I tend to think of smartphones as a way to avoid communication. Sometimes it’s easier to hail a ride through an app than talk to a dispatcher. Or order from an online menu than speak with a harried restaurant manager. That’s why a news item about an app that’s taken off like gangbusters in Saudi Arabia caught my attention. Mrsool recreates the souk environment by letting users bargain hunt.
The way it works is that the user places his or her order, and then couriers bid on delivery. According to the Denver Post article, Mrsool is outpacing Uber and Facebook in its market. The app is not replacing traditional communication but building it into a new medium.
It’s clever, and it shows that while some startups have international reach, local startups have a unique advantage because they understand the culture of their market in a way some guy in Silicon Valley can’t.
Bargain hunting is an integral part of Middle Eastern culture. Some visiting Westerners take to it with relish, while others (me!) avoid it like the plague. While intellectually I understand that when I first approach the souk stall the price has not yet been set, I still feel like I’m cheating someone when the price is adjusted downwards.
I would not be a customer for Mrsool, but I bet there are a lot of Israelis who would be. Might thawing US-Israel relations mean a Tel Aviv rollout for Mrsool?
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org