A Fierce Ridesharing Fight: Can Uber Beat Careem in The Middle East?

In 2014, Uber entered in the Middle East—in Cairo to be precise—with one strong, bold mission:

To be the dominant player in the ridesharing service. At first, you'd probably say, "this is an easy feat." In reality, it is not. While it's true that the $70 billion company is not something that anyone can joke with, Uber has to fight hard with its rivals in this Middle Eastern city of Cairo.

Careem is one of its fierce rival and top competitor in the region. Like Uber, the Dubai-based ride-hailing company shuttles riders to their destination across the ancient city of Cairo, but unlike Uber, it offers scooter trips, transporting Egyptian passengers on the bike. And they love it.

If a commuter can hop onto a scooter and get to the office in less than 30 minutes, they'll love that. I'd ride that scooter if it were in existence back in 2012 when I was in Cairo then. I used to spend 2-3 hours before I get to where I want to go.

Not only that the city's buses take ages to arrive at the bus stations, but the buses are inefficient: They're slow, they have no air conditions, they're not enough to service the tens of millions of passengers in the city. The experience is just painful.

With these two competitors in the city—Uber and Careem—the city's transportation service will definitely change. The question is, which company will survive the competition battle and emerge victorious to devour this lucrative ridesharing economy in this city?

An opportunity insight

While in Cairo on a tourist visit with my family, we used to hire local taxis. And here's why:

You need to fight hard before you enter a bus. Because the city's buses are not enough, it's normal to find 20 to 40 passengers at the bus-stop, already waiting in line for the bus to arrive. The moment the bus arrives, it's the "survival of the fittest." You can enter only if you are strong enough. If you're like me, who is not strong enough to fight, then there is no ride for you.

The point is, there are the passengers in Cairo. There is the growing opportunity in the transportation industry in this city. The Egyptian commuters will patronize any ride-hailing company that comes. Uber and Careem are smart to have entered the city. However, how each company operates is what will determine their success.

Back in San Francisco and the 633 cities it operates worldwide, Uber has dominated the ridesharing industry. Let's look at how it's doing in the Middle Eastern city of Cairo.

Uber in Cairo

UberBOAT is the new hot things in the Cairo's suburban city.

The company offers seasonal, boat service. Just like the Uber flying cars, which offer shuttling service in the air to provide its customers with speedy rides, UberBOAT sets to provide such amazing service and experience as well.

In Cairo, UberBOAT explores the Nile River for business: Boat drivers shuttle passengers with boats on the water and get them to their location on time, dodging the painful traffic jam of the city.

While the whole idea is great and thriving, there's still more work for Uber. Careem is also in town. And its bike service is easier, safer, and more comfortable than the UberBOAT. Let's look at how the company operates.

Careem Bikes at work

Careem is a Dubai-based company, which exist to not just offer a remarkable scooter trips but also help people get to where they want to go on time. When a passenger rides on Careem bike, they don't have to wait for hours in traffic, the bike can simply follow a leaner passage and gets the rider to their place safely and timely.

Uber is not on the Cairo roads yet, though the company is planning to hit the Middle Easter city soon. Careem works just like Uber.

  • You download the app
  • You book for a ride through the app
  • The scooter driver arrives
  • You wear your helmet and hop onto the bike
  • The scooter driver takes you to your destination

That's simple and remarkable. It's no surprise that the company transports about 2000 riders every day. Aside from its growing market share and popularity, Careem bought a stake in the Swvl app, a transport company that operates private buses through its app, just like another Uber, but Egyptian style.

This is a big challenge for Uber. However, for you, it's another opportunity. If you're a Cairenes, you can expand your ridesharing business. Drive for Uber during the hot, sunny day of Cairo and shuttle for Careem at night taking breaks to eat Kushri or drink Shayi as you make money on the side.