You know the Careem app. And in the last six years at Careem we have built a large ride-hailing business, but what we’ve really built is a large Internet business.
Careem is a tech company first and foremost, and in the process of building the ride-hailing business we have created the ecosystem to help others build their own regional Internet business on our platform.
While launching Careem we developed and implemented a lot of the underlying infrastructure that was needed to run a consumer Internet business in multiple countries in the region, then harmonised them on a single platform. That wasn’t easy. But now we can do many more things than just mobility, and we are one of the few companies that have breadth of population and support in a large tech platform.
Our focus was mobility, all forms of things that can move people, but now we’re expanding to other aspects for which our app can provide a stable and far-reaching base.
Building an Internet business in the region is difficult. Careem’s co-founder Mudassir built start-ups in Silicon Valley and Magnus built start-ups in Sweden, but in this region they had to set up a lots of the necessary elements themselves. This was a challenge.
Technology requires scale – you can’t invest hundreds of millions of dollars building something if you’re only going to reach two million people in Dubai. If you want to build a large technology platform then you need hundreds of millions of people to which you can market, but our region is so fragmented structurally we needed to do a lot of thing in a lot of countries.
Elsewhere it’s easier because the things you need to build an Internet business already exist, so you’re not building everything from scratch.
SMS is one example – in the US you can integrate with an SMS gateway and send an SMS to everyone in the country, all 350 million people. Here if you’re on an SMS gateway in the UAE you’re more than likely not able to send SMS to customers in Morocco because there are rules about who can send messages where. The building blocks were there but they were fragmented, so we had sign with a company in Morocco, then Lebanon, then Pakistan and so on and all these things require integration and we had to do so much more additional work that you would in somewhere like the States.
For locations over there the maps are very reliable, so you don’t have to build your own maps. During the early days, Google said to Careem that this region is not a priority and they’re focusing on the US and Europe, so for some areas we had to create our own location database to make sure the service was reliable.
In the US people don’t have to build a cash collection system as nearly everyone has a credit card. We had to build our own payment collection system so we could work with cash. And so on. We’ve come a long way in our first six years.
But now we have built a platform (full of artificial intelligence) that can target hundreds of millions of people so that we can launch new verticals, and we want to open this platform that we have built to others in the ecosystem.
If you’re an entrepreneur in, say, Saudi Arabia, that wants to build a regional Internet business like Careem you should not have to go through all the things that Careem went through when we were setting up. But Careem can let you plug in to our platform and you can get those services from Careem.
In setting up Careem, what we have created is an ecosystem that took years to put in place, but now we are able to help others in the region by letting them move onto this platform we have built.
Who’s with us?