When Karim Rafla was studying global business and entrepreneurship in London, he had no idea that the project he randomly saw in one of the cloudy city’s streets would be the saving option for a lot of Egyptians struggling to find an appropriate place to establish their private business or even to live in.
“Qubix” is Egypt’s first service to turn shipping containers into fully customised structural spaces to meet people’s requirements. With the help of his friend Youssef Farag, he worked on offering the Egyptian market a cheaper, less polluting alternative for people to live in or customise for their private business.
“When I first saw the idea in London while studying, the first thing that jumped in my mind was ‘why can’t we have a similar project in Egypt? It would save us a lot of problems,” 24 year-old Rafla started his talk.
Shipping containers are environmentally friendly; they use less steel to be built, less effort, and can be moved easily from one place to another.
After deciding to establish the business in Egypt, Rafala travelled to Container City, East London, where he studied “cargotecture”—turning the metal containers into a residential place. For six months after moving back to Egypt, both Rafla and Farag worked on improving the containers in order to fit in Egypt’s atmosphere.
“We brought six containers to Farag’s backyard and we did nothing but develop them in order to make several designs for different purposes,” Rafla remembered.
The main amendments the team applies to containers are thermo isolation against heat and cold, as well as applying antibacterial fabrics inside them. The development process also included studying consumers’ education and “what our target audience might most likely use containers for.”
However, these are not the only amendments applied. “We rebuild the containers from scratch; other than our architecture team that designs containers upon the client’s requests, we do all of the electrical work and interior design to end up having a turnkey container meeting the clients’ expectations,” Rafla added.
It takes each container around six weeks for the full turnover. After delivering their first bowery container, one project followed the other, before both partners found themselves establishing the first cargotecture company in Egypt.
For a year now, the team, which currently consists of 40 persons, has managed to turn the steel shipping containers into modern, chic designs for restaurants, residential places, or even fitness centres.
In order to meet clients’ needs, the team might not stick to a design made out of one container. “The second project we applied was recovery fitness centres, which we made out of 24 containers to have 7 rooms,” Rafla explained.
Rafla and Farag are some of the lucky entrepreneurs who were not affected by the economical crisis after the floatation. “Egypt will never stop importing shipments of different products and if there’s one common thing between all of them, it is that they are all brought in in containers,” Rafla explained.