Uber’s biggest competitor in the Middle East says it has mapped 45,000 miles of road in its bid to compete on a global stage

Careem CEO, Mudassir Sheikha speaks to Reuters in an interview at the company headquarters in Dubai, UAE

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Careem CEO, Mudassir Sheikha speaks to Reuters in an interview at the company headquarters in Dubai, UAE
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REUTERS/Satish Kumar

  • Careem, worth more than $2 billion, is one of Uber’s biggest competitors in the Middle East.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, CEO Mudassir Sheikha outlined the steps Careem is taking to stave off Uber’s global dominance.
  • The company has mapped more than 45,000 miles of roads – because Google Maps was never an option for this market.

In the developed world, Google Maps has arguably the most comprehensive street-level data of cities and towns.

But in many emerging markets, like the Middle East, much of that data lacks the specificity and detail required to underpin a transportation app. That’s a problem if your product involves shuttling people from place to place via an app.

In an interview with Business Insider, the founder and CEO of Careem, Uber’s largest competitors in the Middle East, explained how the company has mapped more than 45,000 miles of road in order to power its taxi service and stave off global competitors.

“Building a business like Careem in the US is a lot simpler than building a similar business in this part of the world because a lot of the building blocks you need to enable a service like Carreem – such as maps or payments systems – you almost take them for granted,” co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha told Business Insider from the company’s Dubai headquarters.

Read more: The CEO of Careem explains how the company is scaling up to beat Uber in a quickly growing market

“We not only had to build mapping infrastructure, we had to build our own places database because Google was not complete nor reliable,” he continued.

That wasn’t an easy task.

Neighborhood by neighborhood, the company had to go into cities and map every villa, shopping mall, and other buildings to provide accurate data for pickups and dropoffs. That could prove pivotal when competing with Uber, which is nearly five times the size, but only active in a small fraction of Careem’s cities.

“So let’s say if you open Google Maps in the residential neighborhood where I live,” Sheikha said. “All it will show you is the street name. Whereas If you open the Careem app, it will show you the exact Villa that you can be picked up from.”

You can read the full interview with Business Insider here.