Sun, 05 April 2020
Alharith Alatawi, co-founder and Chief Operations Officer at Skiplino, tells Behnaz Sanjana how the company has abolished the tediousness of waiting in line and become relevant in the current global scenario.
“We spend six months of our lives just waiting in line,” says Alharith. In an era where time is money and social distancing is the need of the hour, Skiplino is the virtual waitlist that can book your spot at utility centres, banks and hospitals even before you get there.
From being a stock trading and hedge funds man in Montreal, Canada (from where he also graduated in Finance), and then head honcho at a Saudi investment firm, he gave it all up because: “I always knew technology was the future.” With his partners, Zaman AH Zaman and Ricardo Gaspar, he launched a startup studio, Level Z. “We invested in the resources – engineers, designers – the whole factory line needed to build startups, to eventually build prototypes, test them in the market and further build on the successful ones. Skiplino was our very first startup, in 2016.”
To execute the idea of a queue management system was tougher than the entrepreneurs thought. “We needed to know how long a person would take to get to the branch, take road traffic into consideration, calculate how many people are already at the branch, the working speed of service agents individually and collectively, in order to develop a smart algorithm that can call your number when you show up, eliminating the need for you to wait for your turn,” explains Alharith. “This led to building analytical tools to help managers take better operational decisions. Today the app itself is a small part of our comprehensive cloud-based queue management system that is being used by 5,000 companies globally and in Bahrain by government entities, STC Bahrain and Al Salam bank, among others. Also, our system costs a fraction of what traditional queue systems would cost.”
Skiplino was in the global limelight when Forbes awarded it for being the most innovative company in the Middle East in 2017, and put it on the list of most innovative companies in 2018. “Winning the Shaikh Salem Al Ali Al Sabah award in Kuwait was another proud moment in 2017. We were also amongst ‘the top 20 startups to watch’ at Amsterdam’s Next Web festival in 2016,” says Alharith. “Some of our global clients are big names like Delta Airlines, our biggest client, DHL, Harvard University and George Washington University. So we are proud to be based in Bahrain, serving clients on a global level.”
Skiplino is making a relevant difference in light of the current global circumstances. “As a solution facilitating contactless queuing, our system has been in great demand. Currently, we are providing our queue systems for free at government agencies and medical centres that request it in Bahrain and around the GCC. We have also recently launched ‘virtual branch’ for online medical consultations. We want to play as big a role as possible to help combat the Coronavirus.
Alharith, who is also a passionate musician, says the partners feel very blessed to do what they love. “We live and breathe our work. Even when we meet after work hours, we’re still discussing work ideas for fun. We never switch off,” he says. “Building something from scratch with more than 95 per cent of our team being Bahraini, and getting positive feedback for the difference that we have made in people’s lives is tremendously rewarding.”