Careem Tech profile: Creating the customer experience

As Careem enters Chapter 2, we are increasingly playing a big part in the region’s digital future, through our technology, infrastructure, and our diverse and talented people. We thought you might like to hear from some of our tech people who are making this happen to learn what they do and how they got into this line of work.

Asma Alyamani — Lead Product Manager

What do you do at Careem?
I lead product for the customer ride-hailing experience at Careem. We are the voice of the customer. We understand their wants and needs, and build products to simplify their lives. We are obsessed with creating the best experiences for our customers across all touch points in their journey, primarily on our iOS and Android apps.

How big is your team?
We are a team of seven product managers, 40 engineers and three product designers.

And you’re responsible for creating a roadmap for the entire customer-facing product?
Yes, and each product manager on the team owns a different part of the customer journey. For a particular problem space or product, there is a dedicated team of engineers, designer and a product manager who are jointly responsible for defining their priorities and goals, and delivering value for our customers. For example, we have teams dedicated to payments, locations, and acquisition to name a few.

How did you start at Careem?
I joined almost four years ago. Careem was much smaller back then, and the product team was only three or four people. I started as a country product manager for Saudi Arabia, focused on getting strong product-market-fit for Saudi by building a deep understanding of both our customers and captains, figuring out what their biggest needs are and finding ways to solve them.

I did that for about a year, then shifted into the customer product management role where I worked on a few different products before more recently leading it overall.

How is the customer app different from market to market?
Some things are standardised across markets and some are localised. One of the primary features of our product which differs in each market is the set of services available. If you open the app anywhere you still maintain that familiarity with the Careem experience, but the services available in that market are completely localised. In Dubai, for example, we have Dubai Taxi, Economy, Business, First Class and so on. In Karachi, we have Bikes and Rickshaws which aren’t available in Dubai. It’s important to have this flexibility to offer the most suitable products for customers’ needs in each city.

Another feature that’s localised is Careem Rewards, our loyalty program. You earn points for each Careem ride you take, and can then use your points to give back to those in need or take free rides. Depending on where you open the app, you’ll see a different set of rewards that you can redeem. In Dubai, for example, we’ve partnered with Dubai Cares so you can use your points to provide education for underprivileged children, whereas in Riyadh we’ve partnered with the local charity Disabled Children’s Association which you’ll see as a reward if you use the app there. The vision is to keep growing this library of rewards and be highly connected to the local ecosystem in each market.

How did you get into product management?
Through Careem, actually. My Bachelor’s degree is in computer science so I was always close to tech. I studied at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, then did an MBA at Stanford. While I was there, I got exposed a lot more to entrepreneurship and the tech ecosystem, and I did my summer internship at Zendesk. My role was product analytics working directly for the product manager leading their data products — that was how I first got exposed to product management.

When I graduated I decided to come back to the region because I felt like I could have more impact here. I was introduced to the Careem co-founders and immediately decided to join because Careem’s mission really resonated with what I wanted to do.

What does your typical day involve?
A core part of my role involves dealing with people, whether it’s relationship building, stakeholder management, collaborating with engineers or having one-to-ones with my team members.

To build the best experiences for our customers, we need to understand what are their pain points and needs. And given the diversity of our customer segments in our different markets, which vary substantially, it’s important to spend talking to colleagues in the city teams who are on the ground and closest to our customers to get an understanding of what’s happening as well as talking to customers.

Similarly we need to align with stakeholders in different functions to make sure we are working together on the same strategy and mitigate any risks and dependencies on each other. We need to be aligned on the vision of where we’re going, what needs to be done and then building the right products with the optimal priorities.

I would say 50–60 percent of my time goes there. Another 10–20 percent translating this into our product strategy and vision. The remaining time is spent looking at our organizational structure and how to enable the right environment to provide teams with enough autonomy to deliver. This also means constantly iterating on our product processes, what we’re building, and working with the team to conceptualise new ideas and share feedback on some of the experiences that we’re working towards.

We do design critiques on a weekly basis as well as product feedback sessions where a product manager would come and present something they’re working on to the rest of the product team to get insights, which helps them improve it. Generally, we have a very collaborative way of working and a lot of my time is spent working with people.

What’s been the most successful feature you’ve introduced?
Packages has been an incredibly successful product for us, and this is a product which Careem innovated in so it’s not something that’s been done before. We started by targeting the commute segment in Saudi, and have since evolved into various use cases. We offer two types of packages that customers can buy: ride packages and KM packages. For ride packages, the value proposition is that a customer pays upfront to save on their rides — by getting a discount on each ride — with access to priority customer support. With KM packages, customers buy a bundle of kilometres which enables them to pay one upfront payment for their upcoming rides at a discounted rate. They also benefit from no peak and other surcharges.

Our customers love using packages and it’s helped tremendously with the stickiness of our platform. We are focusing on further improving the package experience and addressing some of the current frictions, like being able to purchase a package with cash.

We also launched Careem Rewards which has been a great success for us, and our customers love it! Similar to packages, we are determined to make this even better for customers.

We just keep iterating and evolving.

Now read: Careem tech profile – the man who predicts the future.