CEO Spotlight – Soham Shah, CEO of

Tell us about your background and rise to CEO of

I was born and raised in Pune, India.  I come from a humble business family background where my father was into the manufacturing of diamond cutting and mining tools, whereas my mother was involved in the food processing industry. Both my parents were enterprising entrepreneurs in their own field of business.

My inspiration was from an article in the late 2004 in Times of India stating the fragmented situation of the rental industry in the country with no strong and organised players in the market to sustain it. That fact stayed with me and from there I decided to start my expedition in the car rental industry which has continued till today.

What started as myself as a small business owner, has now led me to become the CEO of a full-fledged company, collaborating with more than 18 automobile brands having 65 different car models in total. In the coming few months, we aim to add another 10 brands to our existing portfolio thereby acquiring about 90 percent of the brands within the market. At present, currently manages a fleet of over 3500 cars, accumulating to an asset value of USD 500 Million.

What has been your biggest success as CEO of SelfDrive.Ae

As a CEO it is important to bring value to the business by addressing the gaps in the industry. It was this outlook that led me to start Selfdrive. I noticed that the car manufacturers and dealerships had a unique problem – they had a lot of unsold inventory standing. This spurred the idea of having a platform that facilitated deals for consumers and gave them direct access to dealership vehicles.

The introduction of the region’s first smart mobility Super App, that allows users to rent cars directly from dealerships on demand in a simple, safe and flexible way has been my biggest success as CEO of Another important achievement has been the fast, steady growth of the company in the past year. Selfdrive expanded its presence from the UAE to Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and we plan to add further new markets in the next few months.

What do you believe are the essential character traits/qualities to be a successful CEO?

As a CEO of, I believe that CEOs do not necessarily stand out for making great decisions all the time; rather, they stand out for being more decisive. I have always taken decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction which has helped me achieve what I am.

Open, honest communication is another important trait to minimise insecurity and build trust with all stakeholders. Lastly, leading an organisation with passion is very critical. Passion derives from a strong connection to the mission, vision, and goals. Without that passion and connection, you can never grow as a person or a company!

Tell us about your leadership philosophy

For me effective leadership starts with people. Focus on recruiting the best talent, encourage them to achieve their full potential and operate with complete transparency. Also be open to embracing change. It’s critical in today’s dynamic environment to be flexible and agile and be willing to disrupt yourself.

How are you redefining the future of the automotive industry?

Mobile apps are one of the major elements of modern tech and this has impacted the automotive sector. They are the future of car rentals because they open a different vertical for customers and users feel it as a convenient, accessible and an easy way of renting or leasing vehicles on demand.

From cost-effective to mid-range and premium models, various brands are showcased with the latest car model options, helping them access mobility at their fingertips from any location, be it the airport, residence, hotel or any part of the country. Given the way apps are dominating the automotive space, we are already witnessing a huge demand by the users. Going forward, one instrumental feature that will be a part of our super app is the customer who makes a reservation will now be able to track their progress with their reservation. In simple words, customers will have real-time access to the key stages of delivery. As such, once the car has been reserved, customers will be able to view updates on reservations, incorporation of compliance documents in the system, car details sent to the dealership, the car being prepped and finally ready at the dealership, notification on where and when can the vehicle be picked up from or an indication on the current status of the delivery time. All in all, customers will be able to view the car right from stage one to the finale on the car coming to you in a live Google map environment.

As our super app will offer real-time updates on car delivery, customer confidence in our services will also increase. In addition, customers can also view a status bar or the progress tab post the reservation, which is a new feature unique to the industry, which makes us be another first in the mobility space.

What are your goals for over the next 5 years and beyond?

Our expansion into Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar is a testament to our growing popularity and success and an indicator of the changing landscape of the automotive rental market in the region and beyond. We aim to acquire 50-65 per cent of the digital rental market share in these markets with our seamless customer experience and range of product offerings through the app. We plan to add further new markets in the Middle East and are actively looking at other regions globally as business goes from strength to strength.

And finally, what is your favourite quote?

It has been said, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it. However, life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well.”

Editor-In-Chief of Bizpreneur Middle East