x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

A firm promise to deliver

The Life: Mashaweer Errands does all the running for its clients in Dubai, aiming to get the goods from A to B within 90 minutes.

Hani El Sherbini, a co-founder of Mashaweer Errands, says "It's about deciding who does what, where and when." Antonie Robertson / The National
Hani El Sherbini, a co-founder of Mashaweer Errands, says "It's about deciding who does what, where and when." Antonie Robertson / The National

Need a pair of shoes changed but don't want the hassle of driving to the mall? Maybe you require an official document stamped but don't have time to do it yourself, or perhaps you're simply craving your favourite food and the restaurant doesn't deliver? The solution? Hire an errands service.

In a city like Dubai, famed for its low-cost service industry, there are many concierge services but most need to be booked in advance and are typically expensive.

What marks Mashaweer Errands out, says its co-founder, 45-year-old Hani El Sherbini, is both its low cost and the fact it aims to carry out requests within 90 minutes from the time the order is placed.

"Most concierge services charge per the hour," explains the businessman from Alexandria, Egypt. "But we charge per errand, which makes sense given the time it usually takes to accomplish a task here. We offer a number of differently priced packages for both individuals and businesses. "For example, some concierge services here will charge in the region of Dh100 per hour. We, on the other hand, can offer a package of 15 errands for just Dh570 and this is valid for 30 months." A one-off errand, such as an item being picked up from Discovery Gardens in Dubai and taken to the Sharjah border, would cost Dh68 regardless of the time it takes, adds Mr El Sherbini.

"We aim to deliver within 90 minutes whenever possible, but the price is the same regardless of whether it takes more time or not."

Having previously worked as a civil engineer in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Mr El Sherbini began trading in construction chemicals and building materials in 1996. He continued with this enterprise when he came to Dubai 10 years ago.

But in June last year he changed his line of business and set up Mashaweer Errands service along with his brother-in-law Ahmed Shabbara, after testing the water with a similar project in Florida.

Their aim is to undercut existing concierge services through efficient management of the business. "It's about deciding who does what, where and when," adds Mr El Sherbini. The company, which employs 13 full-time staff and has eight motorbikes and two vans to run errands, operates out of Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, but messengers will also travel further afield to deliver and collect items.

All of the employees are trained to think on their feet, says Mr El Sherbini, adding that while there are many lifestyle concierge services in Dubai he has yet to come across one that specialises only in errands. "Perhaps there are some, but I have yet to encounter them," he says.

With Mashaweer Errands service, customers book through the website and receive an estimation of the errand's cost - a system that works well for both individuals and companies, in particular SMEs.

"Our clients include event management, graphic design, PR, IT and engineering companies. We're also used by a lot of SMEs that typically need errands carried out on a regular basis, but want to keep the costs down," explains Mr El Sherbini. One Dubai-based SME that uses Mashaweer Errands is Sparklefairy.com - an online shop launched in 2001 that sells handcrafted jewellery made from crystals that reputedly have healing powers.

The owner Laila Lambert, a 33-year-old Briton who has lived in Dubai for the past nine years, employs the company to deliver the jewellery products purchased by customers online.

"We sell both online and at local arts and crafts fairs. I use Mashaweer whenever the customer requires the product in a hurry," she says. "In my case, the customer picks up the tab. However they're usually happy to do that because it's reasonable."

Ram Pillai, the managing director of Haran Communications - a chain of five mobile phone stores in Dubai set up three years ago - agrees. The 37-year-old Sri Lankan, who has lived in Britain and came to Dubai five years ago, says his company usually employs the errand service for stock circulation between stores or when they need visa documentation to be dropped at the airport.

"The service is cost-effective, reliable and fast in comparison to concierge services which have to be booked in advance and can take up to 48 hours at a time," he says. "Every task is documented by email so I know when it's been completed."

Given the success of Masaweer Errands so far, Mr El Sherbini is now planning to expand the business. In the coming weeks it will be operational in both Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and he's also considering other countries.

"I'm delighted at the response from here in the UAE," he says. "We may well expand to other parts of the region in the near future."