It’s 7:40 a.m. Sunday, and you have 20 minutes to get from your home in Shaab to the office in Shuwaikh. As you rush to your car you try to guess if the 30 expressway or the Arabian Gulf Road is faster. If you have the latest traffic app in Kuwait, Wasalny, downloaded to your Android and iOS device, you can stop playing the daily guessing game and get to your destination as quickly as possible.
Wasalny is a mobile application that uses the GPS of mobile phones to find the average speed of a car. They crowdsource travel time and distance from users to identify congested areas, and where the roads are clear. More importantly, they rely on user reports.
“The core of the idea came from social media, the power of people,” said Wasalny CEO Salem Korayem. “The idea that if we share enough about our experiences other people will benefit from this.”
Korayem, a successful entrepreneur, joined the Wasalny project in 2011 when it was still in its first version and led the team to the finals of a rigorous business plan contest hosted by Google in the first half of 2012 in Egypt. By October of that year he had became CEO of the company, was working on the second version of the app and had secured a partnership with mobile network, Etisalat.
By mid 2013, Wasalny had built a trusted user base in Egypt, and were looking to expand. While all the GCC nations had the pull of strong buying power and high levels of technology use, Kuwait was the most forward-looking.
“The people here, they love to be progressive,” he told bazaar. “Not just in technology but even in their fashion sense and the way they live their lives. They love to experiment. As someone who is going into a market I have no experience in, I need users who are as willing to experiment as I am.”
Korayem and his team arrived in Kuwait in May and worked diligently to establish business partners that would help build a database his users could benefit from. He created strategic partnerships with fleet and taxi companies. They also approached the Kuwait government, and are working closely with them to gather as much data as possible.
For a crowdsourcing application like Wasalny, data is key, and the best way to get data is from the users. The app offers the opportunity of active participation through a report when drivers find congestion, roadworks or an accident on the road. They can be as detailed as the user likes, from a single push of a button to advise of a lag, or a complete incident description that includes pictures and detailed information. Alternatively, through the driving mode, data can be captured using the phone’s GPS and sent anonymously to the Wasalny system.
The third version of Wasalny was released in Kuwait December 11th of 2013, and is the first multinational version of the traffic app. Users can check for delays using the embedded map, their favorite routes or a list of major roads in Kuwait. However, for Korayem and his team, this is just the beginning.
“I want to create on-the-go social infotainment, and traffic is the starting point, because this is what people know right now,” he said. “Driving time is an untapped market and I feel like it’s an open field. Version three is just the first step in my road map of Wasalny. This is the start for new things.”
Until then, Kuwait drivers will be able to skirt around congested areas and take the fastest route to their destinations, by simply turning on an app.