Taxi-ordering app raises largest investment in Middle East's mobile applications history
A taxi-ordering mobile application has attracted $7 million in investment to launch in the Middle East, one of four similar apps making inroads in the region.
The Germany-headquartered Rocket Internet said today that its Easy Taxi application will launch in Saudi Arabia this month, followed by a rollout in other cities in the Arabian Gulf, Jordan and Lebanon. The free app allows users to book taxis and rate drivers, with the driver paying a cut of the fare.
Eyad al-Kassar, Rocket Internet’s Managing Director for the Middle East, said the $7 million investment comes from iMENA Holdings.
“It’s the largest investment in mobile applications the region has had,” al-Kassar told Al Arabiya.
The launch of the app in Saudi Arabia is imminent, followed by the UAE in “the next couple of weeks”, he said.
Rocket Internet sees the app being connected to 60,000 to 70,000 cars in Saudi Arabia, and “tens of thousands” in the UAE.
“In the region, it’s easily 100,000 to 150,000 cars that we want to get online,” he said. “It really transforms the logistics in the countries where we launch this service.”
Investment house iMENA Holdings specializes in online consumer businesses, and is supported by the UAE’s Etisalat Group. iMENA said in September it invested $8 million in HelloFood, Rocket’s online food-ordering platform.
Rocket Internet and its subsidiaries raised more than $1 billion in one year, the company said in July. It has investments in Groupon International and the Dubai-based online clothes retailer Namshi, which al-Kassar co-founded.
Al-Kassar said Rocket Internet plans two further Middle East investments soon, without giving further details. “We will announce very soon two other investments [in the Middle East]. [They’re] the same size, like $7 million to $10 million,” he told Al Arabiya.
Easy Taxi faces competition from three other car-ordering mobile applications that have launched in the Middle East or are in the pipeline.
The San-Francisco-based Uber, which attracted $258 million in funding from Google Ventures and TPG, launched in Dubai earlier this month. Careem, which partners with limo companies in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, also offers a car-booking service via mobile app. Dubai’s government agency the Roads and Transport Authority also says it is launching a taxi-booking app by the end of the year.
Majed Abukhater, general manager for Uber Technologies in Dubai, told Al Arabiya that Uber is targeting a different market to Easy Taxi.
“They’re targeting the taxis, whereas Uber is targeting the limos,” he said.
Abukhater said that Uber is recruiting to launch its services in Beirut and Qatar following its debut in Dubai. “We’re still evaluating the major cities in the region,” he said.