Careem coronavirus recovery means leaner team, expansion of Super App

A Careem Networks FZ logo is located outside a driver assistance center at the headquarters of the transport company in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Christopher Pike | Bloomberg | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Transit company Careem suffered a few difficult months as the coronavirus pandemic ravaged demand and froze human movements, keeping the vast majority of its market indoors.

At the worst of the national deadlocks, the company’s business fell by more than 80%, CEO Mudassir Sheikha told CNBC on Sunday. But while Careem can emerge from the lighter crisis, Sheikha said, she continues to move forward with plans to expand her services, and sees some of these plans accelerating as the demands of the “new normal” creates new opportunities.

“This crisis is accelerating, at least, the growth of digital platforms,” ​​Sheikha told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble via Skype. “Many people who went out into the offline world and did things are now forced to do things digitally. My mom, for example, had never used an app but was forced to use an app to receive things basic.” , “he said.” So basically we think we are in a very strong place to go out as a digital platform to go out stronger. “

The Dubai-based company, bought by Uber for $ 3.1 billion in 2019, is popular in the Middle East, South Asia and parts of Africa. Like many companies in the transport sector, it has made significant layoffs due to the pandemic – it announced in early May a reduction of 31% of its workforce.

Sheikha recognized this, as well as the time it took for business to rebound. “Unfortunately, the core business of passenger transportation has been significantly impacted, and we believe that even if this business begins to recover, it will likely take until next year for a full recovery to occur, and this business will stay a little smaller than what we built. “

The Super App

However, other areas of the business, such as delivery and payments – which are part of Careem’s “Super App” mission – are experiencing “rapid growth,” says Sheikha. The firm has diversified in terms of offers in order to offer multiple services beyond carpooling on a single screen.

If you open the Careem app today, ordering a car is just one of the many options – the others include bike rental, ordering food, delivering items and ordering products in local stores and pharmacies. There is also Careem Pay, which allows users to pay for all Careem services from their account in the app and transfer credits to friends and family members.

In these areas, “we double up,” says Sheikha – especially now, when so many people are reluctant to venture into public places and often feel more comfortable using a delivery service to get their products.

“So before we even let go of some of the people we had to abandon, a lot of people in this area moved to work on deliveries, to work on the Super App, to work on (Careem) Pay.”

He described one of the most recent additions, Careem Shops. “The idea is that regardless of what you expect from the online world, you can point to a store and look at that store’s catalog and have it delivered to your door in a matter of minutes,” he said. declared. “This is the goal, and this is where resources, and more and more people, are displaced.”

“A ton of opportunities”

The CEO, who co-founded Careem in 2012, said he had seen digital adoption and demand for online services accelerate dramatically in the Middle East and its neighboring emerging markets – markets known to lead large part of their daily offline activities.

“All of a sudden, business is growing fast, from offline migration to online migration, which we thought would happen in three to four years – it will likely happen in six months to a year”, did he declare. “If anything, some of the plans we had for next year or the next year regarding the Middle East, regarding the Super App, regarding payment, we think in makes it time to do it now. ”

“We have to play a certain defense in order to make sure that we get out of the crisis in the best possible way,” said Sheikha. “But there are a ton of opportunities that suddenly opened up. And the things that were to happen later are starting to happen faster. And we want to make sure that we’re there to help people get through this transformation and as a result, move this region forward. “

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