BEIRUT: When Marwan Mrad started his roadside assistance business AlloDoulab.com (“Hello tire”) a year ago, he had no idea he would get the kind of positive response he has seen – until he realized his company was likely the only one of its kind in Lebanon.
“I had this idea for a long time. When I was working as a mechanic, my workload got heavy, and I wanted to do something more,” he says. “Lebanon is a service country, and I wanted to give people a service.”
In his more than 12 years of repairing cars for a living, Mrad found that most people don’t have the expertise or the time to take care of their vehicles. He also noticed that few people would stop on the side of the road to help a stranger change a tire or jump start a car.
The lifelong mechanic, who continues to work with his hands, runs a 24-hour car repair operation from a 600-square-meter garage near Beirut’s Cola bridge.
From the small garage, which is easy to miss for a first-time visitor, his 11 repairmen are dispatched to any area between the Nahr al-Kalb river and Damour, 20 kilometers north and south of the capital respectively.
Most roadside repairs are for fixing flat tires, hence the Doulab in the company’s name. Other common repairs include oil and battery changes.
The roadside service costs a flat rate of $10, and customers will then usually come into the workshop in Cola to get more substantial repair work done. Allo Doulab averages 150 such clients per month.
A new subscription service which started a couple of months ago charges between $150 and $180 per year, depending on the model of the car, and includes unlimited roadside assistance, and checkups every 50 days. The company so far has 35 subscribers.
Mrad expects the subscription service to grow rapidly by word of mouth, just as the roadside repair operation has. As he says this, the mechanic and entrepreneur proudly holds up a thick book of receipts.
His dream is to open a 2,000 square meter “hospital for cars” with everything in one place – including accessories, spare parts and a coffee shop for customers waiting on their cars.
Mrad also says he’s hoping to open a branch in another location, perhaps Jal al-Dib or Antelias. And of course, he wants to expand his service to cover the entire country. With some parts of Lebanon having a risky reputation, he says he would have employees doing repairs in their respective areas of origin.
All of this, he says, would require the money of an interested investor. For now, Mrad is keeping busy.