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GulfNews Technology

Homegrown Dubai membership apps make experiencing luxury easy and affordable

Retail|Technology|: Dubai: Don’t feel like signing up to be a member of any one gym? Then ‘subscribe’ to many… and at rates lower than a single gym membership.  Subscription apps now offer that choice to UAE residents, allowing them to pick and choose among a large list of leisure and entertainment options. The X by OJ Lifestyle is the latest to join the band of apps, which also includes Privilee, Classpass and Entertainer.  See More Photos: Landmarks illuminated for Berlin's Festival of Lights Musical interlude: London stage creeps back to life UAE: Artist depicts Emirati women’s history in digital exhibit Look: Taiwan craftsmen creates miniature worlds And these apps are tapping into a changing mindset among residents - rather than be tied down to any one beach club, gym or salon, they prefer to be ‘free agents’. So they pay a flat fee via the app and enjoy the perks from varying providers.  Privilee, for example, is one such membership app. Members who sign up get unlimited day passes to a number of Dubai's beach, pool and gym venues each day of the week. “We’ve seen consistent growth over the past five years - we started off with eight hotels and a handful of members in Dubai,” said Lars Johannesen CEO and Founder of Privilee. Today, the app allows access to over 60 luxury resorts, 31 beaches and over 1,000 fitness classes across the emirates.  Not sticking to one “Over the past few months and with most people staying in the UAE due to the pandemic, we noticed that members are exploring a larger variety of venues, rather than sticking to the same spots,” said Johannesen. Of course, if all the listed venues can promise the same level of safety assurance in precautions taken against COVID-19. “I am generally not someone who likes to sign up for any memberships,” said Sarah Mahmoud, a Dubai resident. “However, when the pandemic prevented summer travel, I signed up to Privilee for Dh1,500. My kids and i went to different five-star hotels four times a week.” Subtle differences Although these membership and subscription apps may seem to have a lot in common on the surface, it’s a fact that no two services are exactly the same. And the ongoing downturn is impacting them differently. While some have focused on acquiring new subscribers through incentives such as discounted membership rates, like Privilee did during the quiet summer months, others focused on retaining them by providing additional services, as Entertainer did by adding more emphasis on delivery options. Then there was the one who ventured into the space now despite the unpredictable circumstances. Omar Jackson, the app's founder, who launched the “X” by OJ Lifestyle, is going in a different direction. “A lot of membership platforms in the UAE are mostly there to offer discounts or special packages, but we are not tied to those criteria,” he said. “We have fewer brands - but our focus is a higher-end consumer.”  The rationale is that someone who can afford to utilise the brands that the X app partners with shouldn’t have an issue affording the Dh699 a year membership. “We want to make sure that we capture the right clientele,” Jackson said. “We market the brands that we consider high quality in terms of service, reputation, and we will focus on generating revenue and awareness for them rather than diluting them across the competition.” The app promises members access to “offers and experiences”, including events at the Coca Cola Arena and to The Box gym. No one formula fits all The gyms are back in action, but with strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocols. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News Like Privilee, Classpass is another one of those “get more for less” apps, but with a focus on gyms and spas. Founded in 2013, ClassPass provides access to a network of fitness and wellness providers. “Dubai has quickly grown to be one of our Top 30 markets globally by subscriber count - quite the feat considering we operate in more than 3,500 cities,” said Sam Canavan of ClassPass. “Dubai punches well above its weight and [is] similar in subscriber size to the likes of Hong Kong and the Philippines.” According to Canavan, the average Dubai user takes three classes per month, and tries an average of six different class genres - so clearly variety is key. Starting from Dh65 a month, the prices of access is quite competitive given that signing up for some of the popular Dubai gyms can cost an average of Dh2,000 a year. Clearly, annual membership tied to any one service provider is in for some heavy disruption from these apps. And there are no clear winners as yet...

GulfNews Technology

Apple to launch online store in India on September 23

Retail|Technology|: Mumbai: Apple Inc. will this month begin direct sales online in India - more than 20 years after the world's most valuable tech company first began operating in the South Asian country that's one of world's fastest-growing smartphone markets. It will launch its online store  on September 23 and offer its full range of products from iPhones to Mac computers and provide support directly to customers for the first time, following years of lobbying New Delhi to get around regulations that force foreign companies to source 30 per cent of components locally. See More This Japanese restaurant is trying to sell curry to Indians In Pictures: Madrid fashion week kicks off Ferrari unveils the 620 horsepower Portofino M In Pictures: Hurricane Sally’s aftermath Smartphones account for the bulk of India's online retail by value, and Apple will be among the first global companies to sell directly online before it opens a brick-and-mortar store. Apple's India online store will offer customer support in both English and Hindi, allowing it to reach out to the country's 1.3 billion people just ahead of the October-November festive shopping season that culminates with Diwali. The iPhone maker has been boosting investments in the South Asian country to reduce its dependence on China both as a market and manufacturing base amid escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing. The company previously only offered its devices in India through stores owned by franchise partners and via online platforms including Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc.-owned Flipkart Online Retails Services Pvt. It intends to open a second physical store in the technology hub of Bengaluru, following an outlet in Mumbai that will be its first brick-and-mortar store in India.

GulfNews Technology

Hiring of women in UAE hits a low point during April, says LinkedIn

Dubai: There were fewer women joining the UAE workforce during April at the height of the lockdown phase to counter the COVID-19 spread, but have shown signs of recovery since June, according to LinkedIn, the networking platform. Hiring of women dropped to 31.3 per cent, but then recovered above the full-year 2019 average by July. The share of monthly hires of women in the UAE saw it reach 35 per cent in July and exceeding the 2019 average of 33.5 per cent. See More UAE Labour Law: How can I terminate a limited contract? This Japanese restaurant is trying to sell curry to Indians In Pictures: Madrid fashion week kicks off How to notarise a document in the UAE In fact, this pattern of an April drop-off is repeated across the world, with lockdowns having had a more severe impact on women being hired, says the digital platform. (According to LinkedIn, the share of hires by gender are calculated as the total number of women who added a new employer to their profile in the same month the new job began divided by the total number of hires for the same month.) It has been set off by the forced need to work-from-home, and which added to the burden on women, especially working mothers. In a statement, Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist at LinkedIn, said: “In terms of gender, women are bearing the brunt of the global pandemic when it comes to employment opportunities and career progression. "We’ve seen  that working mothers are struggling to balance ever-demanding workloads with increased childcare and household responsibilities and the concern is that many are considering reducing their working hours or retreating from the workforce as a result." Globally, female hiring touched a low in April, at 40.6 per cent hires, before recovering in June and July to around 44.5 per cent. "Female hires have now returned to levels seen before the pandemic," the portal said in a statement. "However, women started from a lower baseline in most countries, and need to make up for the loss of hires in March/April." Need for schools “Our ability to avoid more widespread, permanent losses in women’s employment hinges on schools reopening and employers creating more flexible work schedules," said Kimbrough. "Without this, we’ll have a very real and serious risk of losing many women from the workforce. "The unfortunate reality is that the longer that this goes on, the more women will have to make the impossible choice between caring for their children and their careers. And we know these losses won’t come back easily: women will have to work harder to re-enter once they’re able. "As schools reopen, now is the time for businesses to consider flexible hours, remote working and job sharing which can go a long way in supporting women and keeping them in the workforce.”

GulfNews Technology

General Motors explores market for electric 'flying cars', say sources

General Motors Co is exploring options in the aerial taxi market, including whether to build the vehicles known colloquially as "flying cars," as part of a push by the US automaker to look for growth in related transportation markets, two people familiar with the matter said. Chief Executive Mary Barra on Monday briefly made her first reference ever to Detroit-based GM's interest in the air taxi market, saying that it fit with development of electric vehicles (EVs) and its Ultium advanced electric battery. "We believe strongly in our EV future and not just for vehicles," she said at an RBC conference. "The strength and flexibility of our Ultium battery system opens doors" for many uses, she added, "including aerial mobility." Air taxis are vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft that use electric motors instead of jet engines. Designed to avoid the need for long runways, they have rotating wings and, in some cases, rotors in place of propellers. Apart from Daimler and Geely, other global brands such and Toyota and Hyundai have also invested substantially on the 'flying car' concept. Image Credit: Reuters Electric air taxis are likely to fly low-level routes, relieving traffic congestion on roads. But they could add to air traffic congestion as they become more popular. GM spokesman Stuart Fowle declined to elaborate. "It's an area we're really excited about and looking at." GM shares rose as much as 5.4 per cent and were still up 1.4 per cent in afternoon trading. Corporate and private investors have poured at least $2.3 billion into more than 100 aerial vehicle startups, including drones and electric air taxis, but the technology still faces significant roadblocks to commercialization and profitability, according to investor website PitchBook. GM is weighing all options - whether to build, supply or partner - as it decides whether to join such automakers as Hyundai Motor Co, Toyota Motor Corp, Daimler AG, Volkswagen AG and Geely Automobile in the still-developing market, said the sources, who asked not to be identified. GM could make an announcement early next year. "I am not surprised that GM and others are looking into this," said investor and corporate adviser Evangelos Simoudis, managing director of Synapse Partners. He noted that companies like Amazon.com and Walmart are pushing to use package delivery drones, but said transporting people with flying cars will take a lot longer to develop as a business. GM's study of the aerial mobility market is part of the push by GM's innovation group to explore other transportation markets for growth, one of the sources said. The group is headed by Alan Wexler, who reports to Barra and was hired in July in the newly created position of senior vice president of innovation and growth. Other efforts that originated in the innovation group include formation of a defense business unit and a $214 million contract to build troop carriers for the U.S. Army based on the Chevrolet Colorado pickup, as well as a new mobile app for OnStar members. Hyundai teamed up with Uber Technologies Inc in January to develop electric air taxis and has pledged to invest $1.5 billion in urban air mobility by 2025. Toyota led a $590 million investment round in air taxi startup Joby in January, while Daimler and Geely have invested in Stuttgart-based Volocopter. Volkswagen's Porsche brand is working with Boeing to develop a concept electric flying vehicle. Last year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk called electric supersonic VTOL a "hard problem," and last month said a more powerful battery that could enable electric airplanes was three to four years away. Musk has said "many exciting things" will be unveiled during Tesla's Battery Day on Sept. 22. Separately on Tuesday, the World Economic Forum and the city of Los Angeles released a set of principles to support the rollout of urban air mobility in US cities, and a spokeswoman for the organization said it is talks with other cities to adopt the same roadmap.