Careem’s $3.1 billion dollar acquisition from Uber has raised mixed emotions among the tech community across the Middle East. But one thing is for sure. The deal will not stop Careem from steadily growing its operations across Iraq.
Careem launched in Baghdad in 2018 and is one of the region’s first big technology companies to expand to the Iraqi market. What is under-reported is the immensely positive impact that Careem has had on safety and security for locals and internationals in Iraq’s capital city.
Iraqis would generally hesitate to use local taxis due to harassment, fear of kidnapping or assault. However, Careem’s vetted captains (drivers) have provided a secure method of transport in Baghdad. Consequently, it has led people to go out more, stay out late, and in general, explore their city on a much more frequent level than previous years have seen.
After a year in Baghdad, Careem has now launched its ride-hailing services in Najaf, Basrah, and Erbil. Reliable, hassle-free transport is a need across Iraq, particularly for women who tend to minimise taxi usage after facing harassment from taxi drivers. Not only will Careem continue to create jobs and increase safety, but it also increases technology usage among the local population.
Careem has spent a lot of time and resources training their captains to use the app’s functionality effectively. The age of taxi drivers across Iraq ranges from the early 20s to 80s. The majority of taxi drivers tend to be in the middle of this range and their technical ability is limited. Functionality such as using a map or following GPS is something the technically apt take for granted, but for a lot of the older population, it is not so intuitive. By enhancing users’ technical skills and developing interactions with apps, this will help pave the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs to release app-based solutions. Inevitably, Iraq’s startups will observe Careem’s success and replicate it in their own businesses.
Although the acquisition is not expected to close until 2020, Uber will acquire all of Careem’s operations across South Asia and the Middle East. This includes its food and package delivery, payment, and bus services. The latter services are yet to launch in Iraq but it does raise eyebrows from local competitors. The question is not if but when will Careem bring these services to Iraq? And how will local competition stay above water?
What are your thoughts on Uber’s acquisition of Careem and the expansion in Iraq?
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