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Series: Built in the UAE – Part 1: Careem – Super App = Super Success

Welcome to the first instalment of our ‘Built in the UAE’ entrepreneurial series. Today we take a look at Careem and its dominant internet platform.

Of course, this UAE startup success story needs very little introduction: famously established in 2012 as a ride-sharing app, it recently announced that its internet platform has amassed an astonishing 48 million users.

And there will be more to come. Since its much-publicised acquisition by Uber at the start of 2020, Careem’s new ‘Super App’ has propelled it into another league. The app offers a plethora of services from ride-hailing, RTA taxis, deliveries of food and goods, to money transfer and mobile recharge. Everything, in short, to keep our frantic modern lives running smoothly.

Careem’s roots are firmly planted in the UAE. From its early years it has received backing from local companies including STC, Al Tayyar, Kuwait Investment Authority and Dubai’s Abraaj Capital. A local pedigree with – today – a global outreach.

How has Careem achieved so much in such a relatively short time? A few key foundational philosophies help paint a picture:

  • Building partnerships: Careem believes in the importance of fostering partnerships for success. As Careem’s UAE General Manager Victor Kiriakos-Saad says: “The objective isn’t to build everything.” The smart company recognises the need for cross-collaboration in today’s globalised marketplace. A case in point: last year it partnered with Visa to expand digital financial inclusion across the MENA region by integrating Visa into the Careem Super Pay app.
  • Diversification: Careem’s ability to pivot and branch out into new fields has ensured it continues to thrive even against the challenging backdrop of Covid-19. “At the peak of the crisis,” says Kiriakos-Saad, “I think there was a drop in ride-hailing by about 80%. For Careem, being digital and tech first, I think that when Covid hit we were well prepared to overcome this challenge. Covid accelerated the transformation… A person who never did any online shopping is now buying their groceries online. And now we’re seeing recovery come back.”
  • Rewarding loyalty: One key to any successful consumer-centric business is – quite literally in this case – bringing your customers along for the ride. Careem has ensured that continued use of its services brings its own rewards. Customers can earn points whenever they charge their Careem Wallet, which can be translated into free trips or discounts on other Careem services such as delivery and food orders.

Of course, there has been much more to Careem’s success over the years. They jumped on an opportunity and moved quickly, they sought support from the right players along the way, and they aggressively entered new markets to expand their reach from a UAE-play to a regional-and-beyond play.

One thing is certain: When it comes to UAE-homegrown success stories, there is a lot to learn from the Careem journey, and a lot to admire. Which is why we’ll continue to keep a close eye on this company’s development as it furthers its mission to ‘make everyday life simple’ for its users.

Next up we’ll be looking at how the UAE’s built from the ground up into an ecommerce powerhouse. To catch up on all our past content just visit our blog