Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 October 2019

Careem to forge partnerships with governments to boost growth amid regulatory hurdles

Company ties up with RTA to make all Dubai taxis available on its app

Bassel Al Nahlaoui, managing director of Careem Gulf and Pakistan speaking during the press conference about the official launch of Hala with Dubai's RTA. Pawan Singh / The National
Bassel Al Nahlaoui, managing director of Careem Gulf and Pakistan speaking during the press conference about the official launch of Hala with Dubai's RTA. Pawan Singh / The National

Ride hailing company Careem is seeking partnerships with governments or transport authorities in different countries amid challenges from regulators, a top executive of the company told The National.

On Thursday, Careem formed a partnership with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authorit to make more than half of the RTA’s taxi fleet available to book through its ride-hailing app by mid-September and put all 10,000 of its cars on the app by the start of next year. Careem and the RTA created a joint venture company named Hala to operate the service, and under that company Careem is aiming to forge other public sector partnerships.

“Even if you look at history, there has been some tensions between a ride hailing company and the government globally. That was never part of our mission or vision in the region and we always wanted to collaborate with the government and help them move forward,” said Bassel Al Nahlaoui, managing director of Careem for Gulf and Pakistan.

The company is currently in discussions with the governments in the countries where it operates to strengthen relationships and popularise the ride hailing service.

“There is interest from governments, which I cannot state as yet as we are in very early discussions,” he said, without divulging further details.

Regulatory challenges have increased for ride hailing companies. In Egypt, the government introduced a set of new operating fees and licencing rules for Uber and Careem, and smaller competitors, due to opposition from traditional taxi businesses.

Dubai-based Careem currently operates in 120 cities across 15 countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, among others.

The company, which agreed to be bought by rival Uber for $3.1 billion (Dh11.39bn) in March, plans to expand its services to more countries to boost growth.

Careem is also looking at acquisitions in multiple sectors from food delivery to taxi services and micro-mobility.

In May, it announced the acquisition of UAE bike sharing company Cyacle for an undisclosed sum for its first foray into “micro-mobility”- an increasingly popular service providing easy access to scooter and bike rentals in urban areas.

“We are looking for acquisitions across the board. The pipeline is really long and full of things.”

The company is also planning to add more cities to its food delivery service in the next six months starting with Pakistan. Last month it expanded its food delivery service to Makkah.

Mr Al Nahlaoui said the partnership with the RTA “is a milestone moment for the industry, with the public and private sectors coming together to bring ride hailing tech to everyday taxis.”

The RTA plans to rolls out the service to its entire fleet of 10,000 taxis by the beginning of next year and cut down the estimated arrival time of taxis to less than 5 minutes over the next few months.

People will be able to use credit cards to pay, see routes in advance and rate drivers.

Updated: August 29, 2019 09:40 PM

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