Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 November 2019

Emiratis get in the driving seat for Careem

Ride-hailing app has welcomed its part first batch of UAE national drivers and expects hundreds more to follow

Dr Abdullah Al Ameri is one of the first wave of new Emirati drivers for Careem.  Khushnum Bhandari for The National
Dr Abdullah Al Ameri is one of the first wave of new Emirati drivers for Careem.  Khushnum Bhandari for The National

Emirati drivers are getting behind the wheel for ride-hailing app Careem for the first time - to allow passengers to tour the UAE through 'the eyes of a local'.

The first eight UAE nationals have already hit the road, with the firm expecting hundreds more to follow their lead.

As part of an initiative with the Integrated Transport Centre, the growing convoy of commercial drivers will even be allowed to use their own vehicles.

Careem has launched the scheme in Abu Dhabi but it will eventually be extended across the country.

Emiratis also recently started driving for fellow taxi app, Uber.

Bassel Al Nahlaoui said the goal is to give tourists and expatriate residents alike a true Emirati experience and to "see the city in the eyes of a local".

Careem users now have an option to choose the ‘Go Emirati’ car option which booking a ride. If they do, one of the Emirati captains will show up at their doorstep in cars including a Range Rover, Nissan Patrol and even a Cadillac.

When Dr Abdullah Al Ameri picked up his first clients last week, he admits they were surprised to be greeted by him.

“It was an Afghani family, and when they opened the door and saw me in a kandura, they were confused and the father asked ‘Careem?’.

“It was the most challenging so far, because their ride was to Sharjah,” which he said is an area he was not familiar with.

“But I did not want to turn them down, so I drove them. On the way back I called my friends and told them about my experience,” said the 28-year-old civil engineer.

His experience has tempted seven of his friends to join as Careem Captains, too.

Dr Al Ameri works as a project manager in a major company, but has found ten hours of his time over the past week to serve Careem users.

Careem has openings for full and part-time positions for Emirati drivers.

“People have been asking me ‘why would you come in your free time and work as a Careem driver?’,” said Dr Al Ameri.

But the new recruit is proud to be the welcoming face for people making their way around Abu Dhabi.

“It is not shameful for an Emirati to work as anything. When a visitor walks out of the airport and finds a local driver he will have a different experience than if the driver was a foreigner," he said.

“We can deliver our message and it is a chance for us to show them our vision and introduce them to our culture.”

Careem Captains can use their own cars and only have to pay back 20 per cent of the fare to the company.

“But the main goal if you ask me why I am in Careem? I am here to serve my country and deliver its message to those coming to see my country,” said Dr Al Ameri.

Since Careem launched its recruitment drive, more than 150 Emiratis have applied.

So far,14 drivers have received their permits, eight of whom are already driving for the company, and about 40 are having their applications processed with the Integrated Transport Centre (ITC).

“We are receiving hundreds of applications from Emiratis every day,” said Gheed El Makkaoui, general manager of Careem in the UAE.

There are currently 1.3 million Careem drivers in 120 cities located between Morocco and Pakistan.

Ms Makkaoui said she expects hundreds of Emirati captain to become Careem captains within a matter of months.

Updated: February 14, 2019 07:15 PM

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