Tech & Communications

Niche app markets and the potential for growth

by  — 14 October 2013

The burgeoning app market is a significant opportunity for developers, with Apple paying out USD5 billion (QAR18.2 billion) to its developers in 2012. One company looking to make of the most of this growth is Dubai based start-up Hajjnet, which is focussed on delivering apps aimed at Muslim markets.

Around four million pilgrims performed the Hajj last year, and as many are expected this year. In time for the Hajj season, Hajjnet has launched its latest app HajjSalam, an app that guides Muslims through the rituals of the pilgrimage. (Image Corbis)

One of its most recent apps, UmrahSalam is a guide for Muslims visiting Mecca for the Umrah (a religious pilgrimage). The Edge spoke with CEO and founder of Hajjnet, Ali Dabaja.

Where did the idea for UmrahSalam come from?

Up until starting Hajjnet I worked in banking and investment. The germinating event was when I was visiting a Hajji (a person that has completed the Hajj pilgrimage – similar to the Umrah) after his return from Hajj the second year in a row we started to discuss his challenges, experiences. The more we studied the business opportunity, the more compelling it became. We could see from the beginning that Hajj and Umrah pilgrims’ need for information and support was incredible.
As of September 2013, UmrahSalam is in the top 10 in the Travel category in five countries and in the top 100 in 20 countries. Things really started to pick up when Apple put us on the iTunes app home page in the New and Noteworthy section in seven stores.

Are you working on localising the app?

Arabic is of course the priority, and we are in the process of localising now. Localisation for Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia and France will follow.

There are also plans for a Hajj app, how far away is that from being completed?

Yes, we have just completed HajjSalam for Hajj and submitted it to Apple. It is available on the app store in time for this year’s Hajj season. One of the things we made great effort for was design both in terms of aesthetics as well as intuitiveness and ease of use. We even had a photographer who was going on Umrah take around 1000 photos of specific things from the angle and vantage point of the user so that the environment would look familiar, and he or she could focus on the spiritual aspects.

Are there plans for an Android version or even a non-smartphone version?

Yes, we are working on an Android version but no plans for a non-smartphone version.

Do you have plans to charge for the app in the future? Or are you looking for other ways to monetise it?

We may charge for our apps in the future but our key concern today is being valuable to our users. Yes, we have other plans to monetise including in-app purchases of additional content and features.

Is the religious app market an area you want to grow in, what potential do you see for growth in these areas?

Our apps are just a component of the Hajjnet experience as we plan to roll out a suite of web features as well. Almost all of them will either complement our apps or be integrated with them. We see tremendous potential in our space, as about a quarter of the world’s population are Muslims and each one of us must perform Hajj if physically and financially able. The growth of smartphones, Internet and social media as well as rapid development in our major markets only supports our business case.

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