UAE-based Astra Tech acquires Botim and confirms the creation of the super app

UAE-based Astra Tech acquires Botim and confirms the creation of the super app

(Bloomberg) — UAE-based technology investment firm Astra Tech has acquired the Gulf region’s most popular voice calling app, Botim, one step closer to creating a platform that offers everything from instant messaging to digital payments.

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The deal will make Astra Tech one of the largest communications technology platforms in the Middle East and North Africa. The company did not disclose a value for Botim, which it bought from a group of investors in the United Arab Emirates, but said the app has 90 million registered users and 25 million monthly active users.

In the United Arab Emirates, where 85% of the population is expatriate, it blocks calls from apps such as Microsoft Corp.’s Skype, Meta Platforms Inc.’s WhatsApp and Apple Inc.’s FaceTime. This has increased the number of users of Botim, one of the few applications that allow UAE residents to make voice calls over the Internet.

In addition to free video and voice calls, Botim also offers money transfers in the UAE, phone top-ups, and bill payments locally and internationally, according to the statement. Following the acquisition, Astra Tech will allow users to pay bills and access government services, as well as order food and groceries through the app.

“Botim will be the first of its kind in the region to simplify the interactions of hundreds of millions of users, allowing them to interact and transact seamlessly,” said Abdallah Abu Sheikh, founder of Astra Tech.

Astra Tech joins companies such as Uber Technologies Inc.’s Middle East subsidiary Careem in developing so-called super apps. Careem’s app allows access to services including food delivery, grocery shopping, transportation and bike rental — all sectors that have boomed during the pandemic.

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Read more: Uber Careem raises $500 million from Abu Dhabi, Saudi funds

The deal comes days after Astra Tech said PayBy, which it acquired in August, had received central bank approval to offer services such as money transfers and payments. The company aims to integrate these services within Botim, allowing users to pay utility bills or transact online with stores.

Founded last year, Astra Tech has raised $500 million from investors including Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence firm G42. The company is expected to announce further plans for Botim at the end of the first quarter, and will continue to pursue further acquisitions of the app.

Its first acquisition was Rizek, which connects users with vendors offering services from car rentals to Covid tests to cleaning and personal training. Rizek, whose investors include Abu Dhabi ADQ, was valued at $75 million in its last funding round and has more than a million users.

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