AirWayBill: a startup that’s helping travelers earn money while they travel

Co-founded by Khaled Sehly, AlSharif Hazzaa AlAbdali and three other Europeans & Arabs last year, AirWayBill is a startup that offers cross-border shipping solutions to individuals by matching them with carriers. You may think of them as a crowd-sourced or peer-to-peer version of DHL or Fedex.

AirWayBill does it by matching shippers with travelers who have some extra space in their suitcase and are willing to carry and deliver an item. This creates a win-win situation for both the parties as shipper ends up paying less than they would’ve for a conventional a courier service and carrier gets to earn some extra money while travelling.

The startup that has raised undisclosed amount of investment in a seed round also offers an option on its app where users can request a particular thing and add a bounty they’re willing to pay for someone to buy it on their behalf and then ship it when they travel.

AirWayBill’s idea came from the frequent travelling of its co-founders as international business travelers. The founders noticed how there are a lot of people who are asking strangers to carry a document or a package for them at the airports and deliver it to someone in another country. The founders also saw how their friends and family used to seek help of their connections on social media to bring something from abroad. Apart from trying to solve the problem of moving things easily, they also wanted to help people earn extra money while they travel which they could probably spend on travelling more frequently esp. the students and professionals who don’t live in their home countries. And they knew that another group of global consumers– highly sophisticated trendsetters–would pay a sizable premium to get the next smartphone delivered to them before it hit stores in their home countries.

“The idea was conceived long ago during our years of professional experience since we heard “Anyone knows anyone traveling to?” With the need to send important documents or the need to get something from abroad. And after all the hearing we decided to listen to that and especially after all the great job that the people did. Who would have ever trusted to get in someone’s car or let someone sleep at his/her home. People showed us that going forward they are the real power in this world.” – said Khaled Sehly, Co-Founder & Managing Director of the startup; speaking to MENAbytes.

Creating a two-sided marketplace that needs users from all around the world to be successful is never easy. It comes with a lot of challenges.

“The amount of pre-launch research needed to succeed was the biggest challenge. Starting from choosing the best city to city corridors reaching the perfect business model to assure the highest level of personal, financial and informational safety and peace of mind for our great community members.” Sehly told us.

One of the biggest concerns when carrying things for someone is the adherence to regulations. AirWayBill addresses it by not allowing sealed products to be carried so the carrier has every right to open and inspect what’s inside.

The app currently has more than 50,000 users and most of them are perhaps from Saudi & Egypt or that’s how it looked like when we gave it a try. AirWayBill charges 10% of the value of item as a standard fee for people to courier items with $20 as minimum for items worth $200 or less. The transaction takes places within the app and carriers are paid through PayPal after completing the delivery. Company keeps 20% of the fee and transfers the rest to carrier.

“We passed 50,000 registered user in USA, India, Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia. Our users shipped the last month from/to Spain, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

AirWayBill takes pride in being a medium that has helped people in different situations ranging from delivering a hard-to-get medicine or a new laptop that’s perhaps too expensive back home.

“The most inspirational thing so far and will always be is our great community. Our great members happily helped each other and we are so proud being the connection who made that possible for them and making their life easier and happier. And for me personally having a Saudi Arabian girl who is traveling all around the world to be our first female Carrier, cheered me up. I found that we are not just beating the distance and bringing emotions, we are even empowering women.” Sehly told us talking about building a community within the app.

They have recently signed up a partnership with Careem which allows their carriers to avail a free ride for delivering them item in Egypt, Saudi & UAE. They’re also in the process of negotiating different partnerships with other potential partners in the region.

The startup may have faced a lot of challenges in its short journey until now but its future looks promising, given they continue growing the community and reach a level where they have a very high match-rate. Also, if they can somehow find a way to introduce a solution where they can have merchants from emerging economies on-board who could use AirWayBill’s community to ship their products to customers beyond their home countries. Many of them cannot afford the extremely expensive solutions offered by the traditional couriers.

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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