An hour after a Saudi royal decree was announced in September allowing women to drive, ride-hailing company Careem launched a campaign to recruit 100,000 female drivers in the kingdom.
Uber shortly followed pursuit launching a two-year initiative while pledging over $250,000 in order to make driving schools more accessible for women who are interested to learn how to drive and provide part-time economic opportunities for them as drivers for Uber.
Both companies hope to tap into a fairly large market in the kingdom where a lot of conservative women prefer to not ride with men whom they are not related to.
“We really see it as opening up the business more,” Anthony Khoury, Uber’s regional general manager, told the Los Angeles Times.
About 3,000 women have signed up to work as drivers with Careem, and the company has organized special women-only sessions to begin teaching them how to use their online platform.
The newspaper reported that Careem will only allow women and families to summon a female driver as some women raised concerns about being summoned to drive male customers.
“Female captains will help us provide a better service to many women who want to travel but refuse to be driven by men,’’ Careem’s co-founder and chief privacy officer, Doctor Abdallah Elyas said.
“This means that a new segment of Saudi society that does not use our services will begin (to use it) next June,” he added.
There was worry that these apps would lose a large customer base as women would not use their services once they are able to drive themselves, but by hiring female drivers, they are expecting to gain new customers as well.
Female customers represent 80 percent of Uber’s Saudi customer base and 70 percent of business for Careem, according to CNN.
The spokesperson for the Saudi Public Transport Authority (PTA), Abdullah Al-Mutairi, said that the “same regulations governing the licensing of men who work in transportation will be applicable to women.”
“Those regulations include having a valid Saudi driving license and insurance, and being at least 20 years old,” he told the Tribune. He added that PTA also plans to hire female drivers in public transport roles “under the condition of (the women) being sufficiently trained to drive vehicles and various means of transportation, including buses.”
“Those duties include transporting female students and teachers who do not wish to drive their own vehicles, and filling other vocational opportunities that require the presence of a woman trained to drive in a qualified and secure way,” he said.