Making Travel Smarter (And Easier): DUBZ Wants To Enhance Your Travel Experience
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It’s the last day of your holiday, and as you check out of your hotel, you wonder how you can spend those extra few hours in a foreign city, without having to lug around your luggage. Say hello to DUBZ then, which is a luggage pickup, storage and delivery service in Dubai, offering travelers time and comfort by getting bags picked up or dropped off, stored, and even checked in (yes, from your hotel or home, instead of the airport) during the day- a convenient service for every traveler. How did DUBZ come about? Out of firsthand experience, of course. “I was on a personal trip in Georgia,” DUBZ cofounder and CEO Omar Abou Faraj says as he recalls the origins of his enterprise. “My last day in the country was spent dragging my suitcases, as my flight was late in the evening, and my hotel checkout time had been at noon.”
Facing the usual hassle with luggage, Faraj says, “This was not the first time I had faced such an issue. Despite all the advancements in travel and aviation, luggage remains a key hindrance for travelers around the world.” In a bid to solve this pain point, Faraj, along with Mustafa Maghraby, Chief Commercial Officer, and Samer Sobh, Chief Operations Officer, launched DUBZ in 2017 to enhance the traveler’s experience, starting off by providing a pick-up service from and to the Dubai airport.
Today, through the DUBZ website, travelers can arrange a pick-up, and have their luggage checked in and collected by a dnata agent from their home or hotel anywhere in Dubai, allowing travelers to then enjoy their day baggage-free. Users can then save time by skipping baggage drop-off and checkin queues at the airport, with their boarding pass and baggage tags provided on the spot. As for their business strategy, Faraj asserts their four key pillars: “maximized efficiency of our logistics, experimental customer acquisition process, fully digitized sales and customer service processes, and plug and play model with airport operations.”
The CEO notes that a key enabler of their business model is “continuous authority alignment to ensure that DUBZ processes meet security requirements and are compliant with airport procedures.” He also commends the startup’s USP: “Our vision is to create luggage freedom.” He lists three main features: home check-in, where passengers can check in their baggage early in the day from their doorstep, and at the airport, they can head directly to their flight without queuing. Next up, belt pick-up and delivery, wherein passengers don’t have to wait for their bags to arrive in the airport, as DUBZ would collect customers’ baggage from the belt and deliver them to the customers’ location. And, finally, deliver to airport, wherein passengers can handover their carry-on bags early in the day from their doorstep, and collect them later when they arrive to the airport.
In a video pitch on their YouTube channel, co-founder and COO Sobh notes that their operations is also a key strength, as they have their own fleet and agreement with key logistic partners within Dubai. The startup also has a cloudbased backend, with their security solution approved by Dubai Police, which includes their processes like securely locking and sealing every single bag they receive. The startup’s revenue model is based on a fee per bag charged to customers, though Faraj says they’re looking to increase their services and revenue streams to grow their target customer base.
And it’s gaining in that arena- a few months into launch, the startup joined and graduated as one of the winners of Intelak’s first cohort, an aviation, travel and tourism incubator. Following that, in June 2018, dnata, an air service provider and part of the Emirates Group, acquired a majority stake in DUBZ, which also saw it forging strategic relationships with flydubai, Saudia Airlines and flynas. “This puts us on the path of strong growth, as within a very short time, we were able to serve hundreds of passengers,” says Faraj. The CEO commends that their involvement with Intelak propelled them to gain interest from other investors; however, the team knew dnata would be the ideal partner as it offers “both financial strength, strong expertise and connection in travel and aviation.”
As a startup that’s partnered with a corporation, Faraj advises other entrepreneurs in the process of making similar decisions to find a partner that believes in the team, is willing to take risks, and has faith in the startup. Most importantly, Faraj points out how the partnership should bring in a “clear and differentiating competitive advantage,” and provide your enterprise the “stability to innovate and experiment in the market.”
As for what’s next, with the boost from their partnership with dnata, the startup is looking for significant growth. Faraj asserts that in the next few months, it’s all about strong growth, new partnerships, and further innovation in their product lineup. They plan to do so by expanding their airline coverage, building strategic partnership with key travel players and assessing international opportunities by leveraging dnata’s international presence. “Our goal is to scale up the business, while maintaining the agility and service standards we’ve achieved since inception.”
Omar Abou Faraj, CEO, DUBZ
What are your top tips to entrepreneurs starting a business in MENA?
1. Team, team, team. “It is critical to have a founding team that, one, has complimentary skillsets, and, two, have an efficient and transparent communication process.”
2. Figure out ways to do more with less. “As a startup, especially in the early stages, resources are quite scarce, hence the founding team has the duty to achieve positive results and establish visibility in the market through continuously hustling and find creative and low-cost solutions to their business needs.”
3. Accept failure and bounce back. “In a startup, facing challenges and even failures are commonplace. Hence, learning from failures and finding the strength to bounce back is critical to achieve success down the line. At the end of the day, the only people who do not fail are those who do not try.”
THE INVESTOR'S VIEWPOINT
Steve Allen, Divisional Senior Vice President, UAE Airport Operations, dnata
What factors led to dnata’s decision in acquiring a stake in DUBZ?
“As one of the world’s largest air services provider, we are always on the lookout for new ways to expand our service portfolio and improve customer experience, while embracing innovation and new technology. We also constantly seek new acquisition and partnership opportunities that complement our business streams and deliver value to the company and our stakeholders. The airport baggage service is a relatively new innovation in the industry supported by the latest technology. We felt that engaging with innovative entrepreneurs would be the most agile way of building and understanding this market and therefore this mix of experience and reputation with entrepreneurialism is a perfect fit. DUBZ has a solid business plan and a great team, which has already proven its ability to deliver outstanding results as a winner of Intelak, a travel, aviation and tourism incubator co-founded by the Emirates Group, GE, and Dubai Tourism. With its customer-oriented approach, innovative services and proven business model, in DUBZ, we found the partner we’re looking for.”
Do you see dnata evolving as a profitable business with their model? Financially, what excites dnata in the deal?
“Since its launch, the company has seen strong demand for its services. dnata’s meet & greet and lounge services provider, marhaba, international airlines, flydubai, flynas and Saudia, as well as several hotels and malls have already added DUBZ services to their offering and there are ongoing discussions with other partners as well. DUBZ brings us a new way to drive service excellence and delight our customers and we are confident that our partnership will benefit all stakeholders and contribute to the continued success of the business.”