The constant struggle to make ends meet has become more apparent in recent years. Current global financial circumstances make student life even more of a struggle for families supporting youths who do not have much to begin with in terms of cash flow.
However, it is often said from scarcity, creativity and improvisation are born. In the case of Mariam Al Mansouri and Abeer Farouki, both 19-year-old students at the American University of Sharjah, this could not be truer.
The girls are both second year business management students and both live in the AUS campus dorms located in the relatively remote area of Sharjah University City.
Yet, it is unfortunate for these two that most youths hang out and socialise in Dubai's vast shopping centres; so, as one might gather, transportation becomes a serious issue.
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"A taxi fair to Dubai Mall and back could easily cost us between Dh150 and Dh200 and that's without eating or going to the cinema," said Mariam. "As students we don't have an income as we are on a small budget from our parents, so we don't like to waste money on expenses we can avoid," said Abeer. For this reason the two friends devised a business idea to start a student carpooling website called www.pickmeup.ae and entered it into the inaugural ‘Business for Better Competition' last month. The girls' idea was shortlisted as one of 15 selected from an initial 32 university team entries and won them the position of first runner up; bagging each a Dh20,000 scholarship towards their tuition fees. The competition was hosted by Western Union and Al Ansari Exchange.
The proposed carpooling website is not yet a reality as Mariam and Abeer are still looking for investors to inject the initial start up capital of approximately Dh60,000. However, the pair intends to develop their start-up upon graduation if they fail to find adequate investment beforehand.
Their idea is based on the concept that for a monthly membership fee of Dh25, students would log into the website and request a ride. Subsequently student car owners would register their carpooling services at their convenience.
"It's essentially an online tool for students who want to share rides together to get in touch and fit in a schedule that is convenient for them," said Mariam.