As life in Doha gets busier, with more cars on the roads and fewer parking spaces, doing everyday chores like grocery shopping and laundry can be a headache.
A growing crop of Qatar-based entrepreneurs are trying to ease some of that pain, rolling out new mobile apps to tackle ordering groceries and sending out the dry cleaning.
Among them is eGrab, a new grocery-shopping app nurtured at the Qatar Business Incubation Center and soft-launched on Android and iOS this summer.
The firm has so far signed agreements with two supermarket chains – Quality Hypermarket and Family Food Center – but expects more stores to join in the coming months.
Customers order food by scrolling through the menus and clicking on the items to put them into their shopping basket. Teams of “pickers” at the chosen supermarkets fulfill the orders and send them out. Drivers then use GPS and the municipality’s blue plaque address system to get food to your door.
Currently, the system operates via cash-on-delivery, but eGrab said it hopes to enable online payment through debit and credit cards in the future.
And while customers can’t yet choose a delivery time slot, the app should advise of the estimated delivery time, according to how busy the service is and the level of traffic on the roads.
Delivery to some areas is free, while for others the charge is highlighted before the customer starts shopping. If a minimum order is required, the value of that is also flagged up on the app in advance.
Online grocery shopping is a more familiar concept in Europe and North America, but hasn’t fully taken off in the Gulf yet.
Lulu Hypermarket does plan to start the service in Abu Dhabi this month, and Geant Hypermarket launched internet food shopping in Dubai several years ago.
In Qatar, the website FreshQatar.com serves the greater Doha area, offering a number of daily staples and electronics, with a minimum purchase amount of QR100 and delivering orders every evening.
After eight months in development, eGrab has been trialing its service in a few areas of Qatar, including Al Azizya and Al Waab. It’s only served around 250 customers so far, but is preparing to launch more widely next week.
For now, it’s a small team of five people, but founder Rahid Kader told Doha News he is already interviewing people with a view to expand.
The Bahrain-born, former physical therapist has lived in Qatar for five years and said he was inspired to set up the service as a way of helping to make residents’ lives easier:
“I understand customers’ pain – driving through the traffic, trying to find parking, queuing at the tills then lugging all the shopping home. By the time you’ve finished the shopping, half of Friday has already gone.
I just thought, if I could set up an ordering and delivery service then it would save people so much time.”
Meanwhile, the mundane nature of laundry has inspired two different sets of entrepreneurs to set up their own, competing apps for the pick-up and delivery of laundry.
The first, WASHNOW, launched earlier this month with its Android app, with the iOS version due on Sept. 7.
Describing the business model as “Uber for laundry,” Ameer KV established it with four other Qatari and expat entrepreneurs who all have experience in technology and/or laundry.
Customers are charged on a standard per-piece-of-clothing rate, while delivery charges start from QR5. Customers select a pick-up time, and are advised of the time their laundry will be returned to them.
The team provides a 48-hour turnaround service for all washing, ironing and dry cleaning in Doha. A same-day service is expected to start operating in some Doha districts by the end of September and to be rolled out across the city by October, Ameer told Doha News.
Plans to expand the service include offering collection and delivery to Al Wakrah, Al Khor and even other Gulf states.
While WASHNOW is formally linked to one laundry service for now, it is in talks with four other companies located across Doha. Other developments in the works include offering an online payment system in addition to cash-on-delivery.
Describing why the team set up the service, Ameer said:
“If an average laundry has 100 customers a day, that’s 100 people driving to and for, to deliver and pick up their clothes. That’s a problem for the traffic.”
MyLaundryQatar will be another mobile laundry service that is currently in development but is set to launch in the fall.
Co-founder Waqas Ajaz told Doha News it will offer a similar pick-up and drop-off service across Doha, with customers able to schedule when they want their items collected.
Payment will be arranged on a pre-paid credit system, with points deducted for items laundered and should be able to take debit and credit card payments.
With experience in app developing and marketing, Qatar-born Ajaz said his vision is to make life simpler for people living here.
“I never had any time to go to the laundry. It would take half-an-hour to get there, then the same to get home. It was always crowded, the traffic was terrible.
“I wanted to create something which would be a convenience, something to save people time and hassle and allow them to have more time with their families,” Ajaz said.
1ClickLaundry, meanwhile, is a web-based service that launched this summer offering similar promises through your browser. Qatar-based users have a choice of standard, express or premium services, and can pay online through PayPal or Credit Card.
Have you used any of these services yet? Thoughts?