Universal Commerce Group (UCG), an affiliate of international investment fund Noosphere, has launched Russian-language e-commerce platform PROSTO.UA. The site aims to become a “unified multifunctional platform that combines the features of an online trading platform (in the segment of B2B) and a board of classified ads (in the segment of C2C).”
The news was reported by Ukrainian online publication Apostrophe, based upon an exchange with Yulia Marishchuk, head of UCG and former general director of the holding company Allegro Group Ukraine. According to Marishschuk, the initial investment totalled roughly 1 million hryvnias (around $70,000), which essentially covered technical developments.
Marishchuk explained that the monetization of the project will involve charging fees on completed orders, advertising, and paid services, which will available to users of the platform starting in 2015.
The project is profit-oriented in the short-term. “The company is not interested in investing in a project that may not pay off in the medium or even long-term,” Marishchuk stated.
The UCG representative does not exclude the possibility that the project will eventually enter European markets. “It is premature to discuss this possibility at the moment, as it needs to first work in Ukraine, but such plans are being considered.”
“If the buyer receives a choice between goods from the store and from a private individual, this may become a competitive advantage for the project,” Ukraine GM Gleb Vyshlinsky told Apostrophe. However, “At Prosto.ua, all the descriptions of unique advantages are blurred at the moment,” he added.
The cost of leadership
Another question is the amount of investment, beyond the initial $70,000, required to drive the project to significant market position.
“Prosto.ua will have to compete with Naspers portfolio companies such as B2B & B&C marketplaceProm.ua, shopping club ModnaKasta, classifiedOLX.ua, B2C marketplace Aukro and a few others that have already grown to sizable businesses and category leaders,” noted AVentures Managing Partner Yevgen Sysoyev in an exchange with Ukraine Digital News.
“In this context, Prosto.ua should offer a very compelling product and require significant investments. Being the largest Internet holding company out of Ukraine, Noosphere can afford this,” Sysoyev believes.
A global asset-management firm based primarily out of California, Noosphere has invested in several Ukrainian or Ukraine-connected projects, including dating service Cupid, conversion-solution provider Maxymiser, social game publisher Renatus, and e-commerce platform Price.ua.