State of Ride Sharing

Careem has raised $500M in their recent round. The ride-sharing market has certainly lightened up. A few months back Uber was supposedly winner take all except China. And even there they got a good deal. A toxic company culture and allegations of stealing data and technology from Google, have shaken up Uber badly. And have given other players some hope. I am not sure about Careem but Lyft was in deep trouble a few months ago. Careem has always focused on the Middle East and Asia, markets where Uber never had a strong hold. But it could have if things didn’t turn out to be the way they had. Kudos to Careem for seizing the opportunity. I still think that Uber is going to be fine—at least in the long run. And so will Travis. But it’s going to be a bumpy road for some time.

Rozee.pk did a survey (h/t Pro Pakistani) in Lahore and Karachi to identify user preferences on ride sharing in Pakistan. And results were surprising to me. Uber is doing good. At least compared to what I thought. The reason for my skepticism about Uber was that they seem to be a bit amiss from the startup culture. Not to say that’s all it matters but Careem feels so local and own. I  recently had to pick a relative who came from a city where there is no Uber, Careem etc. I asked her to wait till I call the cab. And as soon as I pulled my smartphone, she whispered, “you are calling Careem”. And I was like how Careem is the default for her and not Uber. Yet the survey report says that Uber is doing better than Careem. Though the difference is nominal still it was surprising. Even more so was the fact that Uber is particularly better in Lahore than Karachi.

For the most part, I use Uber. For one, it’s on my smartphone home screen since 2015. Yes, before they even launched. I used it in Manila and then it stayed there. And that’s where my fingers automatically move towards every time I have to go outside. Second, Uber app is just so much better. So much that when I opened Careem for the first time, I immediately closed it. It was hard to look on.

But before I book anything I do check Careem now because I have found it to be cheaper1. I observed surge pricing more often in Uber than in Careem. And even when both are operating on peak time the multiplier of X is normally lower for Careem to that of Uber2. A few more observations:

1. I don’t know how they are doing it but every time I open Careem I always seem to have some credit.

2. The captains, as Careem calls its drivers, are better. They know the directions well and they are normally better in behavior.

3. A couple of times I refused to take back the change because the ride was good and Captain immediately transferred it to my Careem wallet. That never happens with Uber even when I deliberately ask for it.

4. Careem has better, well-maintained cars3.

Though it has become a cesspool now original copying of Snapchat stories by Instagram was a genius move. It looked the same but it wasn’t. The actual implementation reflected what makes Instagram special4. More importantly, it was a way for Instagram to introduce stories to people who haven’t used Snapchat as yet. And that market was big. If Careem could do the same i.e. introduce ride sharing to people unaware of it and be their default, the market is equally big for the new Unicorn. And now is the best time to double down.

Seemingly, they are on to it.