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A Syrian refugee’s solution for much-needed low-cost rentals in Jordan

Betna is better

  • by Fatima Khonat
  • 22 Apr 19

Case study

Betna is a housing solution for refugees and low-income workers in Jordan. Expensive private housing means people spend up to 50 per cent of their wages on transport to their workplace. Meanwhile, 31,000 homeowners rely on renting property to pay their housing loans. Betna is an Arabic-based platform, similar to AirBnB, that will match low-income renters to homeowners. This is a scalable business idea across Jordan and will eventually target refugees returning to Syria. It is based on charging a 15 per cent commission to landlords.

 

Entrepreneur Ahmad Nouh lives and works in Jordan, currently home to some 761,100 refugees, mostly from Syria.  Like Ahmad, they fled the brutal eight-year conflict across the border in an attempt to re-establish their lives. In Jordan, almost all refugees who don’t live in camps rent private housing, which is expensive. Many families find the cheapest housing they can, far from their places of work.  

According to Ahmad, the cost of transport takes 30-50 per cent of their salary. And with people at the lowest end of the income scale often working 12-hour days, six days a week, there is no time to find more affordable, closer housing options to lower their expenses.  

Ahmad experienced this himself and his idea was to develop a web-based platform connecting people to house-sharing opportunities and roommates near their work, thereby reducing the monthly expenses of low-wage workers. 

A prototype platform was developed and Betna, meaning ‘Our House’ has already supported five people with substantial income benefits. They hope to increase this to 25 landlords and 100 renters over the next year, charging 15 per cent commission to landlords. They also plan to expand to other areas in Jordan.  

Ahmad says: “There are 31,000 housing loans in Jordan which rely on people who rent their property to cover the monthly payment of the loan, so there is a huge market waiting for our service.” 

Unlike AirBnB, Betna covers low-budget areas and is available to everyone as it uses the Arabic language.  

Ahmad is seeking investment in the operational expenditure of £14,200 for the first year and £28,200 for the next two years. The funding will be used to develop the website and expand Betna’s reach and brand in Jordan. 

He says: “Investors can be part of solving a big problem as well as be part of a business that is scalable and will be taken back to Syria to cover even larger numbers of returning young who will desperately need house sharing opportunities.” 

 

More detail about the innovation

  • Problem: Need for accessible low-cost housing in Jordan. Workers are spending between 30 and 50% of their income on transportation. 
  • Solution: An Arabic-language web-based platform to match home-owners with renters and room-sharers.   
  • (There are 31,000 housing loans in Jordan that rely on rental income to pay off the loan.) 
  • Current status: Prototype has homed five people who have made substantial savings. The project has been supported by IRC and Shamalstart.  
  • Staff: Two freelancers plus two employees to be recruited in the next two months. The founder works full-time on the project 
  • Business model: Landlords are charged 15% commission 
  • Proposition: Investment, partnerships and mentoring required for developing a marketing plan, and brand awareness as well as for enhancing the team composition.   
    • Year 1: £14,200 investment sought 
    • Year 2: £28,000 investment sought 
    • Year 3: £28,000 investment sought 
  • Prospects: Business volume increased. Geographical expansion in Jordan. Establishing a Syrian version for returnees. 
  • About the Founder: Ahmad Nouh was Director of Freelance Relations at Algo LLC before founding Betna. Algo is a freelancing platform that gives tech companies access to top refugee talent, enabled by a payment system that lets refugees earn an income from anywhere. This later became  AlgoPay.  
  • Endorsements: Mohammad Yaseen, Chief Media Officer at Al Jude. Ala' Abu Lail, Scientific Research Senior Officer, Abdul Hameed Shouman Foundation. Joseph Field, Head Programmes and Partnerships British Council 
  • Contact: ahmad@betnajo.com support@betnajo.com 

Read more other innovations from the DEPP Innovation Labs.

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  • by Fatima Khonat