Founded in 2016 by Shafiq Khartabil and Karim Kouatly, who previously operated restaurants (and joined by a former banker Karim Beyhum in 2019), Ogram is an online marketplace that connects on-demand vetted gig workers with temporary (mostly part-time) job opportunities in different sectors (mainly F&B, hospitality, ecommerce, and logistics).
“We founded the company on the premise of solving a pain point that we often faced in the hospitality sector: inflexible and costly staffing solutions that were not suitable for on-demand business requirements,” said startup's co-founder and CEO Shafiq Khartabil in a statement.
Some of the jobs listed on its platform include baristas, bartenders, waiters, drivers, runners, retail staff, cleaners, and drivers.
The platform allows businesses to book employees through its website or mobile app, whenever they need them (even if they're needed for the same day). In addition to booking engine, the website and app also come with automated clock-in/clock-out timesheets and direct staff payment through individual online wallets.
For workers, the startup offers flexibility, allowing them to set their own schedules and rates. It matches them with potential employers on the basis of these details and their skill-set. The workers receive the payments as soon as the client pays. Ogram's website and app also allow them to chat directly with the client/employer.
In the United Arab Emirates, the residents (i.e. those who are sponsored by a primary employer, spouse, or parent) can apply for temporary work permits to take up part-time work for multiple employers. This is the workforce Ogram has been helping connect with employers. After the outbreak of Covid-19, the permit can now be obtained using the mobile app of Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization.
Ogram claims to have served over 450 businesses and individual clients in the United Arab Emirates since its inception. It says that it has over 1,050 active service providers placing over 2,000 jobs per month.
The startup makes money by charging companies a commission on top of the hourly rate provided by the service providers.
Shafiq Khartabil, the co-founder and CEO of Ogram in a conversation with MENAbytes revealed that they've re-allocated the hospitality supply of workers (which was apparently a large part of their business before Covid-19) to sectors that have seen an increase in demand of their services due to the pandemic, “We embraced shifting consumer demand early on and strategically adjusted our efforts to funnel the growing workforce available into sectors that are seeing demand during this period, such as grocery retail and e-commerce.”
“Covid has allowed us to open up into new sectors that have higher volume requirements and has expanded our service provider base with new candidates seeking flexible employment options,” he added.
Noor Sweid, General Partner at Global Ventures, said, “We are thrilled to partner with Ogram as they pioneer the regional flexible work economy. The current pandemic is challenging existing employment structures and we believe that embracing flexible work and upskilling the workforce to adopt multiple jobs will be the future of work in the region.”
Speaking about their expansion plans, Shafiq said that they're looking at both regional and global expansion (eventually), “The gig economy is the future of work – we really believe that multiple jobs will be the norm for future generations and we are excited to be one of the first movers in the region in this nascent space.”
The statement by Ogram noted that in 2018 the global gig economy generated $204 billion in gross volume and is expected to reach a gross volume of $455 billion by 2021, “The gig economy presents a compelling alternative to full-time staff, allowing employers to efficiently manage their manpower needs through seasonal business cycles while enabling freelancers to control their work schedule and income. Ogram endeavors to be the first UAE player to provide a digital platform that is focused on the on-site workforce.”
Sabbar, a similar Saudi marketplace that connects on-demand part-time workers with temporary job opportunities had raised $1.5 million in a seed round.
With businesses all around the world looking for options around flexible work arrangements, it is a great time for platforms like Ogram and Sabbar to shine (even when the primary sectors that they operate in have been hit hard).