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Awini reshapes on-demand goods pickup and delivery service in Saudi Arabia

Dr. Abdul Rahman Sultan, CEO and Founder of Awini
(Image credit: Awini)

Saudi-based tech startup – Awini – is using the power of the internet and a smartphone app to connect people with available truck owners in real-time and round the clock in the Kingdom.

Speaking to TechRadar Middle East in an exclusive interview, Dr. Abdul Rahman Sultan, CEO and Founder of Awini, said that necessity is the mother of all invention.

The idea came to him when he was trying to move some products for himself in 2015 and realised that getting a truck at a required time is very difficult.

The goal of Sultan is to build a network that gives a real-time view of all the available trucks in the proximity, allowing people to book and track their shipments and be known as the Uber for trucks.

In 2018, Awini was born after extensive research and software development by Sultan’s team and was incorporated into Oracle’s startup accelerator programme in Saudi Arabia.

He said that there are many similar apps in the market but the advantage of Awini is the “user-friendliness”.

“A six- or seven-year-old child can operate the app. I even asked my children to set up and operate the app to test the user-friendliness,” he said.

Awini now has 3,700 drivers across Saudi Arabia and 27,000 more drivers are waiting for approval to join the marketplace. The app lets users book transport in four steps from their phone, including a choice of light or heavy vehicles, plus professional removal experts if needed.

It all started as a business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-business (C2B) and consumer-to-consumer (C2C) models and Sultan explained that B2C and C2C give quick cash but not very sustainable while in B2B, prices are lower and payments go up to 45,000 Saudi riyals. 

Covid shifts business model

“80% of our business comes from B2C and C2C but with Covid-19, the business model has changed due to the lockdown. Covid-19 has changed our business model for the moment. We are delivering foods for SMEs, from wholesalers to the shops and from farmers to hypermarkets and supermarkets,” he said.

For the last few days, he said that they are working with a grocery app to deliver food and vegetables to houses.

“Covid has impacted us both ways. B2C and C2C businesses have gone down drastically because of lockdowns and shifted focus to C2B and B2B. One of the big issues is last-mile delivery for big retailers in Saudi Arabia, so people book us and we deliver it right way,” Sultan said.

Moreover, he said that a Saudi gas company, recently, called us and wants to work with us to deliver gas to homes.

“Every strategy we had this year has gone with the wind. We don’t want to jump into last-mile delivery for big hypermarkets and spoil our name as the reviews by people on delivery issues are really bad due to Covid. We are doing our case study and once we are well prepared, we will present our case study to LuLu and Carrefour hypermarkets,” he said.

Sultan earns 20% commission from small pickups and 15% from larger ones.

Sultan, along with his family and friends, has invested SR1.2m and has raised SR15m by selling a 15% stake in the company.

Powered by Oracle cloud 

Sultan said that technology plays an important role and even though the app looks simple from the front, a lot of AI and algorithms are used in the backend.

“We were on Amazon Web Services but moved to Oracle’s Gen 2 Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) as they gave us a competitive price than AWS. The maintenance by Oracle is of real high quality and with no lock-in period for certain technologies. Everybody says that AWS is cheaper but in our experience, the prices are not consistent and sometimes it can go really high.  We are working with Oracle to connect our back end with their ERP in stages,” he said.

Moreover, he said that openness of the platform is very important, apart from the need for more control and efficient operations.

“OCI gave us the freedom to design solutions the way we see fit and helped our new team members get on board easily and fast,” he said.

On expansion plans, Sultan said that they have signed a franchise deal for UAE with a Dubai-based IMS of Al Rais Group and they will take 15% of the net profit.

“We are already working with some other partners to expand into South Korea, Egypt, Holland and Germany.  In other Gulf countries, the usage of apps hasn’t taken off as in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and we haven’t found the right partner also. We are also planning to enter into a smart storage facility in Saudi Arabia,” he said.