Back in 2016, movmi helped ekar launch the Middle East’s first pay-as-you-go hourly car rental. Despite financial constraints and regulation hurdles, ekar was able to launch in 4 months with the help of movmi – which is half the time a typical project launch would normally take. Soon after ekar and CEO Vilhelm Hedberg, was named the #1 Startup to Watch by Forbes Magazine. We interviewed Vilhelm to describe ekar’s journey and how help from various stakeholders were imperative to ekar’s success. Read on to learn how our Shared Mobility Playbook can help you get to number one, too.
Movmi’s Shared Mobility Playbook
What is ekar and how does your member experience work?
ekar is the Middle East’s first pay-as-you-go hourly car rental. We provide mobility solutions for people living and working in the United Arab Emirates, and the Greater Gulf Countries.
ekar launched in January 2016, and has since been successful in acquiring Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airways as our launch/flagship customers. The Roads and Transport Authority later awarded us with a position to provide hourly smartcar rental in Dubai for a period of 3 + 2 years. This project will commence in January 2017.
Why did you have this idea and vision for ekar?
My business partner and I had been discussing the merits of a carshare program since 2010. We saw that there was a gap in the market, especially for young entrepreneurs, airline cabin crew, and single car families. Our first emails to Emirates was sent in 2010, and the RTA in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 that the business was effectively lifted off the ground.
How did you get to where you are now?
We were entrusted by our seed investors to run with this project. Once the seed was secured, we were lucky enough to have hired a great team, including Sandra Phillips of movmi, who was instrumental at getting us to a revenue position, whilst keeping cost well below budget.
What were some of the challenges and what were some of the rewards?
Introducing a service to a market that has never seen carshare was a great challenge in itself. There was a large learning curve, and we were lucky that the airlines facilitated in marketing to their own staff. This lowered the cost of customer acquisition.
The business has been very rewarding, and the proof that we have built something great falls within our customer feedback as well as the media attention. For example, we were ranked as the Number One Startup to Watch by Forbes Magazine.
How did movmi help with ekar’s success?
movmi focused on providing a seamless user experience. This included:
- building the marketing website through a variety of different vendors
- customizing the rental app
- creating the billing process
- customizing blueprints of operational procedures and standard marketing content to meet the needs of the UAE market
- creating a Key Performance Metric tracking system
- preparing the General Manager and customer service team for the commercial launch
As a result of their involvement, we were able to shorten the traditional project launch timeline to just 4 months.
ekar formally launched with Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, later with Emirates Airlines and in January 2017 partnered with The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to launch hourly on-demand car rentals, with 100 vehicles across Dubai.
In late 2017, ekar partnered with Al Nabooda Automobiles allowing ekar to introduce 100 Volkswagen Passat and Jetta models to the company’s fleet. It is anticipated that the fleet will expand to as many as 300 vehicles.
Whether you are launching a new carsharing service like ekar or another shared mobility option for your city, we have compiled the insights provided to help ekar succeed in our new Playbook. Check out the playbook here.