Careem eying regional opportunities worth $2.8tr: CEO

Consumer payments, financial services and international transfers are three areas Careem can develop (Shutterstock)
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RIYADH: The head of Dubai-based Careem believes there is a $2.8 trillion sized market in the Middle East for the company to tap into.

Speaking to Al Arabiya, the firm’s CEO and co-founder Mudassir Sheikha said consumer payments, financial services and international transfers are three areas Careem can develop.

He said that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the two largest markets in this regard.

Careem will launch smartphone services in the UAE first then in Saudi Arabia, the largest and most strategic market for the company, Sheikha said, adding: “What we apply in the UAE, we have to adjust it to match the requirements of the Saudi market. 

“We have partners, merchants and customers in Saudi Arabia, and we can implement solutions that facilitate matters for all these groups.” 

Talking about the company's presence in Egypt, Morocco and Pakistan, Sheikha said that despite the population being very high in those countries, the percentage of people who have bank accounts is very low.

The challenge in these countries is how to simplify things, including simplifying transfers, for example, and also how to make it easier for small businesses to receive payments for their services, he said.

Sheikha continued: “However, these countries have a high penetration rate of smartphones, which can be a tool for banking services, in addition to the high penetration of e-commerce, so the opportunities are great, but they differ from one country to another.”

The case is totally the opposite in the Gulf Cooperation Council area, where there is a high penetration of bank accounts and bank cards, he added.

Careem CEO stressed that the company is not competing with banks, on the contrary, it looks for partnerships with banks and fintechs in developing and facilitating digital payments and increasing their spread at the expense of using cash.

Cross-border transfers are part of the company's future plans, allowing its customers to use the funds placed within the Careem wallet on the application and transfer them appropriately and at the lowest possible cost to their families, he explained.

Read More: Careem grows beyond original avatar; CEO eyes ‘Super App’ status

Recovery from the pandemic

Careem's business exceeded pre-pandemic levels in some countries, most notably the UAE, driven by a list of services provided by the company.

The picture differs from country to another, and the company is rushing to recover in all markets, Sheikha told Al Arabiya.

“In the UAE, we have a complete basket of products within the umbrella of the comprehensive Careem application or the SUPER APP, which includes 12 services, including car rental, food delivery, grocery products and taxis," he explained.

The pandemic came as a deep hit to the company, but could quickly diversify its business and its merging as a ‘Super App’ could do many more things than just ride-hailing, Sheikha told Arab news at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress held in Riyadh last month.