Tell us about your background.
I am a 31-year old entrepreneur with a flair for creating and running successful businesses. Born in Kabul, Afghanistan and raised in Germany, I started my first business at the age of 16.
Cars have always been a passion for me, and over the years I have developed a number of companies in Germany, Afghanistan and the UAE that are involved in the automotive or transportation industries — from logistics, to car rental, to removals — while consistently looking for ways to innovate within those sectors.
I decided to base myself in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, to centrally locate myself close to both the Subcontinent and Europe, in order to best support our client base.
What drives you as a business leader?
I love huge operations and working with big teams whilst running businesses that solve day to day problems for our customers.
What interesting and successful projects have you been involved in?
Prior to launching Udrive, I owned a traditional car rental company that provided both daily and longer-term rental options. One of the big issues with such traditional rental formats is the manpower and paperwork involved, which I wanted to effectively overcome in order to grow the business without adding extra overheads. One day, I had a colleague that needed a car a few hours, but we couldn’t allocate cars from our own fleet as they were with customers, and it made no sense to send them to another agency to find a car for that small an amount of time.
It was around this time that I also had an increasing number of customers contacting us for half day and shorter rentals. But with the way things were, it was just too much admin work to justify the economics of facilitating short trips, so we were unable to offer this service. As you can imagine, it was of course frustrating to have to turn away business.
So, I researched smarter rental strategies while exploring how digital technology could be infused into the process. This due diligence helped me identify, and then invest, in specific technologies that enabled my company to digitise the vehicles, the booking experience, and the billing. With this platform in place, we were able to launch Udrive and effectively introduce the revolutionary ‘rent by the minute’ concept in the region.
I self-funded the company up until our Series A. With my previous businesses, I was able to save enough to invest in pivoting from traditional car rental into a unique digital, on-demand rental model. I was fortunate because I already understood the traditional car rental industry and I was able to get a head start. This is why we were the first in the region with this new concept and were able to expand across other Emirates, first. Moreover, as I was using my own funds, I was able to take big strategic decisions without having to get approval.
After two years of proving the concept and business model in Dubai and launching our service in two other Emirates — Sharjah and Abu Dhabi — I decide that to scale, I needed additional support and that is when we raised funds for our Series A which started just before COVID hit. We paused the raise during COVID to restructure and come out a far more efficient growth machine. We resumed the round in Dec 2020 and closed it recently. The funding is led by prominent regional business leaders and three venture capitalists who backed two of the region’s most recent “unicorn” tech companies.
What is next for UDrive? What is your main goal for the next 3 years?
Simply put, Udrive is here to empower anyone who needs mobility to mobilise. Whether that is you, your friend, or your employer, we want to ensure that if you need to move from point A to point B, you have frictionless access to a vehicle to meet your needs with the simplicity of peeling a banana.
We have clearly defined plans to expand into every single country in the GCC and North Africa, and subsequently into some strategic European and Asian markets. We have a new service that we are currently building and soon set to launch. It will be a global first for our industry and we are confident that our approach has the potential to disrupt the transportation segment not only within our region, but indeed internationally.
We also see our fleet size being in the tens of thousands as we scale across the markets. It’s important to understand that our target audience is a large, underserved addressable market for short- and long-term rentals. This is especially true in the growth markets.
How can our readers find out more about you?
I randomly post updates on my LinkedIn account so this is the best way to get more information.