Muscat: An Omani national who has developed his own app, and today employs talented Omanis, has said that tech companies in the Sultanate have a responsibility to groom the next generation of young professionals.
Thirty-year-old Moosa Al Lawati, who founded Akeed, a food delivery app launched three months ago, with his long-time friend and colleague Gaurav Nahar, 31, an Indian expat in the Sultanate, said people need to be undaunted by failures, if they were to succeed in pursuing their passions.
“Bringing this app to reality has been a long journey,” said Al Lawati. “We have a talented, young sales team that is Omani, we have a call centre that is staffed by Omanis and is headed by an Omani manager, we are looking for Omani developers as part of our in-house development team, and we have this passion to find talented Omanis.
“Our website is also developed by an Omani lady, with hands-on experience in website development,” he noted.
“Our aim is to have our own Omani in-house tech team, which will groom the next generation of Omanis and make them experienced developers. The future plans include running internships and bootcamp programmes inside Akeed. We have faced the challenges which come with a start-up. We have a social responsibility to share our experience and provide a platform to young graduates in the tech field. There is huge scope for young tech graduates.”
Nahar added, “At present, we have a staff of about 50 people, including drivers, management and local customer service support teams. About 40 per cent of our staff is Omani, and we have the corporate social responsibility of finding more talented Omanis and giving them jobs in the market. We are also looking to hire more part-time Omani drivers.”
Creating more value for people in the country, they added, must be the objective of any business.
“I think everyone must enter a corporate job to get that grooming and professionalism, but I had reached a point where I wanted to do something by myself,” said Nahar.
“Being inspired by technology and so many mobile apps, I wanted to do something like that. Given that Oman is my home base, I wanted to add value here, and focus on one idea, because at the end of the day you are solving a problem, but you also need to see if the market is ready for that solution.”
Al Lawati added, “This experience has taught us that there is no better motivation and satisfaction than when you are solving a problem, particularly when it is in your own country. What I want to tell young Omanis and young entrepreneurs is that persistence is key. You must have the persistence to move forward, because opening and running a company is no child’s play. You need the determination, patience and strength to overcome the hurdles of business.”
Akeed is funded by about 15 private Omani investors, and the founders expect to meet government officials to secure further SME development funding in the future.
“Initially, we funded the app ourselves. But back in January we had a few private Omani investors come on board,” said Nahar. “Government investors had also approached us, but we felt we were not ready at the time, but in the future we will be meeting with them to secure more Omani investment.
“Moosa and I had worked together in Dubai,” he added. “Living a fast paced life, we barely had time to cook, so we were used to easy delivery and many restaurant options. But we were shocked to be unable to find a decent delivery application in Oman to have a meal delivered at home. Both of us have spent a very long time in Oman, and we felt it was time that we give back to the country.
Al Lawati also shared some of the challenges they faced in setting up the company.
“It wasn’t easy to setup the company,” he said. “There will always be hurdles and barriers. In our case, there were more, as we were a start-up, launching a new concept in this market, aiming to start a multinational company. It took us almost eight months to set up the company. Financially, as well, things weren’t on our side, but we now want to expand the business and help make it better with more resources.
“The customer feedback is the petrol we use to make ourselves better, and we believe this puts us ahead of the competition we are facing. We have a customer retention of 75 per cent, and our top 10 customers have placed more than 120 orders in the last 90 days. We have seen that we have a customer base that is made up of first-time users of such delivery applications, and that makes us feel very confident,” said Nahar.
The co-founders of the app used to go into restaurants here and meet owners to find out how they could help solve delivery concerns. They asked customers, how much of a delivery fee was appropriate, as well as average delivery times.
“The biggest challenge was a lack of drivers when restaurants had peak orders and high volumes,” said Nahar. “Many of these were premium restaurants that really hadn’t previously explored the opportunities for delivery, and they were quite excited to be part of it.”