Never Run Out Of Power: Dubai-Based iCharge Point Is Here To Get You Charging Your Phone On The Go
Using the iCharge Point mobile application, users can rent portable power banks from vending machines located at over 400 locations across Dubai.
A smartphone with a battery that's about to die. No phone charging points in sight. And no one to borrow a power bank from either. If you own a smartphone, there is a high probability that you've found yourself in the aforementioned predicament at least once, if not more. And in a fast-paced city like Dubai, the idea of one's phone dying while on the go can very well be a frightening prospect. It's a sentiment that is shared by Madina Gedgagova, the founder and CEO of Dubai-based power bank sharing platform, iCharge Point, who has personally gone through plenty of instances when her phone ran out of power.
"It's embarrassing to ask strangers to charge your phone in such situations," she says. "And having your phone charging from the power outlet in the corner of a restaurant can leave you disconnected for a while." It was experiences like these that made Gedgagova come up with a solution that addresses such discomforts. "I really believed in the value that a convenient and accessible power bank rental service could bring to the daily lives of people within the UAE. This is how iCharge Point was born!"
iCharge Point's services are essentially based on the sharing economy model. Portable power banks can be rented at any one of iCharge Point's 400 vending machines across Dubai. Users can get information about the nearest vending machine location by accessing the iCharge mobile application, which is available on both Google Play and Apple App Store. "Vending machines are placed in amusement parks, hotels, restaurants, hospitals, customer care centers and even at events," Gedgagova explains. "Users can grab a power bank, charge on the go, and return the power bank to any other iCharge Point machine. We leverage a simple pay-per-use model, and each user is charged AED5 per hour. We don't charge any deposits, which makes service accessible to everyone." And if you're wondering whether your specific phone model will find the right charging fit, then there's good news. "Each power bank is equipped with all main connector types, to charge any type of mobile phone," assures Gedgagova. "Essentially, iCharge Point is designed to meet people wherever they spend a prolonged period of time to make charging their phones quick and easy."
An iCharge Point power bank charging station. Source: iCharge Point
Having already provided its services to more than 50,000 users, iCharge Point's services have clearly found favor with the people of Dubai. "We are currently growing at a rate of more than 10,000 new users a month," says Gedgagova. "I am incredibly proud of the service adoption speed, and thrilled to see that we have more and more returning customers." Here, Gedgagova adds that the vastly populated city offers a prime opportunity for further growth of her startup. "There are 7.8 million smartphone users in Dubai alone. So, once the service is fully adopted, we estimate that 15% of them will be using power bank sharing services regularly." But as a startup that largely relies on its users sharing its services, Gedgagova admits that the COVID-19 crisis brought its own set of unique challenges. "Certainly, as the coronavirus spread and restrictions were put in place, we experienced a slower than preferred development process which did affect our financial performance," Gedgagova reflects. "Our vending machines are placed in prime locations across the city, and we are highly dependent on people going out. But at the same time, it has been hard to estimate how many customers turned down the idea of renting the power bank, because it has been previously used by someone else."
An iCharge Point portable power bank. Source: iCharge Point
But Gedgagova and her 16-member team managed to rise to the occasion. "We hired more technicians to perform cleaning and sanitization on the vending machines to maintain a safe and sanitary experience for all users, and in high-traffic places like Expo 2020 Dubai, we must have a team on-site at all times to ensure that all the health and safety guidelines are met," she explains. "But purchasing these ultraviolet lamps, sanitizers and disinfectants have certainly added to the average business costs we bear, which further increased our pandemic-induced financial stress."
Despite such challenges, Gedgagova remains confident that users across Dubai will continue to actively seek out iCharge Point's rentable power banks, especially with the city slowly returning to some semblance of normalcy. Notably, recent studies support her belief too- a 2021 study by Credit Suisse on the sharing economy shows that 28% of users around the world are now more willing to share their electronics. "When it comes to being disconnected, I think most people will still appreciate a shared power bank after properly sanitizing the device and their hands," Gedgagova says. Adding to Gedgagova's optimism about the future is one other aspect of her startup: its environment-friendly approach. By ensuring that mobile device batteries are used to their maximum and later recycled when fully depleted, iCharge Point's power bank charging stations are also keen on reducing e-waste. "Collective consumption, or sharing, has been proven to reduce overall consumption as well as reduce waste," she says. "These are the two goals iCharge works towards achieving in everything we do."
While iCharge Point has been a bootstrapped venture so far, Gedgagova says that she is now looking into raising funds to further expand her company's services. And while business growth is a top priority for Gedgagova for the months ahead, she remains committed to the belief of putting the customer first. "While the company grows, innovation must be driven by the desire to create the best possible customer experience, empowering us to stay ahead of the competition," she says. "This mindset needs to be a constant process, and that is the only way we can maintain a leading position on the market."
"TREP TALK: iCharge Point founder and CEO Madina Gedgagova's tips for female entrepreneurs
1. Find your tribe "A community of women who deal with the same challenges can become a source of advice and support to help you through ups and downs of entrepreneurship. "
2. Don't get overwhelmed "Desmond Tutu once said, "There is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time.' Running a startup can be often overwhelming. My advice is to concentrate at those times on your next small steps towards your big goal. The impossible can be accomplished gradually by taking on just a little at a time."
3. Take care of your health "You must be productive as a founder. You have to work to the best of your ability during the working hours, but you have to invest into your long-term wellbeing too.