Careem, an application-based car service provider, managed to seal three separate investments that are worth a total of $72m, according to Careem Egypt General Manager Hadeer Shalaby.
The youthful spirit of Careem impacted Egyptian society; the company managed to change the mindsets of thousands of doctors, engineers, and other professionals. Through being a captain with Careem, they can boost their income alongside their main professions. The idea has been widely popularised, and so far the company has attracted around 15 women to its fleet.
Daily News Egypt sat down with Shalaby to discuss Careem’s operations in the Egyptian market and the latest changes the company has managed to implement.
Tell us about Careem and how the idea originated?
Careem started in Dubai in 2012 by two people, Magnus Olsson and Mudassir Sheikha, who used to work in consultancy. When they got bored of consultancy, they wanted to do something big, something with impact. So they started thinking about different things in medicine, the fishing industry, and other fields. They realised that as consultants they had a problem; every single time they go into a city, they need to know a driver that would transport them, and usually drivers were not reliable.
They thought transportation on the ground could be made easier and more reliable and that is how their idea started. It began in Ramadan, hence their name “Careem” (generous); the company wanted to be generous with its captains, the society, and its customers.
When exactly did you enter the Egyptian market? Tell us about your presence in the country.
In December 2014, exactly a year ago, we were present in Cairo. We just launched in Alexandria about month ago, and in Sahel as well.
Does the company own any of the operating cars?
No it does not; we believe in specialisation, Careem is a technology company and we bring in customers, that is what we do best; all the cars operating with Careem are usually owned by the drivers themselves, or limousine suppliers.
Recently Careem acquired an investment worth $60m from Abraj and it was announced the company intends to expand and introduce new services in Egypt and other countries of operation. What is your exact strategy in Egypt, and what kinds of offers you will introduce?
It is very hard to say what is coming up, but this money could help improve our quality, bring more cars on the road, and that would help clients get faster service. What we are targeting is providing a car within five minutes. We are also going to improve the application itself to make it more user-friendly and faster.
Are you seeking any further investments?
At this point in time, we are not.
What is the total amount of investment that Careem got since its inauguration?
The first round was $1.7m from STC ventures and the second was $10m by Al-Tayyar. The total is $72m.
What about the company’s revenues in Egypt?
I cannot reveal this type of information but I can tell you that on average in Cairo we have around 4,000 captains and we do around 10,000 trips per day.
Where do you position Cairo in comparison with other cities you operate in?
So far, Cairo is the fastest growing city with Careem because the product is very relevant in society. We are now one of the biggest cities in the Middle East, and are competing with Saudi Arabia.
How many offices do you have? What is the total number of your employees?
Currently, we have one office and the other two will be finalised, all located in Arkan and Sheikh Zayed. We have around 80 employees.
Was brining captains on board for Careem a challenge and why?
The product is very relevant to the society, so at first, the demand was always higher than the supply. Initially the problem was to convince captains to work for us. The challenge was how to make these people believe in the idea that I could be a lawyer, an engineer, a doctor, or a student and still work in Careem, because this is how you get the masses to work with you. Initially, it was just professional drivers, now we have more than a hundred captains applying to join every day.
It is important for us to clarify that anyone can work as a captain, the technology of transportation can increase the income value of Egyptian citizens, and Careem is changing society and the people’s mentality.
Do you have any women working as captains?
Yes, we have around 10-15 females working as captains and they are very happy. Actually, one of them started her own office to bring in captains. Many people who started with us as captains are now owners of businesses that bring us captains.
Besides the application, are there any other ways to order a car from Careem?
Yes, because many people in Egypt are not very tech savvy. Even if they are, they still worry about ordering a cab through an app. Some still need the human touch to feel ok with it. We have a call centre where clients can place fresh new orders or follow up on an order they already made through the application. This human touch makes a big difference with Egyptians specifically. You can also reserve repeated bookings with the call centre; so a student can reserve the same booking prior for daily trips to university.
What about the payment process; how do you differentiate yourselves from the competition?
Regarding the payment process, we have cash or credit card options, and clients can use cash collection, which is a good prepaid option for people who do not want to use their credit cards. We also offer the later booking option; previously our clients could book and pay two hours in advance, but now it has been reduced to an hour in advance.
How do you ensure safety for your clients?
Any captain coming in gets trained by our supplier first and then we filter those people based on their looks, attitude, and knowledge. We then do background checks and random drug testing for our captains. A very important thing is the rating, so at the end of each day, a customer gets to rate our captains. Any captain who is rated below a certain number gets automatically blocked, so they get back to the office either to be retrained or completely blocked. The rating is continuous and as a customer; you get to check the rating and know who is coming to pick you up. You will know because other customers rated them, not us, so it is very transparent.