August 16, 2023

Delivering delight and hope - the inspirational journey of refugee entrepreneurs in Türkiye

In a world where technology is woven into the fabric of our daily lives, a new hero has stepped into the spotlight: Paketman, the foodie with impeccable timing! Combining the love of Turkish cuisine and the convenience of takeaways, Paketman brings restaurants to its customer’s doorstep.

Founded in 2021 by Omar Dahkoul and Osama Hanawi, Paketman is the second food delivery app that the pair have created. Omar and Hanawi, both Syrian refugees residing in Türkiye, first had the idea of starting a food delivery app while participating in a training session organised by SPARK and Jusoor in Gaziantep, southeastern Türkiye. Inspired by the training, Omar and Osama founded Talaby, a food delivery app targeting Arab consumers and restaurants. 

A new business model based on the love of food and solidarity

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Talaby faced a complete shutdown, pushing Omar and Osama to find alternative ways to restructure their business model. The team enrolled with NAMA II competition, part of the Economic Resilience through COVID-19 organised by SPARK and BINA Business Incubator, and financed by the Qatar Fund for Development.

“This competition became one of the main factors that motivated us to relaunch the application,” says Osama. It was during this process that they conceived the idea of connecting foreigners to local Turkish restaurants – a concept that would become the foundation of Paketman. With renewed zeal, they launched Paketman, this time from Istanbul.

Being refugees, they understood the pressure and difficulties faced by individuals trying to establish a new life in Türkiye. This sense of compassion fueled their commitment to Paketman, where they not only focused on strategic planning and operations management but also found immense satisfaction in providing job opportunities and assisting individuals in adapting to life in their adopted homeland.

Today, Paketman operates in Turkish, Arabic, Russian and English, offering a full service experience to customers in their preferred language. The user-friendly application ensures a smooth experience for all users, and in case of any issues, their dedicated customer service team is available in all four languages. With each order placed, Paketman leaves a positive impact, improving lives one delivery at a time.

Setting a positive precedent for refugee entrepreneurship 

Currently, Paketman proudly serves the cities of Istanbul, Mersin, and Gaziantep. With a team of 60 employees from diverse backgrounds, Osama says: “There are now 60 families whose lives have been positively impacted by Paketman.”

The journey of Paketman was not devoid of challenges but their hard work has paid off, attracting $1 million investment, which has propelled their growth. Since their launch in 2021, Paketman has surpassed 55,000 orders and achieved total sales of $500,000 between 2021 and 2022, generating revenue and opportunities for the restaurants they served through their platform. 

Despite the clear success of  Paketman, the founders remain humble and are convinced that through entrepreneurship, refugees can achieve their  goals and thrive. 

“Entrepreneurship for refugees is highly challenging” says Osama. Language barriers, lack of knowledge of the local market and laws, and navigating an entirely new culture are among the challenges. “It is not an easy experience – people often think that entrepreneurship is about having an idea, taking seed funding, and entering the market” says Omar. 

However, despite the challenges, the founders of Paketman believe that refugee entrepreneurs can set a positive precedent for others in the same situation. “When you surpass the initial stages of establishing a business in entrepreneurship and achieve initial success, you become an idol for others to enter the same field and think outside the box,” Omar added.

From receiving the order through the app ...
... to picking up the food at the restaurant ...
... to delivering the food to the customer's doorstep.

Paketman moving forward

The future plans for Paketman’s founders include reaching the dividends stage, where profits will be distributed within the company. Paketman was born from a deep commitment to long-term growth and sustainability. Their focus remains steadfast on expansion, aspiring to become a financially sustainable and profitable venture. Looking ahead to 2026, they envision horizontal expansion into various regions, spreading the flavours of Türkiye far and wide. With ambitions to employ 1,000 team members and 10,000 riders, their upcoming expansion phase promises an incredible journey – one that challenges traditional norms and leaves a positive impact on the community. Paketman emerges as a culinary superhero, delivering delicious food, hope and unity with every order.