Exploring the corporate culture behind the UAE-based technology transportation start-up Careem, and the impact it had on the company’s productivity.
“Speak to whomever you want and ask any questions. We want you to know what’s going well in our organization and what we can improve upon. This is a chance for us to learn.” That’s the first thing the General Manager of the UAE-based technology transportation start-up Careem, Christian Eid, said to us before we arrived to their office. The word culture sprung to mind and I was anxious to see how outspoken and engaged people were as I carried out my interviews of the different departments.
Most people are skeptical when the topic of corporate culture comes up. Most think of it as something the CEO would discuss at the annual banquet or something that is plastered on in bold letters on the corporate website. But not as something that is regularly applied within the confines of the workplace, where it matters most.
There was a sense of what I can only describe as confident vulnerability in his voice, a willingness to take a risk. I suppose that is what someone would want in a general manager heading the UAE’s most talked about tech start-up since Maktoob and Dubizzle. Where most regional start-ups have focused on e-commerce, Careem has focused on something a little closer to our day-to-day lives: taxis. Or at least that’s what I thought.
In a nutshell, Careem is a taxi service that is provided through an application on your smart phone. You can use Careem to order a taxi at the click of a button and it will be there at the timing of your choice, or within approximately 15-20 minutes if you need it on the spot. They have a range of services that are catered to businessmen through luxury vehicles, families and children through their larger wagons that come equipped with child seats, or the standard vehicle for every day passengers. You can pay with either cash on the spot, or by uploading your credit card details on their secure application. Basically they can cater to whatever your transportation needs and payment requirements are.
What I had thought was a company focused on taxis turned out to be far more than that. Nearly everyone I interviewed from the founders and operations staff, to the support team and drivers, would all talk about one common point that stood above everything they were trying to do: Careem Captains.
Any driver that accepts a role with Careem is trained and then formally assigned the title “Captain”. The ethos behind this title, according to co-founder Mudassir Sheikha, is that “the Captains are the most important factor in delivering the right quality of experience to our customers. If a Captain is well coached, looked after, and respected, he will take pride in his work and deliver a much higher quality of service than if we did otherwise.”
It was refreshing to hear the founders talk about their staff on the ground in a way where they knew very well that without their drivers, or Captains in this case, they would cease to exist as a product, service, and company. In a country that takes a very top-down approach to business, this was truly a company where value, service, and growth was built bottom-up.
For a company with a strong economic model, one need to only look at Careem to realize the potential for growth and financial impact. This was a company that focuses on the social impact they can have on the communities they work i. Furthermore, Careem prides itself on giving the drivers a better way of life. “To do something purposeful” were the exact words of fellow co-founder Magnus Olsson.
The whole journey with Careem started with a short conversation I had with a Careem Captain that went viral on social media. The captain from Pakistan discussed his life, dreams, and ambitions for the future. He said that being a driver hadn’t helped him build much of a life to provide for himself and his family, but being a Careem Captain changed all that. The organization and its culture had given him hope, and more importantly, a road map towards who he wanted to become. It was in that moment that I knew Careem wasn’t simply a company making money, but a movement that is changing lives.
To read more about Khalid’s experience as a Careem Captain, read his article here.
This article is sponsored by Careem.