Young Saudis are flocking to work for food delivery apps as the sector experiences a boom sparked by lockdowns to curb the coronavirus crisis.
Attracted by the chance to earn extra cash, interact with others and help their communities, the number of Saudis working with delivery services has rocketed by 286 per cent since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said.
Waleed Al Oatibi is one such delivery driver. He joined the ranks two months ago, working long hours and regularly missing meals, but he says he is enjoying the new challenge.
"Being a delivery driver definitely was appealing to me, especially now in the wake of the coronavirus," he told The National. "Interacting with people from restaurants, interacting with the customers that you get a chance to meet and of course, making money."
Since the end of March, Saudi Arabia has had a nightly curfew and for several stretches, entire cities and regions have been told to stay home 24-hours a day. The measure, along with closing shops, mosques and halting Umrah pilgrimages, is to try and slow the spread of the coronavirus. The kingdom now has more than 62,500 confirmed cases, 339 deaths and 33,400 recoveries.
Instead of sitting around during the long hours of lockdown – now every day between 5pm and 3am – the 29-year-old is relishing the opportunity to leave the house.
“The delivery business is what’s keeping me going,” Mr Al Oatibi said.
Private sector employee Naseer Al Bugami, 32, signed up to work for a popular local food delivery service after he was asked to stay home by his company because of the pandemic. His friends encouraged him to apply for a home delivery job to maximise his income.
“The work has been fun for me so far, filling my time and rather a great improvement in income. I advise any young Saudis to do this and not sit home doing nothing,” Mr Al Bugami said as he delivered orders from his car.
The Saudi CITC has been working to assist delivery applications to develop and expand service to the whole kingdom.
So far, it has doubled the number of registered companies and orders made online are up 54 per cent.
In addition, Hadaf, the Saudi Human Resources Development Fund, has launched an initiative to support Saudi nationals working in the delivery sector by offering a monthly salary of up to SAR3,000 (Dh2,934).
“The last months have witnessed a remarkable increase in the number of applicants to work either with us or with other home delivery companies or apps, I am sure this will reflect on our business and will increase the capacity of our services,” said Abdulghani Al Shareef, co-founder of the Tammat food delivery app.
He pointed out that there are positive aspects in this crisis, such as cancelling cash payments and adopting electronic means instead, that he hopes will continue in the future.
He also hopes to keep providing the opportunity for Saudi youth to experience the delivery in addition to providing them with an appropriate source of income and flexible working time as a permanent or temporary job.