Interview with Careem Iraq

We recently had the pleasure to interview Careem Iraq’s GM, Mohamed Al Hakim, who was kind enough to explain the recent take-over by Uber and Careem’s plans for Iraq.

Mohamed Al Hakim - GM Iraq11.jpg

1- What does the acquisition by Uber mean for Careem?

  • Joining forces with Uber will help us accelerate Careem's purpose of simplifying and improving the lives of people and building an awesome organisation that inspires.
  • The mobility and broader internet opportunity in the region are massive and untapped and have the potential to leapfrog our region into the digital future.
  • This agreement brings Uber’s global leadership and technical expertise together with Careem’s regional technology infrastructure and proven ability to develop innovative local solutions across the region.

2- You started in Baghdad, What is your expansion strategy for Iraq?

  • Careem officially launched in the Iraqi market in January 2018.
  • We are currently operating in Baghdad, Najaf we are focused on expanding our operations; aiming at serving the entire Iraqi population, from the South to the North.
  • We are also concentrated at introducing other categories in ride-hailing that cater to other market fragments. In addition, we’re focused on introducing other verticals where we can use our best practice to add value.

3- This service is a new concept for many in the country, how do you intend on gaining more customers?

  • We are honoured to provide our services across Baghdad, Najaf, and after almost one-year of being present in the Iraqi market.
  • Our technology is built to fit each market we operate in and the model deployed in Iraq is no different than what is being deployed across the 15+ networks at Careem.
  • Most importantly, we ensure to hire local teams and empower them to make decisions that will ensure we overcome any challenges and take lead with brand awareness. Moreover, our marketing team ensures to launch campaigns that are very local and fits the market needs.
  • We also ensure to educate our customers through our on-ground activities, while also forming brand likeability and customer trust. Furthermore, we partner up with other players in the private sector in order to cross-market each other’s products and achieve synergies with other respectable brands.

4- What has been the greatest hurdle for you in Iraq?

  • We faced a couple of challenges when we first entered Iraq.
  • There are still existing challenges especially in transportation, as there has been no development of the infrastructure while the Iraqi population has tripled during the same period.
  • Other challenges involve business disruptions whether related to road closures or internet cutoffs. In addition, we also face the double whammy of low internet penetration and low IT literacy.
  • Although significantly, we don’t let these challenges slow us down. On the contrary, we come up with solutions to turn these challenges into opportunities. For example, when there is an internet cutoff, we sometimes switch to manual dispatching mode where we take customer bookings and dispatch Captains via phone calls. We make sure that we are ready to serve our Captains and customers regardless of the circumstances. When it comes to the low IT literacy, we focus quite a lot on on-ground activations in order to educate and interact with our customers face to face.

5- How does Iraq compare with your other frontier markets?

  • We see a lot of potential in Iraq and as a result, we have put Iraq at the forefront of our investments in 2019.
  • Careem represents a success story in the Iraqi market and is committed to empowering people and stimulating the economy through its business model and preferred services.
  • We are also devoted towards investing in the country and believe Iraq could be one of the largest countries at Careem. I am also proud to add that, we have adapted to the Iraqi market needs and environment thanks to our careful and considered approach.

6- Finally, apart from your transport service, what values will you be adding to Iraq?

  • We will keep expanding our ride-hailing services to provide reliable, affordable transportation throughout the country.
  • We are boosting the Iraqi economy through taxable revenue, and facilitating the operations of other businesses by establishing professional local partnerships and co-branded marketing campaigns.
  • We assure to support the Iraqi youth through multiple initiatives, for example, we ensure to participate during any job fairs. We also launched an ambassador program where we help prepare and train university students, ahead of their professional working life by adding knowledge and improving their social skills through intense training given by our local teams. Our ambassadors also represent us at events and support us with research on new opportunities.
  • Careem aims to create more than 100,000 employment opportunities in the next five years in Iraq.
  • We are hoping to introduce critical deliveries and payments infrastructure to encourage future digital businesses from the region to invest in Iraq.
  • We are in the process of creating the region’s first super-app that will be a one-stop shop for people’s daily lives and the primary source of business for the region’s tech entrepreneurs.
  • We will continue to leap-frog our region into the digital future and radically enhance the quality of life of our people.
  • Our goals in Iraq are focused on elevating the socioeconomic landscape while providing dynamic new job opportunities for unemployed and underemployed citizens, also draw attention to the local startup scene and the incredible drive and creativity of local entrepreneurs.
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