A Lebanese mother and her daughter have become the first in the Arab world to provide women-only motorbike taxi to help females commute cheaply, safely and swiftly.
Rana Karazi, a mother of two, lost her job at a security company in December 2019 amid Lebanon’s rapid economic downfall. Needing to provide for her family, she started Moto Taxi by Rana to earn money and provide a service to Lebanese women.
As the country’s ongoing economic and financial crisis set in, many have switched into survival mode. At the end of 2019, 45 percent of Lebanon was living below the poverty line, the World Bank estimated. Today, and in the wake of the devastating August 4 explosion at the Beirut port, that number has likely risen.
The recently out of work Karazi received a call from a busy friend a few months ago saying she would pay Karazi to drive her child to and from where the child needed to be.
The trip sparked Karazi’s business idea.
“I drove her child back and forth and she paid me money. When I completed my mission, I told to myself why I don’t make private business out of that transport service,” Karazi told Al Arabiya English.
A mother of 20-year-old Carine and a younger brother, 39-year-old Karazi explains that she mastered the art of driving a motorcycle at the age of 35.
“In the few months, my daughter and I took to social media [Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp groups] to promote our business... As our client list grew bigger, I had to train Carine how to drive a motorcycle and she became my partner,” said Rana, who lives in Beirut’s Tareeq Al Jdeede area.
Karazi said she’s now had to hire a third driver to meet demand.
“We have proven to be a great success within three months. The coming days our schedule is nearly full that I had to ask my neighbor to join my team,” she said.
Having studied travel and tourism, the single-mother said she now has a fleet of two motorcycles that requires constant maintenance and services aside from daily expenses.
She pays around 25,000 Lebanese pounds ($17 at the official exchange rate, which has now slipped dramatically) for oil changes for each motorcycle monthly, and the daily fuel cost is around 4,000 pounds. The mother-daughter duo charges 3,000 pounds per trip, which is around the price a standard shared taxi ride would cost in Lebanon.
As Lebanon’s economy continues to contract, and political turmoil escalates, the shortage of dollars in the country continues to put pressure on the exchange rate and the value of the dollar has fluctuated for a year.
Along with the country’s uncertainties, catastrophic economic situation and COVID-19 health hazards, Karazi said she has seen the number of clients rise in the past few months.
“Life has become more expensive and less safe. That was one of the major reasons why female clients have trusted me more. It’s reasonable for families to send daughters, wives, sisters on a motor-taxi since it is cheaper, faster, easier and healthier – especially amid fears of contracting coronavirus. Passengers nowadays refrain from using car taxis to avoid interacting with drivers meanwhile on a motorbike, it is less risky as the passenger wears a facemask and gloves,” she said.
She explained that her daughter, who is a college student, has been handling social media campaigns, advertisements and inquiries.
Karazi is proud that she and her daughter are believed to have become the first in the Arab world to provide this kind of transport service. In Bangladesh, Thailand, and Indonesia similar services have cropped up.
“I also feel self-assured that the public entrusts me for the safety of their wives, sisters and daughters, especially when they contact us to drive them around Beirut and its outskirts,” she said stressing that her open-minded and modern family has been fully supportive.
Karazi hopes to expand her business very soon.