Careem is shifting its focus from ride-hailing to financial services, in a move that will position the super app as a key fintech player in the Middle East and Pakistan market.
After securing regulatory approval and a partnership with First Abu Dhabi Bank (UAE) and its payment solution partner Magnati, Careem can now offer a wider range of financial services with its Careem Pay digital wallet, including bill payments and peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer using a phone number, personal QR code or payment link, all with the ability to cash out.
The company will soon offer international remittances and card services to its customers and captains (or drivers) in the first phase of the rollout before offering micro-lending and insurance as well as online and offline payment acceptance solutions to the merchants on its platform.
“Payments in our region is not a simple experience, it’s full of friction” said Mudassir Sheikha, co-founder and CEO of Careem. “The opportunity for Careem Pay is enormous, Careem has a leading shot to become the leading digital financial services platform.”
The company has secured regulatory approvals in Pakistan to open up its wallet in the country, and plans to “follow a payment-led roadmap in each market”.
Careem currently has 50 million customers across its 15 markets, four million cards on file, two million captains and 22,000 merchants ranging from restaurants and pharmacies.
The super app strategy was launched in 2020, and according to Sheikha, has “seen some incredible traction”. User retention has increased by 30 per cent while those who use more than one service on the platform are completing three times more transactions per month compared to users who use only a single service.
Over the past year, Careem has added more third party services onto the super app in the UAE, most recently offering car rental in partnership with Swapp. It is now looking to attract more merchants to its platform.
“They’re [the customers and merchants] are already part of the ecosystem that we can build on top of. We also have some pretty deep payments capability”, which Sheikha believes can help merchants drive growth and expansion via the super app.
Citing the success of WeChat in China, Grab and Gojek in Indonesia, Sheikha is confident that this focus on fintech will drive the company’s future growth. One issue with super apps however, particularly in China, is the dominance they eventually assume in the startup ecosystem. Their vast reach provides the third party partners a captive customer base, but they can end up monopolising the market.
But according to Sheikha, super apps can “democratise and level the play field”.
“Now you don’t need to do all the things that Careem has done over the last 10 years. We’ve acquired customers, built last mile logistics capabilities, we accept payments across the region and there’s so many other things we have built that we believe should make it easier for you to build compelling services, not just in one country, but expand them in other countries where Careem is also present,” he added. “It will spur more entrepreneurial activity in the region, than less.”