Dubai: Ahmad Al Zarooni is a man who has a finger on the pulse of the community – quite literally.
The Emirati entrepreneur, who has been drawn to all things tech since his childhood and has been leveraging it in day-to-day life, has developed a slew of apps – 12 with seven more in the pipeline - that cater to the everyday requirements of residents.
The apps cover a wide range of functions from praying and parking to carrying different cards and connecting with family and friends. And no, users don’t need to purchase the apps as they all come for free.
It’s Al Zarooni’s way of giving back to society.
“I firmly believe in the philosophy of giving — the more you give, the more you receive. I am inspired by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, who always motivates us to be the No.1 in whatever we do.”
Free of ads
Al Zarooni said each of the apps he has developed has been for good reason. “I feel very strongly about advertisements that keep popping up in apps, especially those that are for religious purposes. It’s just not proper. So I wanted to develop apps that are free of commercials.”
One of his first apps, which is only in Arabic, is called Sahih Azakr and covers the entire gamut of Islamic prayers. Highly popular in the Arab community, it has over one million downloads.
Similarly, Quran Azim, which carries translations of the Quranic verses in 28 languages, is also much sought after.
“They are simple, straightforward and user-friendly,” said Al Zarooni, adding that another app in this genre, called Al Albani, highlights authentic religious texts.
Besides the need to do away with ads, Al Zarooni said he also felt compelled to create platforms that would bring related but fragmented public services or facilities together.
A big hit has been the CardsConnect app which allows users to have all their loyalty cards on one platform. “You no longer have to worry about forgetting your cards when you go out.
"From Vox Cinemas to Ikea, over 70 retailer loyalty cards are available on the app. When you register, you have the option of scanning the code of your card or typing in the number. A specific code is generated and all you have to do is show it to the retailer to redeem your points.”
Another in-demand app is the “first-of-its-kind” LinkConnects which supports more than 60 global social media networks, enabling a user to list all their social media with just one link. Instead of them having to share their various network accounts one by one, they can simply use the LinkConnects account.
The app allows five account types, including governmental accounts, commercial accounts, App accounts, candidate accounts and individual accounts. “Around 50,000 people are using this platform right now,” said Al Zarooni.
Addressing the need for newsfeeds, Al Zarooni put together all news disseminating platforms on a single app called NewsConnects. Besides providing a summary of the news from various media, the app also gives a link to these platforms, so readers can directly go them to get their news.
In much the same way, he has also developed an exclusive app for registered charities that accept donations through SMS.
Called Donations SMS, the app hosts 28 charities in all. “The reason I wanted an all-in-one app was that one had to hunt for them on different platforms. So I did my research and picked the government-approved charities and listed them with their SMS codes.”
With necessity being the mother of invention, Al Zarooni also came up with a family app for his large family (Al Zarooni), with another version (LIQA) that can be used by any other family or group.
“The Al Zaroonis are considered one of the largest in the UAE. But we are scattered across the seven emirates, with each of us having different mindsets, experiences and dispositions. A WhatsApp group that we had earlier was getting a bit out of hand, so I decided to do something about it.
"I created an app that could accommodate the diverse needs of our family: an articles page for those who wanted to post news, articles, views etc; an events page that lists relevant events; a hangout section where family members could make plans and get together; an announcement section where births, deaths, illnesses, marriages etc could be declared; an informal classifieds section where family members could list what they wanted to buy or sell; a gallery for photos; a section for family businesses; a live chat segment; a family tree and so on.”
The massive success of the app encouraged Al Zarooni to launch another app called LIQA which can be downloaded by the public for free. “It is extremely useful and I urge people to make the most of it,” he added.
For Al Zarooni, the solution to any problem lies in creating a new app. And that perhaps explains how another app, called the Happiness Club, came about. This app is for his group employees who stay connected, get intimated about special offers, events, prizes etc.
Another app Al Haya (Arabic only) focuses on the fundamentals of life, giving users tips on everything from maintaining a high level of activity and breathing right to developing good interpersonal skills and enjoying healthy relationships. It also gives regular reminders on when to drink water, take medicine or go for a walk.
With seven more innovative apps on the way, all of which are advertisement-free and are personally financed, Al Zarooni said, “I thank the authorities for their support and will strive to continue working with them to develop this field which contributes positively to our community. I encourage the community to share these apps and provide feedback.”
Handy Dozen: List of Ahmad Al Zarooni’s free apps for daily tasks
- Donations SMS
- Al Zarooni
- Happiness Club
- Sahih Azakr
- Quran Azim
- Al Albani
- Al Haya