After struggling to obtain paperwork to get his daughter’s birth legally registered, a Syrian refugee has created a peer-to-peer mobile app that enables people in the Middle East to send letters and documents faster and cheaper than by conventional courier or post.
Although initially targeting fellow members of the Syrian diaspora in nearby countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Shiffer is gaining more widespread traction, with 1,000 customers already using the service and the company’s app available on both Android and iOS.
Shiffer is currently operating as a non-profit entity, with messengers and customers agreeing on a price and arranging payment between themselves. Once the new iteration of the app is complete in October 2019, it will have payment capabilities, a confirmation system, user profiles and peer-to-peer reviews. It will process all transactions and be available in multiple languages. So far, 350 couriers and 650 document senders have used the app.
Syria’s civil war forced Almadani to flee his home city of Hama in 2012. He eventually settled in Irbil, where he co-founded Shiffer after his daughter Julia was born in the Iraqi city in 2016. With no Syrian consulate in Iraqi Kurdistan, he had to send various documents to Baghdad, Damascus and Hama to legally register her birth. This proces took several weeks and which cost about $220, about one-third of Almadani’s monthly salary as a project engineer.
However, once payment is introduced, prices will be set by Shiffer according to various variables including speed of delivery, complexity in delivering the package to the end user and distance traveled.
In brief, sending documents via Shiffer costs less than half the price of a conventional courier service, which in the long run will no doubt make traditional courier companies rethinking their models in the Middle East.