By Alexander Southworth, Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).
Exploring Tech in Iraq: ‘Sandoog – solving Iraq’s logistics nightmare by digital innovation’
There is a revolution happening in Iraq but not like the country has seen before. This revolution is based on advances in technology that are transforming the digital landscape of the country. The changes occurring are widespread across society, business and politics and are being driven by a new generation of young entrepreneurs revolutionising daily life for Iraqis.
With one of the most youthful demographics in the world, high unemployment rates and few avenues towards traditional jobs, there exists a growing movement of Tech innovators and a growing start-up ecology that is providing increasing opportunities for young Iraqis to break the mould, is contributing towards solving Iraq’s problems and is slowly revolutionising the way Iraqis use tech.
In the IBBC’s Tech Series: Exploring Tech in Iraq, we speak to some of the innovators and founders of tech organisations making a difference in Iraq.
One such organisation, Sandoog, is aiming to solve local logistical issues using an e-logistics solution that allows merchants to send, track and manage their deliveries, invoices and customer base anywhere in Iraq. This is all done through systems and processes that they are developing themselves as a management team.
Since starting in late 2017, they have developed a merchant application, the ‘Sandoog Center’, a driver dispatch application ‘Sandoog Mandoob’, an internal CRM system ‘Sandoog Spider’ and finally a commercial application for express delivery, which has yet to launch onto the market. They also provide storage and inventory management services for efficient transactions and delivery on behalf of merchants.
We spoke to one of the founders, Mustafa Al Obaidi, to find out more about Sandoog’s operating model, how it can help Iraqi businesses, the inspiration behind the founding of the organisation and any advice he has to aspiring tech entrepreneurs.
“Tech, when accessible, can reduce chaotic processes – Tech can connect people, it can provide order, structure, clarity, efficiency and, potentially, a path out of a seemingly never-ending state of survivalism” – Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog
The inspiration behind founding Sandoog was born out of keen sense of market opportunity where Mustafa believes there exists a substantial gap in the market to exploit. Logistics being the backbone to trade and growth of an economy – and in a country with much potential, coming out of decades of war and sanctions, Iraq’s commercial sector still relies on archaic, manual processes that connect business to each other and to their customers ineffectively.
Mustafa and the co-founder of Sandoog, Ahmed Malik, realised that the time was right to “introduce alternative processes for merchants and consumers alike, with Tech being a key facilitator for this”.
So, how does Sandoog actually help merchants with their logistics problems? Sandoog’s operating model supports consumers and companies at various levels. At the core level, they have introduced documentation, invoicing and order verification features in their merchant system ’Sandoog Center’ to allow merchants to easily find their invoices in one place, keep track of their finances, and get notified on the whereabouts of their shipments. This has been, and still is, largely done over the phone and through manual receipts in Iraq.
Needless to say, many merchants are welcoming of the Sandoog approach – However, Iraqis still largely rely on the economy of ‘trust’ where word is bounding, so the Sandoog process is needing traction through marketing and education for adoption to take place.
For consumers, Sandoog provides SMS order verification, which also provides a web link where they can choose their delivery date and time, whist also selecting their location through an interactive map.
Mustafa explained that the benefit extends further than this, by crucially creating local employment opportunities as the organisation expands its activities across the country. Sandoog is constantly growing its teams – from warehouse management and delivery drivers to sales agents and marketing personal. In Baghdad for example, anyone who meets the necessary requirements for their order delivery service can be registered to become a delivery driver for Sandoog and are able to use the Sandoog Mandoob app to deliver goods around the city.
“Sandoog is constantly growing its teams – From warehouse management and delivery drivers to sales agents and marketing personal” Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog
The road has not always been smooth, with Iraq’s archaic business and logistics climate, the Sandoog founders have faced considerable barriers to growth. Mustafa explained that changing the perspective of merchants and consumers away from traditional ways of working has been an ongoing obstacle. The Tech infrastructure might be ready available on Sandoog’s platforms but convincing consumers to adopt their solutions and processes over deep-set cultural practices will take time.
Mustafa also had some sound advice for international companies considering investing in Iraq:
“Iraq is a huge market for any industry with the same needs as other countries around the world. Take the risk and enter – Support local startups who are localising global tech solution. They know how to navigate around the country.” – Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog
Through considerable difficulty, Mustafa and Ahmed have shown that founding a Tech company, which aids growth of the domestic market as well providing jobs, is possible and successful in Iraq. Once consumers and merchants are more familiar with using digital platforms, the use of technology to grow other sectors of the economy and become incorporated into every day life could happen rapidly. Tech can provide a shortcut to the many infrastructural problems Iraq faces by making the most of an increasingly inter-connected world to find alternative solutions to logistical problems the country faces. For more information on Sandoog, visit: www.sandoog.net.
IBBC is holding a Tech Conference in Iraq in early 2019, where we aim to bring together the key innovators transforming the digital landscape in the country, explore solutions to better governance and industry reforms using technology and give a platform to young Iraqi entrepreneurs breaking the mould. For more information, and to get involved, please email: London@webuildiraq.org