Two Companies to Advance Sustainability in the UAE Founded by MI Student
Current Masdar Institute PhD student and Class of 2014 MSc in Electrical Power Engineering graduate Abdullah Alshimmari’s talent for recognizing unmet market needs has resulted in his establishment of two companies focused on smart systems automation and food that aim to advance sustainability and wellbeing in the UAE.
In 2016 Alshimmari founded AMS Technology and Internet Services Ltd., a smart systems, web design and digital marketing company based out of Masdar City, and he will be opening a healthy organic food restaurant and café called Healthaholic within the next two months in Abu Dhabi on Muroor Road. While the entrepreneurial ventures are in two diverse sectors, at their core they share a focus on food and technology to cultivate a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle for UAE residents and businesses.
AMS Technology and Internet Services Ltd.’s current focal product is a web application called foodAte. The app offers the basic online restaurant ordering service, where customers can easily order food from restaurants using the foodAte platform, plus some additional unique functions.
One function helps reduce restaurant food waste by collecting and analyzing data on the amount and type of food being stocked/prepared and ordered by individual restaurants.
“That information is then used to form recommendations for the restaurant to reduce its food waste while increasing its sales. For instance, if a restaurant sees that it is only selling 10-15 of the 30 orders of soup it prepares a day, it can reduce its stock of prepared soup, and thus reduce its wastage. Conversely it may see that customers are ordering more than it had been preparing for, so it can better stock its kitchens and reduce last-minute preparations,” he explained.
It is estimated that nearly 3.27 million tons of food worth more than USD3.54 billion is wasted in the UAE every year. This wasted food represents not only wasted money, but is also a sustainability issue, as, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food loss and waste accounts for about 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions.
A second unique foodAte function allows users to track the delivery drivers who are delivering their food, which Alshimmari says give it a competitive edge in the food ordering app market.
“Some other food delivery apps can provide real-time tracking of the delivery driver’s location on a map only if the delivery driver is provided by them. However, foodAte is the only one which is able to track the orders regardless of who the driver is. This will give customers an incentive to use foodAte over other apps. And the more customers that use foodAte, means the more information we can gather to improve restauranteurs’ food conservation efforts,” Alshimmari added.
The UAE national is also working closely with leading commercial airliners to incorporate a similar smart food ordering system into their operations to reduce food wastage of in-flight meals. The system will allow airline passengers to order their meals in advance, which can reduce the airline’s food wastage significantly while increasing customer satisfaction.
“Currently airlines tend to stock large amounts of their various meal options, to make sure they have enough for everyone and there are always extras that go to waste. With my system, airlines can ask their passengers to review their menu options and select their choice when booking their flight. Then the correct amount of meals can be stocked. This can reduce the cost of wasted food, as well as the fuel cost of transporting the unnecessary meals,” he explained.
The smart ordering system would also be helpful in rapidly analyzing and evaluating customer meal preferences on certain flights, which would help the airline better align its options to customer preferences for improved customer experience.
“For example, if the system is seeing that a certain flight doesn’t have a large uptake of the fish option, then the airline can replace it with something that the customers prefer more,” Alshimmari added.
Alshimmari was inspired to develop AMS Technology and Internet Services after seeing the need for greater automation and smart systems in the UAE’s current market to make lives easier and to bolster local businesses.
“Take foodAte as an example – it was developed to bridge several gaps in the online ordering systems in addition to providing a valuable service with the lowest service charge as we introduce automation in several processes,” he explained.
Alshimmari’s keen eye on meeting market gaps also resulted in his development of Healthaholic, which also touches on his interest in food, health and sustainability.
“I developed Healthaholic in response to the need for a restaurant in our community that serves healthy and tasty food while integrating sustainability in its operations. The theme of Healthaholic is ‘healthy for the body and healthy for the environment,” Alshimmari explained.
The result is a restaurant that uses organic ingredients to meet the needs of health-conscious consumers, while utilizing recycled materials in its own functions and products. The FAO says that organic agriculture is more sustainable in the long-term because it protects soil and water resources from contamination by pesticides, has a lower energy demand, promotes biodiversity, and prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms.
The organic and sustainable restaurant idea won financial support from the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development, which invests in small and medium enterprises that meet certain innovation criteria and are founded by UAE nationals.
The serial entrepreneur said two MI courses – Management and Entrepreneurship for Engineers and Technology Strategy – helped him shape and pursue his business ideas.
Another opportunity that further inspired his entrepreneurial interests was an internship at Chiyoda Corporation in Yokohama, Japan. During his internship, which was organized as part of the collaborative Masdar Institute-Japan International Cooperation Center’s (JICE) annual internship program, Alshimmari learned about different international markets, with a focus on sustainable energy contracting.
“Although the focus of my internship at Chiyoda Corporation was not directly related to my startups, the exposure to international markets was a valuable experience and it encouraged me to shift my focus from the local market to the global one,” he remarked.
Alshimmari’s success is an excellent example of MI’s efforts to nurture innovation and entrepreneurship among its students with the goal of supporting local industry and the regional economy. Small- and medium-sized enterprises account for 60% of the UAE’s non-oil economy and 90% of business overall, which signifies their importance to the UAE’s prosperity.
Alshimmari also credits his success to an innate drive to make the most out of each day, as well as his tremendously supportive team.
“Knowing the value of the 24 hours I enjoy each day, and being able to manage this time wisely, has been the key to being able to accomplish my studies and businesses concurrently. The other thing is to have the right team; I would never have been able to handle all the work without them.”
As Alshimmari’s companies grow towards his aim, he will directly support the UAE’s economy and national development goals. The serial entrepreneur expects to see both of his companies grow in size and scope over the next five years.
AMS Technology and Internet Services Ltd. and Healthaholic are two of several companies established by alumni, faculty, and Young Future Energy Leaders program graduates, which are being highlighted as part of Masdar Institute’s ten year anniversary campaign to show the impact the Institute has had on the UAE and wider world since it was established in 2007.
Zarina Khan, Senior Editor and Erica Solomon, News and Features Writer
06 April 2017