We often hear about disruption and tech companies being disruptors – it has become one of the dominant themes in recent years. Forbes is talking about the next industries to be disrupted, while Marketing Week is listing the top 100 disruptive brands and other surveys are saying that disruption is the key to brand growth.
As a company that started out as a ride-hailing service, it’s easy to see why people associate Careem with disruption. In other parts of the world, ride-hailing companies have disrupted established orders, but given how Careem started out and where in the world we launched, Careem is something different – an enabler.
In Europe many of the public transportation systems were built over a century ago. The London Underground, for example, opened as an underground railway in 1863 and its first electrified underground line began operations in 1890. But that type of infrastructure didn’t happen in our part of the world, so we are largely building the public transportation system for our markets right now.
Careem’s technology is allowing this region to skip through many of the years of transport evolution that Europe or North America went though. And for many people in the region, Careem has changed their lives by providing a mobility that was previously problematic or simply didn’t exist. Our growth across the MENA region is driving affordability and choice and improving societies.
We often heard people from Saudi Arabia, for example, say that there’s a pre-Careem Saudi and a post-Careem Saudi, such was the effect that Careem’s ride-hailing service had upon the country. This is especially true when it comes to the lives of women.
Before Careem launched, they were regularly dependent on their fathers, brothers or husbands to get them around and they were not in complete control of their daily lives. They may want to go out, but there’s no car at home so they must call a male relative or wait for the private driver who is already out taking their mother somewhere. Now if they need to go somewhere, they just press a button and a car arrives. The Careem service was transformative.
Then, last December, we moved into mass transportation with the launch of busses in Cairo because 40 percent of the Egyptian population was not being served by a proper transportation service. That bus service is helping to solve the congestion problem there that, according to The World Bank, currently costs the city up to $8 billion.
With a presence in Iraq, Sudan, Palestine and other countries across the region, Careem is committed to providing transport solutions (and job opportunities) in places that other companies are reluctant to invest in.
We’re also offering peer-to-peer credit transfers.
It’s easy to sometimes forget that bank accounts and cards that many of us take for granted are not available to everyone. In fact, according to the World Bank, only 14 percent of people in the Middle East have access to a bank account. That means there are hundreds of millions that have no means of storing cash in a secure manner or the ability to make digital payments.
Cash is still the main form of payment in the region including for Careem rides. But with smartphone penetration on the rise, the wallet is going to be an increasingly common way of paying in the coming years. Careem wants to stay ahead of this change and we’re working to bring new payment services to our customers which will ultimately help us simplify the lives of users.
Right now, we’re beta testing the peer-to-peer credit transfer feature, but soon it will be available to all our customers as it is progressively rolled out across the entire base in all cities. Careem’s technology is helping to empower people in our region to realise their full social and economic potential.
So, no, we’re not a “disruptor” and we are not interested in disruption. We’re not disrupting anything because in many cases there’s was nothing to be disrupted – we are enabling people, and proud to be of service doing so.