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Elie El Tom, Founder, Yalla Pickup, has ventured out into a place where he could use technology to solve a problem and make a big impact. With his trucking app, he’s made humble strides towards achieving his dream. We take a look at how far he’s come…

Elie El Tom wants to make booking pickup truck services as easy as booking an Uber. After spending four months on market research and gathering intelligence to understand the market, the entrepreneur identified the gap for reliable, timely truck service.

With a BE in Civil Engineering and certification in Project Management, Elie is far out from transportation in terms of his background. What attracted him to this sector? “I remember looking at pickup trucks and wondering – why isn’t there a platform to streamline easy pickup and delivery through large vehicles? With Expo 2020 around the corner, I knew that connectivity would be a key driver of businesses and any concept based on that idea would work. So, I tested the initial market and decided to launch Yalla Pickup,” says Elie.

The company launched in 2016 – at the prominent GITEX exhibition – and was soon part of the acceleration programme Sheraa. This is where Elie further developed his go-to-market strategy and gained mentorship on various aspects of his business. It also helped him to get a seed round funding of US$ 400,000 from the Box Self-Storage and Moving Company as well as from Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority.

 

 

Riding high

Anyone that has attempted to move a large item from point A to point B knows the pains all too well. You must find a trustworthy truck driver to transport it for or alternatively go through an agency and risk paying a hefty fee. The next hassle is finding the right size for your goods and of course, not to mention monitoring timely delivery.

Elie’s solution to this problem is simple: he has created an app to do it all for you. Using Yalla Pickup, users can select their pickup and drop off locations via google map. For frequent travel, you can save your locations for future orders. Then, users can select the size of the pickup truck and schedule the time of the delivery. All this at an affordable price with easy payment options.

What’s particularly appealing about Elie’s offer is that his drivers are all carefully vetted and come with prior experience. We understand that whatever you’re transporting is important and valuable to you, and as such we make it a point to only invest in reliable, experienced drivers. They all must undergo training after they’re hired, there are certain traits we keep a keen eye out for, which allow us to determine whether they’ll be a good fit for the company or not. Our recruitment processes are quite stringent and non-negotiable, and that enables us to maintain the highest standards possible,” he explains.

The trucks are all fully insured and so are the goods that they carry. Outside of the actual transaction, the app is also enhancing the customer experience by providing features like tracking history, order status and so on.

“We’re also proud to have been recently nominated for the Transport and Logistics award at the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival. Our unique app has taken Dubai by storm, which is a testimony to the time, effort and relentless dedication that went into its creation. The Yalla Pickup app is recognised for its user-friendliness, its efficiency, and of course its usefulness. We also consistently work on it daily, to ensure it always remains relevant.”

A bumpy ride 

The biggest challenge for the company has been educating and training its drivers and helpers. “We’ve faced problems onboarding drivers and training them to be aligned with our mission of an on-time, safe, reliable and transparent service,” remarks Elie. “To combat this, we’ve created an onboarding process, which involves a comprehensive driver selection checklist, a proper induction system and incentive schemes based on performance.”

Building traction as an early-stage business has also been a challenge for Elie as it’s not easy to introduce a smart service and expect people to accept it straightaway. It’s been twice as difficult for the entrepreneur as he must convince both end-users and vendors to use his platform. “It hasn’t been an easy journey; we’ve faced difficulties in terms of the set-up cost, streamlining processes to offer a seamless client experience, recruitment and onboarding vendors. But, the benefits offset these challenges. There is a growing ecosystem within the region that supports SMEs through mentorship and incubation programmes.”

Journey into the future

Elie is now working on the release of the second version of his app. He also has plans to expand further across the UAE and tap into the KSA market. The entrepreneur believes that there is plenty of room for growth within this industry. “There is an overall 20 per cent expansion in the logistics industry in the coming three to five years. We plan to seize the opportunity by introducing new verticals and improving our offer with additional value-added services.”

For now, however, he’s focusing his energy on improving the customer experience. He believes that ultimately it is his ability to dream big for his customers that steers his business towards success. “We’ve witnessed a 200 per cent growth month-on-month in terms of revenue and we’ve grown from a team of 2 to 12 in less than a year. This is all because we’ve dared to dream big to transform the truck pickup industry for our clients. And, we will continue to envision how we can leverage tech advances to continue improving this mode of transportation. This industry is no longer about the physical cars or trucks, it’s about technology and that’s really exciting!”

Rushika Bhatia

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.