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Let's Go For A Ride! Qatar-Centric Q-Cab Hopes To Quell Transport Inconveniences Q-Cab's three founders, Tariq A. Awadallah, Nasser A. Hatbeen Al-Yafei, and Ali S. Muthanna Al Yafei, have all felt the heat in Doha... no pun intended.

By Kareem Chehayeb

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You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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Q-Cab's three founders, Tariq A. Awadallah, Nasser A. Hatbeen Al-Yafei, and Ali S. Muthanna Al Yafei, have all felt the heat in Doha... no pun intended. It's certainly a pain to wait outside in the heat for a cab, and it's very annoying for cab drivers to do the same. The trio was able to get their startup funded and supported by Qatar Business Incubation Center (QBIC). After receiving a generous QR100,000 to push their startup forward, "we went through a lot of market research," says Awadallah, who explained how the team went through app alternatives to make sure that they include features that would benefit their target audience the most. It's like Uber in a way, where Q-Cab takes "20% off each trip recorded in our platform."

A BETA version of the app was officially released in late October, "to check the functionality of the app and to have the customers' feedback." That was a smart move by the co-founders, as they were able to "fix some bugs and improve the app's performance," and even tweaked some of the features based on customer feedback. Awadallah mentions that they changed menu options and added a feature for saving favorite locations. Have the customers been satisfied thus far? So far so good, with the startup taking constructive criticism into consideration. The trio has also been talking with drivers to see how the experience has been on their end. Smart.

Q-Cab co-founder, Tariq Awadallah.

Unfortunately for Q-Cab, in a world where the market can be reluctant to change, they still have a few obstacles they need to overcome. Having initially designed the app for taxis, they struggled to convince taxi companies to get on board. While Awadallah struggled with the inefficiency of the existing companies and having to talk to various management levels, the biggest problem was that "they obviously had a lack of awareness about the benefits of the app." He also mentions that "the local market still is considerably small and young comparing to other markets," contrasting it to Qatar's GCC neighbor, the UAE, which he thinks harbors the best entrepreneurial ecosystem in the MENA region. That said, they've partnered up with limousine companies for the time being. At the moment, they're currently teaming up with the Al-Mahdani Group's transportation department. That said, those in Qatar who want to make their taxi experience a burden-free, fear not; Q-Cab still want to partner up with taxi companies, it'll just take some time.

The Q-Cab team is also working hard on the marketing front as well, focusing on their main demographic, "tourists, visitors and new arrivals to Qatar." Makes sense, as more people are moving to Qatar with their families, they could certainly use their services. "Currently we are focusing on marketing through social media," says Awadallah, who also announced that Q-Cab will have a competition for users to win a free ride voucher worth QR50. Also, expect them networking at your nearest startup event. You'll find them most active on Facebook and Twitter where "most of their followers are active." He also sees both social media platforms as solid tools to create high levels of user engagement. You might also see Q-Cab as a startup event transportation sponsor, so be sure to give them a shot.

What's next for Q-Cab? The app is currently available only on Android platforms, but Awadallah assures us that he wants to bring iPhone users into the mix too. Any talks about expansion? "At this stage we are focusing on local market until we have a sufficient market share that allows
to expand in the GCC and MENA regions."

Despite the limitations for their service in Qatar's budding entrepreneurial ecosystem, Awadallah is positive about it. "I have joined QBIC in the first wave, where I have learned about entrepreneurship for the first time," says the co-founder. "Since then, incubation and entrepreneurship have expanded dramatically," citing that QBIC is on its fourth wave of supporting startups. Even though he is excited about Qatar's prospects, he's focusing on Q-Cab for the time being, but hasn't ruled out new entrepreneurial endeavors in the future.

With all the challenges Q-Cab is currently facing, Awadallah offers advice of persistence and perseverance for aspiring entrepreneurs: "I advise them not to let the discouraging environment and people around to stop them following their dreams or to let it go." There are clearly a few obstacles that the trio and their three other team members will face, but they seem more determined than ever to overcome them.

Kareem Chehayeb

Former Columnist & Online Liaison, Entrepreneur Middle East

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