Hailing a fast-becoming industry: An Interview with Careem’s Christian Eid
March 29, 2017

While Uber has gathered speed as a leading platform for autonomous taxi hailing on a wide and vastly growing digital scale, back home in the Middle East, Careem, a homegrown alternative is gaining more traction as the go-to service for getting from A to B, while it positively competes for market share with triumph.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Christian Eid, Head of Marketing, following an engaging talk that was held at the ArabNet 2017, Beirut, earlier last month on the growing status of Careem as a leading service in the Middle East.

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Christian Eid heads up the marketing at Careem and finds it difficult to do things by the book. A true people person, he leads a team of equally innovative thinkers and strives to make sure Careem provides the vehicle to take colleagues, captains and customers further than they ever thought possible. Committed to the region, Christian drives Careem’s mission to build an institution that harnesses the trailblazing potential of the MENASA region as well as amplify the boldness of its ambitions.

Q: I’m assuming there have been many other local equivalents that have tried but failed to match up to Uber if not surpass it in terms of quality in service let alone go so far as to actually compete with that service in the Middle East. But Careem has definitely made headway in taking the lead. Can you tell us what it is in specific that made Careem shine? 

In short, we are a mission driven organization that has been successful at building an institution. Careem started simply out of an ambition to have a positive impact on as many lives as possible, as well as create a north star for the region’s brightest and most innovative. The idea was to build a brand and team that could inspire a region and be the spark for a movement of innovative development. The winning recipe wasn’t only a question of our product’s competitive edge, but instead the sheer collective will and determination of our 1200+ colleagues. We are in the people business and we have taken the time to build a culture that is stakeholder-centric in every aspect of our organization. Whether you are a Captain, Customer or Colleague, we have built a platform that knows how to listen and provide real solutions that make life better and easier. That’s why we win.

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Q: Seeing as Dubai is on a direct route to becoming the world’s smartest city in less than a decade, how soon will it be before Careem, similar to Uber, can offer self-driving cars? Is this even on the menu? 

Innovation is the only constant in our business. Careem intends to remain at the forefront of mobility and it is clear that self-driving cars will be the next big frontier of our industry. In an effort to push forward and ensure future competitiveness, Careem has committed 100M USD to our Careem Labs department tasked solely at exploring both self-driving technology and several other confidential initiatives. Further, we have a strategic partnership with Italian-based Next Future Transportation to push the development and launch of a public transportation solution of self-driving pods. We expect testing to begin towards the end of this year, fingers crossed.

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Q: Can you describe some key innovations that Careem has both embraced and is due to adopt, and that feed into its being in so much demand? 

Careem’s tremendous growth is in part due to its ability to create products and functions that matter to our customers. The solutions have been both basic operational wins and elaborate technical differences. From accepting cash as a method of payment long before our competition and allowing users to pre-schedule their bookings, to integrating with the region’s top loyalty programs and partners, Careem sees innovation as predominantly listening to what your stakeholders want as well as understanding what the greater community needs.

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Q: During your talk at the ArabNet, you made it clear that Careem is not positioned as a disruptor. I know that the term is thrown around and can have both a positive and negative connotation when it comes to marketing services these days, but can you explain why Careem is NOT a disruptor? 

Careem is not a disruptor in that our only ambition is to create a platform for both supply and demand to connect to. We have no motivation to limit who gets to benefit from our platform and are ready to work with both private and public transportation solutions. We collaborate instead of disrupt and will continute to work closely with all stakeholders, including governments, to provide the best transportation solutions to our communities.   

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Q: Many apps are insisting on including a human element to the experience, to move on from the cold border of digital services which these days almost involve zero human interaction. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?

Until today, no screen can ever replace a friendly smile and for this reason we will continue to invest in people. Technology is not cold, it’s simply controlled. It doesn’t have emotions and therefore cannot truly read the emotional needs of its customers. At least not yet. The Middle East is a region that deserves and requests that extra bit of personalization and our customer care teams provide that safety net of service and experience. We believe that our customers and captains cherish this extra mile of support that keeps them satisfied with our service. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, and driving home the true essence of what Careem stands for. It’s great to it from a locally spun brand that definitely gives back to its users as its name candidly suggests. 

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by Ghassan Khayyat
Ghassan was tuned into the writing world on a transistor radio-wave of an unbeknownst frequency, once upon a daydream dreary. With a firm belief in Dr. Seussims and all things gadget and gizmo-tronic, he tinkers before he speaks, and chooses his words technologically. He is Editor for T3 Middle East’s Levant English publication and English website, and Associated Editor for the GCC English publication. Reach him at ghassan@t3me.com. 
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