17 Feb 21

Careem: business in ME ‘back to normal’ by year’s end

Careem, the Middle East’s homegrown ride-hailing service, expects business to be back to normal by the end of 2021. So says the company’s CEO Mudassir Sheikha in a conversation with Arab News.  

Mr Sheikha is the founder (°2012) and CEO of Careem, the most prominent ride-hailing and mobility company from and in the Middle East. In 2019, it was sold to Uber for $3.1 billion, making him one of the richest men in the region.

Brand independence
Careem, which maintains its brand independence, wants to be more than a ride-hailing service. Its aim is to become a super app making everyday life easier in various ways, not just by hailing a vehicle, but also by ordering food, groceries or pharmacy products, or even making payments.  
However, Careem’s various business segments have suffered during the pandemic, Mr Sheikha admits, especially during the height of the health crisis last summer. The company was forced to slim down its staff by a third. But Careem is already recovering and things should be back to normal before year’s end, he says.

Careem Pay
Careem is already transporting 10 times as many people as during the depths of the crisis, and 4 times as many goods. A third business stream, the mobility of money – a.k.a. Careem Pay – is doing twice as well compared to the low point last year.

Appearing on the Arab News programme Frankly Speaking, Mr Sheikha also revealed that Careem’s workforce in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is now 100% comprised of Saudi nationals – including a small number of female drivers (a.k.a. ‘capitanas’). He also said the time was ripe for the super app to be successful in KSA – COVID-19 having boosted digital adoption in the Kingdom. 
For now, Careem is not planning to expand beyond the Middle East, as it still sees huge growth opportunities in its home region – with plans to roll out its super app to more of the region’s 15 countries and 100 cities in which it has a presence. Efforts to ‘green’ the fleet are taking a back seat, for now, vis a vis the primary aim of making Careem’s various services more affordable to the consumer. 

Shutterstock Image: Careem driver in Karachi.

Authored by: Frank Jacobs