Dubai: For electric vehicle enthusiast Hamad AlMazrooei, 22, a fascination with eco-friendly modes of transport started when he was younger. It was this drive that led the UAE national into entrepreneurship at age 19, starting his first business when he was still studying at university level.
“I'm obsessed with redefining the way we move,” said AlMazrooei, in an exclusive interview with Gulf News. “At a young age, I followed my curiosity and where my questions took me, and I found myself in a mission to bring sustainable shared mobility to the streets of the Middle East.
“At 19, my entrepreneurial journey started with a goal to make electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure more accessible. In 2021, it had been already a year, and I then joined forces with my partners with a vision to make sustainable mobility more affordable, accessible, and flexible.”
Nascent industry experience
AlMazrooei’s experience in the EV industry started in 2020, with an internship at Tesla, the US-based fully-electric automotive industry giant, and this only fuelled the Emirati entrepreneur’s passion further.
So this was quickly followed by AlMazrooei launching his first firm ‘Charger Plus’, a charging infrastructure provider in the UAE, and a year later he co-founded his second business venture ‘MOTOR’, a car-sharing portal just for electric vehicles (EVs) in the UAE.
“Setting up a firm might seem effortless. But at age 19, as a university student with limited funding, the journey gave me a taste of entrepreneurship at a young age and deeply impacted my mind-set, changing my academic trajectory from Engineering to Information Systems and Finance,” AlMazrooei said.
At age 19, as a university student with limited funding, the journey gave me a taste of entrepreneurship at a young age
Thriving global trend for EVs
It’s no secret that electric cars are currently a thriving trend in 2022, given that last year was the strongest year yet for electric vehicles (EVs) after they outpaced their petrol and diesel counterparts.
The growing demand for low emission commuting, both globally and in the Middle East, is what prompted AlMazrooei to start his latest car-sharing entrepreneurial venture with his business partner Kazbek Khunkaev, a 27-year-old Russian expat based in the UAE.
“The idea originated from witnessing the success of car sharing concept globally and we wanted to take a sustainable approach by being an EV exclusive platform. Indeed, the future is electric cars – both self-driven and autonomous, with the UAE a pioneer in embracing sustainable technologies,” he added.
Electric cars remain expensive
The reality is electric cars are pricier than its peers, and that’s partly due to the materials and the assembly process, the massive research and development requisite, alongside investment costs borne by car manufacturers rapidly having to pivot from fossil fuels to battery technologies.
This is why EV rental prices are still higher than conventional car rental platforms, so the challenge would then be to encourage people to rent EVs as a budget-friendlier option as opposed to buying electric vehicles. So how does AlMazrooei’s latest platform combat competition and prices?
This is when the serial entrepreneur spoke of taking a diverse approach. “The platform doesn’t compete on price, but on service and customer experience,” he said, referring to, “…instant access to cars, choice on where to start and end rentals, faster car delivery, free parking and charging, and flexible tariffs.”
Battling sky-high costs
“EVs are still expensive and as the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) introduce new more affordable options this would help in bringing rental cost down,” AlMazrooei added.
“When comparing the cost of renting a premium EV versus an equivalent petrol or diesel vehicle, our free charging provides on average fuel saving of Dh80 on our daily rental, making renting relatively affordable.”
With the platform primarily targeting a demographic aged between 21 and 35, with a medium to high income, AlMazrooei said the platform’s target customer base are those who are environmentally conscious and interested in new EVs.
Locate, book, unlock, drive
“After registration, the users can locate, book, unlock, and drive cars completely digitally. Cars are 24/7 on the street for self-pick-up and delivery,” he explained, while adding that a remote feature allows cars to be pre-cooled before customers ride them, “which is extremely relevant for this part of the world”.
Charging an EV still isn’t as quick as refuelling a petrol, diesel or hydrogen car, but topping up an electric car is gradually speeding up. So when you do have to top up, you’ll want to do it as fast as possible. So how does the platform overcome the challenge of charging an electric car that’s rented?
“At the moment we mainly utilise existing charging infrastructure, and partner with hotels and communities to making our service closer to those in need. Yet, we are developing our own charging platform, which is to be launched and will aim for more charging infrastructure available to the public.”
EVs are still expensive and as the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) introduce new more affordable options this would help in bringing rental cost down
An investment heavy endeavour?
AlMazrooei revealed that his second business was funded through personal funds and investments from investors.
“My very first investment was $30,000 (Dh110,193), but all the partners have jointly put forward more than $1 million (Dh3.67 million) into the development of the platform. So far it has mainly been self-funded by the founders and their families, with plans for a ‘Series-A’ fundraising soon,” he shared.
(What is a ‘Series-A’ fundraising round? A ‘Series-A’ round is the name typically given to a company's first significant round of venture capital financing. The name refers to the class of preferred stock sold to investors in exchange for their investment.)
Some of your start-up struggles?
When AlMazrooei was asked what some of the initial struggles (industry-related or otherwise) were when launching the business, he flagged the age-old start-up struggle of coping with budget constraints.
“Working with limited resources is an ongoing struggle to all companies and start-ups are no different. Having limited resources ultimately forced us to sacrifice things at the cost of others. We don't overcome but manage this on-going struggle in two ways,” AlMazrooei explained.
“First, by having a mechanism to prioritise what needs to be done and based on the available resources, tasks get actioned. Secondly, and most importantly is to rethink what needs to be done.”
Any tip for fellow entrepreneurs?
AlMazrooei: “This is my tip to all entrepreneurs, is to have the curiosity to ask, to question everything, and to rethink what is needed and how different it could look. This has resulted in the birth of many creatively innovative ideas.”