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Meet the ‘unicorn’ that is defeating Uber in the Middle East

pagoskawaii 10 de July del 2017 Business
Unlike Uber, Careem does not seek to conquer the world and while its American competitor offers free ice cream, this Arab startup sends sacrificed sheep to your home.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Uber offered its clients in the United States the option of asking for a bagpiper for a short recital, a marketing trick that followed other extravagant deliveries for different occasions – puppies for the Sunday Super Bowl Puppy Bowl, Christmas trees and ice cream in summer – but from now on, sheep sacrifices are not part of Uber’s repertoire. This is the only area where Careem, its main Middle East rival (excluding Israeli startups) and the region’s only unicorn, has surpassed Uber in the race for regional leadership.

When did it start?

Careem offered a sacrificed sheep in september of 2016, according to Muslim law, to customers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was a play designed to simplify a tradition related to the celebration of Eid al-Adha that requires people to visit a local farm to buy a sheep or goat, take it home in some way, sacrifice it and distribute it among friends, family and the needy.

Careem made sure that the meat was divided according to the custom: a box for the client, one for the family and friends, and another for charity. After some customers said they wanted live sheep so their children could play with them before the slaughter, Careem mobilized a fleet of trucks to fulfill their wishes.

Careem’s obsessive approach to the unique demands of the people of the region, its geography and infrastructure (or lack thereof) has helped it to stay ahead of Uber in countries ranging from Morocco to Pakistan. Sheikha hopes that the approach will make Careem “the biggest mover of human beings and things in the Middle East.” Moving people is a big enough opportunity: The region has a population of 700 million, with the potential, according to Sheikha, of between 150 million and 200 million trips a day.

Continue growing

In five years, Careem has accumulated 10 million registered users in 60 cities in 11 countries, probably higher than Uber, who arrived in the region late. Some 250,000 contractor drivers, called captains, work for Careem, and passenger numbers have grown at a monthly rate of 25% over the past two years. The private company is shy about discussing numbers, saying only that annual are in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars and profits will come in “a year or two revenues.”

Conquering the rest of the Middle East

Careem claims to have even entered Dubai and several cities in Saudi Arabia. Sheikha and his Swedish co-founder, Magnus Olsson, whom he met while both worked as consultants at McKinsey, share a double-digit stake in Careem, the Middle East’s first equity firm to reach a $ 1 billion valuation.

Sheikha expects the company to quickly move back to traditional transport infrastructure in the Arab world, just as smartphones did with fixed lines in much of the developing world.


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