Human Inspired Innovation & Culture

Can Uber and Careem help women in Pakistan?

in Culture/Tech by

U.S. based ride-sharing company Uber launched in Pakistan last month. It’s goal: To bridge the gap between the undersupply of good public transport options in the country with its ever-growing smartphone users. Pakistani consumers have disposable cash, smartphones and access to the web – perfect candidates for ride-sharing, right? Wrong.

Pakistan’s market is different and both Uber and its competitors know this. In fact, EasyTaxi failed and subsequently slipped out of the market last year. Adam Ghaznavi was EasyTaxi’s country manager for Pakistan and is now general manager of Careem, a UAE based ride-sharing company with a slightly different outlook.

“We were ahead of our time, and while traction was building, we needed more support to prove ourselves,” he said in an interview with Techinasia. It is not uncommon for first movers to fail, especially in the sharing-economy space and Ghaznavi is seemingly aware of this.

Careem, now direct competitors with Uber will compete for marketshare and last week acquired competitor Savaree. However, Pakistan has another issue that both these companies need to address before they can successfully gain almost 50% of the serviceable market.

Lady Problems

In a market such as Pakistan’s, ride-sharing will never flourish like it has in developed countries if there are any safety concerns. Pakistan is rife with sexual crime, particularly towards women and it often goes without being reported or punished. This is an obvious problem in a ride-sharing ecosystem.

Pink Rickshaw driver Parveen Bibi walks to where her rickshaw is parked in Lahore, Pakistan. Photo by Mohsin Raza
Pink Rickshaw driver Parveen Bibi walks to where her rickshaw is parked in Lahore, Pakistan.
Photo by Mohsin Raza

This month, Reuters reported that after a year of business, Pakistan’s first women-only rickshaw service the “Pink Rickshaw” in the city of Lahore, is struggling. The service was meant to provide its staff with a new way of gaining financial independence and its passengers with the chance of a ride without being groped and harassed by male drivers.

The service is struggling because of the cost of acquiring the rickshaws. Help has been promised by a Scotland-based charity, run by pop star Annie Lennox. Pink Rickshaw founder, Zar Aslam said she hopes to get the money for ten rickshaws by September.

The Uber and Rabtt partnership will aim to start a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment in public places and in transport.

Uber, aware of the situation in Pakistan has teamed up with Rabtt to train all Uber driver partners to take positive action against sexual harassment. The Uber and Rabtt partnership will aim to start a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment in public places and in transport. Uber claims that this process will also help strengthen their driver partner training and screening process even further.

In order to succeed in capturing the ride-sharing market in Pakistan, both Uber and Careem will need to sink millions of dollars to best address this lingering issue of women’s safety. Ultimately, Pakistani women stand to gain the most in this circumstance if either company manages to create a safe environment for women in public spaces; and that is an endgame worth watching.

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Journalist, editor and producer of content for newspapers, magazines and radio since 2004. Based in Melbourne Australia, shamelessly for the food, hipster culture and great stories.

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