The Middle East’s first and largest carshare operator, ekar, says it is using its successful $17.5 million Series B funding to launch operations in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Dubai-based venture capital firm Polymath Ventures led the June round of funding with Al Yemni Group and Audacia Capital also backing the firm.
“We are excited to announce the launch of ekar Riyadh and are eager to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Saudi residents and tourists alike with ekar’s seamless carshare service,” said Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO ekar Middle East. “Today, ekar UAE services 50,000 bookings per month, a number which we expect to quadruple over the next twelve months as we launch services across cities in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. We have 1,000 ekars in our fleet and over 75,000 members and envision surpassing 10,000 ekars and over a million members by 2021.”
Hedberg said ekar was delighted to have a select group of strategic investors “who are aligned with ekar’s passion to provide cost-effective mobility across emerging markets. ekar’s in-house tech team now has the fuel to scale ekar across MENAT.”
Ekar believes the Saudi market’s “young and tech-savvy population of 20 million smartphone users” are by-passing traditional car ownership in favour of alternative mobility solutions: “ekar is a natural extension of the transportation vertical in KSA and is perfectly suited to address a growing demand for cost-effective transportation on the back of ekar’s four years of experience building a world-class carsharing business. In addition, more than 70,000 women in the Kingdom have been issued driving licenses, and ekar is well-positioned to be the ‘first-car solution’ for these drivers. ekar is launching in Riyadh with 600 ekars and will launch in other cities throughout Saudi including Dammam, Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, and KAEC.”
“We believe smart systems and shared transport platforms like ekar are the future for sustainable mobility especially in cities with densely populated environments such as Riyadh. We invest with conviction where teams are driving innovation to solve tomorrow’s problems today, and we look forward to helping ekar succeed,” said Ali Hashemi, Managing Director of Polymath Ventures.
New members in Saudi Arabia can enjoy two hours of free drive time upon registering via the ekar App. ekar is directly integrated with Elm’s Products such as Yakeen and Tamm so these members will be instantly approved after entering a valid email address, mobile number, National/Iqama ID number, and driving license expiry date. Credit and debit cards including MADA are accepted forms of payment in addition to Apple Pay.
ekar’s pricing model is simple from 40 Halalas to 75 Halalas per minute depending on car models, which range from economy to business class vehicles. The average ekar ride is 60 minutes that can cost as little as 24 Riyals, a price which includes fuel and insurance and no monthly membership fees and is a fraction of the cost of ride-hailing services, traditional car rentals or taxis. What’s more, with ekars spread across hotspot areas in Riyadh, including the airport, ekar allows for the benefits of self-drive without the associated high costs of car ownership.