Imagine you’re a recent immigrant from Egypt. You want to find a good Arab doctor or lawyer or contractor in your area — or perhaps just a place to eat dinner that will remind you of home. Where do you look?
There are two obvious answers at the moment — one being other members of your Arab community (word-of-month) and the other being the internet. Both have some limitations, though. Who do you ask if you are not part of a like-minded immigrant community? And on the internet at large you will likely be left sifting through thousands of things you don’t want before landing on a viable option.
AJ Faraj wants to make answering the question Where do I look? easy. Soon, he hopes, the obvious answer will be ArabLinc.
ArabLinc, not to be confused with ArabLink (“A subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank”), is an app-based directory for Arabic services and events in the U.S.
The app launched just three weeks ago, and has already seen “hundreds” of downloads, Faraj told Technical.ly. Around 75 percent of the downloads, he said, are from people of Arab descent, the other 25 percent or so coming from people who are just interested in Arab food or culture.
Faraj told Technical.ly that the DMV region made sense as a place to launch ArabLinc, which is a product of Alexandria-based EA3 Solutions, because of the high concentration of international and multicultural residents. However, with time, he sees ArabLinc expanding broadly around the U.S. and even to Europe and the Middle East.
But wait, you say, why wouldn’t the first port of call for any service inquiry be directory-giant Yelp?
“For some reason, when it comes to these communities, not a lot of people go to Yelp,” Faraj said. He doesn’t know exactly why this is, but has a couple hypotheses.
First, Yelp doesn’t always do a good job of tagging entries, he said. Search for Arabic restaurants on Yelp, he argued, and the results will vary into other cuisine as well. Technical.ly did find this to be the case in a quick test, however, top results for “Arabic restaurants” in Washington, D.C. on Yelp were broadly similar to the same search on ArabLinc. A Yelp search for “Arabic doctors,” however, yielded more falafel and shawarma. Plus one for ArabLinc.
Second, Yelp has a language barrier. While the service has 15 official languages, Arabic is not one of them. ArabLinc offers the option to search in Arabic, which could make navigating the results easier or more comfortable for some users.
It makes sense, of course, that ArabLinc can closely tailor its offerings to the needs of the Arab community in the U.S., because that is the app’s primary market. It’s one of the benefits of having a niche market — you don’t have to make everyone happy.
But you do have to constantly provide value for your niche market. And that’s the work ahead for ArabLinc.
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