The mobility and logistics industry has become well-known for its progress ahead of other sectors when it comes to entrepreneurial innovation. Much like e-commerce and the overall digital sector, the mobility industry in the MENA region has so far been the birthplace of world-class companies like Careem and swvl, two unicorns that have completely shaken up the ecosystem and proved to onlookers and investors that MENA too could play host to ground-breaking ventures.
Following through on this sentiment, we are showcasing 5 exciting startups within the mobility and transportation sphere that are set to achieve great things in the MENA region and beyond.
FENIX is an electric mobility startup with plans to become a super app. Primarily offering electric micromobility solutions since its launch in 2020, it has since expanded its offering to provide payment solutions dubbed FENIX Pay, a grocery delivery service called FENIX Market, as well as the recently revealed personal shopper service FENIX Genie.
Company co-founder Jaideep Dhanoa sees micromobility as the start-point: the launchpad for a wider array of services, leading the company to its aforementioned goal of becoming a super app.
One of the top names in the logistics sector, truck aggregator platform Trukkin is among the leaders of digital transformation in this industry. Like many others in the region, the freight and logistics sector has lagged behind in the digitalisation of its core services and of the overall process of delivering goods. Trukkin is improving this experience for both corporate customers with goods to ship and the truck drivers themselves, optimizing elements such as payments, backloads and truck driver access.
Launched in 2017, Trukkin today serves over 12 countries in the region. It has raised $3.5 million during May 2019 and a $7 million Series A in June 2021, after reporting notable growth during the height of the pandemic, going as far as expanding operations to Pakistan in August of 2020.
While the UAE and MENA region have seen their fair share of car rental startups, ekar counts itself as one of the largest operating today. The growth-stage startup currently launched in 2016 has operations in 7 cities across the GCC servicing 250,000 customers and employing more than 130 people. Most recently, it has expanded to Thailand, with plans to launch in Egypt and Turkey later this year.
All ekar Subscription cars, which are tech-enabled cars from existing fleet owners and car rental companies, come with insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance and can be switched, traded up, or returned at any time. A user simply selects a desired model on the ekar app and a sterilised car is door-delivered within a 2-hour window.
Additionally, ekar’s peer-to-peer carsharing allows individuals to rent their own cars out to the general public, and earn money.
Another car rentals platform, Finalrentals’ journey has been an interesting one. Founded in 2016 by Ammar Akhtar who had acknowledged that the car rental booking process in the region has been severely lacking and exceedingly manual, Finalrentals set out to digitalize this experience and make it easier and more seamless for users to rent cars, and for companies to handle orders.
The bootstrapped startup has had to pivot intuitively to survive the pandemic’s crushing impact. To do this, Finalrentals created a new franchising business model, where it would allow third-party car rental companies around the world are able to benefit from the startup’s infrastructure and digital platform by becoming franchisees. This was such a success that in 2021 alone, the company witnessed fivefold growth, expanding to 9 new countries beyond the UAE and effectively operating in over 160 locations.
Founded in 2018, CAFU is a fuel delivery startup that also offers some elements of roadside assistance such as engine oil change, battery servicing, tyre change, car wash, and steam sterilisation, all via its app.
This business model is relatively new in the UAE, and has found notable success so far. CAFU does not charge delivery fees and in fact sells fuel at petrol station prices. It also offers subscription plans.
In March, CAFU partnered with the aforementioned car rental platform ekar to automate the fuelling process between both companies and ensure that ekar’s entire fleet of cars will always be full or at least above 25% of fuel consumption, providing the driver with convenience and sparing them the long wait in refuelling queues at petrol stations.
So far, CAFU has not announced that it has raised any external funding, which indicates the company likely remains bootstrapped.