CEO of Dubai's Careem talks coronavirus, recovery and cashless payments

Mudassir Sheikha says ride-hailing app has seen a stronger recovery from pandemic than initially expected

Dubai-based ride hailing app Careem has seen a stronger recovery from the coronavirus pandemic than expected, according to its CEO Mudassir Sheikha.

While Sheikha admitted its ride-sharing service has “weakened” during the past few months, the shoots of recovery have appeared faster than expected.

In an interview on CNN, the Careem boss discussed the company’s position as it attempts to recover following coronavirus lockdowns.

“We are not there yet. But the recovery has been stronger than expected. We had made an assumption that the business would not fully recover until the end of next year, but the business is showing a stronger recovery than expectations,” he said.

He noted that the delivery side of the business has actually been growing quite healthily and that business is already “quite a bit above pre-Covid levels”.

While the company’s ride-sharing service has weakened during the pandemic, its delivery options have grown, he added.

On Careem’s diversification drive, he added: “We have a service called ‘order anything’ that we send you a delivery captain and you can use the delivery captain for literally anything that you might want done in the city.

“So the offering expanded and as a result of the expansion, some of the factors that we were seeing, the business has actually seen very healthy growth.”

He said another positive for the company has been the region’s pivot towards cashless payments.

Careem co-founders Mudassir Sheikha

Sheikha said: “A large part of our business was done on cash, given the lack of digital payment options in the region. And as a result of the virus, a lot of the cash started getting converted to digital payment methods, which started to make our business more efficient.”

In July, Careem launched a super app to herald a change in its business and drive future growth beyond its ride-hailing business.

Sheikha said at the time that the super app will help further delineate Uber and Careem, and their business offering.

After a very tough March and April, which saw Careem’s business plummet more than 80 percent at the depth of the coronavirus crisis, recovery was first seen during May.

Careem reduced its staff by 31 percent – 536 people – in May to cope with the impact of Covid-19 but Sheikha ruled out making further cuts to its personnel.

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