Most Jordanians are familiar with an Abu Ahmad the electrician or Abu Ali the plumber who have been coming to their houses for years; most probably recommended to them by a relative or neighbor. Word of mouth is how most maintenance service providers in Jordan find work.The repair and maintenance services sector in Jordan is characterized by informality, weak linkages and inconsistent quality, which in turn limits the growth and opportunities available for micro and small enterprises (MSEs).
When Sari Hweitat was left stranded for hours on a rural highway when his car broke down without any way to get hold of someone who can repair the car, he realized a solution was needed. This is how the idea of “Aoun” - Jordan’s first on-demand, maintenance services application - was born. The app helps Jordanians and expats find local, skilled, home and building maintenance service providers who will cater to their needs.
Not only does Aoun (which means “help” or “assistance” in Arabic) provide a convenient solution for people looking for maintenance service providers, it also creates huge opportunities for the service providers themselves, who now have a large pool of potential customers to sell their services to.
Initially, Aoun ran into some challenges, one of which was finding enough maintenance service providers to register their services on the app. When Sari applied for a grant from the USAID Jordan Local Enterprise Support Project (LENS), his main motive was to fill that gap in the market. “We needed more service providers to join the platform. In addition, we needed to equip all of Aoun service providers with the skills they need to run their businesses and fulfill our brand promise which is quality service.” he explained.
The grant enabled the company to increase the number of MSEs in the Aoun network and build the capacity of business owners by focusing on customer service and market access, especially for women-led MSEs.
To achieve this, USAID LENS funded a training program for 300 service providers on customer service, as well as how to use and register their services on the Aoun app.
The grant also enabled Aoun to launch a marketing campaign to register more service providers on the app, through which they received 1,051 applications. As a result, Aoun increased the number of registered service providers from 170 to 400 in just five months, of which 54 are women.
Aoun is a great example of how technology can have a major impact on the livelihoods of MSEs in Jordan. Since the grant was awarded in March 2018, 80 service providers including 37 women have increased their revenues in a six-month period. The number of orders for maintenance services through the platform has nearly tripled, and the number of users on the application has also increased from 3,500 to 18,000 users in just six months.
With USAID LENS support, Aoun has achieved remarkable results for a recent startup. Up until the beginning of 2018, the company only had five employees, and now they have hired an additional five full-time employees.
The company also introduced an outsourcing business to business (B2B) service. Recently, it was contracted by three international companies based in Jordan that rely on Aoun’s technicians to do their maintenance services throughout the year.
"Aoun restored the trust between customers and service providers; they don’t even mind if the prices we offer are higher than before because they know we will deliver quality service and will be available whenever they need us.” Explained Motasem, a registered member on Aoun.