Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) brought together 100 American University of Sharjah (AUS) and University of Sharjah undergraduate students to hear from Mudassir Sheikha, the co-founder and CEO of Careem, at the Sheraa Hub located in AUS.
The event began with the the screening of Careem’s 10-year documentary, “A Decade in Motion,”, taking the young attendees of the event on a journey of the birth, development and global success of the tech start-up, which is often heralded as the most influential company in the development of the MENAP startup ecosystem.
This was followed by an insightful and inspiration-filled talk by the Careem CEO who offered a candid commentary on the importance of perseverance and innovation in the face of challenges.
Highlighting Sheraa’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs, Najla Al Midfa, CEO of Sheraa stated, “Careem’s success story is a living, breathing example of how the UAE supports the aspirations of dreamers and changemakers who want to do something ‘big and meaningful’. In Sharjah and at Sheraa, our continuous endeavour is to train, upskill and motivate successive generations of young university students, and empower them to believe that they are capable of building their equivalents of Careem, if they put their minds to it”.
“The UAE’s and Sharjah’s entrepreneurial ecosystems are the region’s most robust, and will offer each one with determination and perseverance, the right tools and guidance to succeed and create long term impact,” she added.
Careem’s journey of ingenuity
The documentary itself, “A Decade in Motion,” delved deep into Careem’s evolution from a small startup founded in 2012 by Mudassir Sheikha and Magnus Olsson to a regional tech giant. It offered a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s growth, challenges, and triumphs, featuring interviews with co-founders, early employees, and Captains (Careem’s riders).
The audience was captivated by Careem’s story of humble beginnings, starting as a manual booking service for consultants and quickly transforming into an online marketplace for ride-hailing. Careem’s expansion to over 70 cities across 10 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Pakistan, along with its diversification into food and grocery delivery and payments, has had a profound impact on the region’s tech startup ecosystem.
Creating digital solutions for your market
While receiving questions from multiple bright-eyed students present at the event, Mudassir Sheikha, shared his valuable perspective, “For many of us who have been lucky to receive a decent education and go on to gain experience in a good job, the risk of being an entrepreneur is overstated. Time is precious, and sometimes it can be far more effective to put your time into your product or service instead of using a great deal of your time to hunt down funding and financing. If you have a good idea, more often than not, the investors will find you. Try to identify the problems people may be facing in this region and ask yourself, how can I solve these problems in a digital way?”
Expanding on the advent of releasing an all-in-one service for the public, the CEO continued, stating, ”Many large corporations and companies have attempted to create a comprehensive super app and have failed. I believe that throwing money at a problem doesn’t guarantee a solution and for smaller companies, it’s the necessity and challenge that can often motivate a sustainable solution. Careem has a 60-70% customer retention rate and although it provides a certain amount of challenges it also motivates us to improve, innovate and continue to connect with our valued customers.”