Careem, the Middle East’s most popular multi-service platform service, has developed massively since its founding in July 2012. Now, the company operates in over 100 cities across 13 countries. Aside from its well-known ride hailing services, Careem offers food delivery, grocery shopping, bike sharing, B2B logistics, and other services.
The company is dedicated to supporting the digital transformation of the Middle East region and will achieve this through the expansion of its Super App.
Qasim Ahmed, Head of IT Infrastructure at Careem, discussed the company’s goal to boost digitalisation in their region: “Careem started close to 9 years ago with a very simple vision, to simplify the lives of millions of people in our region. Our reasoning behind this was we realised the region was slightly behind in terms of digital transformation and we saw a huge opportunity to fill that gap.”
By filling this gap, Careem believes it will improve the lives of millions and build a lasting organisation that inspires. As Careem expands, the company hopes it “can help the region leapfrog into digital transformation.”
A large part of achieving this vision involves hiring the right talent, Ahmed explained. Careem needs to “make sure the teams are empowered, and make sure colleagues are very much aligned with the cultural values, vision, and mission of the business...Day in and day out you have to do a lot of hard work. Things don’t get built overnight, just the way Rome wasn't built overnight, but to be successful there needs to be a lot of teamwork and team contribution,” he continued.
Navigating the challenges of the start-up world
As a still relatively new company, Careem has had to navigate the start-up world and face the challenges that come along with it in order to become as successful as they are today.
“We are called one of the biggest tech start-ups in the region,” said Ahmed.
One large part of the challenge Careem faces as a start-up is finding the right people to realise its mission. We love what we do and our aim is to work with owners who have the same drive and passion to create impact and make a difference.
He said: “When you look for talent in the Middle East region, many people come with a lot of diverse experience and skillsets. But one challenge is people aren’t sure how to work in a start-up culture. One has to be passionate, excited and have a bit of craziness as well to work in a startup. That's where I think the challenge comes, the crazy speed that a start-up runs in is something which, which people in the region weren’t very familiar with.”
Despite the challenges the company faced, Careem has been able to expand and build a team dedicated to the growth and development of the company.
Lending itself to the success of the company is Uber’s acquisition of Careem in 2020. The acquisition led to its expansion and Ahmed said it was “very exciting for the company and we can’t wait to soar to new heights”
“Being acquired by Uber will, in fact, help us realise our mission further. We now have the expertise and can join forces together to make a bigger impact and add more value to the region and to our customers,” Ahmed added.
Digitally transforming the region through the Careem platform
Driven by its goal to digitally transform the region, Careem is developing its SuperApp to support its customers in the region. Not only do Careem want to support people when looking for a taxi, food delivery, or grocery shopping, but they also want to support other start-ups and organisations in the region thereby helping the region grow even further.
Ahmed explained: “What we want for our millions of existing customers is for the Careem SuperApp to be their go-to place, a one-stop shop for all the services that Careem offers at the moment. We have a huge focus to help the other start-ups and other organisations in our region which lack technology platforms.
“We want to help them quickly reach their customer base and have their products and services available to them. To help them with this, they can use our platform to offer goods and services while targeting their customers,” he continued.
As a start-up itself, Careem understands the issues and challenges new companies face. He said: “Especially in the start-up world you do have a vision but there may not be a clear path to get there. You have to deal with a lot of uncertainty.”
This is why the company is keen to support others in the region and as a result, accelerate the digital transformation of the Middle East.
Looking at its own digital strategy and development, Careem has had to navigate its own uncertainty, especially when adopting new technologies and processes. This is particularly significant for start-ups as processes need revising more regularly to ensure best practices.
Having developed an efficient formula for this in its operations, Ahmed explained “When Careem builds digital processes we make sure it is sustainable, efficient and effective for the business which enables us to grow rather than slow down.”
Partnerships for improved growth and development
Although Careem has been successful with its development and expansion, it has achieved this with the help of its partners that provide services to boost company areas.
Recognising the need for the company to understand its customer base more effectively, Careem partnered with Genesys to streamline its customer service operations.
“In our region, people like to have interactive discussions,” explained Ahmed.
“For us, it was imperative to offer that kind of great customer experience, hence having a contact centre and customer care was an essential part of our growth that helped us to stay relevant to our customers. It helped us understand their concerns and make sure that these things are cascaded down to our engineering and product teams so that our products and services are aligned with our customers,” he continued.
By helping Careem build and deliver the customer service it wanted, Genesys has helped the company improve its operations based on the wants and needs of its customers.
To support its onboarding process, Careem sought a partnership with identity provider Okta.
“Our partnership with Okta resulted in a better onboarding experience, streamlined processes and quick and agile integration with any third-party systems.”
Adopting scalable and reliable technology for success
With this expansion comes the introduction of new technologies. As Head of IT Infrastructure Ahmed understands the scope of technology that can support Careem with its growth.
Keen not to choose ones not aligned with the company’s mission and goal, Ahmed explained how Careem is adaptive to avoid limiting itself to what the company can achieve.
He explained: “We are a company that was born in the cloud and we have a team who is quite passionate about technology. However, we don't limit ourselves to a certain technology stack, whether that's open-source or whether that's existing cloud providers.”
He added: “What we look for in the technology is its scalability, reliability and its ability to realize Careem’s vision. That's normally the kind of rationale which we use when looking to adopt new technologies.”
Developing the SuperApp to improve the lives of millions
Looking to the future, Careem is focused on developing and perfecting its SuperApp.
“We want it to be the SuperApp of the region,” said Ahmed. Once fully developed, Careem’s SuperApp will act as the go-to place for many people looking for products and services in the region.
The development of this SuperApp supports the company’s mission to simplify and digitally transform the lives of people in the Middle East.
Adding to this, Careem is also expanding its mobility services and food delivery services.
“I think COVID made everybody realise that delivery services are a very integral part of the system. That's where we have a lot of focus and emphasis to expand on food delivery. We are also growing in the domain of payments.
Impassioned by the company's planned expansion, Ahmed said: “There are quite a lot of exciting opportunities and a lot of exciting areas of growth where Careem is working.”