In Muscat, people vouch for app-based services

Muscat, Feb 12 – App-based services are coming of age in Oman, allowing people to order almost all daily essentials from bottled water to cooking gas. Though they seem to be gaining in popularity, it has taken years of planning and hard work for young Omani entrepreneurs to reach this stage. The emergence of Google Maps and Waze navigation systems has helped improve the efficiency of delivery networks. Speaking to the Observer, Babjan Karim al Balushi, co-founder of Buraq 24, said: “Our planning took a couple of years and we had to deal with lots of legal and technical issues.

But the advent of mobile-based taxi services in recent years helped change the mindset of the people.” Buraq 24 helps customers to order mineral water, cooking gas and goods via their mobile phone. It can also connect customers to freight truck owners and water tankers. Al Balushi said it hasn’t been easy to get the cooking gas and other truck drivers on board. “Some of them were not tech-savvy, while others had issues with operational aspects. Things are changing for good, but challenges remain,” he said. For motorists suffering a sudden breakdown of their vehicles, this app can link them to the nearest tow service.

The company has a customer base of over 10,000 customers in less than four months. MarkeetEx is the country’s first online hypermarket service operating within Muscat City, enabling consumers to place orders through a mobile app and get the delivery within 60 minutes. Sara al Shidani, market analyst, MarkeetEx, said the company is fully owned by Omani investors. It ensures goods are delivered within 60 minutes. Talabat is one of the leading online food delivery platforms in the Middle East which enables customers to order a variety of cuisines from international and local restaurants in Muscat. There are several app-based services like Otaxi, Mwasalat, Marhaba (for taxis).

“These services are important for Muscat especially during summer. With Google Maps, it is easy to share location and addresses to the delivery person,” said Laila, who uses these services for ordering food both at home and work. Rajeev, sales executive with a distribution company, feels such online services have advantages but he doubts whether customers have enough confidence. “People have been ordering food directly from restaurants and groceries on phone for years. But that is based on a personal rapport developed over a period of time. Online shopping is a product of technology evolution and in a city like Muscat, arranging logistics need a lot of investment and effort.” There could be skeptical views, but something like a quick vehicle recovery service following a breakdown will be always welcome. “In Oman, not all the helpline numbers are convincing enough. But apps can solve this problem. It’s a welcome sign,” said Ganesh Ramumurthy, who faced a car breakdown recently.