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Business Retail


Watch: UAE's 'mobility' services is attracting more startups, jobs and fleets as ride demand soars

As taxi rides and ride-hailing demand soars, new businesses rush in to catch the growth

Good to go - Newly created startups are riding into the UAE's mobility services space. Whether that's as a digital platform offering ride hailing or to pick up your EV to charge and drop off. Or create a fleet that plugs into the constant demand for limousine services.
Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: In 2023, 114 million trips were made by taxis in Dubai, with 10 million trips made during October alone. Anyone connected with the sector will tell you that 2024 promises to deliver another double-digit growth on trips made.

This is the fuel that’s powering up an eco-system of mobility services provided by fleet operators and digital platforms in the UAE. It’s no longer just about ride-hailing services or taking a car out on a rent-by-the-minute basis.

Need someone to pick up your vehicle for a service and have it delivered? Tap an app and you can get it done. Want to charge the EV before a long trip. Again, you can have someone else do it for you. All this is creating more jobs, whether on the tech side of it or in the actual service delivered to the customer.

Mobility-tech companies like Zofeur want to make EV ownership easy for users. Bunty Monani is co-founder and CEO of the Dubai-headquartered company, which is the ‘world’s first on-demand pay-by-the-minute chauffer hiring service’.


“The use-case scenarios for what Zofeur can do are limitless, and this includes the option to take users' pets to the vet and charge their EVs,” said Monani. “These are services our customers requested – and which we introduced.”

Residents are also using such services for garage pick-ups and RTA inspections.

Bunty Monani (left) and Ishrath Hasmin of Zofeur sees a niche demand from EV owners who want to get their vehicles charged up and delivered. Or even have their pets taken to the vet.
Image Credit: Gulf News

The EV pick-up, charging and drop-off facility was a service the company piloted in December last. Ishrath Hasmin, co-founder and COO of Zofeur, said: “The thing about owning EVs in the UAE is that the infrastructure is not fully ready. Many people, including myself, want to buy EVs. However, I don't have a charging facility in my building.”

Creating a UAE-wide EV charging network

In the near future, the chances of not finding a convenient EV charger will turn remote as a host of blue-chip companies – including e& Group, ADNOC Distribution and TAQA – build up these networks. DEWA already has multiple EV charging points powered up and running.


The impression in the UAE auto retail sector is that by 2026-27, the number of vehicle owners opting for an EV on their next (or even first) purchase will have seen a substantial increase. Earlier concerns about ‘range’ – on the number of kilometers that one full charge can deliver - are subsiding. With EV charging stations being created, not finding an immediate spot to charge up too will lessen.

All that’s left to be done for wider EV take-up rates is for prices to drop. Again, 2025-26 is being talked about as the year when entry-level EV models could turn affordable for more car buyers in the UAE.

From day one, we entered the market fully-compliant with electric and hybrid cars in our fleet. Going forward we are keen to invest more in EVs

- Asad Khan of Green Luxury Car Transport

Dubai Taxi Co. and its IPO

Last year's Dubai Taxi Co. IPO and all the numbers that accompanied it provided a clear view of the sort of growth that the wider mobility sector in the UAE can provide. The need for ride options along with less of a need for actual car ownership are trends that are showing up clearly. Tied to this is the slow but steady demand for EVs, even when it comes to choosing an EV as part of the ride hailing service.

"There are a whole lot of add-on mobility services that can be developed beyond taxi rides and ride-hailing," said a startup founder. "This is the same that happened with cloud kitchens and food order and delivery platforms in the Covid period. The market just boomed overnight."


Creating fleets around EVs

For now, fleet operators are doing much of the buying support for EVs. Asad Khan is CEO of Green Luxury Car Transport, which launched operations in August last. The intent clearly was to pick up market share in the limousine hiring services, a category that’s been growing at a comfortable growth rate. And with some solid operating margins to boot.

“With huge numbers of younger residents moving into Dubai and also the record tourist arrivals, there is a constant need of high quality passenger transportation that correlates with what this city has to offer,” said Khan.

“Our current fleet of Tesla and Lexus hybrids permits us to operate and serve the upper mid-tier segment. Our ambition is to enhance the fleet size to 50 cars by this year-end and also induct RTA-approved vehicles to cater to the luxury segment.”

Khan mentions the entry of Yango into the UAE ride-hailing space as creating more options for fleet service providers. “Yango is quite popular in central Asian countries and now also operating in Africa and Europe,” said Khan. “We offer ride hailing services through platforms such as Uber and Careem and soon partner with Yango.”

Manage the costs

Mobility businesses will however need to be careful with managing their expenses. Because the consumer marketplace is such that passing on these costs might end up hurting the business in the long run.


The solution? Make some changes on the operational side.

While acquisition costs have risen, we are taking measures to adjust rental rates accordingly

- Soham Shah of Selfdrive Mobility

Soham Shah, CEO of Selfdrive Mobility, says it’s important for mobility service companies to take another route. “Rather than burdening consumers with increased costs, we are extending our vehicle turnaround period from two years to three years,” he said. “This is based on our observations indicating that rental car companies are opting to retain vehicles for longer durations to, which helps in correcting the rentals.

“We've observed a notable increase in both customer acquisition costs and vehicle expenses. Last year, vehicle costs were elevated, consequently leading to higher rentals. This year, while acquisition costs have risen, we are taking measures to adjust rental rates accordingly.”

UAE's growing legion of mobility-focused companies do have their short-term challenges, but not one of them is losing sight of what's there in the longer run - a shot at sustained growth. That's what they are setting out on... 


EV charging hurdles

All said, the lack of enough charging areas in residential buildings is the biggest problem getting in the way of faster adoption of EVs in the UAE.

However, Nicolas Ariza Bagoud, the General Manager (GCC) of Kavak - a Mexican company that operates an online marketplace for used cars – is confident that there would be a big boost for EV ownership in the UAE over the next 5 years, once charging constraints are addressed.

Bagoud said, “We’re seeing a lot of interest (for EVs) today, but most customers still opt for petrol vehicles as there are still some hurdles for customers in terms of affordability and convenience of charging infrastructure or charging range.”

Companies like ours can offer most of the maintenance and repairs required from EVs which share 70 per cent of the same maintenance requirements as petrol vehicles.

- Nicolas Ariza Bagoud

Bagoud said most of the transactions that Kavak sees today are concentrated on premium EVs like Teslas, Porsche, Mercedes, and BMW.


“These cars offer a high charging range and luxury features, and the owners are often less dependent on public charging stations,” he explained.

“But the infrastructure rolls out and the convenience of owning an EV increases, we will definitely see a boost coming, especially with the arrival of Chinese brands at more affordable prices,” he added.