Food and last-mile deliveries top Careem's business trends in 2021

Daily food orders in the UAE jump 90% from last year as 1,016 restaurants join its platform, while e-commerce unit surges 250%

FILE PHOTO: Careem employees walk past the company headquarters in Dubai, UAE December 13, 2018. Picture taken December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Satish Kumar/File Photo
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Careem, the Dubai multi-service web platform, said food and last-mile deliveries and e-commerce unit topped its business trends in 2021, on the back of economic recovery and with more users turning to online services for their daily needs.

The Middle East's first unicorn – a start-up with a valuation above $1 billion – said in its annual trends report that daily food orders in the UAE jumped 90 per cent from last year, helped by the addition of 1,016 restaurants. Saudi fast-food chain Al Baik remained its most popular restaurant in 2021.

Last-mile deliveries – the movement of goods from a transport centre to the final delivery destination – at Careem Express leapt 150 per cent from January to November, with its e-commerce arm surging 250 per cent. Last month's Black Friday sales bonanza was the peak period with daily deliveries exceeding 45,000.

“This year, we started simplifying the lives of people in more ways than just seamless transportation ... proving that the opportunity to simplify people’s lives with the convenience of one app is huge and we are just at the beginning of our journey," Mudassir Sheikha, chief executive and co-founder of Careem, said on Wednesday.

The UAE's e-commerce market significantly grew after the pandemic as more consumers turned to online channels for their shopping needs. The sector grew 53 per cent to a record $3.9bn in 2020 and is expected to grow further, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry said in June.

This strength is expected to result in the Emirates overtaking the UK in e-commerce adoption with both brands and users expanding their online activity, industry leaders said at the World Chambers Congress in Dubai last month.

Cash-on-delivery payments in the UAE are also 75 per cent lower as more consumers opt to pay online or through contactless methods, a joint study from Dubai Police, Dubai Economy and Visa revealed earlier this year.

Ride-hailing services, Careem's first business, grew 28 per cent from 2020 as it conducted more than five million trips. Around 1.6 per cent, or 22,677, of trips from October to mid-December were made to and from the Expo 2020 Dubai site, Careem said. The longest trip was 635-kilometre from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and back. Around 130,000 customers used its city-to-city service from Dubai to the six other emirates.

Careem last month reported that it registered 4.3 million rides in the first 10 months of 2021, and more than 23 million between 2015 and 2019.

Its Bike segment, Expo 2020 Dubai's exclusive micro-mobility provider, doubled to around 830,000 trips year-to-date, serving more than 122,000 users. The number of bicycles in service in Dubai and Abu Dhabi doubled to 2,000.

The company's digital payments service, Careem Pay, posted more than 90,000 peer-to-peer transactions in the UAE. Across Careem's six core markets, transactions were at over 66 million, with Pakistan recording the highest usage at around 122,000 transactions worth $8.8 million. Careem Pay also introduced bill payments for telecom operators Etisalat and du this year.

We started simplifying the lives of people in more ways than just seamless transportation ... proving that the opportunity to simplify people’s lives with the convenience of one app is huge and we are just at the beginning of our journey
Mudassir Sheikha, chief executive and co-founder of Careem

In its grocery segment, fruits and vegetables was the most popular category, and in excess of 610,000 litres of water were ordered. Careem's most loyal customer ordered 365 times this year – more than one order a day – and the highest single-order receipt was Dh3,243.

The "laziest" market for food ordering was Pakistan, with one in every six orders less than 1 kilometre away, according to Careem.

Careem's customers donated $370,000 towards social causes through its rewards programme, the company said, with the highest donations coming from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. And the highest value went to the UN World Food Programme’s Share the Meal campaign.

The company became a unicorn in 2019 after Uber of the US purchased it for $3.1bn. Last month, the UAE said it aims to become home to 20 unicorns by 2031 as part of a programme to attract and expand small and medium enterprises.

Updated: December 23, 2021, 4:30 AM