As crypto gains credence, car-hailing app covers the territory

As crypto gains credence, car-hailing app covers the territory
A general view of Dubai. Firdosh Sheikh, founder and CEO of Drife, said the platform has moved its tech and IT operations from India to Dubai with an eye toward regional expansion. (Reuters/File)
Short Url
Updated 01 May 2022

As crypto gains credence, car-hailing app covers the territory

As crypto gains credence, car-hailing app covers the territory
  • A disruptive new mobility startup aims to give drivers full commission and let riders pay with crypto

DUBAI: On a rainy night in Bengaluru, India, Firdosh Sheikh was about to get into a car to go to the airport when the driver asked if she would cancel the ride. He told her he would still drive her to her destination for a lesser sum than the quoted fare. The catch? He wanted to be paid directly rather than give up 50 percent of the commission to the ride-sharing app.

That cab ride was like a flash of lightning, a Eureka moment. And the concept for Drife.io was born, a blockchain-based startup that put the power back in the hands of drivers.

“I had completed more than 5,000 rides and often wondered about the drivers’ struggles, but this night was a turning point,” said Sheikh, founder and CEO of Drife, a decentralized ride-hailing platform.

“Taking rides was my only mode of commute; like many women, I was terrified of public transport. This made me think of the other side of the story: How do companies treat drivers? How can we make the system fairer, safer and more efficient for all?” she wondered.

Two and a half years later, Drife.io has grown into a company with 4,000 registered drivers and over 20,000 active riders using its app. The startup is on track to hit targets of 12,000 drivers and half-a-million riders by the end of June. It operates with a subscription model: A driver pays between $50 and $70 per month to become a member and receives 100 percent commission on any ride. A rider pays for every ride taken, like usual ride-sharing apps. 




Drife.io has grown into a company with 4,000 registered drivers and over 20,000 active riders using its app. (Supplied)

“The biggest challenge is going up against these giants in the industry, like Uber,” she said. “Initially, we struggled a lot before we went live. But this is the perfect time for a blockchain-based ride-sharing app, and we have seen rapid growth.”

According to data from Bengaluru-based research firm Mordor Intelligence, the global ride-sharing market was valued at $21.42 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $61.24 billion by 2026, registering a compound annual growth rate of 17.32 percent between 2021 and 2026.

Crypto connection

Drife.io also has a unique aspect that sets it apart. This Uber-like app accepts cryptocurrency as payment and already has its own token: Drife. When the concept for the startup was in its initial stages, Sheikh sought equity fundraising from venture capitalists in India. But despite spending time and money on the app’s architecture, the feedback was unanimous: Having a blockchain-based ride-sharing app is a great idea, but will the execution work?

“People said the concept looked perfect on paper, but implementation looked too ambitious,” said Sheikh, who has a background in finance. “Our problem was designing an app based on the blockchain that would be easy to use for riders and drivers. That’s how I created my token and raised nearly $3 million in funding for it.”

The crypto element appealed to venture capital firms, who gave the startup a leg up with a fundraising round in August 2021 of $2.7 million. The funds went toward marketing the company, designing a user-friendly app and hiring a team. By November, she had launched a beta version that friends and family tested.

Widening horizons

Sheikh’s long-term plans include scaling to 10 cities by the end of this year, starting with the Middle East. To that end, the startup managed to hire Daniel Mangabeira Dantas, former head of policy for Latin America at Uber and 20-year veteran in the ride-sharing industry, to serve as Drife’s new strategic investor and policy adviser, guiding the company toward global expansion. 

Saudi Arabia is an exciting place that is changing quickly, and as the biggest GCC market, it is definitely on our radar.

Firdosh Sheikh, Founder of Drife

Sheikh moved to Dubai in early 2022 and is actively speaking to partners to launch first in the Gulf Cooperation Council, including across the UAE and expanding into Saudi Arabia next.

“We can operate from anywhere globally, and we made the tech, so we own it,” she said.

“We started speaking to partners to launch in Dubai and are currently looking at the Road and Traffic Authority’s compliance and licensing requirements. The main reason we registered in Dubai is that it is now the crypto and blockchain hub in the region.”

She confirmed that Drife.io had moved its tech and IT operations from India to Dubai with an eye toward regional expansion. “We are actively looking into partners in Saudi who would  like to take part in the operations of Drife,” said Sheikh.  “Saudi is an exciting place that is changing quickly, and as the biggest GCC market, it is definitely on our radar.”

Setting wheels in motion

Sheikh’s attention to detail with the app has made it popular in India’s major cities in a relatively short time frame. Features include no multiplier or surcharge applied during peak hours. Also, the app does not assign a specific driver, leaving the rider with the freedom to choose based on reviews and a list of cars in the vicinity.

FASTFACTS

• According to data from Bengaluru-based research firm Mordor Intelligence, the global ride-sharing market was valued at $21.42 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $61.24 billion by 2026, registering a compound annual growth rate of 17.32 percent between 2021 and 2026.

• Drife.io has a unique aspect that sets it apart. This Uber-like app accepts cryptocurrency as payment and already has its own token: Drife. When the concept for the startup was in its initial stages, Sheikh sought equity fundraising from venture capitalists in India.

Drivers who are vetted and part of a subscription model keep the entire commission from a ride. Additionally, the company will accept payments in cryptocurrency from June.

“We need blockchain because it stands for transparency and fairness,” said Sheikh. “It’s a fair calculation, so we can’t manipulate the system with surcharges or changes to commissions. We don’t profit beyond subscriptions from drivers, allowing them to have 100 percent ownership.”

It is a disruptive model in a competitive mobility space, but it is simple, and it works.

Drife.io has already captured the imagination of a few regional venture capitalists, and the company is now aiming for an equity round in June to scale itself globally. The road to building the business has not been easy, but Sheikh is riding the momentum as cryptocurrency goes mainstream worldwide.

“I always face difficulty walking into a meeting room as a young female founder. They don’t trust a woman driving in India, much less a woman leading a mobility startup,” said Sheikh. “There are very few women in this space. But I always tell myself, I can have any number of limitations, but not my gender. This is a great concept and we are proving it, one ride at a time.”


Qatar Airways to resume operations to Qassim, adds 4 flights to Riyadh

Qatar Airways to resume operations to Qassim, adds 4 flights to Riyadh
Updated 40 sec ago

Qatar Airways to resume operations to Qassim, adds 4 flights to Riyadh

Qatar Airways to resume operations to Qassim, adds 4 flights to Riyadh

RIYADH: Qatar Airways will resume its operations to Qassim, its fifth destination in Saudi Arabia, according to a statement. 

The flights will operate three days weekly starting Aug. 22 and will increase to four from Sept. 2.

The airline will also introduce four additional weekly flights to Riyadh starting Aug. 18, bringing the total flight to 20 per week to meet the growing demand.

Currently, Qatar Airways operates 93 weekly flights to four cities in Saudi Arabia, following the latest additions, the total number of weekly flights to the Kingdom will reach 101. 


Saudi-listed East Pipes seeks capital hike as it posts 190% profit jump

Saudi-listed East Pipes seeks capital hike as it posts 190% profit jump
Updated 35 min 5 sec ago

Saudi-listed East Pipes seeks capital hike as it posts 190% profit jump

Saudi-listed East Pipes seeks capital hike as it posts 190% profit jump

RIYADH: Saudi-listed East Pipes Integrated Co. for Industry’s board has proposed a capital raise of 50 percent, after reporting a higher second-quarter profit.

The pipe manufacturer is looking to increase its current capital of SR210 million ($56 million) to SR315 million through granting bonus shares, according to a bourse filing.

Shareholders will receive 0.5 shares for every one share held through the capitalization of SR105 million from retained earnings.

“The objective of the proposed bonus shares is to provide sustainable returns to shareholders, whilst supporting the company’s strategic investment plans,” the filing stated.

East Pipes had earlier reported a 190 percent year-on-year surge in profits to SR6.2 million for the second quarter of 2022, buoyed by a higher sales volume.


NRG Matters — Egypt eyes $10bn renewables plan; ADNOC Drilling awarded offshore rigs contracts

NRG Matters — Egypt eyes $10bn renewables plan; ADNOC Drilling awarded offshore rigs contracts
Updated 43 min 13 sec ago

NRG Matters — Egypt eyes $10bn renewables plan; ADNOC Drilling awarded offshore rigs contracts

NRG Matters — Egypt eyes $10bn renewables plan; ADNOC Drilling awarded offshore rigs contracts

RIYADH: Egypt is eying $10 billion of renewables to replace inefficient thermal fossil fuel power plants. 

In an effort to drive the country’s carbon emissions reduction goal, the precuts are expected to be delivered by the private sector, according to MEED.

US motors

A group representing General Motors, Toyota Motor, Volkswagen and other major automakers said a $430 billion bill approved by the US Senate will put achieving electric-vehicle adoption targets for 2030 in jeopardy.

The Alliance for Automotive Innovation had warned that most EV models would be ineligible for a $7,500 tax credit for US buyers under the bill, Reuters reported. 

Offshore rigs

ADNOC Drilling has been awarded two contracts totaling over 12.6 billion dirhams ($3.4 billion) to hire eight jack-up offshore rigs, Trade Arabia reported. 

Awarded by ADNOC Offshore, the contracts will support the expansion of the firm’s crude oil production capacity to 5 million barrels per day by 2030 and enable gas self-sufficiency for the UAE.


TASI ends higher on strong earnings reports: Closing bell

TASI ends higher on strong earnings reports: Closing bell
Updated 44 min 12 sec ago

TASI ends higher on strong earnings reports: Closing bell

TASI ends higher on strong earnings reports: Closing bell

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index ended Monday higher after a wave of earnings reports boosted investor sentiment.

The Tadawul All Share Index added 0.66 percent reaching 12,297, while the parallel market, Nomu, climbed 1.36 percent at 22,072.

The Saudi British Bank climbed 1.44 percent, while the Kingdom’s oil giant Saudi Aramco added 0.13 percent.

The Saudi National Bank, the Kingdom’s biggest lender, ended the day 1.82 percent higher, while Alinma Bank rose 1.07 percent.

The Middle East Paper Co. gained 2.83 percent, following a 216 percent increase in first half profits.

The Wafrah for Industry and Development Co. rose 2.79 percent, following the signing of a $4 million contract with German GEA Food for meat production.

Bank Albilad rose 2.62 percent, following the announcement of the establishment of Enjaz Payment Services Co., a closed joint-stock company located in Riyadh.

Almarai Co. increased 0.56 percent, following the announcement of the re-appointment of Prince Naif bin Sultan bin Mohammed bin Saud Alkabeer as chairman and Suliman Al-Muhaideb as vice chairman.


EU plan to cut gas use by 15% comes into effect

EU plan to cut gas use by 15% comes into effect
Updated 57 min 41 sec ago

EU plan to cut gas use by 15% comes into effect

EU plan to cut gas use by 15% comes into effect

BRUSSELS: An EU plan to cut gas consumption across the bloc by 15 percent to cope with an energy price crisis spurred by Russia’s war in Ukraine comes into effect on Tuesday.

The EU regulation enshrining the plan agreed two weeks ago by the 27-nation bloc was published Monday in the EU’s official administrative gazette, with the stipulation it would take force from Tuesday.

“Considering the imminent danger to the security of gas supply brought about by the Russian military aggression against Ukraine, this regulation should enter into force as a matter of urgency,” it said.

The aim is for the EU to be able to bolster its reserves of gas in time for what is likely to be a very tough winter. European households and businesses are being squeezed by skyrocketing energy prices and reduced Russian gas that several member states are dependent on.

The regulation said that EU countries “shall use their best efforts” to cut gas consumption by “at least 15 percent” between August this year and March next year, based on how much they used on average over the previous five years.

Some EU countries, though, had carve-outs from strictly following the rule, which was in any case termed a “voluntary demand reduction.”

These were countries not fully connected to the European electricity grid or with gas pipelines to other parts of the EU or unable to free up enough pipeline gas to help other member states.

Hungary, which relies on gas piped in directly from Russia, had demanded the exception.

Germany, the EU’s economic powerhouse, took a major share of the 40 percent of EU gas imports that came from Russia last year.

Should the European Commission see a “severe gas supply shortage” or exceptionally high gas demand emerging, it can ask EU countries to declare an alert for the bloc. That would make gas cuts binding and limit exceptions.