Bite.Tech Business Review: Karwa (Taxi Service)
What is Karwa?
Karwa is a taxi service application built to fit the needs of the Iraqi market. When developing this application Ahmed Ali and his team of local Iraqi developers focused on designing an application that will engage the Iraqi users “the Iraqi audience has a different mindset when it comes to mobile service applications when comparing to other countries in the region. The people of Iraq have not used an online taxi service prior to Karwa, and the country’s circumstances make it very difficult to implant an on the shelve application in the country. This is why our team at Karwa has taken every detail into consideration when building a localized application for Iraq.” The Karwa application contains some features that are missing in the on the shelve taxi applications such as an additional information box that will allow users to describe their location in detail. The application also uses the Iraqi Arabic dialect, and has a very easy navigation system.
Ahmed Ali is the CEO and founder of Karwa. He graduated from the University of Baghdad with a degree in Computer Engineering. He is based in Dubai and is managing the business remotely (his operating team are based in Baghdad). His team is made up of local Iraqi programmers and foreign advisers with expertise in building mobile applications. His advisors are Ahmed Al-Shagra, the founder of Nadrus and Saif Aljaaibaji, CEO of United Healthcare and founder of Sehteq.
Karwa in currently available in Baghdad only, but the team are planning to expand to other parts of the country after 6 months from launch. The next focus area will be the Kurdistan region of Iraq; they are confident of growing the business in this part of Iraq.
How can you become a Karwa Driver?
In its soft launch Karwa launched a website made up of two sections, one of them for customers, and the other is designated for drivers. Applicants who are interested in becoming Karwa drivers must be between 18-65 years of age. They will have to complete a form by adding their full names, email address, type of car, and the year it was built on on the website. Karwa has already received over 1000 requests from interested applicants. Once the applications have been submitted the Karwa team will contact the applicants individually, and they will have to provide the team with their qualifications, a valid driver’s license, and the amount of rides they are planning to take in a day. All applicants will go through a screening process; the Karwa team will examine the applicants’ background and look into the criminal history and police certifications from respective government authorities. If an application is approved, the applicant will then have to pass the Karwa safety training. The safety training in Karwa will provide drivers with information on areas that are prohibited for Karwa drivers to go through, such as the villages near Baghdad, abandoned roads, and dangerous areas in the city. The drivers will also have a speed limit, which they cannot go beyond.
In its future plans, Karwa plans to hire female drivers who will provide rides for female customers only. The female drivers will have to go through the same screening process as the male drivers in Karwa.
“Our drivers are not our employees, they are our partners; they will work in their own time. We will only send them ride requests which they are free to decline.” Drivers will not have to sign employee contracts. They will however have to sign a legal agreement, which will lay out each party’s rights and liabilities.
The Karwa office located in Baghdad will be ready mid February 2017. The team will begin to contact the registered applicants once the office is ready.
Karwa will take a commission of 15% to 20% on each ride completed by a driver.
Interested users can fill out the section designated for them on the website, they will have to provide their names and email addresses. Once the application is launched the team at Karwa will contact them, and will provide them with a free first ride up to a certain distance.
Through the GPS navigation in their phones, customers can identify their current locations. If their location is not found, they will need to manually add the location in the Ride Request screen on the application. The customers and the drivers will be able to contact each other by phone or SMS through their carier operator. Karwa has plans of building a native chatting system within the application in the future.
Once they reach their destination, customers can pay either in cash or online through Zain Cash, Asia Wallet, and potentially through Qi Card.
What makes Karwa Different?
Through Karwa, Ahmed Ali plans to provide the people with a safe and convenient transportation service, while providing additional income for thousands of people.
The Karwa team mentioned they carefully studied the transportation market in Iraq. “Being Iraqi’s, we have a strong understanding of the Iraqi culture and we have taken this aspect and the country’s current circumstances into consideration before we started designing our product, we built our product from scratch to cover all those aspects” said Ahmed.
The Karwa team is happy to share its business studies with other founders and developers who plan to launch an online startup in Iraq and Kurdistan. During their research process they conducted a demographic study of the region, and their potential customers. “We can assist who ever wants our support. We are working in research and are happy to share experiences. We want to create a culture for using technology that will reflect positively in Iraq” said Ahmed.
Karwa is actively working on promoting its business to raise awareness, finding the market fit, and signing up drivers and customers through social networks.
Lara Saeed is a graduate of the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani. She holds a BA degree in English Literature. During her four years in university, she was a staff writer for AUIS Voice, the first independent on campus newsletter in Iraq. When she is not busy reading, writing, or editing Lara likes to… read.