Let’s admit that Uber is a giant corporation owing to its presence in key markets around the globe. Since its inception some time in 2009, the e-taxi company has changed the game about how people take rides, and its existence has spurred the development of similar products that want a share of online taxi-hailing.
Uber ventured into Saudi Arabia in 2014 where it had to conform to strict and conservative way of life in the kingdom. Its stance was given a boost when Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) pumped $3.5 billion into Uber, its largest invest ever, and it came with perks, like a seat on the corporation’s board for Yasir Al Rumayya who serves as the Chief Executive and Secretary-General of PIF.
As a result, it has also been deduced that Uber may have had a hand in the kingdom’s latest development that allows women to drive in program by the Saudi Arabian Transport Authority that looks forward to ‘providing job opportunities to Saudi youth of both sexes.’ At the moment, it is reported that Uber is prepping a training center that should impart driving skills to Saudi women who are interested in the platform.
Quartz has stated that Uber is not taking credit for this decision. However, it is clear that Uber leveraged its position as PIF’s single largest investment to lobby for women’s right to drive. Ideally, Uber fronted this push as a stepping stone to economic gains in a kingdom that has vowed to put more people to work.
“We’ve always said that women should be allowed to drive,” Uber said in a statement. “In the absence of that, we’re proud to have been able to provide extraordinary mobility that didn’t exist before. We look forward to continuing to support Saudi Arabia’s economic and social reforms.”
As stated, Uber encouraged the launch of similar products around the globe, and the Middle East is no different. A year after it started operating in the Kingdom, Uber got a competitor in the name of Careem that has a valuation of more than $1 billion. The two products became instant hits, which forced the Saudi transport regulator to make more accommodative changes for additional reforms. Such changes included breaking of multiple conservative regulations.
At first, Uber and Careem sourced drivers from other countries. This was not a favourable means for them to scale their business. In particular, Careem understood that their growth relied on Saudi drivers. Progressively, Careem has nearly 100,000 Saudi drivers aka ‘Captains.’ At the same time, Uber made similar strides as more than 90 percent of its drivers are Saudi nationals.
Deductively, it is apparent that Uber and Careem have made the kingdom break away from traditional norms. This has been made more clear by numbers as more than 70 percent of Careem riders in Saudi are women, while Uber has 80 percent!