The business of home maintenance and repairs in Saudi Arabia is an archaic morass. The current system is utterly unorganized and a task as simple as finding a reliable plumber or carpenter can prove to be a huge hassle for even the most determined of homeowners.
When I was a teenager in the city of Dhahran, my father used to ask me to go down to Dammam’s busy ‘1st Street’ to find a handyman, negotiate a low price, and only pay after the job was completed to ensure that the work is done properly. Almost 10 years –and countless technological revolutions later- I still go to the same street to get a handyman.
Eyad AlShabaan, a computer scientist based in Dhahran, is trying to change the way Saudi homeowners find service providers for simple repairs and maintenance jobs. He’s currently developing a mobile application called Swipe-A-Service, which helps users find reliable service providers based on your geo-location, allowing users to rate and review each service provider.
Previously, Saudi homeowners were left to negotiate payment, completion time and material costs, now the app aims to take care of the whole transaction.
The growing number of young Saudis that are moving to concentrated urban centers for jobs and educational opportunities only makes the current system more unreliable; more people, more homes, more traffic, more mess. The business of home services in Saudi Arabia is ripe for disruption, and Swipe-A-Service might just be the solution.
There are some positive developments in Saudi Arabia that will only boost such a service. Saudi Arabia has an impressive smartphone penetration rate of 54%, higher than both the United States and South Korea – home to some of the leading smartphone manufacturers.
I spoke with AlShabaan recently about Swipe-A-Service and the role he thinks it could play in improving daily life in Saudi Arabia. He discusses the market for Khaleeji app developers, how to build trust between strangers, especially when using location-based mobile apps, and how he thinks the application could be tailored to meet the same need across the region.
Check out the short interview in the video above.