The UAE-bred ride-hailing service Careem will expand its latest fintech venture, digital payments, into Saudi Arabia, the company’s CEO Mudassir Sheikha said in an interview with Al Arabiya.
Calling it the “largest” and “most strategic” market, Sheikha said that “many of the things that we’re doing in the UAE will be adapted to the reality of the Saudi market,” referring to the Careem Pay wallet.
The company has processed more than $5 billion in transactions through the ride hailing and delivery services in the last five years, according to the CEO.
He estimates a $2.8 trillion opportunity in the region through consumer payments.
A digital payment system makes available an intermediary platform to store money that can be transferred between two users or at a merchant without the hassle of using IBAN information or creating beneficiaries.
Owing to a high bank penetration rate in the Gulf region, transfers and payments require simplification, said Sheikha. As for countries with lower rates of penetration like Pakistan, Egypt, and Morocco, the population has a high adoption rate for smartphones which can be tapped, he added.
Samsung Pay and Apple Pay are expected to be Careem’s larger competitors, owing to their longer presence in the market and large, global user base.
With a new fintech offering that has the markings of competition with local banks, Sheikha says otherwise. “We don’t see as a competing with banks, we in fact see us as partnering with banks.”
It aims to reduce the presence of cash in the market, calling the age-old means of exchange “inefficient” and ridden with “trickledown implications.”
In addition to in-country use, Sheikha says he has plans to initiate cross-border transfers by the end of 2022.
“Many of the captains [service delivery partners], at least in some of our countries, come from other parts of the region. So, we do want to make it very easy for them to transfer the money that we put in their wallets as earnings back home to their families in ways that are very, very convenient and cost effective,” he said.