The Jakarta Post
A former Indonesian ambassador to the United States, Dino Patti Djalal, launched a startup company on Wednesday with the release of Waqara, a mobile application for the umrah (minor haj) marketplace.
Driven by alarming concerns about reoccurring fraud involving umrah travel agencies, he said that the marketplace, which would be the first of its kind in the country, would “guarantee a safe pilgrimage”.
He said that in the last two years, some 300,000 people fell victim to umrah and haj travel agency fraud and in total lost an estimated Rp 4.5 trillion (US$318 million).
"We can be the digital solution for the crisis of confidence in the umrah travel industry,” said the former deputy minister for foreign affairs under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, at a ceremony for the launch of the app at the Ritz Carlton in Jakarta.
Dino said he believed the startup could become a unicorn company in five to six years as the market potential for umrah would always grow. However, he added that the challenge would be convincing people to book their umrah on a mobile app.
The Waqara app would allow users to book an umrah package from its existing 25 travel agents throughout the nation. Dino said that the packages include travel, visas and trip cancellation insurance.
The startup had partnered with various banks such as Bank Mandiri, BNI, BCA, BRI and their respective sharia branches, as well as BFI Multifinance Syariah.
Waqara marketing director Stephanie Yeo said that the company and each banking partner did multiple screenings and curated “trusted and reliable” travel agencies to join their platform.
She said that by the end of the year, the app would add about 75 more travel agents so it can also allow users to do in-app umrah saving.
Dino, who was Indonesia’s ambassador to the US from 2010 to 2013, would be the nation’s first former diplomat to become the CEO of a startup company.
"I was already the youngest Indonesian diplomat to the US. Hopefully, I can break another record as the first [former] diplomat to build a unicorn,” he told the press. (eyc)