AMMAN — When his car broke down in the middle of the road between Jerash and Amman, it took Sari Hweitat over eight hours to find a towing service to take him back to the capital.

He did not know anyone in the area and had no way to reach a service provider from where he was.

"I realised how crazy it was that, in 2016, we still did not have a source to reach a plumber, a towing company or any other day to day services in Jordan," Hweitat told The Jordan Times in a recent interview, adding "this is when I came up with the idea of Aoun, a mobile application that would facilitate people's access to utility services."

Gap in the utility services market

The young entrepreneur said that, more than an app, Aoun is an operating model that has social responsibility at its core.

"It was not about creating yet another app on the market, but more about catering to the needs of citizens, while helping create a change in technical workers' lives," Hweitat explained, noting that Aoun currently has 400 technicians working around the clock in Amman, Zarqa and Irbid.

Intuitive and easy to use, the application offers a portal where citizens can upload pictures and explanations of the technical problem they face or the service they require, whether in cleaning, electronics, plumbing or else.

"People do not always know whom to contact when they need a certain service, and the word of mouth does not necessarily ensure that the person you have been recommended will be of quality and professional," Hweitat remarked, stating that Aoun uses a strict rating system that monitors the technicians' skills, ethics, professionalism and experience.

"It is not only safer for both sides, as the app keeps track of the worker and the customer's details, it is also cheaper as people can choose the best price from the offers made by technicians online," the app founder continued.

Regaining dignity through work

"Before I started working with Aoun, I was making less than JD3 per month, as it was winter and I am specialised in AC installation," remembered Mohammed, a technician working with Aoun, adding "now, I make over JD800 per month, which allowed me to get back on my feet and I am now planning to get engaged."

The young man is among the many workers who benefttied from this app by securing a regular and stable income compared to the inconsistency of freelancing.

"What can be hard for individual workers is their lack of advertisement capacity, the fact that if they don’t have the right connections, they can barely expand their customer base," Hweitat stressed, noting that Aoun helps by marketing technicians' services and giving them a broader outreach to the market.

With over 18,000 users registered on the app, Aoun is growing exponentially and is triggering the interest of even more workers. In February, Hweitat recalled, over 275 workers were trained to be part of Aoun, while the August waiting list counts over 1,000 technicians.

"Obviously, we are not hiring all of them as we have a thorough filtration system that helps us ensure that workers are up to the standard and in accordance with our values," the entrepreneur explained, adding that the startup is also trying to focus on the inclusion of women in the labour market, and on the people from low income backgrounds "who nonetheless have the skills necessary to perform such jobs".

Aoun recently hired a social impact manager to monitor and expand the social impact of the startup, Hweitat noted, saying "we are growing very fast because this is a service that was highly needed both by citizens and workers. We have been approached by many NGOs and companies who are interested in partnering with us to fight unemployment and promote decent work opportunities in Jordan."

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