Cairo was ranked the fourth-worst city worldwide in terms of traffic congestion, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), where the total amount of licensed vehicles in Egypt reached 11.1m. That is a great rise, since in 2014, the number of licensed vehicles was half of that number.
Thus, people spend a lot of time on their driving journeys, making Egyptian female engineer Samira Negm think about a practical way to reduce the problem of traffic jams in Egypt through cutting down the number of private cars on the road by innovating a carpooling application named “Raye7” (Going).
Raye7 was awarded many prizes, the most notable of which was winning second place among the best applications launched by startups worldwide at the third edition of 4YFN, an annual event at the GSMA Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona, Spain in March 2016. Raye7 has more than 6,000 users from all over Egypt.
Daily News Egypt sat down for an interview with Negm in order learn know more about her experience in the technology field, shedding light on the achievements of women in the sector, assuring that a career in technology is not limited to men. Through the interview, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity, Negm provided Daily News Egypt an in-depth look at Raye7.
From where did the idea for Raye7 originate?
The idea originated as I spent five hours a day in the car on my journey from El-Obour to head towards Smart Village, in the city of Sixth of October, where my workplace is.
I was suffering from extreme exhaustion. I was preoccupied with the idea of finding a solution to the crisis that is troubling the government and citizens and seems intractable. I thought to set up a company that saves time, effort, health, and money.
Then I recalled that when I was in Germany, I used an application that was available in several European countries and was a public transportation service, but in Egypt, it was unknown. I worked with my brother Ahmed on the implementation of the application, and we called it Raye7 in 2015.
The idea of the application is to encourage individuals who live in one area to take one car if they are heading to the same place, instead of each one using their own car or any type of transportation, with the aim of reducing the number of private cars on the road to alleviate the problem of traffic jams in Egypt.
Egypt has many carpooling companies; in your opinion, what distinguishes Raye7?
Carpooling is not a new idea, but how we are doing carpooling is what is new. I spent hours on the road thinking why are all the carpooling ideas successful in Europe, but not successful in Egypt? And the answer was the cultural difference. What distinguishes Raye7 is that we relied on an in-depth study of the Egyptian market, learning its requirements and needs.
The study I conducted about cars and means of transportation in Cairo revealed that 70% of cars in the city are used by one or two people, including the driver, which means that private cars are not optimally used.
How does the application work?
It is an application for smartphones available through the App Store and downloading the application is free. Once you download the application and create your own account, add your friends and colleagues who live in your neighbourhood or work with you to the application.
Then each of them has to set the starting times for when they need to be at work and the times of their return, so you can know easily who you can go with, and through a GPS-based system, the user’s location is identified and assisted in getting a connection with those who share the direction.
When you open the application, you have two options: either use your car or search for who can connect you to your destination.
Through an evaluation system in the application, anyone can write a negative or positive comment about the driver of the car he/she will ride with, because we believe the driver and the passenger should evaluate each other, giving an idea to the other colleagues about the nature of the driving of the people and their respect for their colleagues.
How does the application match cars with people?
The application relies on several bases in suggesting users to those who need the service. The first is safety, and that is gauged through suggestions made by colleagues based on the email they register on the application. Moreover, women can choose to share cars with only women.
Car owners may think they are not benefiting from carpooling. In your opinion, how can sharing rides benefit the car owners?
Raye7 has a great system that motivates the car owners to share rides with their colleagues, which is the point-based system in which the car owner obtains a point in exchange for every shared ride, then these points can be converted into a financial reward after a certain number of points are earned.
Meanwhile, if the person who shared their car before decides to ride with a car owner, they could pay using the points they obtained.
After consuming a specific level of points, they would start to pay for the rides in cash.
The repaid amount represents about 30% of the total value of the ride if a taxi was used, and the company obtains a percentage of this value, while the rest goes to the users with the highest points.
Are you affiliated with any institution?
At the beginning, we were independent, but on 27 April 2017, we made a partnership with GSMA. It provides us with the innovation fund, which is worth $350,000, to fund the project, helping us make Raye7 available to more people in Egypt.
Is Raye7 available in any country abroad?
Yes, it is available in one other country, which is Finland.
What were the challenges you faced when implementing Raye7?
The most notably challenge we faced while implementing the idea is that individuals are not accepting of the idea of riding with people they do not know or vice versa. That is why we decided to start launching the application services in narrow circles, such as work or education communities, like Smart Village and in private universities.
In your opinion, what are the privileges that women have in the technology field and entrepreneurship?
There are two privileges, the first one is that they do not have any financial obligations, so they can implement whatever they want easily.
The second one is that nowadays there are many programmes that support and help women in technology and startups that are led by women.
On the other hand, what are the challenges that women face in the technology field and entrepreneurship?
The challenges that I myself faced while implementing Raye7 is that I work through a business to business (B2B) system, so when I go to any company, the situation is always different than if I was a man, due to the stereotyped perception that men are better.
The second challenge is that in the business world, there are many deals that are agreed outside the work community, meaning that you will have to communicate with people in outings after work.
How can you evaluate the impact of female entrepreneurs on society?
I think that entrepreneurship is giving an opportunity for women to overcome the gender gap issue that exists worldwide. It is not only creating opportunity for women, it is also giving opportunity for society to incorporate new ideas and to develop a better humanity.
What are your aspirations?
I hope that Raye7 becomes the best option for carpooling in the region and then in the world.