By Mohamed Alaa El-Din
There are over a million daily car rides in more than 305 cities around the world, organised by Uber, which has recently become a household name. Despite still being an emerging company that is only a few years old, its market value recently amounted to more than $40bn. The company took advantage of Cairo’s population density to enter the market, offering safer and more comfortable rides depending on information technology.
The company seeks to expand its client base in Egypt, and especially in Cairo, as per an interview with Anthony Khoury,Uber’s Head of Expansion in the Middle East & Africa.
Can you tell us how the idea for Uber started?
Uber, a smartphone application that connects drivers to passengers in the area, was founded to solve the need for being able to get a reliable ride. The idea first came up when founders Travis Kalanick and Gareth Camp were in Paris and were having a hard time finding a taxi – they thought: ‘What if you could push a button to request your very own private transport?’ This idea then became Uber. It started in San Francisco in 2009, and is now in over 305 cities across 56 countries.
Would you tell us about the services Uber offers to Egypt?
Uber is all about getting Cairo to move more efficiently – bringing a safe, reliable and flexible alternative to urban transport through the tap of an app; we’re bringing more choices to riders and drivers. As a technology company, we don’t employ drivers or own cars – instead we partner with licensed drivers to use our platform. Riders are then connected to these drivers by downloading and making a request via our app, which can be found in the app store or on uber.com. In Cairo, specifically, we offer UberX – the low-cost Uber service. When a rider requests a ride, they see the driver’s name, photo and car licence plate before even getting in the car – they can then share their route with family and friends via the GPS map. All the drivers we partner with are personally screened and background-checked by our Cairo team.
What are the Egyptian market’s advantages that pushed you to expand there?
Cairo is a progressive city with a huge population. Transport is available, but we are here to provide another choice in moving around the city, safely and reliably.
How many clients do you have locally and internationally?
Internationally, we organise over a million rides each day. Locally, we don’t usually disclose numbers, but we can say the response has been amazing. There is a real demand here for safe, transparent public transport – we are getting great feedback from riders in support of the service we offer.
What are the growth rates you target in the Egyptian market?
Our focus is on growing our supply base (the number of drivers we partner with), to meet demand as steadily as possible. We have been growing constantly and we look forward to providing more riders with more access to safe and reliable transport.
How did you achieve $40bn in revenues, despite being an emerging company?
We are based in over 305 cities, across 56 countries. If you look at all the activities globally, we have a huge number of trips on a daily basis, hundreds of thousands of driver partners, and millions of riders. So there is so much faith in this company.
How is the ride price estimated?
We estimate the journey via time and distance. The base for our current promotional pricing starts at EGP 3 and then goes up to 2 Piasters per minute or EGP 1.3 per kilometre. Our minimum fare is 8 EGP.
How many drivers do you have in your network locally and internationally?
We partner with hundreds of thousands of drivers globally. As a technology company, we do not employ drivers but instead partner with existing supply. Each driver is personally screened and trained by our team. Also, when you order through Uber you get sent, via the app, a picture of the driver and his registration details so you know exactly who your driver will be. When you are in the car you can send, via text message, a link to an online map where a friend or loved-one can track your entire journey via GPS. A driver is rated by the rider after every Uber trip. This means we are constantly monitoring and improving the quality of service to create an experience like never before.
What are your conditions for drivers to join you?
Screening for safe drivers is just the beginning of our safety efforts. Our process includes prospective and regular checks of drivers’ motor vehicle records to ensure ongoing safe driving.To use the Uber system, all drivers must be fully licensed to drive and have insurance for their vehicle.As for the background check, drivers are screened via an incredibly rigorous background check process.Fingerprints are matched against existing criminal records. Additional cross-checking is done to verify things such as name, address, and identity in Cairo.A drug test is required from each of our drivers, which is then re-screened periodically to ensure all records are up to date.One-on-one interviews are conducted prior to hiring. This is done to ensure that we select the most qualified candidates with the strongest performance record. We also inquire about the current drivers, asking their former employers, neighbours, and social acquaintances for driver recommendations.Taken together, these sources paint a thorough picture of each driver’s upstanding character.
How do you ensure safety elements in the transport and riding?
Safety is our number one priority. We organise hundreds of millions of trips and Uber is by far the safest way to get around the city. We are always working hard to improve our safety processes and ensure that we are connecting riders with the safest ride on the road. This means we are constantly monitoring and improving the quality of service to create an experience like never before. We have a zero tolerance approach to instances where a rider’s safety is compromised, and we immediately terminate partnerships with these drivers. Drivers are aware of this zero tolerance approach, and accordingly, the system encourages professional and safe conduct by drivers.
Will the service help improve traffic in Egypt?
We want to bring a service that is reliable enough so that more riders opt to leave their cars at home on a daily basis. Think of how productive you will be if you can spend your time in traffic in a private transport vehicle checking emails, catching up on the news or even on phone calls rather than being stuck in traffic. Think also of how it would be if you didn’t have to spend time looking for a parking spot. We think there is huge opportunity here and look forward to growing the transportation network in Cairo.
Did your services achieve success in Egypt?
Yes, I think they very much are. As mentioned before, there is a real demand for safe, reliable transport so that riders can choose to get around without their cars if needed. I would say we should definitely watch this space as we explore more ways to bring more value to riders, drivers and Cairo itself.