CAIRO: It is estimated that traffic issues in the capital Cairo alone cost Egypt’s economy $7 billion every year. This figure comprises health costs from air pollution; lost productivity due to extra time in traffic; and costs of road injuries and fatalities.
At a time when people feel the need to be extra safe due to the pandemic, Mayday, a startup by Egyptian entrepreneurs Mohamed Aboelfotouh, Islam Ahmed and Amr Essam, is a much-welcomed solution that is able to solve many car issues on the spot.
“We surveyed around 300 people to understand more about the market. People really welcomed the idea of an app to help them if they encountered roadside trouble,” Aboelfotouh, 34, said.
According to the survey, the average waiting time for towing help was around two hours, and the prices were always variable and inflated. People also highlighted safety concerns and the lack of proper customer care for such services.
“We wanted to create a platform in a similar model to ride-hailing apps, with a large network of providers,” Aboelfotouh added.
Mayday faced several roadblocks after its soft launch in November 2018. For starters, the service was available for only eight hours a day. Moreover, the initial subscription-based business model via the app proved unsuccessful as people did not know the company well enough to subscribe.
“We started exploring an on-demand option. So, we added a hotline to streamline the orders we get while keeping the app for subscriptions and businesses,” Aboelfotouh said.
When a person calls in, a Mayday agent responds, liaising between customers and tow truck drivers and then informing the caller of the estimated time of arrival and the service cost.
The hotline gradually became available 24 hours per day, but it was signing one of the country’s biggest ride-hailing companies as a client that pushed the company in the right direction in early 2019 and provided much-needed cash.
Mayday soon struck more deals and currently offers roadside assistance to over 30,000 clients through various business partners, from banks to insurance companies.
The official launch of the app was in January 2019, and Mayday soon expanded beyond servicing Cairo and Giza, currently offering its services across all highways nationwide.
Most of the service providers contracted by Mayday are tracked through GPS, with plans to include the rest soon.
“Now, our platform has 1,200 service providers, between tow trucks, cars and motorbikes. If a person just needs a hand changing the tires, we can send a motorbike rider with the necessary tools to help in their backpack,” Aboelfotouh said.
Despite not offering significantly lower prices than independent tow truck operators, Mayday has kept growing in popularity because of its speedy service, quality control and fixed prices with no hidden fees. The company gets a commission from the orders, and its partners get to enjoy a steady flow of work through the company.
One of the main challenges Mayday encountered early on was hiring talented personnel to ensure this level of quality. The founding partners tackled the issue by creating a healthy work environment rather than opting for the grueling conditions imposed by many startups.
Despite not being completely reliant on the app, the company also faced some challenges with technology.
“In 2020, we’re investing in technology. We want our app to have an on-demand option, too. So, we’re releasing a new one in a few months,” Aboelfotouh said.
Mayday will leverage a recent six-figure investment to achieve that goal.
“We have a unique position to present our company as the go-to brand for roadside assistance in the country. One of the main areas where we plan on investing this money is in marketing and raising awareness about our brand and services.”
Commenting on other plans, Aboelfotouh said: “We’re considering adding simple maintenance services, like car checks and quick repairs while people are on the road. We also want to expand within the next few months. We’re currently exploring and meeting suppliers, as well as doing market research. Soon, we will have settled on our next market in a new country.”
This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.