Our Aim is to Make People’s Lives Simpler. Junaid Iqbal, CEO Careem

Our Aim is to Make People’s Lives Simpler. Junaid Iqbal, CEO Careem

It has been over a year since taxi-service apps started penetrating the Pakistan’s transportation sector and the growth of this sector is much faster than anticipated. Couple of global taxi service companies also entered Pakistani market. So far, Careem can be considered the most successful taxi service app in Pakistan. It is currently operating in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad with plans to launch its service in other cities soon.

Careem is an international company in the tech world with strong Pakistani roots

Junaid Iqbal, CEO of Careem who played a monumental role in success of Careem in Pakistan along with his competent team. With a background in economics and financial leadership, Junaid has vast experience in different sectors, from being on the launch-team for CNBC Pakistan in 2005 to successfully managing huge revenues as CEO of Elixir Securities. Junaid joined Careem as Managing Director when the company was launched in Pakistan back in October 2015.

In a detailed interview Junaid Iqbal (JI) shared with Phoneworld Team (PW) the changing trends in Pakistan’s digital market and gave an insight to what Careem really is and how it works. Here is what he had to say:

Junaid Iqbal, CEO Careem Pakistan

PW: Careem is mainly ventured in MENA region, why Careem chose Pakistan to be its first non-MENA market? 

JI: It’s true that Careem started off four years back in UAE but roots of Careem have always been in Pakistan. The technology of Careem was developed in Pakistan right from the start. So you can say that Careem is a basically a Pakistani app. Secondly, one of the key co-founder, Mudassir Sheikha was born and raised in Karachi and that’s as Pakistani as you can get.

Furthermore, almost 85 per cent of Careem’s captains in GCC countries are also Pakistanis. Therefore, if there is any international company in the tech world with such strong Pakistani roots, it’s Careem. It was only a matter of time for Careem to come to Pakistan and it’s more like coming back home rather than exploring new destination.

PW: How did you become part of the Careem team?     

JI: I was introduced to Careem through a friend who is in HR business. He told me that Careem owners are looking for people who can help them in the launch of Careem in Pakistan and they are interested in meeting me. So first I was introduced to Muddasir and then subsequently to Magnus and Abdullah, the other co-founders of Careem, including some board members.

The changing pace of global IT economy is quite  fascinating and I wanted to be a part of that change and learn more

There were three major things that grabbed my attention and pursued me to join the Careem team. One, all these people I met were extremely smart and at the same time they were all very humble. Two, I found the changing pace of global IT economy quite fascinating. I wanted to be a part of that change and learn more. Finally, another thing that inspired me was that ride hailing platforms like Careem created many job opportunities internationally. So I felt that if this became successful, it will create thousands of jobs in Pakistan as well.

careem int2

PW: How difficult it was to launch this unique service in Pakistan?                           

JI: Biggest challenge at least for Pakistani market is finding the right human resource. In most of the other countries finding people from different platforms of IT and this new shared economy is relatively easy, but that’s not the case with Pakistan.  Even I am new in this industry. A lot of efforts were especially put in training of our captains. Making them aware about the latest technology and its usage has been and still is quite a difficult task.

Secondly, the concept of Careem was also new for the customers as well. So making a strong market position for Careem has been quite a challenging task along with finding and training the right HR.

PW: What’s your business model? How do you make        revenue?                        

JI: We are basically a technology company that provides service platform. We facilitate customer who is looking for a ride and connect him to the service provider. The customers then pays us a fee for our platform use and compensates captains directly. That’s how we generate revenues.

PW: Careem has announced to enter rickshaw market as well, when can we expect that?                                             

JI: Yes Careem is planning to enter rickshaw market soon. Rickshaw drivers lead a very tough life and it’s very difficult for them to manage good business. They pick a sawari from rickshaw stop, drop it at some place and then come back to rickshaw stop to pick next sawari. We are working on a rickshaw model to facilitate rickshaw drivers that will bring them ease and make their lives better.

PW: Careem calls its driver “Captains” what is the philosophy behind that? What is the impact of  Careem on taxi drivers?                                               

JI: We want to feel them respected and valued so we call our drivers, captains, besides its a much nicer word.  Secondly, our Captains are actually the Captains of their own destiny.

Most of them either own their car or have bought it on rent and drive themselves. So Careem has given them a chance to be a small entrepreneur. They can do their jobs and be a part of Careem team at the same time.

We are working on a rickshaw model to facilitate rickshaw drivers, you will soon find them in our app

PW: What is the selection criteria for Captains? Is there any process they have to go through or they can just provide their verification and be a part of the Careem team?   

JI: There are certain requirements that they have to fulfill before becoming captains. First they have to provide their own identification papers, valid licenses, car registration, and insurance papers. Once the documentation part is finalized we do a small inspection of their car to check its condition.   After that we give them detailed orientation about what Careem really is and how its software works. We specially focus on informing them about the expected behavior from our Captains, customer service and most importantly on sexual harassment.

The concept of Careem was quite new for the Pakistani consumers so making a strong market position for Careem has been quite a challenging task along with finding and training the right  Human Resource

Once this process is complete, we take a test, if they pass that test we add them to our database. After that, we send their data for background check to RCS which is one of largest security companies of Pakistan. If the captain gets clearance from RCS we take him on board.

PW: Just recently a harassment case against one of the Captain also surfaced on social media, what was that all about and how much truth that holds?                            

JI: That was actually an unusual case for us. Normally we never give customer’s number to our captains but if customers directly call our captains then their number automatically goes to captains. So in this case, the captain called our customer from his private number and tried to chat her up. The customer who  was also a blogger, called our call center to get views on the matter instead of filing a complaint. This was obviously a unique situation for CSR, so they couldn’t provide any view on it and miscommunication took place at that point. If a complaint was filed against that captain, he would have been instantly off boarded. But the lady went ahead and published the story in a blog and it became over sensationalized.

When the blog was published we instantly tried to contact them to get the details of that lady to apologize off course. Although this incident was quite bad for Careem and affected our credibility but couple of good things also came out of it.

Careem is a car service but at the same time it is giving an opportunity to people who want to invest their savings in a business and become entrepreneurs

After the story was published hundreds of our customers came to social media and supported us, that left us in complete awe. So that was really a morale booster for us. Secondly, we were already working on sexual harassment but after this incident we sped up our efforts and launched Track My Ride Option.

PW: What exactly is this Track my Ride option and   how it works?     

JI: Track my Ride is a new security feature in our app that we have introduced to make our customers feel safer. When a customer books a Careem ride, a confirmation message is sent to his phone number along with a tracking link.

Track my Ride is a new security feature in our app that we have introduced to make our customers feel safer

Customer can forward that link to any family or friend who can track their ride in real time. I would like to add here that we organize sessions on daily bases to help our captains understand harassment delicacies. We try to articulate the basic expected behavior and how they should deal with customers and especially ladies. It’s not easy for women to be out there. So we at Careem want to make a difference for them. 45% of our users are women and when they tell us that Careem has made a significant change in their lives, it makes us really proud.

At the same time it also makes us realize that our responsibility has also increased. We are continuously working towards improvement of our service. We are also in contact with law enforcement agencies to comprehend what else can be done.

I just want to remind everyone that it’s not just customers who might feel unsafe from our captains. Our captains are also at a risk at customers’ hands especially in a city like Karachi where you have no idea who your customer is and what he might do. Such type of incidents have even taken place in Lahore. Our aim is to create a balance on both sides through education and awareness.

PW: Is there some legal action that you take incase an incident happens that result in injury of your captain?   

JI: We are in touch with law enforcement agency, we also have our own in-house security team whose basic responsibility is to instantly report any such incident. But luckily, no serious incident has taken place so far.

PW: Is Careem planning to launch its services in other cities as well or will stick to the major cities only? 

JI: Absolutely, we want to be everywhere in Pakistan. People often ask us about our business strategy and I always tell them it’s HR. As long as we keep finding good people, we will launch our service to more cities.

PW: What impact do you hope Careem will have on Pakistan’s transport network?

 JI: Careem is a car hailing service but at the same time it is giving an opportunity to people who want to invest their savings in a business and become entrepreneurs.There is lot of joblessness in Pakistan so our aim is to create at least 1 lac jobs in next two years.

We believe that success of the company is dependent on how many jobs we create and how much technological independence we provide to our captains

1 lac jobs means that there will be one lac cars and if each car does even 10 rides a day, it makes 1 million rides moving around each day. This will make it biggest public transport infrastructure in Pakistan. So while the purpose of the company is to provide rides, we believe that success of this company is dependent on how many jobs we create and how much technological emancipation we provide to our captains.

PW: Pakistan IT and telecom sector is going through a revolutionary change, a lot of developments have  taken place over the last couple of years but yet  there is so much to achieve. What areas do you believe require most attention in order to make  Pakistan a truly digital country?                            

JI: I think payment systems are very important for the evolution of digital services. For a truly digital country, there are certain limitations to the cash model that can’t be overcome.

Mobile payment platforms are important but direct to banks platforms will enhance digital services even further. Right now there are only 1.2 million credit cards in Pakistan out of which only 8 million are active.

While debit cards are 3 or 4 times more than credit cards however majority of debit and credit cards are closed for online transactions. You have to call the bank first before making any transaction, Banks don’t take any responsibility in case of misuse if you keep it open by default.

Globally, that’s not the case, credits cards and debit cards are protected for online transactions just the way they are protected for point of sale machine.  Once the existence of credit cards is made strong and money transfer in banks is properly regulated, users will not have to do much after making the payment directly through bank account. So the growth of online payment systems like easypaisa, jazz cash, monet, Falcon Pay etc will eventually lead to the growth of online commerce.

PW: Any last words for our readers?

JI: Careem is a pioneering company in the region’s nascent ‘sharing economy’ its mission is to make people’s lives simpler by revolutionizing the transportation and logistics industry in the region. We are working tirelessly to bring best services for customers and we hope that Careem will become the most reliable public transport mode soon.

Watch the Video Interview on our YouTube Channel

careem team

Rizwana Khan

Dreamer by nature, Journalist by trade.
  • I have been driving with the Careem as a vendor & captain as well from last 3 months. In the beginning they were so very lenient and positive towards their vendors as they were short of captains and cars as well that is why they have been offering profitable bonuses and attractive fares as well and for that most of the people have left their associated works and started working with them. But with the passage of time Careem gets ridiculous with their policies towards vendors as they have make an effective increase in the number of cars and captains associated with them during the past two months by showing them the green fields of income.
    Now the problem is that Fares have been reduced by 100% and Careem is not bearing a single penny loss over it as they are getting their 20 % from the fares reduced and the total loss is at vendors end though are not even able to get out their captains and mandatory expenses by driving with careem. Initially in June the relief given to customers was paid by Careem and they were not even charging their 20 % but as they have attracted people towards them and number of vendors have increased then they have shown the real bad face of their company. Now Careem is charging their 20% first and the reduction in fares have also been a burden for the vendors and if anybody resists with their policies they are straight away giving a goodbye indication from careem. They are killing the revenue of people though have associated with them to raise their company.
    We at vendors end demand Careem to sort out our issues in a gentle way like if Careem is reducing their fares to compete Uber (Though have designed a complete advertisement campaign costing millions if they have reduced their fares) then that burden should be bear by the company not by the vendors. And even if they have reduced fares then at least they should not be charging their 20% for the time till they get back to the fares though have been fixed before.
    And another greed they will offer you is short guarantee but that is even not achievable now a days because of the exceeding number of captains on roads and even if it is achieved ! for how long it will prevail ? Soon they are going to uplift this policy as well as they have done with the previous policies as well.

  • I was one of the loyal customers of careem since they started in Karachi, I started at the day first , and i had more than 200+ rides, they started a promotion of the referals and i was very excited and i did posted on facebook, twitter and shared it with friends and family, after a month or so when i had around 11,000 PKR credit they closed my account and after a long wait of waiting from their pathetic support i got a reply after 30 days after the surety that i will get my account and funds back but at the reply they said its blocked and cant be reopened, if you want you can sign up again.

    Careem thinks customers are fool, they take your credit and close your account and then take your funds and then tell you to create a new account. i would want this company officials to Know that what they are doing in Karachi.

    And So called CEO Junaid Iqbal says Our Aim is to Make People’s Lives Simpler , they should make their title as Our Aim is to Scam our Loyal Customers.

    Uber is the best now as careem is cheating customer and i ma not one but i have done a whole research and wont let them scam people.

    DONT USE SERVICES OF CAREEM AS THEY WILL CHEAT YOU SOMEHOW AND WIL TAKE YOUR MONEY.

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