How to start a grocery delivery app in Dubai, UAE


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Today, the UAE’s tech sector is estimated to be valued at around USD 8bn. Within that are many sub-sectors and organisations of all sizes, from startups and SMEs to multi-nationals.

So attractive market aside, there are many other great reasons to start a grocery delivery app company in Dubai, UAE, right now – not least the emirate’s fast and affordable company incorporation process, along with its free zones which attract global entrepreneurs.

The first thing to do when starting as an app developer in Dubai is to seek out a reputable free zone or company formation specialist. Working with an expert can help to avoid wasted time, unnecessary costs and frustration.

You’ll need to decide on your business activity. The important thing here is that your chosen activities are in line with those on the official Department of Economic Development (DED) list.

Then it’s time to choose a company name. Be aware that you must abide by a strict set of naming conventions here in the UAE.

In short, you should avoid any offensive or blasphemous language. Avoid names of well-known organisations and avoid abbreviations if naming your company after yourself – i.e. Dave Mann Consulting, rather than D Mann Consulting. You must also check that your chosen name is available to register.

Now for the most important step – deciding whether to set up on the mainland or in a free zone.

In most cases, free zone company formation is the most cost-effective and advantageous approach – there are a number which are well-suited to tech startups. To help you to ensure that all these steps go smoothly, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation specialist such as Set Hub when establishing a new company in the UAE.

Examples of grocery delivery apps

There are a number of success stories when it comes to grocery delivery apps in the UAE. Some of these include Trolley.ae, Kibsons, NRTC Fresh, Yeebly, Bulkwhiz, Carrefour Grocery Delivery, Union Coop, Lulu hypermarket, Waistrose and Partners.

Let’s look at a few in more detail:

  • In 2015, John Tsioris quit his job and formed Instashop which today covers five countries, with more than 350,000 users and an enviable retention rate. The on-demand online grocery delivery company allows customers to order groceries for delivery on-demand from a wide selection of supermarkets and local neighbourhood retailers. Users can have their shopping delivered in scheduled time slots or within 60 minutes from some vendors.
  • The idea of Bawiq came from the personal frustration Raj Lee faced when trying to order groceries. The existing options were difficult to navigate. Bawiq signed up with over 900 supermarkets before its launch, initially focusing on Abu Dhabi then expanding from there – including to Malaysia.
  • el Grocer was founded in 2015 by Mickael Costache and Nader Amiri, a Dubai-based startup that offers grocery delivery to its customers in the Emirates through its app and website. Avoiding the venture capital route, they decided to go for equity crowdfunding, raising over USD 2m over multiple funding rounds. They also received non-equity assistance from Sheraa, the incubator and accelerator based in Sharjah.
  • Looking more globally: founded in 2012 by a former Amazon employee, Instacart operates now in all 50 US states as well as in Canada. Valued at nearly USD 8bn, it partners with thousands of grocery stores across the country. With their main office in San Francisco, they are funded by investors including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures, SV Angel, and Y Combinator.


Benefits of starting a grocery delivery business app

There are a number of key benefits to starting a grocery delivery business app.

These include:

  • No requirement to be a caterer yourself
  • Demand isn’t negatively affected by recession
  • It also isn’t negatively affected by a pandemic
  • Delivery fits in with the Dubai lifestyle – plenty of demand
  • You can start small, just a few suppliers, and then grow
  • Start with a smaller niche, then expand when ready
  • There are plenty of success stories to learn from


Cost to start a grocery delivery  app

If you’re starting a grocery delivery app firm in Dubai, you’re starting a cutting edge tech firm that is already entering a crowded market. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another.

What you’re going to need, in short, is  a truly great app that your clients are going to love, and find useful. And in turn, their customers are going to love and want to use.

At the minimum, your app needs:

Customer interface

  • Easy login
  • Advanced search
  • Scheduling
  • Push notifications
  • Order tracking
  • Secure payments


Delivery company interface

  • Admin dashboard
  • Delivery monitoring
  • Analytics
  • Instant updates
  • Product listing
  • Discounts management
  • Monitoring of delayed/cancelled deliveries


Delivery driver interface

  • Easy onboarding
  • Optimise driving routes
  • Quick notification of orders
  • Delivery status updates
  • Daily earning reports


How much will all of this cost? It’s very hard to say – but for a very basic app you might be looking at USD 20,000 going up to around USD 60,000 for something very professional. From there, the sky is the limit depending on a number of factors: the platform/s you want your app to function on, the number of features, the amount of design work, etc.

Working with company formation specialists

We are a team of company registration professionals who are passionate about bringing the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs to life.

As well as handling your license application, Set Hub can also assist with the opening of corporate bank accounts and advise on the most appropriate financial institution to suit your specific needs.

We also offer visa and immigration services and can handle all government formalities, permissions, work permits and visas applications that are required to trade in the UAE.

In short, our experts can establish your company on your behalf, make your license and visa applications, and take care of all the necessary admin – leaving you free to get on with running your business.