Personal assistance for hire

The Life: A new personal assistant service aimed at young professionals has launched in Dubai, making hiring help more affordable.
From left, Ahmed Al Ashram, Faisal Lufti and Mohammed Kazim, the co-founders of Allinque. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
From left, Ahmed Al Ashram, Faisal Lufti and Mohammed Kazim, the co-founders of Allinque. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Many executives dream of having a personal assistant to schedule appointments and carry out other tasks. Yet the majority have not been able to afford one.

A Dubai business is hoping to change that by offering executives the chance to hire professional help for as little as Dh695 (US$189.25) a month. Allinque, which was started by four Emiratis in the 20s, targets young professionals who struggle to find the time to do everything. They came up with the idea when they were holidaying in India.

"We are all full-time employees," says Faisal Lutfi, one of the founders. "We had this common denominator: that we didn't have time to do anything. We couldn't believe that we got [to travel to India] with all of us free at the same time. We just thought, how could we create time?"

They all agreed a personal assistant (PA) service was the answer. Allinque, which employs a team of seven, including four personal assistants, has been operating since the start of the year and so far has managed to complete every task it has been set. Most requests are related to restaurant and holiday bookings, but some are more unique. "We have also done things as extraordinary as finding a lost Dh30,000 watch," says Mohammed Kazim, a fellow founder.

"What happened was this person had lost his watch and he remembered four days later and he called in and said that he had just remembered that he lost it four days ago and these are the places I went to."

A personal assistant from Allinque retraced the owner's steps and found the watch in a prayer room. "Because our scope is so wide we have found it kind of difficult to define exactly what we can do because we can pretty much do anything as long as it is ethical and legal," says Mr Kazim.

Having a personal assistant can help give people more clout when it comes to improving customer service elsewhere. "Sometimes you go to a hotel and you don't like their service and you want to write an email to complain, so your PA will do that on your behalf," says Mr Lutfi.

The concierge sector has taken off in recent years, and a number of companies are operating in the Emirates, including Quintessentially in Abu Dhabi. Allinque may seem like a classic concierge service, but there are some differences, the founders claim.

For starters, concierge companies tend to focus on events and getting tickets to hard-to-get-into concerts or shows. "They more or less position themselves as a high-end service, so it's something for an executive or somebody who can afford it," says Mr Kazim. "We focus more on the young professional who doesn't have time to do these things. That's the difference."

Mr Kazim concedes many of the services they offer are similar to those available from concierge companies, but he notes that Allinque's focus is on "getting the work done", as opposed to just securing events tickets or restaurant reservations. Customers have to sign up to a monthly package, but Allinque is considering offering its services on a task-by-task basis. Membership levels range from bronze to gold and cost between Dh695 and Dh1,895 a month for 10 to 40 hours of a personal assistant's time.

Tasks are assigned by either phoning the call centre or sending an email. Confidentiality is assured to protect clients' identities.

Published: August 16, 2011 04:00 AM


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