This week we celebrate the spirit of entrepreneurship and each day we will highlight a different homegrown company, because SMEs are on the front line and the first to be hit by any economic changes.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of Dubai’s economy, representing 95% of all establishments in the Emirate. These SME businesses account for 42% of the workforce and contribute around 40% to the total value add generated in Dubai’s economy.
We hope our features will inspire you to #golocal and support small businesses. Do get in touch if you are a homegrown company with a sustainable edge and we will add you to our directory.
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Q&A with co-founder Saoud Khoory
Yours is a fantastic success story of literally a backyard idea growing into a successful business, can you tell us how it all started?
We were three Emirati partners, Fahad Hareb, Ali Madani and myself: when we bought our first electric bikes from Australia, as a hobby. After a few rides together we decided to try and build one that’s faster and better. The picture shows our first built bike we called franken bike because it looked like Frankenstein’s bike but it actually hit speeds above 80km per hour and was just as fast as our Australian bike.
We then started to research and decided to see how we can build our own. After trialling several different versions, we ended up with one we like best and called it ‘Saluki’. Our first prototype we built was the Liwa which and the first piece was bought by HHS Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan followed by many other Sheikhs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
We worked for 2 years, just in a garage, to figure out all the details about how e-bikes work including supply chain models and logistics then opened our own showroom in Al Quoz. Today, we are proud to say we established a UAE built company serving many happy Saluki and E-bike owners. The Saluki has 2 main brands, the Liwa (named after the Liwa desert) and is made for the desert and the Hatta (named after the Hatta mountains) and is perfect for mountainous terrain.
It’s a great name, can you explain why you chose it?
The SALUKI is a very popular dog in the UAE. It is known for being a hunting dog, very fast and silent and doesn’t need much maintenance. It is one of the most agile dogs which can handle many terrains. It seemed like the perfect name for our bikes, its traits are exactly the same as those of our bikes.
E-bikes and scooters etc are not only taking Dubai by storm but the whole world with 2 US based companies reaching unicorn status, what do you see as the future of E-bikes?
Our dream is to manufacture bikes in the UAE and have our own production firm. We are now designing the bikes, buying parts and assembling them here. We are also working on some tech platforms to connect owners and provide a better service. We are not looking at becoming a ride share company but we will be supplying it to them and servicing if needed.
You use the same technology as Tesla, can you explain how it works, i.e. battery power, how long does it last, how do you recharge and where etc?
I wouldn’t call it the same technology but some of our bikes use the same battery cells which are the Panasonic cells used by tesla and most e vehicles. These batteries can have, approximately, up to 5 years lifetime with charging every 3 months (this can of course vary on usage), with the Liwa bike you can travel up to distances of 80kms. To recharge is as simple as plugging straight in to the wall like a regular laptop charger.
Would you call yourselves a disruptive business?
Disruptive in the sense that we are working on pushing the limit of micro mobility. We see many people transitioning to sustainable and convenient transportation that are very affordable and that is our aim to offer people a simple way of going from point A to B.
Picture: H.H. Sheikh Mansoor with his Saluki e-bike
Do you think we will be ditching our cars and deleting our Uber apps anytime soon?
I’ve already ditched my car for short distances below 30 km and use either a scooter, e-bike or electric motorbike. It costs zero fuel, zero maintenance and is good for the environment. I also own a tesla for long distance travel so I guess it’s no longer a traditional car that people will own but more sustainable.
What are the restrictions, i.e. do I need a licence, need any special equipment, where can I ride the bikes and scooters etc?
For scooter and e-bikes there is no need for a license other than the normal safety measures like your helmets. There are many bicycle paths that you can ride across the UAE. For the electric motorbike you will need a motorbike license to drive on the road.
Could electric ‘ridables’ be the future of transportation?
100% its already taking over faster than ever. But I also believe there will always be a market for the regular vehicles for quite some time but not as much.
Do you see a sharing style aspect a possibility a bit like ‘Kiwi ride’?
No that is not our business model. We sell direct to businesses and consumers. Ride share is another business completely and I don’t see it working in the long run in the region due to weather and population density.
What are your future plans to grow the business, I understand you are already working with the police and the RTA?
Growing the business further in the region, expanding service centers and potentially expanding in the region and distributing our bikes internationally. We have many government clients including the police, security companies, and others. We also have a large consumer base. We also sold to Saudi, Oman and some bikes to Moscow and Kazakhstan.
Many businesses are facing substantial challenges due to the pandemic, how has it affected your business?
The pandemic has actually positively impacted our business as we are not exposed to any banks and are self dependant. Demand grew as we noticed people not wanting to ride in taxis, or ride share cars due to mixing with others. So, the best alternative way of transport is to use e-mobility which is very affordable.
Can you tell me about the sustainable elements of e-bikes?
The electric bike has zero emissions and no maintenance required. It also has no noise pollution where you could simply ride in the desert around wildlife without harming or even annoying them with noise. They could be used to train horses in the royal stables or even drive on the beach.
Can you tell me your Eid plans?
We are open for business online for orders and we are working with some bloggers to try out our new bikes.
What other sustainable practices do you include in your daily life?
Stay healthy, eat clean, exercise and most importantly drive clean 😎.
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