Interview: UAE-based car-sharing operator tapping $1.2bln Saudi market - CEO

Firm allocates $10mln towards Saudi expansion and plans to operate in Egypt, Turkey over next 2 years

Cars drive along a busy street on June 20, 2018 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Cars drive along a busy street on June 20, 2018 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Getty Images/Sean Gallup

Abu Dhabi-based carsharing operator ekar has allocated $10 million after its recent funding round towards expanding into the “massively scalable” Saudi Arabian market, its CEO said.

“Saudi Arabia is the Gulf’s largest economy,” Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO and Co-founder of ekar told Zawya. “The total addressable market in the GCC for carsharing is approximately $2 billion, of which Saudi Arabia constitutes about 60 percent. A young and tech-savvy country moving away from traditional car ownership, Saudi will prove to be massively scalable and an important country in ekar’s journey.”

He added: “ekar has allocated $10 million towards Saudi Arabia’s service, which includes Riyadh, Mecca, Medina, KAEC, Jeddah, and Dammam.”

In June this year, the app-based vehicle sharing firm concluded a Series B funding round totaling $17.5 million.  Dubai-based venture capital company Polymath Ventures led the round, which included Audacia Capital and Al Yemni Group.

“We will also utilize funds from our upcoming 2020 Series C towards further expansions across Saudi,” the CEO said. “We are planning our opening our Series C fundraising in January 2020, to be closed by April 2020. By January 2020, we will be actively looking for a Series C lead investor.”

Hedberg said that ekar was initially cofounded with Ravi Bhusari in 2016 in Abu Dhabi with 25 cars for the cabin crew working at Etihad Airways. “Today, ekar has over 1,000 cars and over 75,000 active members.”

The firm services 50,000 bookings per month in the UAE alone, and Hedberg said that this number is expected to quadruple over the next year as the company launches services across Saudi and the rest of GCC countries, in addition to Turkey and Egypt, over the next two years.

Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO and Co-founder of ekar. Image courtesy ekar.

Last month, ekar introduced five Tesla cars into its fleet as it announced a partnership with Abu Dhabi’s Masdar to bring electric vehicles to the car-sharing market.

“We have also received interest from China, Brazil, and countries in Europe, so we may well scale even larger and faster outside of MENAT,” he said.

(Writing by Nada Al Rifai; editing by Daniel Luiz)

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