RAQIB is the first IoT product we built when we launched our Startup in 2017. The initial target market was Senior Citizens. However, we pivoted (or expanded) our customer segment to cater to people going for their Hajj.
Target Hajj Market
Based on our market research, we saw Hajj market is very suitable for Raqib as per the following reasons:
- More than 2.3 Million perform Hajj per year (about 30,000 pilgrims are from Malaysia)
- Different languages and cultures make communication very difficult during an emergency.
- Many pilgrims went missing because of the crowded nature and unfamiliar with foreign places.
- People can easily fall sick or faint due to heat and dust. The need to call help immediately is a challenge.
- Constant care and monitoring are required to have peace of mind when performing Hajj, especially when traveling with a spouse that is elderly.
- The hajj peak period is between 5-6 days with crowded people in small areas. Thus, it’s a challenge to find a missing person, especially almost all wearing similar robes and clothes.
- When staying at Mina, the tents are very similar, and thus finding a way home can be a significant challenge.
- Crowded places include Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Tawaf at Kaaba.
Challenges of Building an IoT Solution (Raqib) for Hajj
We noticed that pivoting to a different market segment is not as straightforward as expected. The challenges are:
- Device – What are the main parameters that we should monitor? Is it health vital signs or safety (tracking locations)? For some, measuring the blood pressure level is more important, whereas others want to know the whereabouts of their spouse.
- Network and Roaming – The model we offered only supports 2G networks and voice capability. Not many M2M sim cards provided by telcos have the roaming capability, and the cost can be high too due to the data roaming charges. Since we are bundling Raqib only for simple monitoring, we only limit data usage for wearable purposes and not for web browsing (users can detach the sim card and misuse it for other purposes). Enabling the right APNs of the device for different network operators in Saudi is also a challenge.
- Trial Period – Since Hajj is seasonal (once a year), we must find a way to trial at the Hajj site itself. The first option, we gave the device to our partners and customers who are performing their Umrah. We received a lot of issues during this trial, but we overcame it when we offered to our Saudi partner and our Malaysian trial customers to test during the 2018 Hajj. I also have personally tested Raqib during my Umrah in early 2019.
- User Behavior – It is also one of the biggest challenges because a user must always wear the Raqib watch to work as expected. If a person leaves the Raqib watch at their hotel, then the data on the Raqib app will not be accurate or consistent. The device must also be robust enough to withstand water during wudhu or bath. The user needs to charge the battery consistently, which is very challenging when the source of power is scarce in places like Arafat and Mina.
- Go-to-Market Strategy – Who will buy or subscribe to Raqib? Do we sell this to the Hajj authorities, or should we sell this to Hajj Travel Agencies? Or should we sell directly to the end-users? What’s the business model? It’s pretty challenging to sell as a CAPEX-based model because the Raqib requires sim cards, and the data need to be activated. Since this is a Hajj solution and it only happens once a year, what happens when a user returns home – do they want to continue using them. Or should it be a rental model for the travel agents – they can re-use the device for another group of Umrah pilgrims. Unfortunately, this rental doesn’t work because of the tedious logistics process – collecting the devices, cleaning them, and managing the stocks.
- Going Beyond Malaysian Market – For Raqib to be successful, it must capture a global market because the Hajj market is small and seasonal. However, to do this, we need to test the roaming capability of the sim cards – and we have done it successfully in Saudi Arabia, India, Maldives, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Thailand.
This article is the first part of our Raqib journey. The experience that we have learned from building such a solution is priceless. We must always be prepared to overcome the technical challenges and go-to-market strategy.
Have you encountered any IoT solutions similar to Raqib? Please leave your comments below.