As a concept, self-drive mobility or self-mobility simply has removing the chauffeur from the equation at its core.
Many find it expensive and not practical to use a taxi driver every time they want to go out. However, what Ekar is trying to solve is simply removing the hassle of car ownership, which is hugely trending in the Gulf region, as Ekar founder Vilhelm Hedberg explained to TRENDS.
Hedberg said: “We ask ourselves the fundamental question of why do we own cars anymore? What’s the purpose of owning a vehicle when that car is parked for 95 percent of a given 24-hour period?”
He continued: “It’s hardly ever used, so why not instead come up with concepts whereby we’re either sharing those vehicles, or provide a subscription leasing?”
First self-mobility operator
Ekar is the first operator of personal mobility services in the Middle East.
It currently provides users with on-demand access to a network of thousands of ride-sharing and monthly rental vehicles through its own Self-Drive Super App.
Ekar Subscription cars come from fleet owners and car rental companies.
All of them come with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance, and can be switched, traded up, or returned at any time.
“Well, Self-mobility is still new worldwide, so Ekar faced several challenges when launched in the MENA region,” Hedberg told TRENDS, explaining that there are some “pluses and minuses” in the regulatory side.
He added: “When we’re looking now to launch in new countries we need to cooperate with governmental entities, and that’s what we did in the UAE since we’ve worked with the Road Transport Authority, and in Saudi Arabia, coordinating with the Ministry of Transportation.”
Customers and big opportunities
Since it was launched in 2016, Ekar has seen its customer numbers grow to around 250 100.
Customers are mainly present in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with almost 1.5 million trips booked from the two counties.
Ekar is now entering the international market for monthly rental services strongly and is expected to garner $40 billion in revenue by 2026, according to a study by Global Market Insights.
It is expected to launch its platform in Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, and Egypt in the upcoming months.
Regarding the size of the market, Hedberg said Ekar was looking into an addressable one.
If 578 million people live in the MENAT (Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey) region, Ekar views about 138 million of those as an addressable target, which are people above 21 with valid driver’s license.
In addition to that, MENAT attracts around 130 million tourists annually, with the assumption that around 30 million of them have an international driving license.
After its success in monthly rental services in the UAE, Ekar activated it throughout Saudi Arabia in cooperation with some of the most prominent car rental companies in the kingdom.
This service is considered perfect for those who seek the convenience associated with acquiring a personal vehicle without the commitment of owning a car.
Will car ownership be ancient history?
Hedberg simply argued that car ownership would become a hobby only for wealthy people in the upcoming years.
However, he added: “It’s going to be fascinating to see how the same type of revolution is going to be happening as it once was when the automobile itself came in and disrupted the horse and carriage industry.”
Business tips from Vilhelm Hedberg
- Put together a successful business plan.
- Take 10 trusted advisors or mentors and review your business plan thoroughly.
- Put together a pitch deck, and ask yourself: “Do I have the stomach to go forward with my business?”
Hedberg considers this the best time to start a startup in the UAE, mainly because of its infrastructure growth and technological advance.