Picture: BLOOMBERG/JASPER JUINEN
Picture: BLOOMBERG/JASPER JUINEN

Prosus has taken part in a R1.1bn funding round for a small Bangladesh commerce platform. It is part of SA’s biggest company by market value to bet on start-up companies it deems to have long-term growth potential.     

ShopUp, a start-up that is digitising neighbourhood stores in Bangladesh, said it has raised $75m (R1.07bn) in a series B funding round led by billionaire Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures.

The round included investment from Prosus via its ventures division, together with existing investors Flourish Ventures, Sequoia Capital India and VEON Ventures.

This funding round brings ShopUp’s total funding to more than $110m, making it the best-funded start-up in Bangladesh. 

The country is said to have one of the most fragmented retail markets in Asia, with 98% of all retail consumption happening through 4.5-million small neighbourhood “mom and pop” retail shops spread out across the nation. In essence, ShopUp helps these shops to procure supplies of goods and access to financing, using technology.  

ShopUp CEO and co-founder Afeef Zaman outlined plans for the business, saying: “Our mission is to put 4.5-million small retailers in the driving seat of Bangladesh’s economic growth.”

“We are building best-in-class infrastructure to support retail operations all over the country, adding new categories to serve the underserved small retailers and launching new financial products to meet the unarticulated needs of the retailers we serve.”

Prosus, which is primarily invested in online classifieds, fintech, food delivery and education, did not say how much it invested in the round. Prosus is an Amsterdam-listed division of Naspers, which has transformed itself from a newspaper publisher via private-equity style investments in e-commerce platforms including an early bet in Tencent, China’s biggest internet company, which now drives the company’s fortunes. 

The move follows last week’s announcement that the group had made its largest acquisition to date, pouring $4.7bn into BillDesk, a payments provider based in India. 

Prosus has a large cash pile, raked in through the reduction of its $200bn stake in Tencent. The latest share sale, which netted the company almost $15bn, came in April 2021, giving it enough M&A budget to compete in the e-commerce industry dominated by deep-pocketed Silicon Valley giants. 

gavazam@businesslive.co.za

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