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New app helps motorists maintain their cars, find garages

By Muath Freij - Jan 26,2014 - Last updated at Jan 26,2014

AMMAN — The lack of details to help motorists find the right garage to repair their vehicles encouraged three Jordanians to create a free mobile application that offers information on auto maintenance.

Abeer Omar, one of the three developers of the app, said she once wanted to have her car repaired, so she went to the dealer of its brand in the Kingdom.

“After I had my car repaired, my friends told me that I could’ve fixed it at a much lower cost if I had gone to another garage in Amman. I was really dismayed when I heard that,” Omar told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.

This incident and similar ones inspired Omar and two others to launch the Markabaty (my vehicle) application.

She said issues like the most appropriate, most affordable and nearest garage are what matter to people when they want to have their car fixed.

“So we decided to design the application to help motorists. We submitted it to ArabNet [a hub for digital professionals and entrepreneurs to connect and learn], which was held in Lebanon in 2013 and our app idea won recognition,” she noted.

Omar said Markabaty was officially activated last November.

Firas Sahawneh, her colleague, said they used two ways to compile the need information.

“We organised field trips to collect the data about garages, while others registered online,” he added.

When the owner of an auto repair shop registers online with the app, he chooses his specialisation, location and name.

“Around 30 per cent of the garages in Jordan are now registered online,” Sahawneh added.

Around 4,128 workshops have registered with Markabaty, according to Omar, who said there are around 6,000 auto repair shops located in the Kingdom.

“This figure is based on information in the Yellow Pages and statistics provided by the Ministry of Industry and Trade,” Sahawneh said.

Omar noted that auto repair shops can register in the application for free, but if they want to appear in the top list of the search or want to display offers, they have to pay a specific amount of money.

The application shows the location of the garage and enables users to comment about its service and rate it as well, according to Sahawneh.

It also shows the shop’s working hours and its current status, so the user knows whether it is open or not, he added.

In addition, Markabaty includes a troubleshooting feature, which enables a motorist to find out what is wrong with the car before resorting to a mechanic.

“This helps the user... ask the right questions because some mechanics claim that a car has many problems to make more money,” Omar said.

The application, which is available in English and Arabic, contains a map that shows the location of the shops, Sahawneh noted.

It also includes an interactive map that helps the user detect areas that witness traffic jams, closures or accidents.

“This feature was very popular during the snowstorm that hit the Kingdom last year,” Omar said, adding that when anyone downloads the application, he/she has to create an account to use it.

“Users also have to register their make of car, because the search is operated in accordance with the type of the vehicle.”

Sahawneh noted that a great number of cars manufactured between 1990 and 2005 were registered in the application.

When they first started, the developers of Markabaty said they found it very difficult to obtain funds to operate the app, because most potential financiers did not show an interest in their project.

“When we won an award, we received $25,000 to operate the application,” Omar said.

Sahawneh charged that most investors are reluctant to support new ideas.

“They only support copycat projects,” he claimed.

Omar said they now plan to target the Saudi Arabian market.

“There is a great demand for car accessories and modifications in Saudi Arabia, and drivers pay a lot of money for that.”

She added that they are also thinking of adding new features to enable users to register an appointment or pay online.

Omar said users welcomed Markabaty, and some of them sent them suggestions to improve the app.

Lama Hadadeen, who downloaded the application, said it was just what the Jordanian market needed.

“I heard about the application via social media. It has many useful features; for example, it alerts me when my car needs gas.”

Abdul Hameed Ayoub, another user, said Markabaty helped him when he had to get his car fixed during December’s snowstorm.

Around 4,000 people downloaded the first version of the application, according to Omar.

“Promotions were limited in the beginning, but we hope that this number will increase in the coming days.”

The application is only available for Android users at present, but work is under way to create a version for Apple iOS users soon, according to Sahawneh.

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