Careem, the UAE-based ride-hailing app which was recently acquired by US-based Uber is only just starting its “second chapter” according to co-founder Magnus Olsson.
Speaking to Wamda executive chairman Fadi Ghandour at Wamda’s fourth annual investor conference, Olsson explained the company’s plans after the $3.1 billion acquisition, the largest exit to date in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region.
“While the world thinks it’s a big deal, for us it’s chapter two, it’s not the end of the story,” he said. “For us, this means we have a very strong backer and partner in Uber that will help us further pursue our purpose to simplify and improve the lives of the people in the region.”
This next chapter is to propel Careem beyond ride-hailing, to become the region’s super app, akin to China’s Wechat where users can pay for goods, order food or read curated news.
In its last fundraising round, Careem raised $200 million with the agenda to become a “tech platform” leveraging its brand and operational footprint across 120 cities in 15 countries. Over the past year the company has ventured into food delivery through Careem NOW, which it most recently launched in Riyadh with further plans for expansion. It also introduced a Careem financial technology (fintech) online payment solution as well as offering more mobility options including a bus service in Cairo.
“Ride-hailing is still an expensive option for 98 per cent of the population,” said Olsson. “So we want to go for the mass option for people with mobility. People love [Careem Bus] 40 per cent of the population is not even served with any public transport infrastructure, we think it’s a $100 million market in the region alone.”
But it seems to be payments where Careem is hoping to make a mark. To date, 90 per cent of all its transactions are in cash – “so that’s a massive opportunity”, according to Olsen. “We have the scale – we have transaction relationship with our customers so we’re in a good position.”
The company is now working with regulators to attain the financial licenses in a bid to use Careem Pay to buy or pay for goods beyond the rides, which will help with financial inclusion, particularly in markets like Pakistan and Egypt.
The endgame is to “go into the Careem app and never leave”, said Olsson.