Sci & Tech

Dashroad Targets Middle East

Dashroad Targets Middle EastDashroad Targets Middle East

It’s a platform and a FitBit for cars, this is how entrepreneur Faheem Gill introduced his product.

The first large customer in the Persian Gulf of Dashroad, which was launched in February last year, is Careem—a ride-sharing service based in the UAE.

A plug-and-play device that resembles a small black matchbox, Dashroad is connected to the vehicle and clients use the company’s app to access data on the car’s performance, Wamda reported.

Gill’s invention was born six years ago, after 15 years working for Honda and Toyota in the US.

“I realized that I can benefit from my experience in this industry and create an added value to vehicles,” he said.

His goal was to match his engineering experience with opportunities in the UAE, “where the government wants to be the first builders of technology and they are ready to invest in any modern technology”.

Gill bootstrapped until he joined Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi, which offered him services, office space and mentorship, and is seeking $300,000 to expand his sales team and further develop the product.

  Money Saver

Gill is initially marketing the device as a money saver, either through lower insurance premiums or when users come to sell their vehicles.

“In August 2015, the UAE government announced that insurance companies can lower their prices, if they have the right knowledge about your behavior when driving,” he said.

The data collected could help owners sell their cars, by providing up-to-date and accurate stats about the car and keeping maintenance costs lower by informing users early of maintenance issues.

Instead of paying $50 to be told your oxygen sensors are out of service, for instance, you can just have them replaced directly.

The Dashroad app is available on both Android and iOS, and the device is available for $180, with a special discount of up to a $100 for those who order it early.

Aside from private users, Gill is targeting a fleet management and insurance companies that want to offer their clients Dashroad for free. He is already servicing two companies, whose names he declined to disclose.

Dashroad is also offering a Takaful insurance option, where policyholders pay into a pool to guarantee each other against loss or damage.

“Our connected car solution for Takaful Insurance is entering the $16 billion market where we will showcase a community-based platform to share insights on driving with users,” the startup said on its site.

  Not All Challenges Are About Money

Along with funding challenges, legal obstacles delayed the launch of Dashroad.

“In the beginning, they told me it was easy and possible, but it was much more complicated, and I needed months to overcome governmental regulations,” Gill said.

“The key is in partnering with a local entity. If you’re designing hardware, you’re going to [need] a local company, or you can avoid this by selling your [product] online.”

Gill’s approach, however, was not flexible, as he did not launch a minimum viable product to sell on Amazon.

“Being taken seriously by other companies and convincing them to work with a B2B startup was another challenge, as was hiring a technically competent team,” he said.

Now that Dashroad is ready to enter the market, Gill’s first goal is to attract as many new adopters as possible.

Longer term, the goal is to launch a more diverse array of apps offering more services.

Gill wants to expand in the Persian Gulf, with other littoral states on the forefront of his mind, but bureaucratic issues need to be addressed first.

Financial Tribune contacted the tech entrepreneur to see if he is interested in bringing his product to the Iranian market, the largest in the Persian Gulf, but he was unable to respond by the time of going to print.

The rise of Dashroad reflects an increasing interest in vehicle tracking devices that improve vehicle performance.  

This also means more competition, something Gill is acutely aware of. With competitors in the US such as Automatic and and Vinli, these competitors might—and in Vinli’s case do—have their eye on the MENA market, where local competitors Samtech and MixTelematics are already making waves in the market.