Doroob Navigator - In conversation with Founder Mohammad Abdel Haleem

MENACatalyst sat down with the Founder of Doroob Navigation, Mohammad Abdel Haleem to learn how this startup is disrupting the navigation industry in Palestine. 

What is Doroob Navigation?

I began working on Doroob in 2018 and launched the application in early 2019. Since then Doroob has become one if not the only crowdsourced navigation platform in the MENA region. The platform provides location-based services, and beyond that is built to address the needs of our daily lives. For example, registered users can update the map to share locations which comes in handy for deliveries, taxi services, as well as for fleet management and dispatching. 

We are a team of 11, now. Apart from myself, we have co-founders Ahmad Fatouh, Khaled Taha, and Ali Hama. Our team also includes a front and back-end engineer, an IOS developer, android developer, three GIS urban planning experts, a financial manager, a data analyst and an R&D specialist. 

How does it work?

First, Doroob is localized so we use the common names for roads and neighborhoods. For many Palestinians that only know the common (unofficial) names for their local streets, Doroob makes it that much easier for them to get around. Users can use the application to find their destination and take the safest and fastest routes to get there. 

With our free app you can add and update roads, locations and even landmarks to the maps. Users can also use the app to report road changes, maintenance, security risks, and even check points. Users can submit new information which we review and if everything checks out updates will then show up on our maps. 

Besides our free to use navigational app, we also provide a business edition of the app. This component allows registered business users to manage and streamline their delivery services. 

What are some difficulties you faced while starting up Doroob, and how did you resolve them?

One major problem was finding talent. I think it’s a common problem for most startups but with time we have brought together an exceptional team.

The second major issue was with the technology itself. We had to create the technology from scratch. Unfortunately, we couldn’t use a preexisting engine or SDK from google or any other map services, because the specs didn’t fit. But this has become one of our strengths, to have built our own technology that can be optimized to meet the growing needs of markets in Palestine, the MENA region and even the developing world. 

What would you say is the main problem your startup is addressing in its respective market and how did this inspire you to develop Doroob?

Doroob is providing people specifically in underdeveloped regions an alternative to the big players in the navigation industry. Most of these players are not interested in investing the time or efforts into creating accurate navigation systems for these areas. 

Big players, like google, are very messy, and don’t reflect the on the ground realities of what roads are like in underdeveloped regions. I believe this could apply to many cities all over the Middle East and North Africa. And most of the more popular navigation apps do not integrate other services. For example, you cannot order a taxi or confirm deliveries on google maps. So these are added features that distinguishes Doroob from its competitors. 

What is the future you envision for Doroob? And What are you doing to make it happen?

My goal is to see Doroob as the preferred location based service platform in the Middle East and North Africa. To date, we have signed over 35,000 users with a very limited campaign and we are focusing on collecting feedback to further streamline the app. But our main awareness strategy is through social media. At the moment we are getting ready to expand to Turkey and afterwards to the UAE. 

The success and scalability of Doroob depends on the technological features of the app itself. I believe we have reached a point where we created a technology with a competitive edge, and this is essential. Our team is always out on the field collecting data, creating the maps, and optimizing the technology.  

To date, what kind of impact has Doroob brought to Palestine? 

We are opening new jobs and creating opportunities for the youth of Palestine. Our team is expanding which is a good sign. People are also reaching out to us, sharing how our platform has made their lives so much easier, especially couriers in the delivery business. 

We are also working on delivery solution services to optimize the delivery service industry. And I believe that once we have fully developed this component of our platform, we will make it easier for many people to find extra work in their free time.

I believe that creating accurate maps in Palestine and potentially the greater MENA region is a game-changer. And based on our initial success we know that we can replicate this model anywhere, especially in developing regions around the world. 

What would you like to say to aspiring Palestinian entrepreneurs?

As Palestinians we need to be more aware of our capabilities and the untapped potential around us. Even though circumstances are not always ideal, local problems can be solved by tapping into local talent while creating business opportunities in the process. We don’t always need to rely on outside sources and campaign for international organizations to come in and solve our local problems. We need to look around us and start solving our own problems because every problem we solve is a major achievement for us as Palestinians. This is part of the entrepreneurial experience for me. 

What type of support would help you take Doroob to the next level?

We are always looking for new talent, and to get exposed to the latest innovations and technologies. Gaining exposure and raising awareness will help us gain the support we need to scale to new markets and make Doroob a major player in the navigation industry on a global scale.

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Written by
Leila Farraj
- Palestine
Leila Farraj is MENACatalyst’s Digital Content Strategist. Since the launch of MENACatalyst, Leila has been integral in developing and managing content that strategically reflects the overall mi... Leila Profile
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