Mohammed Kazim, a co-founder of Allinque, talks about how his company is changing its business model to expand. Allinque provides personal assistants to busy executives. We last spoke to the 29-year-old Emirati in August 2011, when he was setting up the business with three other Emirati partners.
How has Allinque evolved since it started in January 2011?
At first, it was open to members. Now, it is open to all and people can avail of the services on a monthly or an hourly basis. Our target customer is still the same: 25 to 40-year-old busy professionals. We also introduced a flexible fee plan a few months ago. Now people can subscribe for a fixed number of hours a month: three, 10, 20 or 40 hours for prices ranging from Dh350 (US$95) to Dh3,350. The other option we call one-offs is where people can hire our services hourly starting at Dh150 an hour.
We are also focusing on a full rebranding exercise. Earlier, people did not understand what we offered and for that reason our growth was slow this past year. But now we are looking at a more user-friendly website. Late this year or early next year, we will look into franchising. We have received inquiries from the Arabian Gulf, Hong Kong and Germany.
How has your customer base grown?
We have around 400 base subscribers and a quarter subscribe to the Dh3,500 a month package. We hope to double the number of subscribers this year. We drew up a list of 100 potential clients during our test phase from October 2010.
How much competition do you face?
We do not have any direct competition. Even one of our clients tried to imitate the model, but I do not think it is going anywhere.
Are you seeing any changes in the kind of services that Allinque's personal assistants are hired for?
We have got more efficient in visa and passport renewals and visa applications for foreign countries and so I think we see more of that. But we also get to do quirky stuff.
A month ago, I personally went out to look for a rusty, yellow school bus that someone asked us to get hold of to host a dinner. I found one in a Sharjah scrapyard. Another time, a guy wanted a car gift-wrapped for his wife.
We also do a lot of hotel, restaurant and even barber reservations.
Allinque entered the reality TV show The Entrepreneur and lost in the finals. Why did you enter and what now after you did not win the Dh1 million in prize money?
We were looking for the funds and also to get the word out. But losing out has not changed our plans. We got private investors and we expect to invest around half a million dirhams in the company this year.