Of the pitches that I saw today in the TechZone at QITCOM, Qatar's IT-dedicated conference, one that stood out was Yahoo's forward-thinking new mobile event planning app, Battuta.
Named for the famous Moroccan explorer, the app works like a smart, mobile, social version of Time Out magazine; one part city guide, one part event planner, it offers a list of local events that can be personalized and shared over social media.
Its goals, as Yahoo! Maktoob Head of Project Management and Marketing Andy Abbar explained, are to digitize regional content, connect Arab youth in cities, and cross promote events while preserving Arab and Muslim culture, all of which make it a very timely app. With a big enough userbase, the app could provide a better, swifter solution than sharing on Facebook alone, a method that currently dominates event planning in the region, but is always clunky on the go.
Battuta focuses on three main functions:
1) Discovery brings users information about featured local events and highlight local landmarks, based on their GPS location.
2) Planning offers users a lists of events based on their preferred topics, that also includes weather, traffic, prayer time, and meetup information. Users can drag and drop events into a calendar that can be shared on Facebook.
3) Sharing allows users to share events via SMS, email, or social media or check in via Foursquare or Gowalla.
Abbar's pitch revealed that in the app's current vrsion, users can toggle between an app-store-like list view, that includes rated events, a map-localized view, and pages for individual events that include a photo gallery function. The app is developed for iPhone iPad, in English and Arabic, and will eventually be in French as well.
While the concept isn't revolutionary, it answers a clear need in the market. Whether it's a success or not will likely depend on its monetization plan and initial content that will entice a critical userbase.
Of the region's 80 million online users, of which 30% are using social media, according to Abbar, Battuta aims to capture customers aged 19-45, especially those living in cities, who have disposable income, are connected, and seeking infotainment content on-the-go. Of those who plan events online, 90% prefer mobile to web, based on research performed by Yahoo! Maktoob.
To get this demographic onboard, Yahoo! Maktoob plans to first seed the site with content from exclusive partners and sponsors, later enabling user-generated content. To generate revenue, it can include daily deals offers, offer premium posting slots, and post sponsored content.
The app, once it launches, will also provide a great opportunity for small businesses to promote their events or or local event promoters to go mobile without spending a lot on marketing.
Stay tuned for more on cool apps pitched at QITCOM.