A man checks his phone in the back of car chartered through Careem. The company acquired regional online restaurant listing platform RoundMenu in February. Image Credit: Careem

Dubai: Dubai-based ride-hailing app Careem said any initial public offering (IPO) isn’t going to happen soon and will take more time.

“We are not looking at it [IPO] now. It will take more time than next year. It really depends on the needs. At one point, we wanted to go to the public market but it is not clear when it will happen. It is definite that we are not thinking about it [IPO] today,” Bassel Al Nahlaoui, managing director for UAE and GCC at Careem, told Gulf News.

However, at this stage, he said that Careem is still focused on growing the platform, adding new cities and building new products. There have been reports that the start-up has held talks with investment banks about an IPO in January and the share sale will start in 2019.

Al Nahlaoui said that IPO is in the pipeline but it will take a year, two or three and “God knows what the future holds”.

“The need isn’t today for sure and we will explore when the need comes but IPO is a natural milestone for us to grow,” he said.

Moreover, he quashed rumours that Uber is in talks with Careem to combine the companies.

“It was just a rumour and we still believe we are just getting started across the region. The focus is growth in existing and new markets,” he said.

“Food is something we are investing in and are also interested in other technology platforms in the region. We want to make Careem the de facto app for every essential need for the people in the region. Experience is what that builds trust and loyalty with our customers by staying close to them,” he said.

Careem acquired regional online restaurant listing platform RoundMenu in February.

Al Nahlaoui said the real purpose of the acquisition is to do a lot of testing with the market and build relationships.

He said that Careem started as a tech company similar to how Amazon started with books.

“We started with ride-hailing and unlike the west or the east, we are fortunate to be in a region where it is early on and no one has taken over the internet space. So, Careem is blessed and the food market is a massive business worth $15 billion [Dh55 billion] in the Middle East. Sixty per cent of the people in the UAE order food through apps and 90 per cent of the restaurants are on the food app,” he said.

When asked how Careem is going to play in the highly competitive food delivery market with players such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Zomato, Talabat, active in the market, he said that it is a global trend and definitely strong in the Middle East.

“We will, hopefully, be in the food business in the next six months. We are always looking for funds for expansion. As there is no IPO coming up, we are always looking for fund-raising and discussions are ongoing,” he said.

Careem, Uber’s rival in the Middle East, was founded in 2012 and serves 14 million customers in the region.

“Our strategy is to continue ride-haling and expand into new markets. We launched tuk-tuks [auto rickshaw], motorbikes and recently moved into buses. To capture the entire market, we have to provide an entire spectrum of products,” he added.