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Move Over, Super Apps: The MEA Needs Ultra Platforms That Have User Experience At Their Centers Businesses are jumping from one offering to the next, chasing the idea that they can force their users into a profitable unit economic behavior, which, as a concept, is bound for failure if the fundamentals are flawed in the first place.

By Abdallah Abu-Sheikh

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"Well, our business has been losing money for the past decade, our unit economics will never ever make sense, and we are about to run out of cash. What do we do?" a senior executive asks. "Everything," responds the brilliant Chief Financial Officer (CFO).
Everyone in the room looks at him as if he has just discovered fire.
"But how do we pitch it to investors?" the senior executive questions. "It's super… It's a Super App. Like WeChat in China," the CFO responds.

The above story is my approximation of how the idea of super apps probably came about in the MEA region. Basically, it was a massive idea to allow for more funding and more hypothetical profit in the future, with complete disregard to user behavior.

It's no surprise then that the premise of trying to do all sorts of things by coercing user behaviors has proved to be a complete failure. For instance, you see taxi apps attempting health care services, and food platform apps trying to offer neo bank services.

Businesses are jumping from one offering to the next, chasing the idea that they can force their users into a profitable unit economic behavior, which, as a concept, is bound for failure if the fundamentals are flawed in the first place.

The continuous bust of bad unit economic companies and devaluations is, therefore, not surprising, and investors are taking note. They have begun to see that the super app rhetoric is becoming nothing more than a false promise to future profitability. And this is where Astra Tech's ultra platform stands apart.

I am the co-founder and CEO of Astra Tech, a UAE-headquartered development and investment group that is building the first-ever ultra platform from the MEA region. The company intends to create a profitable business model that serves everyone using its ecosystem, which includes end consumers, businesses, and vendors. This would be a platform that will not be skewed towards one side of the marketplace, and instead aims to create value for all its stakeholders. Simply put– the ultra platform will revolutionize the way users and businesses interact, engage, and transact with each other by making it a lot more seamless, faster, and intuitive.

Related: Barq Co-Founder Abdallah Abu-Sheikh On The Need For More Homegrown Brands In The Middle East

Unlike super apps, Astra's ultra platform will not rely on rented growth or jumping from one business line to another. The way the platform would be structured will avoid the unnecessary and unnatural alteration of user behavior that often leads to platform fatigue. Instead, it will help users reimagine the possibilities of a limitless and interconnected digital ecosystem and deliver value. Also, the platform's partners and vendors will not be subjugated with unrealistic and unsustainable commission structures.

We have a clear vision and aim for what this ultra platform needs to be, and what it needs to deliver. Our vision for this platform is one where innovation and experience are at the center of everything. Our aim is to reduce the cognitive dissonance they face in their daily lives by simplifying the way they communicate, shop, pay, and transact with each other.

We will strip away the complexity for users by providing them with an ultra seamless, fast, and intuitive experience, and, at the same time, support the commercial ambitions of suppliers and businesses in a sustainable and healthy way. Astra's ultra platform will thus not be a platform with links and compound commission structures that burden both the suppliers and the buyers from a financial as well as an experience perspective.

We at Astra Tech have already announced the acquisition of some very powerful usercentric consumer platforms. These acquisitions will supercharge the ultra platform with cutting edge machine learning and artificial intelligence systems in incredibly smart ways, which will make the platform intelligent and ultra-fast right from day one. The future is indeed exciting. Ultra platforms > super apps.

Related: Meet Abdallah Of Arabia: Abdallah Abu-Sheikh, The Serial Entrepreneur Behind UAE-Based Barq And Rizek

Abdallah Abu-Sheikh

Co-founder and CEO, Astra Tech

Abdallah Abu-Sheikh is one of the top serial entrepreneurs in the MENA region. He is globally renowned for launching ground-breaking futureready platforms centered on sustainability, mobility, and digitalization, led by unconventional strategies and strong business ethics. As the co-founder and CEO of Astra Tech, a UAE-based technology investment and development group, Abdallah is spearheading the launch of a revolutionary new app-based ultra platform, which will bring together select consumer technologies, products, and services, and is specifically designed to address the “platform fatigue” many users are experiencing today. Another of his highly successful projects is Rizek, a localized digital marketplace launched in 2020, which was later acquired by Astra Tech in 2022. Rizek aims to meet the lifestyle needs of UAE residents through verified service providers. Abdallah also leads Barq, a first-of-its-kind tech-driven network of electric vehicles built to serve the MENA region’s last mile delivery sector. As the co-founder and CEO of Barq, he heads a team that offers groundbreaking solutions to address the transport industry’s much-needed demand for efficiency, comfort, and rider safety. 
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