Monjid: an Uber for breakdown assistance

The roads in Sudan’s capital Khartoum are teeming with traffic. Cars, honking loudly and veering around potholes, inch their way forward. If your car breaks down here, you’re stuck. At least you were until last autumn, when Hashim Eltoum (23) started a breakdown assistance service called Monjid under the Dutch Orange Corners programme. Since then, he’s already helped out some 900 motorists.

Stranded for hours

Hashim’s father is a maintenance engineer for several different factories. Whenever his car broke down, production would grind to a halt – sometimes for hours. This gave Hashim the idea to start a mobile breakdown assistance service. Something that, until then, was unheard of in Sudan.

Youngest Orange Corners entrepreneur

Hashim saw an advertisement on Facebook for the Dutch embassy’s first Orange Corners programme in Khartoum. ‘They were looking for new entrepreneurs and I was selected,’ he said. ‘I was the youngest in the group and I had the least experience. I learned everything in six months; from writing a business plan to marketing and bookkeeping.’ Another participant put him in touch with a supplier in China, who wanted to invest in the company by providing toolboxes.

An Uber for breakdown assistance

Hashim called his company Monjid, which means ‘he who helps’. Monjid offers two types of assistance. Four ‘Max Monjid’ motorcycles provide emergency roadside assistance. People whose requests are less urgent, for instance changing a tyre or jump-starting a car with a dead battery, can ask for a mobile mechanic via the call centre or the app. So far, 105 mechanics have signed up with Monjid. So it’s a bit like Uber for breakdown assistance.

The embassy opens doors

Participants in the Orange Corners programme are assigned a mentor they can talk to about their business. Hashim’s mentor was project manager Mutaz Mohammed. ‘The business model that Hashim has developed meets a big need and provides work for trained mechanics,’ Mutaz said. ‘Everyone he talks to about his business falls in love with it. But the embassy’s involvement is vital, too. Their support opens doors that would otherwise remain shut. Thanks to this, four of the biggest companies in Sudan have agreed to invest in our startups. In Monjid’s case, the investor is a big oil company.’

Creating jobs

One of the mobile mechanics is a woman. A month ago she called Monjid for assistance but by the time the mechanic came she’d already fixed her car herself. This prompted Hashim to invite her to join his team. ‘I don’t just want to help motorists, I also hope to create jobs for a lot of people.’

Orange Corners has exceeded his expectations and fuelled his ambitions. He explained: ‘The company’s not only paying me, but 100 other employees as well. I want to contribute to Sudan’s economic development. Shortly, we’ll be starting a collaboration with the vocational school in Khartoum. And we’re taking new steps to expand our services via the app. My dream is to turn Khartoum into Sudan’s Silicon Valley.’

Proud father

Monjid officially started operations last August. By November it had already provided assistance to 900 motorists. He’s even checked the oil level of a car at the Dutch embassy once. And what about his father? ‘My dad’s really proud that I’ve started a successful company. But he hasn’t used our services yet,’ said Hashim. ‘Not because his car never breaks down, but because he doesn’t live in Khartoum. When we expand our coverage area, I’m sure the call will come.’

Founder Hashim Eltoum