The CEO of Careem, Uber’s Dubai ridesharing subsidiary, said he doesn’t expect a full recovery until next year, but predicted accelerated expansion for the company’s “super app.”
“This crisis is, if anything, accelerating the growth of digital platforms,” Mudassir Sheikha told CNBC on Sunday (May 31). “A lot of people who would go out in the offline world and do things are now forced to do things digitally.”
At its worst point during the COVID-19 lockdown, Careem’s business was off by more than 80 percent. Despite laying off nearly a third of its workforce last month, Sheikha said the United Arab Emirates ride-hailing firm has not put the brakes on expansion.
“My mom, for example, had never used an app, but has been forced to use an app to get basic things delivered to her,” he told the network. “So, fundamentally we believe we’re in a very strong place … as a digital platform to come out stronger.”
Last fall, Uber signed an agreement to buy Careem for $3.1 billion. Founded eight years ago, the ride-hailing company was celebrated as the No. 1 tech startup in the Middle East and North Africa. Careem has 33 million customers and 1.2 million drivers, and operates in more than 100 cities across 15 countries, from Morocco to Pakistan.
The industry has been dramatically impacted by the pandemic amid shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders.
“Unfortunately, the core business of people transport has been impacted significantly, and it is our view that while this business is starting to recover, it will probably take until sometime next year for a full recovery to happen, and that business will remain a little bit smaller than what we had built,” Sheikha told CNBC.
Still, he said, other parts of the business, such as delivery and payments, which are part of Careem’s “super app,” are in the midst of rapid growth.
Users of the Careem app can do more than just request a ride. Other offerings include bike rentals, food ordering, item delivery and goods from local shops and pharmacies, noted Sheikha.
In addition, Careem PAY enables users to charge all Careem services from their accounts within the app and transfer credit to friends and family.
“The idea is that regardless of what you want from the online world, you can point to a store and look at that store’s catalog and get things delivered to you, at your door in a matter of minutes,” Sheikha said.