $2 million (AED 7.3 million) pre-series A investment round. What can you tell us about your backers (Arzan Ventures, Vision Ventures, and others), and did you convince them to believe in the Cartlow concept? 

Cartlow is showcasing unparalleled growth after closing a $2 million (AED 7.3 million) pre-series A investment round from industry-leading investors such as Arzan Ventures, Vision Ventures, OTF Jasoor Ventures, and other VCs. 

Some investors have been our believers from day one, and continue to provide financial and structural support to our organization while investing their valuable time with us. With Cartlow’s strong on-ground team, we have managed to achieve strong traction and healthy metrics in a minimal amount of time, and I believe that this is what drives a convincing model for all our investors.

Can you share any operational statistics with us about your user base (volume of sales, ages, nationalities, most popular products, etc.), and any financial figures? 

Since inception, Cartlow reported an 8-digit USD GMV, and has successfully sold more than one million products, which helped reduce a large amount of e-waste in the market and contributed to the environment’s sustainability. In addition, Cartlow has achieved more than 800,000 app downloads since its launch and has more than 100,000 active users every month, and is continuing to grow rapidly. 

In terms of the age pool, customers’ ages range from 18 to 45 years of age. The nationalities that we get on the app are very diverse, and the range of products we offer at Cartlow is also diverse and changing on a daily basis. Cartlow started with a [strong focus] on the electronics department in its early stage of operation, and as we grow overtime, we expanded our selection to include white goods such as refrigerators, washing machines, toys and groceries.

Read: Fever pitch consumerism has reinvigorated a business model employed by UAE companies like Cartlow

You’ve recently announced the launch of VASCART, a sister company to Cartlow. Why did you decide to launch VASCART just over a year after you founded Cartlow? Also, how will the two companies support each others’ operations? 

We have decided to launch VASCART for retailers and distributors to benefit from by enhancing their conversion rate and longtime value. A significant factor for establishing VASCART is that this region does not have a mature B2B operation, so we decided to build it. By establishing VASCART, Cartlow aims to empower the re-commerce eco-system by building the capacity and capability, adding value proposition through VASCART while supporting partners and other brands. In this way, Cartlow and VASCART are working hand in hand. 

As the founder of a rapidly growing company, what has your experience as an entrepreneur been like so far? Any particular challenges? 

Without a doubt, there are always challenges in a rapidly growing company! Still, we always follow a ‘whatever it takes’ approach to overcome these challenges and stay on the road to success. It is crucial to believe and be passionate about your business. As an entrepreneur, it is critical to stay sharp and focus on the company’s vision while experimenting, innovating, and taking risks.

How has COVID-19 affected your business (given that it offered a boost to e-commerce), and how has Cartlow adapted? 

During COVID-19, we witnessed higher conversion on visits versus transaction rates. Many buyers and sellers now prefer digital options over face-to-face due to safety, speed, and convenience. Relatively, we noticed that consumers became more conservative on their spending due to the pandemic. Cartlow is an excellent business model for fit for price-conscious customers, since we offer the best-reduced prices and installment plans for customers who need them. We adapted immediately to this growth by extending our sourcing channels, enhancing our technology, and solidifying our team’s expertise.

Any particular plans for the future?

The future for Cartlow is very exciting; we are planning on geographical-level expansion. Our organization’s technology is forever-growing with our strong tech team, and we cannot begin to explain the exciting future opportunities we look forward to. In addition to scaling the re-commerce eco-system to support customers’ buying and selling journey, we will focus our efforts on the KSA market, where we have successfully set-up our business operations and already have a strong built team on the ground. 

In the future, we plan to penetrate other markets to structure the pre-owned industry and encourage sellers to join the re-commerce platform. We also have many exciting initiatives on our roadmap that will be announced soon.

Read: Startup Cartlow supports sustainable shopping through “Re-Commerce” business model