- The Dubai based ride-hailing app is dealing with unique market challenges in Iraq, and getting success
Careem, the Dubai based ride-hailing app, is well-known for being strong in face of market challenges. The unique challenges in Iraqi market didn’t dishearten Careem too, as the company looks forward to overcome the obstacles by map building and tech tutoring.
Careem started their operations in Iraq in January, 2018. Currently their services are available Baghdad, Erbil and Najaf. The company had to face some unique structural barriers in the Iraqi marketplace.
According to Mohamed Al Hakim, the general manager of Careem’s Iraqi chapter, every country has specific challenges and difficulties to deal with, and Iraq is no different.
“All markets at the start they say ‘we are different and there are no challenges like our challenges’. At the same time, in Iraq we run into things like, for example, when there are exams the internet is cut off because the Ministry of Higher Education doesn’t want the [papers] to be circulated ahead of the exams. When there is a religious ceremony, the roads are closed.
"Our business is impacted by both internet and infrastructure,” he says.
Iraq is not one of the most technologically advanced countries as the number of smartphone users in Iraq is among world’s lowests. With the 3G service arriving only in 2015, Iraq has a lot to catch up in terms of technology and IT literacy.
“Iraq has opened up to the world and a lot of Iraqis have been traveling abroad, especially to the [other] countries in the region. Definitely, there was a constituency that knew what Careem was and what Careem did but [it was] a small constituency. IT infrastructure and IT literacy is still quite low in Iraq so what we did is we invested a lot in education and put a lot of people on the ground – promoters, ambassadors – to teach people how to use the app face to face,” Mr. Al Hakim added.
The strategy to teach customers to use the app has been quite effective so far, as those educated customers are now teaching others. Mr Al Hakim is enthusiastic about the Iraqi market which appears to him as hungry one for Careem’s services.
“[The] downside is that all the interruptions that we face, how much they actually affect business. Interruptions that are related to infrastructure, for example road closures, interruptions to internet service. They don’t only affect business during the phase that the interruptions take place but also afterwards because you need to build the business back up again.”
Currently Careem has a team of over 30 members on the ground find workaround when internet interruptions occur.
“We have found ways to get around at least the internet cut-offs by allowing people to call a phone number and through booking manually, and we serve people through those hours in the morning when the internet would be cut off,” Mr. Al Hakim concluded.
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